By Danielle French

Striking a Cord… or Eight

Trying to heat a drafty farm house with wood is nearly impossible. Well, you can do it, but parts of the house will be cozy and lovely, while other parts – well… And this wasn’t even a cold winter. One night I discovered two of my daughters huddled under a quilt watching a movie. Carlyle looked up and said “Jeez — I can see my breath!” The upside? Her toes were toasty thanks to the brick — heated on the wood stove — at her feet.

Shawn and I have taken to spending Friday nights sitting with our feet in the open oven door of the wood cook-stove, as we read or chat. No more crazy Toronto nights out for me! Even though it was a mild winter, I actually ran out of wood well before spring. I was determined that wouldn’t happen this winter. I’d buy eight cords (bush cords, of course – face cords are for city people) and get the wood all nestled in for the winter now, knowing that if I bought it in the fall, it probably wouldn’t be dry.

And a few weeks ago, eight cords of firewood arrived from Woodview Farm Products. Have you ever seen what eight cords of firewood looks like dumped all over a lawn? (Keep in mind, a bush cord is four feet by four feet by eight feet.) I cried. No, really — I did. We were looking at a minimum of two weeks of steady stacking — a huge job.

With lots of visitors scheduled to visit the farm over the summer, the wood had to be neat. A bit of research turned up something called a holz hausen. Being of German lineage, I was especially interested in this approach to stacking — the name means simply “wood house.” It’s a carefully constructed woodpile that looks attractive and is traditionally used to pile a lot of wood in a small place. The shape is a sort of a beehive with an open funnel in the centre to encourage air flow, which in turn speeds drying of the wood.

On Good Friday, we put our gloves on and got started. Carlyle, Olivia and Aubrey were game to help, but Daughter Number Two, Grace, declared she would have no part in the “shenanigans,” as she called them. (Mind you, she’s also the one who expects her bedroom to be nice and toasty 24/7!) We opened the car doors so we could blare country music as we began on the first layer.

As we built, a wonderful thing happened. Not only did the job go faster than we expected, even the girls thought the process was . . dare I say it . . . fun!

When our first-ever holz hausen was finished, I’ll be honest–we were pretty impressed with our handiwork. Even Grace, still in her lovely lady-of-leisure robe, took a walk around in silence and made her pronouncement. “I’m not going to lie, Mom. It looks good.” She then proceeded to redeem herself by making us all lunch. And there you have it…is it wood or is it art? For me it’s both: a thing of beauty as I walk by and a source of comfort representing a warm house next winter.

As an aside, my mother called the day same day we created our stack to tell us about a new photography exhibition at her local gallery on the subject of — wait for it — wood stacks. How crazy is that?! Forging new trends here in the Bethany Hills . . .

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Danielle French - Ash Naylor Photography

About Danielle

Looking for a simpler way of life for her four daughters and herself, Danielle moved from Toronto to this farm in the Bethany Hills of Southern Ontario, and over time together with her family and her partner Shawn, restored the barn, the iconic heritage silo and the land.

Danielle loves to create unique settings and menus for the many events she offers at South Pond Farms, such as authentic farm-to-table gatherings, bread-making workshops, culinary classes, and weddings. Danielle’s vision is to inspire others to share her vision of a traditional life and way of cooking and to feel the sense of history on this beautiful land.  

Danielle was also the host of a television series called Taste of the Country

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