Saturday, 11 February 2012

A tale of 11 stères

This time of year the Dutch are very ambivalent about the weather; on the one hand trains come to a grinding halt because of the low temperatures, on the other hand most people are hoping for the “Tour of 11 Cities”, a 200 km skating race along canals and across lakes in the Northern part of the country. The ice has to be of considerable quality and thickness to hold the hundreds of skaters.
For us in Burgundy the cold is much more associated with keeping the house warm, hence the title of this blog. We prefer to wait until the ground is properly frozen before we order our yearly 11 stères (approx. 11 cubic metres) of firewood. The wood is delivered in three loads, which we stack under a half-covered area of the toilet block for the campsite. The wood can dry there, and is ready for consumption by next November. We normally manage to stack one load before the next one arrives, but not this time. There was such a horribly cold gale blowing, making the temperature feel like -20 degrees in staed of the -7 it really was. We had to go inside to warm ears, fingers and feet after having stacked only a few wheel barrows.
Our blogs and our website are very often found by people who are using Google to find out “what is a stère”, “how to stack wood under a roof”, “match sticks from one cubic metre of wood”, “stacking a stère of wood”, etc. Most of these wood-obsessed people are strangely enough from Belgium, but also an occasional Brit, American or Canadian has been affected by this aberration. Whether they have ever found in my blogs what they were looking for is questionable, hence this little helping hand concerning the stacking of wood.
Whenever you drive around here, one cannot miss the neatly stacked, freestanding rectangular “walls” of firewood along roads, by houses or even in the forest. Whoever has tried to stack logs of wood should know the problem. One starts with a neat row of logs, followed by a second row which is one log shorter than the previous one, etc., until the required height has been reached. The result is a “wall” which is not rectangular, but has the shape of a trapezoid (see photo no. 1). Not only has the stacking to be done neatly, the various layers also have to form horizontal planes. If they are not horizontal enough inevitably collapse follows at some stage. Our first stacks were built this way. The only advantage we had was that our “wall” was stacked against a brick wall, hence the danger of collapsing was not so big, provided the wood was more or less leaning towards the brick wall. The disadvantage is obvious; a lot of space is lost in the triangles on the side of the stack. In order to see how it should be done, we looked at how the French were stacking. And that was fundamentally different!
They start building a tower at the beginning of the stack. Two or three logs of equal size form the first layer; the next layer is the same, but the logs are perpendicular to the first logs, etc., etc. When the tower has reached the required height the whole process is repeated at the end of the stack. Choosing the right logs is a bit tricky, but once one gets the knack of it it results in two free standing, stable towers. Then the space between the towers is filled as usual. The towers assure that no logs are rolling away, and when the planes are more or less horizontal, a stable rectangular “wall” is the proud result of all the work (see photos no. 2 and 3).
We have just done this, and the same amount of wood, last year stacked in 3 trapezoidal walls, has now been “reduced” to 2 more or less rectangular walls!

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