“Here it comes at last. The cold time. The great time….Time to take a stroll out to the woodpile and get started.” — Lars Mytting, Norwegian Wood
Published in 2011, Lars Mytting’s Hel Ved (Solid Wood) spent more than a year on Norway’s bestseller list. Next week, this wonderfully written book arrives in the States, under its new and very descriptive title, Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way.
Earlier in his distinguished writing career, Lars Mytting wrote three novels, with the most recent receiving Norway’s National Bookseller Award. With Norwegian Wood (a bit of a departure), Mytting lends his poetic voice to an in-depth exploration of stacking logs, drying wood, and all the fire-burning elements that keeps us warm.
Norwegian Wood offers time-tested tools and techniques of turning wood to fire. Along the way we meet real people who, year after year, work diligently for the winter ahead:
Ole Haugen, Elga, Norway: “Ole is the kind of man who would rather sing the praises of others than his own. His stacks, he says, are simply practical constructions that do the job. But seventy years of experience tell their own story. The ends of his stack are so neat it looks as though the whole thing had been trimmed on both sides with a huge circular saw. Not a single log has been laid crosswise. Even twisted logs have found their places in the stack, without compromising the stability of the whole.
‘My method is very simple. I do the chopping, splitting, and stacking in small doses. That way I don’t get too stiff, and the wood doesn’t lie long on the ground. The secret of an even woodpile is to learn the trick of knowing what sizes you need to make a stable structure….And I also allow for the fact that the wood is going to shrink a little as it dries, so I build in a slight inward lean against a support, so the stack won’t topple forward that easily.’” — from Norwegian Wood.
Every man looks at his wood-pile with a kind of affection. I love to have mine before my window, and the more chips around the better to remind me of my pleasing work. — Henry David Thoreau
Known as the beehive or the Holzhausen, the round stack is an outstanding form of woodpile once widely used in Norway, but now almost obsolete. It is not easy to make, and if it starts to collapse the whole thing goes. But a successful round pile has much to recommend it. It makes good use of the available space and can accommodate twisted wood, and, if it’s properly constructed, rainwater will run off the outside so it does not need a top covering.” — from Norwegian Wood
Brute survival, but an artist’s touch as well: one of the many sculpture stacks that pop up in rural Norway during the spring. This angler’s dream was stacked in Drevsjo by Bjare Granli.
But of course the true test of all the hard work of chopping, stacking, and drying, is how warm and content you will be throughout the long winter. Author Lars Mytting seems very comfortable in his writing den.
One last note: With logs stacked high for a warm winter at home, just make sure you have enough books to last the long nights ahead:
Fuel for the soul: like wood piled for the winter, the Rocky Mountain Land Library’s book stacks, carefully arranged in a non-toppling, Norwegian way. We hope Ole Haugen would approve. (Land Library storage site, February 2012)