Wood Piles are Useful Things

snowy sun
( Took this during a winter storm at Adrian College in 2010, I was a sophomore.)


These past couple days I’ve been reading Chickens in the Road by Suzanne McMinn and in one chapter, she talks about how they were snowed into their farm for a week (including christmas) and it got me to thinking about the times I had been snowed in. I wanted to share this story with you because it’s one of my best memories, even if it’s a little fuzzy.


So, this one year, and I’m not sure which year. I was in high school at least, so somewhere between 2004 and 2008. So, this one year in the before mentioned, specified time period, we had a big winter storm in Michigan. I can’t remember if it was a series of storms or just one big one, but needless to say, the power went out. We lived on the west side of the state, near Grand Rapids, so lake effect weather was usually very harsh and very common. Our house was powered on propane, so I still had burners on the oven that I had to light with a match and we had a fireplace! The fireplace had never been used to burn wood, ever, since we bought the house. I’m pretty sure the last owners, the builders of the house, put it in to be functional, but totally for show. To our knowledge, the chimney had never been cleaned and it hadn’t been used in years, so who knows what was living in it. But it was getting cold, and fast.

Backtrack for a moment. When my mom and her second husband, bought the house, my mom fell in love with the fireplace. It had a real stone facade on it (it may have been a real stone chimney, but I doubt it since it had siding on the outside) and it had a beautiful slate-tile hearth that was raised so you could sit on it. She immediately went out and bought a huge iron grate for it and a gorgeous fireplace poker set with brass handles. She then called my grandpa, her father, who lives on a big farm and asked him to find her 3-5 really nice birch logs to put in the fireplace. My mom was a farm girl growing up, but she had learned from her mother that presentation was everything. So we had to have the best of the best and those birch logs better be the prettiest damn logs in the whole forest and they all better be the same length or else. When grandpa finally delivered the logs, Mom was overjoyed and she spent time drying them outside (only on sunny days) and then brought them into the house where she neatly arranged three of them in the fireplace, on top of the huge iron grate, next to her brass handled fire-poker set. She closed the metal fireplace curtain gingerly, shut the gates and examined her work from across the room, from all angles. She deemed it “decent” and that was it. The illusion of the fireplace was complete. She had even bought a little iron “wood stand” to hold the back-up logs next to the door, like we had just hauled them in or something.

Taken from Wikipedia Commons

Flash forward to the power outage. When the power went out, we thought, it will be on by morning. We had never been without power for more than a day. So I got my flashlight and sat on the couch reading that night and Mom went to bed. My sister must have been with my Dad (must have been a school vacation) at his house, because I don’t’ remember her being there. The next morning I woke up freezing. My bedroom was in the basement and it was the first place to get ice cold. I went upstairs and found Mom, practically in a blanket nest, in her chair with our three cats laying on top of her, under one of the blankets. You would think they were cold or something.

I suggested to Mom that maybe we should use the fireplace, but she was hesitant. We were sure the power would come back on. A few hours later, after freezing to death, calling the power company, and watching another winter storm dump snow on us, she conceded. I suited up and went to the garage. On one side of it there was a wood pile left by the previous owners. Over time, it had developed poison ivy on one side and the whole top third of the pile was rotting. I knocked the top logs off and started hauling wood the the glass doors on the back of the house and even piled a few inside the door, marring our picture-perfect wooden floors. After I had put what I thought was enough there, I went inside and got the matches and I set those beautiful, perfect, extremely dry birch logs on fire. And then, when they had burned down a bit, I burned their backups.

I grabbed one of the brass handled fire pokers and asked Mom, “Are these useable?”
She replied, “Well of course they are! I wouldn’t buy junk!”
Master illusionist, I tell you. Not only was the fireplace set complete and for show, it was also functional. Just in case she had to prove to someone she wasn’t faking it. She even showed me how to properly used them all.

That week without power was the best. We spent all our time in the living room, which we could barely keep heated because the ceilings were literally 20ft in the air (there was a loft on the second floor, so it was all open). Her husband stayed with his parents all week, which we were okay with. We slept in the living room, taking turns getting up, until it became my duty and my fun, to keep the fire going. I cooked on our match-lit stove and made pretty good meals that week. Somehow, throughout the week, our well maintained enough pressure to give us water, I’ll never understand how that happened. I went out everyday and hauled wood to the porch. The pile was two logs deep and about 4ft tall and 8ft wide, I think I went through at least half of it. All in all, it was a great week. We just spent our time talking and watching the snow fall.

I will always cherish that week in my memories.



Mom and I

Please comment if you liked this one. I like sharing stories, but I’m not sure how much people like to hear them. I’ll write more if you like them!


If you enjoyed my article, please reblog and share with friends!


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