07 March 2008

Starting the search

I've taken the first steps to start our search for more firewood. The last load we bought was delivered during the summer of 2005, if I remember correctly. We got it from the man who does gardening and outdoor construction work for our neighbors across the street, the ones who actually live in Blois but have this country house at Saint-Aignan.

I think this woodpile out on the edge of the vineyard
belongs to Bruno at the Domaine de la Renaudie, but
I don't know if it's going to used as firewood.

Jean-Claude arranged for the purchase of firewood and with another man they delivered it, hauling it in on a trailer and dumping it on the gravel driveway in front of the house. Then Walt and I had to stack it. It was, if I remember correctly, seven cubic meters — a cubic meter is called a stère — of oak logs that were one meter long.

Seven stères is approximately two cords, and I think we paid about 240 euros for it. It has lasted two full winters (we got the woodstove put in in April 2006). We also bought 2 stères of bois blanc — wood that burns faster than oak and is easier to get burning when you are starting a fire.

Looking out across the vineyard toward the opposite bank
of the river. The woodpiles out there might be reserves
for the wooden stakes that support the vines.

On Tuesday, it was time to go buy some wine. I decided to go down to the Domaine de la Renaudie, which is the winery that owns most of the vineyard out behind our house. We are on friendly terms with the winery owners and often buy wine from them. They are locals from way back.

I took advantage of the moment, as Bruno was filling my 10-liter plastic jugs with rosé (he makes the best rosé around here — it's pale, a little dry, and kind of spicy), white (I like the Chenin Blanc, which is the grape grown exclusively in Vouvray and one of the white wine grapes grown around Saint-Aignan), and red (Gamay, the mainstay of Saint-Aignan's wine production), to ask him if he knew anyone close by who might have firewood to sell.

The vine trimmings could make good kindling.

I halfway hoped he would say he himself had some he wanted to sell. His business in wine, but there are huge piles of firewood at different spots along the edge of his vineyards, and I assume they belong to him. In fact, I don't even know if the wood he has stockpiled in the vineyard is destined to be burned or if it is to be used as supports for the wires the vines grow on.

Bruno said he had some ideas about where I could get some wood, but he would have to make a few phone calls. I said if he gave me names or phone numbers, I'd be glad to make the calls myself. "No, let me call," he said. "Some of the people I have in mind might not want to be déclarés — declared. If somebody has wood to sell, then I'll give you his number." I can only assume that "declared" has to do with whether or not taxes are paid on the wood sold.

Stacked wood

Three years ago, it took us months to find wood. Our neighbors recommended their brother-in-law, who lives over in Noyers, on the other side of the Cher. He deals in firewood. I called him and he told me he was already having a hard time supplying his regular customers and couldn't take on any new ones right then. I suppose I could call him again. Maybe somebody has died or moved away.

The brother-in-law told me to call the people at the château in Saint-Aignan. They own a big forest and log it for firewood. I called but I didn't get anywhere. I don't remember being told no; I think what happened was that I talked to somebody who said he would call me back but who never did. And then I happened to talk to Jean-Claude, and he came through for us.

Electric wires and glass insulators out back

One problem is that we don't have a trailer or a truck, so we need the wood to be delivered to the house. Another solution would be to rent a truck for a day or two and go get the wood ourselves. I know there's a man out on the road toward Orbigny, about 5 miles south of Saint-Aignan, who sells wood but doesn't deliver.

Winter is winding right down, even though it has turned chilly and gray again. We have enough wood to get us through. The idea now is to get in about 10 stères (nearly three cords) sometime before October. We'll need time while the weather is still decent to get some of it cut into 33 cm lenghts — cutting each one-meter log into three pieces — so that they will fit into our little woodstove. And some of the bigger logs will need to be split.

They use a lot of wood in the vineyard. This is a view
out over the vines, past our hamlet, and to the
villages on the other side of the river.

With the price of oil these days and the worthless dollar, it costs a lot less to heat the house with wood. We have central heat — an oil-fired boiler and radiators — and we do turn the boiler on mornings for a few hours. But we usually turn it back off before noon and in the afternoon or early evening on cold days we build a wood fire in the stove. It's not only less expensive than burning oil, but it's more atmospheric as well.

1 comment:

  1. Claudia in Toronto07 March, 2008 19:22

    Bonne chance in your search for wood. In Northern Ontario, we jusr went in the forest and cut trees! It was my job to stack the logs. I never did it as neatly as in your pictures.

    I love vineyard photos at different stages. I hope, later on, I'll see some with grapes on.


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