Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gems in the Woodpile

We burn a lot of firewood in the stove at the blacksmith shop. All firewood is not created equal, as all would have known in the 1840s. Some wood is best only for kindling, some wood makes a hot fire, some is used for night logs to keep embers overnight. Our woodpile reflects the woods from which it comes. Red oak, hard maple, and beech are the primary woods. Here and there in the woodpile will be some gnarled cherry, shagbark hickory, old dead elm or even ash wood. Here is an old poem about the properties of firewood. The origins of this poem seem to have been forgotten, but I suspect it was brought to the colonies from England and adapted further here. There are many different versions of this poem. Here is the longest version I have found.

Beechwood fires are bright and clear,
if the logs are aged for at least a year.
Chestnut's only good, they say,
if for long 'tis laid away.
But Ash new, or Ash old,
is fit for a queen with crown of gold.

Birch and fir logs burn too fast,
blaze up bright, and do not last.
It is, by the Irish said,
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like church-yard mould –
Even the very flames are cold.
But Ash green, or Ash brown,
is fit for a queen with golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
fills your eyes, and makes you choke.
Apple wood will scent your room,
with an incense like perfume.
Oaken logs, if dry and old,
keep away the winter's cold.
But Ash wet or Ash dry,
a king shall warm his slippers by.

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