I had this romantic notion about gathering wood for the winter, our first winter with a wood stove. I envisioned us traipsing through the forest, the kids in wool mittens, picking up freshly cut rounds of aspen and oak and piñon, breathing in the scent of wood and pine needles, watching the mist of our breath as we exhaled in the cool fall air.

My husband did not share this vision. “Can’t we just buy a few cords of wood?” he pleaded. In his defense, he is a carpenter, and he spends eight or nine hours a day, five days a week, chopping wood. So spending the weekend with a chainsaw in hand was not his idea of fun.

He also grew up with a wood stove that his family used for heat, in the days before all Telluriders were forced to relinquish their fireplaces in order to preserve the town’s air quality. So he had some idea what gathering wood was really about. I, on the other hand, grew up with a fireplace that was used for ambiance, not heat. We hung our holiday stockings on it and threw a couple of Duraflame logs into it on the rare cold night. Not exactly the same thing.

So the gorgeous, warm fall weekends ticked by, and we went for bike rides and hikes instead of going out for wood. I was starting to feel a little like Squirrel Nutkin. (For those of you who don’t have a 2- and 3-year-old, Squirrel Nutkin is the procrastinating critter that does not amass acorns for the winter.) Finally, as the wood began to get doused by the weather, we started to build the woodpile.

As usual, my husband was right. Gathering wood is romantic for about the first 15 minutes. Chainsaws are loud and annoying. Wood gives you splinters. The children in their woolen mittens also have snot streaming from their noses, for which woolen mittens are not the best wiping tool. And woodpiles are the home of my least favorite of the earth’s creatures: spiders. Lots of spiders.

Stacking the wood, at least, is pretty good exercise. We were working pretty well as a team, too, until my smug husband hurled one of the logs a little too close to my head. “Duck,” he sang out, seconds after the log landed and I had given him my best WTF look. You say “duck” when you make a bad toss of the tennis ball or the Frisbee, not when you hurl a two-foot-long oak missile at someone’s head. I thought momentarily of screaming, “WOOD FIGHT!” but the aforementioned 2- and 3-year-old were on site, and besides, we all remember how the innocent “gas fight” in the movie Zoolander turned out.

So I kept stacking. And stacking. And stacking. And if not for the kindness of a few friends with trees to clear (thanks Ross, Kelli, and the Gowdy family) we would have been acornless all winter. Next year, I will start earlier, when it is still warm and the snow hasn’t started in earnest. Or maybe we will buy a few cords. Because despite all the trouble and the dint in the air quality, there is nothing like a huge woodpile and a roaring fire in the winter.

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