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our odd community dance around firewood

 
steward
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A few years ago I bought two cords of firewood.   It lasted about two years - which I think it pretty good considering all the buildings that need firewood through the year.  

We had a policy, which I now think, in hindsight, was a bad idea.   The firewood was for "the project" - so for the house, plus the library during boot time if somebody was in there working on boot stuff.  Same for the shop and other buildings.   If anybody else wanted to run a fire, they had to bring their own firewood - which they didn't have and they didn't want to go get.   This led to the concept of people asking if they could "borrow" some of the project firewood - promising that they would replace it in a few days.  When they hadn't replaced it a month later, they would exclaim that their father died (again) and would need to go deal that that - but they will be right back!

The thing about somebody's father dying has turned into a recurring joke.   If somebody wants to leave, they don't need to fabricate a story.  

My vague memory is that firewood was borrowed about 20 times, and I have no memory of it ever being returned.  But I am quite certain that there are zero of the borrowers still here.


I think this firewood "debt" would often turn into an "obligation is poison" thing - leading to a buffet of unrelated problems.  This means that "firewood debt" is a poison on our community.

Therefore, we need an abundance of quality firewood all year.  So if anybody wants a little extra heat anywhere, we have plenty.  No more need to "borrow" - everybody can have as much as they want.  
No poison and a dramatic reduction in unrelated problems.

Last fall we did a quick calculation and with full firewood all year for all these:

  fisher price house
  library
  red cabin
  wood shop
  classroom
  bun warmer
  season extender
  two water heaters
  rocket oven
  three j-tube rocket stoves
  the love shack
  the rocket smoker
  allerton abbey
  cooper cabin
  the tipi
  the shandolier

Would be a need of 12 cords per year.  We have some other structures coming on-line that will also need wood, but let's just start with 12.

Yesterday I thought that it is only fair to harvest firewood during project time.   Stuff like finishing cooper cabin, and building a freezer wofati would have to be pushed back.   All because our general rule is that boot nest labor is all stuff that gives the boots benefits in the next three months.  

Today I think that we all use firewood from a year or more ago - shouldn't we be replacing that?  Just to be sustainable.

Besides ...   if a person works at a grocery store, they don't take paid time off of work to put up firewood at home.   They put it up on their days off.  Nest labor is about doing things to take care of the nest and project labor is about furthering the projects.  

I do think it is fair that firewood for rentals, the wood shop or classroom is more for our projects than our own personal, at home, comfort.   So maybe a 50/50 split?  


I think that when all the boots get together and bring in a load of firewood, it's a lovely outing and we get a fair bit of firewood.   Huzzah!   No poison!   So maybe once a month, we grab some firewood as project labor and once a month we grab some more firewood as nest labor.



 
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paul wheaton wrote: This led to the concept of people asking if they could "borrow" some of the project firewood - promising that they would replace it in a few days.  



I started laughing right here.

I grew up in Eagle, on the Yukon in sub-arctic Alaska, in the 1970s and 1980s.  Most everybody heated with wood, using huge barrel stoves in large, not-very-tight cabins.  Our first winter in a cabin sized for a family of six, which was technically "not done" inasmuch as we later added thick layers of additional insulation on all walls and the roof, we burned 24 cords of wood.  That was unusual and oppressive but not that unusual; most folks were burning 12-15 cords a winter.  Here's the thing: in all my years in that town, I don't ever recall anybody offering to borrow or lend firewood.  I think you'd have been laughed out of town.

Firewood charity was a thing.  A few of the old-timers bought all their wood and weren't wealthy people.  People watched their woodpiles and if they seemed to be getting low at sixty below zero, somebody would show up with half a cord.  The next year that old-timer would buy a bigger stack, usually from whichever person gave them firewood charity when they needed it.

If you were young and fit? Ha.  We had a town drunk, a serious grasshopper type.  Every year he would go hunting or fishing, and build a big fish rack or meat rack out of heavy poles to hang his game outside his house for the winter.  But he never cut much wood ahead.  All winter you'd see him put-putting through town every other day with half a dozen little birch logs dragging behind his snowmobile.  And every winter, the first time it got below forty below, regular as clockwork, the whole town would hear a big chainsaw starting up at 2:00AM at this guy's house.  He'd be out of firewood, out of fire, and outdoors in the moonlight cutting up his meat rack for firewood.  You could set your clock by it, he was so predictable about it.  "It must be forty below, [Guy] is out cutting up his fish rack again!"  But even he, as profligate as he was, never thought to try and borrow firewood.  Belike he knew people would never stop laughing.
 
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I started cackling at the same point as Dan Boone!

For one-offs, what about either accepting an immediate cash donation or the same amount of freshly chopped wood before they're welcome to carry it off? Note it in the same place you tell them to bring their own firewood, that way they've been warned. So many fathers might yet be saved!

The group outings sound like they'd make that task more fun, and they'd be a kind way to prevent grasshopper problems.
 
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I think your idea of having "project days" and "nest days" dedicated to joint firewood acquisition makes a lot of sense. The problem you've identified about firewood which is *really* critical, is that the best firewood is the kind that's been cut and split long in advance and has proper racks designed to make "first in/first out" firewood usage. So particularly the people who are there for a short term, its hard to see that big picture.

Teamwork firewood would have these advantages:
1. Rotating through parts of the job that require different muscles.
2. Heavier jobs for bigger/stronger people (I don't use chainsaws - my hands are too small for many tools to hold safely, so this becomes a genuine safety issue, and I haven't met a chainsaw yet that I feel I can get a proper grip on.)
3. Two people can often do a job that a single person would struggle or hurt themselves on. Having a spotter, or someone to run for help in an accident could be life or death.
4. It's more fun!
 
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I think it's a great idea Paul, whether on a schedule or with a target amount in mind, so that the wood you'll burn during the 2021-22 winter is already split and drying, and now you're bucking/splitting wood for the 2022-23 winter. Getting 18 months of drying vs 6, especially if it's stored under cover but with good air circulation, should certainly provide better firewood.

People could work on BBs as well, I was hoping to do that this summer during the PDC/PTJ - cut down a couple dead and live trees, peel and store the green ones for building use later, buck and split the dead ones for firewood. Drop enough junk poles as well to build that section of junkpole fence, adding on to existing fence where it's needed. Or filling in existing fence where pieces have rotted too much.
 
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K Kaba wrote:I started cackling at the same point as Dan Boone!

For one-offs, what about either accepting an immediate cash donation or the same amount of freshly chopped wood before they're welcome to carry it off? Note it in the same place you tell them to bring their own firewood, that way they've been warned. So many fathers might yet be saved!

The group outings sound like they'd make that task more fun, and they'd be a kind way to prevent grasshopper problems.



This seems like the sensible option... build up a BIG supply of wood using project time, and let anyone have at it, for a price. A price that is a bit above the rate for a delivered cord, to include the time of moving it and the cost of the storage structure...


I don't think I'd want unvetted randoms replacing firewood unsupervised anyhow, I'd rather take the money. Easy enough for someone inexperienced to put an axe in their shin or kill themself with a chainsaw.. leading to all sorts of awkwardness..
 
paul wheaton
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I like the idea that we end up with far more than 12 cords of wood put up.  All spread around to different places.  

And, yes, some of that wood could be put up by people working on BBs.  

I think another thing to keep in mind that during the rocket mass heater jamboree, it is good to say "burn as much as you want".  

Oh!   Another thing is that we have a contraption that makes for a sort of smokeless camp fire - so we want plenty of wood for that too.  



I like the idea that if we, say, have an ant or deep roots person that needs some firewood, they can buy a half face cord, for, say $60.  So rather than saying "no" or "borrow" the price is just so high that it seems okay.  



Overall, I think the most important point is the point that the whole "borrow" thing turned out to be a rather powerful community poison.  And that the solution was to keep a dozen cords stocked and ready.  Complete with the wood being filled by both boot project time and nest time.  And, probably the most important part, that it is a full group activity.
 
Jay Angler
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paul wheaton wrote:I like the idea that we end up with far more than 12 cords of wood put up.  All spread around to different places.  

Yes - I like the "spread around" part. Too much in one place, and particularly a large amount beside a wooden building, would freak out our local fire marshal. Consider where the wind comes from during high wild-fire risk times of the year are, and stockpiled firewood should be down wind from housing. Mind you, I suspect I'm in an ecosystem with greater wildfire risk.

Overall, I think the most important point is the point that the whole "borrow" thing turned out to be a rather powerful community poison.  And that the solution was to keep a dozen cords stocked and ready.  Complete with the wood being filled by both boot project time and nest time.  And, probably the most important part, that it is a full group activity.

I agree - fixing the "poison" is most important for the long-term health of the community. "Money troubles" - and dry firewood has a monetary value - is up near the top of marital break-ups, and I can't imagine that communities would be much different.
 
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