November 6, 2012 |  by

Well, my Amish friend was incorrect in the end (see the thread in “The Life of Eric Sloane” on this blog).  Today the sun shone beautifully for nearly all of the afternoon.  A good day to cut firewood.

It struck me as I was cutting firewood (lazily by 18th century standards – I was using a modern chainsaw to cut logs already de-limbed and stacked) that the early American farmer must have made great use of felled limbs and trees on his property. Felling trees, cutting them to proper stove length and hauling those lengths is incredibly time and energy consuming.  Since the departure of Hurricane Sandy, I have picked up every limb I can find and carry on my 2.5 mile walk each day.  The amount of usable firewood I have obtained in this manner is significant.  I can well imagine that, throughout the year, the farmer visited his tree lines and woodlot to retrieve felled limbs and trees with an eye towards supplementing his firewood stack.  While it is indeed true that our early American counterparts lived in houses that were nowhere near as well insulated as our 20th and 21st century versions and utilized walk-in fireplaces that wasted a great deal of heat, it is also true that they built much smaller homes and confined themselves to smaller areas of that home in the winter.  I believe that it would be possible for a diligent New England farmer to collect enough felled limbs and trees over the course of a year to heat his home without the need to intentionally cut a tree down for firewood.  Pure speculation on my part, yet judging from the remnants of Sandy, entirely possible.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.