Snakes in the Wood Pile

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We arrive at the sawmill in the middle of Cheverny forest just before midday and not at 11.30 am as planned. We can hear machinery but can’t see any people. We finally see a man pull up in a large truck and get out. Jean Michel goes over to talk to him.

Arriving at the sawmill
Arriving at the sawmill with not a soul in sight

I can see them arguing. Oh dear. They both come towards me and I learn that the man knows nothing about the wood we ordered on the phone at 10 am. I check my trusty iPhone to tell him the number we rang. “Yeah, well”, he says (in French, of course), “it’s the right number but it’s up at the office along the road a bit and no one told me anything about someone wanting firewood. And we’re about to knock off for lunch.”

The pile of wood we are to help ourselves to
The pile of wood we are to help ourselves to

In the end, he calms down and so does Jean Michel and we are shown a large pile of 50 centimeter logs. Wood in this country is sold by the stère which is a cubic metre of wood usually cut to 50 cm lengths. He has a look at the trailer and tells us that when we’ve filled it we can go over to the work canteen and get someone to come and measure it.

The trailer backed up as far as possible to the woodpile
The trailer backed up as far as possible to the woodpile

Jean Michel backs up the trailer as close as he can to the wood pile without getting it stuck in the mud. I’m glad I’m wearing my big boots, thick socks, a polar fleece windcheater, anorak, cap with ear flaps and working gloves. It’s about 5°C but sunny.  Another man arrives, much more cheerful than the last, and measures the trailer. We come to the conclusion that it can take 2.40 stères at 51 euro a stère. He leaves us to it.

Some of the equipment in the sawmill
Some of the equipment in the sawmill

We start picking up logs. Jean Michel explains I mustn’t take whole logs. They have to be split at least once. After we’ve sorted through the ones closest to the trailer, he climbs into it to start stacking them up. Some of my logs get rejected. Too short apparently – some are only about 40 cm. I’m instructed to get the tape measure out of the car. I can’t find it of course which doesn’t go over well. How come I don’t automatically understand what sort of logs I’m supposed to be getting? I tell him to stop being so snakey (well, my language was maybe a little bit stronger than that …).

Thinking about teatime in front of fire gives me extra energy
Thinking about teatime in front of fire gives me extra energy to move the logs

By then, I have removed the anorak, the windcheater and the cap. When he’s finished stacking he gets the tape measure (on the floor was the instruction he failed to give me) and I keep measuring the logs until I’m sure I can judge the size correctly, ignoring him as best I can. He has to climb up onto the woodpile and throw logs down to the bottom near the trailer. I start collecting some others (carefully measured) from the back of the pile so I won’t be (accidentally) struck by the logs.

Throwing the logs around seems to have a positive effect on his mood and he surprises me by apologising for his snakiness.

Our nicely stacked woodpile
Our nicely stacked woodpile in the bike shed (and former pigsty)

It takes us about an hour to fill the trailer. The friendly man wanders over and measures our pile. We write out a check and off we go.

The woodpile at the back against the ugly wall that is waiting to be rendered ...
The woodpile at the back against the ugly wall that is waiting to be rendered …

After a well-deserved lunch, I go back to my translating while Jean Michel spends the next three hours unloading the wood and stocking it in two piles, one behind the house and one under the steps in the bike shelter. The woodpile has a lovely oaky smell. We’re waiting to see how long the wood will last before we have to go back to the sawmill. But it now seems that we need smaller bits of wood as well …

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6 thoughts on “Snakes in the Wood Pile”

  1. Happy Christmas to you both, Rosemary and Jean Michel – and all your family. Wish you peace and joy for tomorrow and the coming year. No more snakes in the woodpile! Pamela xx

  2. What is it about husbands and firewood? Sheesh! I never manage to choose the right log, put it on the fire correctly or judge the precisely appropriate moment when the fire needs a new log. Hardly a day goes by in winter were I am not given a lecture about some aspect of firewood or wood fires.

    1. Oh, Susan, you make me feel so much better! It’s the same when I stoke the fire. I have since learnt that JM spent a lot of his after-school time as a teenager splitting his grandmother’s wood so of course he knows all about it.

  3. At least we Aussies don’t have to collect firewood before Christmas!! It will probably more like turning on the fan or airconditioning! Merry Christmas to you and your family.Thank you for all the fun, beauty and joy that you provide during the year via your web page.

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