By Danielle French

Wood: Heart (and House) Warming

Brrrrr. When will it end?! This is by far the coldest winter since we moved to South Pond. It’s easy to be romantic about an old farmhouse in the summer, but when the temperature regularly dips below -20 outside, our lovely home is draughty and cold!


Regular readers will know that we heat with wood, which is stored in round stacks called holzhausen. My friends know that I have trouble carrying on a conversation without talking about insulation and air flow. In fact, it’s a wonder I have any friends left—particularly my boyfriend—considering how irritatingly repetitious the conversations must have become, but I just can’t help it. In this winter’s depths, there have been days that my office has had an unthinkable temperature.

When you rely on wood for your heat, it’s crucial to keep it dry, something I’ve struggled with every year. Last fall, I came up with a “brilliant” solution to keep the tarps on the holzhausen. Previously, I fought with the tarps regularly, the wind catching them and pulling them everywhere but over the wood. This year, I thought, it would be different: I had bricks weighting the tarps down. But almost immediately the tarps blew free of the bricks, parts of the tarp tore. Over the next several days of very wet and windy weather, I tarped everything all over again, and again watched the covers fly off in gale force winds, leaving me with a mound of wet wood. I could not get a fire going without a huge amount of paper and kindling, vents opened to the fullest at all times. It was a struggle.

And then… Christmas arrived early, thanks to Shawn. One afternoon as Amy and I were busy stoking the wood stove and coaxing it to keep the flame alive, I looked out the window to see Josh (one of Shawn’s able men and creator of the new steps by the barn) pulling in with a truckload of blessedly dry wood. I almost cried. It was such a beautiful, thoughtful thing to do. We become so focused on the bigger picture that we often forget how much these personal gestures matter. Josh unloaded the wood, passed it through the window to me and we stacked it in the wood box. Finally, we had a fire to warm ourselves by. How lovely.

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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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