Timelapse: building the woodshed

This little firewood shed means more to me than you might expect. One of the downsides of becoming seriously chronically ill six years ago was leaving my beautiful off-grid farm behind and moving back to the city where energy arrives at the flick of a switch with no visceral sense of usage and certainly no pleasure or creativity in its production.

In the summertime our farm was powered by photovoltaic electricity and solar thermal hot water, but in the winter micro-hydro powered our lights, and firewood warmed our water, food, and home.

Living with wood heat deepens your relationship with energy. You can experience the difference between an efficiently and an inefficiently built house by seeing how many trees and hours of labor each consumes. You understand the power of sunshine when you can see how much wood it takes to produce a tank of hot water versus sunshine. More than anything for me though was just the sense of energy-gratitude that is sustained when I don’t have the ability to consume energy as an afterthought.

Waking up just a little bit chilly, sprinting through the rain to the woodshed, the joy and the science of starting a fast, hot, efficient fire. Each stick into the firebox sparking a memory: This was that floating log that I towed for two hours with my kayak, this was that tree that fell across the driveway in a storm, this was the scraps from my last boatbuilding class. Context. Connection.

I’ll be honest it was depressing as hell when all of these rich tactile experiences disappeared from my life. So this little wood shed is an ember, a flicker of hope towards a life I desperately want to live again.

Firewood is not a good solution for 8 billion people who want to gobble energy indiscriminately, but I still believe that wisely used it has an important, albeit limited role to play in a carbon balanced future.


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