PILED WITH PRIDE • For New Englanders, stocking
the woodpile is a science, but stacking it is an art
T HE EVER-QUOTABLE HENRY DAVID Thoreau wrote, “Every man looks at his wood-pile with a kind of affection.” Living out at Walden Pond, he spent plenty of time with wood. “I deal so much with my fuel, — what with finding it, loading it, conveying it home, sawing and splitting it, — get so many values
out of it, am warmed in so many ways by it, that the heat it
will yield when in the stove is of a lower temperature and
a lesser value in my eyes, — though when I feel it I am
reminded of all my adventures.” Happily for Thoreau, the
land on which he was living was part of his friend Ralph
Waldo Emerson’s woodlot, so the getting was good.
He wasn’t the first New Englander to have firewood on
the mind. The settlers arrived here in the midst of the “lit-
tle ice age,” a period of abnormal cold that lasted into the
middle of the 19th century. Snow stayed on the ground long-
er, harbors and rivers froze, and stocking the woodpile was as
important a task as putting food on the table. During the win-
ter of 1637–38, only seven years after establishing their town,
Bostonians had nearly exhausted their wood supply. “We at
Boston were almost ready to break up for want of wood,” wrote
Governor John Winthrop. They ended up buying it from
folks living inland.
the woodpile takes
many shapes and forms.
Here, summer waves of
logs waiting to be split
are casually stacked,
visually dwarfing the
house they will warm
when winter descends.