If you need me, I will be down in the pole barn busting oak planks into firewood.
Before all you woodworkers come pounding at my door, these boards are infested with some little critter converting them to a powdery sawdust. Lyctid powderpost beetles by the looks of it. And by the google of it. We could be wrong.
I’ll say this: They’re nasty critters doing nasty work, but “powderpost” is a lovely word. One can imagine it in a poem. Or as a room where you fix your makeup.
The infestation occurred sometime over the past two decades, as the boards were conscientiously stripped, spaced, and stacked in a corner of the pole barn when we bought the place 14 years ago. We paid the previous owner for them, the plan being to use them for a house that still remains but a plan.
Now the lumber is laced with teensy tunnels, and when I shift a board I find mini-cones of sawdust below. I read that you can cure the problem by putting the lumber into a kiln at 130 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours. That is not going to happen. We gotta lotta oak trees.
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Rather, I am zipping them up with the radial arm saw to a length that fits our woodstove. Different temperature, different duration, same cure.
It pains me to admit that this is also mitigation against the unavoidable fact that the woodshed is going bare at a rate I did not anticipate. It pains me further to say this is nothing new. As a matter of fact it is no more a surprise than the robins returning in spring.
I could publish an anthology consisting solely of me writing about not putting up enough firewood. My wife, for the record, would burn that book before she burned the infested oak.
I have written and yip-yapped a lotta hoo-hah over the years based on my wood-splitting when in fact I simply do not do enough of it.
The spoilt lumber will buy us a couple of weeks. And I know where some dry windfalls are. We’ll be fine, but I’ll still look dumb.
This week’s melt is giving me false hope regarding a reduction in our burn rate, but so does every spring. I did go online and check the long-range forecast and was real surprised to see that temperatures would rise to the 60s and 70s for the next 10 days, then realized I still had the app set to Tucson from a trip back in January. I clicked back to our present ZIP code and refueled the chainsaw.
There is horror in the world. My firewood situation is self-inflicted silliness. Nothing I can say will equate. The house must be heated. The family kept warm. The ruination of a few boards is nothing.
Today I am meeting my neighbor for a walk in the woods. We will set out under the pretense of searching for shed antlers, when in fact we are working on keeping things intact.
An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio”(tentshowradio.com). Read more from Michael Perry at www.sneezingcow.com.