For the love of woodpiles


I was standing at a window in the other living room—the room we use so seldom that we are never even quite sure what to call it—craning my neck and peering out between the blinds.

“Whatcha lookin’ at?” asked The Mister, a twinkling of amusement and curiosity in his voice.

“My woodpile, of course!”

“Oh. Right,” he laughed.

All good Mainers have to admire their woodpiles. I think it defines us as much as saying ayuh in the dooryard and eating red hotdogs. I take pictures of mine and show them off on social media the way most people do of their grandkids or trips to the beach.


The Mister and I have gotten a good start on our firewood this year. He felled several rock maples in an area where they were too thick for their own good, and we are adding them to the pile of mostly beech log length wood we purchased last fall.

The magnificent spring weather has been just right for processing firewood. I love the sunny and cool days with a steady breeze we have been enjoying this past month.

I love having The Mister help with splitting, too. Around here, splitting is women’s work. We have some strange gender roles, but this one probably has something to do with the fact that I am too spleeny to attempt chain sawing and The Mister is too picky to let me stack. The real truth is, I like splitting.

I thank my lucky stars I have it better than my foremothers—according to 1700’s midwife Martha Ballard’s diary, women back then had to split all their wood by hand before they built a fire to cook over. If I had to use an axe, I wouldn’t have any fingers left. I’m happy with my hydraulic model.

Even with modern advantages like gas-powered chain saws and power wood-splitters, processing firewood is hard work. There is a lot of heavy lifting, holding, stretching, and twisting. I noticed The Mister wearing a T-shirt touting the name of a gym we used to frequent, back before prepsteading swallowed us whole.

“It ought to say Berniers’ Gym,” I snorted, wincing at the creak in my back and dabbing at the wood grit on my face with the back of my wood-grit-covered glove. That’d be more like it.

We like to rake up the bark and shrapnel from the ground and tidy up the area after a good day’s work splitting.

“Pretty neat-ed up,” The Mister remarked, “for a wood yard.” He went on to suggest I take a picture of it and send to my brother, and ask him if his wood yard was that pretty. Not that we are competitive, but my brother is such a skilled professional with all things forest and firewood—I sometimes wonder if he was born with logging tools in his hand—that The Mister and I have to find something to take pride in.

Cutting one’s own firewood is truly an aspect of homesteading that can make a body proud. It is so purposeful and tangible. And even though there are always those few pieces that fight to the bitter end—that stringy piece of fresh-sawn beech that takes three or four swipes with the wedge to get through one slice, or the knotty chunk that creaks like a cellar door in B-rated horror movie—the results of doing firewood work are fairly stable and predictable. Unlike the uncertainty of planting vegetables and hoping they survive droughts, floods, high winds, and Japanese beetles, I can pretty much count on getting back what I put into firewood.

I can count on being proud of it, too. A quiet moment can find me hunched up against the window that gives me the best view of my woodpile, pleased with the view of my progress, and reminding myself of why it’s so great to be a Mainer.



Kathy Bernier

About Kathy Bernier

Backyard farming since 2007--raising our own, saving up for hard times, rejecting consumerism, and hugging the land.