Woodpile peeping is little-known rural pastime

posted April 9, 2018 7:39 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Heidi Clausen, Editor | heidi.clausen@ecpc.com

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It’s interesting the things you learn when you stop by your local polling place.

While casting our ballots in the state Senate race at the town hall up the road this winter, one of the poll volunteers, upon looking up our address, confided in us that, when she and her husband pass by our house, he often remarks upon our woodpile — how it changes through the year, its size, the types of wood it contains, the tarp-and-tin covering used to protect it from the elements and the pallets used to elevate the pile off the lawn and encourage drying.

We were amused by this revelation, and my husband, the primary caretaker of the woodpile, puffed out his chest with some pride. He also admitted that he, too, has begun to judge passing woodpiles, noting both their impressive features and shortcomings.

Still, when we installed our outdoor wood furnace, we had no idea that, a few years later, it and the adjacent woodpile would still be a topic of some neighborhood conversation.

Apparently, the admiration of another’s woodpile is not a new phenomenon. With my curiosity sparked, I did a quick Google search. It turned up a blog out of Ohio about the evolution through adulthood of what one notices during his or her daily commute.

“Back when I was a young man, while I was out driving I would look at fancy cars on the roadways with admiration. When I got married, my wife and I would drive around and look at beautiful houses. We had kids and we started gawking covetously at the impressive playground/​swing set setups in area backyards,” the author, Matt Reese, wrote. “Now that we heat our home with wood, my most current roadside driving distractions are impressive woodpiles.”

I also found a column from last year that seemed to imply that such activity could border on sinful: “On my commute to work, I tend to covet thy neighbour’s woodpile, showing great admiration in a job well done. Sadly, I have also become pedantic about how my wood is stacked.”

Dave, too, is particular about the arrangement of the kindling he labors so hard to compile. His woodpile must be arranged just so, with enough room between a couple of rows so the rabbit hutch will fit during the winter.

There are websites devoted to the proper construction of a woodpile, and there’s even some competition to see who can get the most creative or artistic with it, although one must not forsake function in favor of form.

Just as I find myself re-folding the laundry and remaking the bed if these chores are not initially done to my liking, Dave shifts some logs around. Those of us who pitch in with the stacking should not be offended by this.

Dave takes great pride in his woodpile, as he should. While our wood stove only needs stoking about half of the year, replenishing the woodpile is a year-round endeavor that simply cannot be ignored or delayed. Winter in Wisconsin is a guarantee, not merely a possibility, and one must be ready both for its onset and its duration.

Speaking of duration, here it is early-April, but the view from my office window here in northwest Wisconsin looks more like early-February. Sadly, another half-foot of snow is in the forecast. Dave had hoped to turn off the wood stove for the season a week or two ago. Winter certainly has outstayed its welcome, and several months into the heating season, the woodpile looks a bit lean.

Surely, this development, too, has not gone unnoticed by passing woodpile watchers.

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