Ice Storm Futures
I’m burning ice storm wood now. After the big storm and after the snow and ice of last winter had melted, the trees at the edge of the north field remained, bent, broken. Their high tops bowed down, their crowns touching the earth, surrendered to the ice. The warming sun of the new season could not coax them back up. Some lay on the ground, splintered. When the field had dried some, three strong young men came with their chain saws. They stacked the brush and cut the trunks and limbs into stove-size pieces, leaving small piles all around the perimeter of the field to dry over the summer, for me to pick up in the fall. In the summer, the hay grew up and hid the piles. Now that the frosts have taken the ferns and the field is cut flush, the ice harvest is easy to see: little gentleman farmer piles.
Last week, I took my tractor and trailer out there to bring in the wood. I went from small pile to small pile, loading the trailer piece by piece. The mushroomy smell of rotting leaves and wet bark was all around. All told, the sum of these little piles added up to a goodly amount of wood, though it appeared that some animals had found these to be convenient for nesting or storing acorns. Some of the pieces were too big around to burn without splitting so I brought them up near the barn, where I piled them for future splitting. The rest, small rounds and sticks, I packed tightly into the trailer and drove the load up to the kitchen door. There were many loads, most of which I piled on the porch. The rest went inside.
When you throw small rounds into the woodbox, they make a certain sound, a dull ring like a drumstick. Split wood and big pieces have a lower pitch. Piece by piece, I threw the wagon load into the box, the sticks ringing with a certain, happy rhythm. At the end, the woodbox was piled high with these lengths of muscled limb. I crumpled newspaper into the firebox, added kindling and lit a Strike Anywhere on the edge of the iron lid. Big storms usually leave something behind, aside from the trauma, whether it’s beautiful shells brought up from the bottom of the sea, a harvest of apples or trees felled by the weight of the ice. That night, the spoils of the ice storm burned brightly in the cookstove, giving a cheerful warmth to the evening chill of November.