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It's all about the Wood, stupid.

Just in front of The Loft, there is an old sheep-stall. In March, when I moved it, it was thigh-deep in urine soaked, dropping filled straw. I guess it had been there at least 5 years, but the concrete base stopped the “good bacteria” getting to it, and instead of rotting down, it simply compacted and grew ever more pungent.

In April, me, a shovel and 200 or so trips with my constant companion in the vegetable patch - the wheelbarrow - cleared out the sheep stall, grew pumpkins on the resulting heap and converted it to the wood store..

At this time of year, a good 50 percent of all conversations around these parts have something to do with wood.

“Have you got enough firewood” is almost a punchline in itself in rural Saxony. The answer, even from households who apparently have what looks like a ten-year supply of neatly cut and impeccably stacked dried or drying firewood is always “no”. It’s never enough.

In my case, the answer is definite and easy “no”.


This is my first year on the road to climate-change impelled self-sufficiency, and despite preparing myself for it practically and mentally as much as I could, I sometimes impress and amuse myself with the depth of my ignorance.

I learned about the best ways to prepare wood and dry it for heating. I read about average and maximum and minimum heat values per kilogramme of different sorts of tree. I bought a 9kW-rated wood-burning stove and calculated how much wood it would burn to achieve maximum power output. I installed a double-walled stainless-steel insulated chimney and got it approved by the relevant authority. Typically of elaborately official titles, many-lettered compound-noun madness sets in, always to the amusement of English speakers, the relevant authority is the wonderfully titled Bezirksschornsteinfegermeister. I call him Patrick.

Most of the trees on my property are spruces. Last winter, five of them blew over in high winds, and were handily lying around when I moved in. Three I took to the saw mill to turn into planks, two, according to my calculations, would be enough to see me through the winter.

I’ll never know if my numbers were right. A 9kW stove, it turns out, is massively underpowered for my 800m3 open-plan living space. So I swallowed hard, did some more research and bought a 22.5kW monster. It warms the place up to above freezing (eventually), but, as you might expect, it devours firewood and I’m standing, regarding my stores and I know without any doubt at all, it’s not enough to see me through the winter.

So, for the last month, project “Do Not Die” has had one priority.

To ensure that I have enough firewood for next winter. This year, I have to dig into the almost depleted reserves and buy it in. That’s ok.

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