Sunday, September 27, 2009

An improvi-shed for firewood

We are told by the sages to beware the ides of March. But here in Alaska, we have to beware of the equinox. Sure enough, on the 23d of Sep, I awoke to -1.1C. That is below freezing, for the metrically challenged. Hmmm. Time to build a fire. But this is not the time to go gathering your firewood. It may work in distant New (or old) England, but in Alaska, September is the month of rain. So if you start gathering your wood now, it will be wet. Wet wood does not burn too well, if at all; I found that out last year. Green wood is just as bad. Again, bitter experience. So we must gather our wood in spring, and let it dry out while summer's breezes blow. But if you don't cover your wood, it will not dry out. Last year I simply draped tarps over it.

Note the blue tarp, pronounced as one word in Alaska, i.e. blutarp. Without blutarp, duct tape (called gaffer tape in the UK), and WD-40, life in Alaska as we know it would cease to exist.

As they say in the software business, this is not such a GoodIdea(tm). In the middle of winter, your blutarp freezes to the firewood, especially with half a meter of snow on it. Then you have to somehow get the wood separated from the tarp and your wood out of there. This, last winter, posed a major problem. So this year, I started spring with the idea of building an elegant woodshed. You know, framed timber construction, steel roof, the works. But the porch (of which more later) and other things sucked up the time, so we come to September with no woodshed. What to do? Well, build an improvi-shed.

First, we use lashings instead of fancy joints, nails, or screws. Nails always work loose in cold, because the nails and wood contract at different rates. So, with ropework done, we got us a shed:
Well, at least we got us a framework. The next step was to take a big blutarp and tie it down to a frame.
Et voila, woodshed. Will it survive the winter? Will it collapse under a meter of snow? Does it keep out the rain ? Well, it keeps out the rain all right. For the answer to the other thrilling and dramatic questions, stay tuned.

Lashing is a very useful skill. I learned it in Boy Scouts, age 12. If you want to learn, see almost any backwoods, survival, or primitive living website.

By the way, since Sep. 23 we have had four or five sub-freezing days. The garden still has a cabbage, leeks, lettuce and spinach in it. All have survived, worst case a -2.4C frost. Amazingly hardy vegetables. But soon the lack of light will get to them and they will stop growing. I'm hanging out as long as I can. And with dry frewood too; an almost sybaritic luxury.

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