When my husband and I searched for our first home one criteria we agreed as non-negotiable was that it had to have a real wood burning fireplace. One of the greatest pleasures during the winter is to sit by a crackling warm real wood fire sipping hot chocolate, or tea, or hot buttered rum. Nothing beats the smell of a real wood fire, too. Well, maybe fresh-baked bread: mmmmmmmm. Oh – but I don’t want to talk about food right now, I want to talk about the joys of real fireplaces.

If you have a real wood burning fireplace and not one of those flakey gas-log abominations you will have a need for wood to burn in it.For those who are unaware, firewood does not really spring from the backs of pickup trucks owned by rustic and burly country bumpkins, or neatly bundled on store parking lots. No – I’m here to tell you that firewood grows on trees. Really – trust me on this one. As trees will do, the parts that grow to become firewood come in all shapes and sizes. Someone actually has to go out and cut the tree parts into those neat little useful sized firewood chunks that will fit into your fireplace and burn nicely.

I used to buy firewood. Sometimes, especially during the colder years, firewood was hard to obtain and relatively expensive, and if you are not real careful it will be “green” (not seasoned properly) when it’s delivered. Several years ago I noticed that there was a lot of free firewood around the city, thanks to the ever ProActive and Innovation Code Enforcement Officers. Their constant surveillance and bullying ensured that the homeowners kept those evil trees trimmed. Because Farmer’s Branch doesn’t mulch or compost organic waste that perfectly fine firewood was just sent to the landfill. To me, it seemed like such a waste to throw all that fine wood away. So, one year when my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday I asked for a chain saw.  He obliged, and now I spend a lot of time harvesting free firewood from the streets.

There’s an old saying that firewood warms you twice: once when you cut it, and again when you burn it. In Farmer’s Branch the Community Surveillance folks make it so that our firewood is even more efficient. Let me explain:

Many homeowners are kind enough to cut their tree limbs into manageable lengths before they put them by the curb, and for that I am grateful. But, even the kindest homeowner is not going to split large tree stumps just to throw them away, so a lot of time I end up hoisting some pretty large pieces of wood into the back of my truck. In the old days, before Farmer’s Branch became ProActive and Innovative, I put the stumps on end on the concrete so that they could cure through the summer. Some of them were so large that I had to roll them around. When colder weather came I would go out and split the cured wood as I wasn’t about to try to split firewood in 100 degrees heat. That would be detrimental to my Health, Safety, and Welfare.

Alas, at some point some genius decided that rats preferred to nest in firewood: even tree stumps on end on a concrete pad. So, I had to lug those huge stumps onto my firewood rack because this same genius decided that if the big stumps were on a rack 18″ above the concrete the rats couldn’t see them or something. Now, when winter gets here I have to hoist the stumps back off the rack so I can split them. Let’s see, so far this firewood has warmed me 4 times: gathering it in the first place, unloading it from my truck to the ground, hoisting it onto the firewood rack, and then horsing it back onto the ground so I can split it.

Splitting it warms me again, and then restacking the smaller pieces back onto the rack warms me even further. So, thanks to the City of Farmer’s Branch, my firewood warms me at least 7 times. If I think about the city and their logic regarding firewood I get warmed even more – I guess you could say I get pretty hot. Especially when I have to dodge the large chunks as they fall from the rack. But – I guess I have to jeopardize my own Health, Safety, and Welfare for the good of the community, right?

But …….. I am breathlessly waiting to hear what Jim Olk comes up with to justify the notion that firewood stored at least 18″ above the ground is somehow better than firewood stored by universally accepted means. I’m afraid that I share Marty’s scepticism, as I have had a lot of experience with Community Surveillance. It has been my experience that the Community Surveillance Team would rather support their erroneous ideas than admit they are wrong.

For instance: have you tried to find a ready-made firewood rack that stores firewood that high? I have, and the only one I could find (out of hundreds) held the wood 9″ off the ground. And Mother Earth News, among others, warns to stack firewood no more than 4 feet high for safety reasons. A cord of firewood measures 4’x4’x8′, but most homeowners buy what is called a “face cord” which is more or less 4′ high by 8′ long by 16-18″ wide. That doesn’t leave much room for a useless 18″ clearance underneath. Besides that, firewood is extremely heavy, and that 18″ effectively moves the center of gravity upwards on a small footprint. Think of the old Jeeps and their propensity to roll over – that is why they did that; because the weight was high off the ground and not supported by the small wheelbase. The same laws of physics apply to firewood stacks.

I personally know a guy who was told to make his firewood stack higher. He had to get a taller neighbor to put the top pieces of wood on the stack for him, because he couldn’t reach that high. Now, when he retrieves wood he is in danger of having a piece fall right into his face. So much for Health, Safety, and Welfare. For the record: while he was unstacking and restacking his wood he did not find one rat, or rat dropping, or any indication that rats were nesting in his firewood. The idea that rats prefer firewood stacks to your attic, bushes, garage, storage shed, or the golf course is not based in fact.

 I guess hundreds of firewood rack suppliers and experts don’t know as much as our Code Enforcement team. Maybe we could make extra money by hiring them out as consultants. The City of Farmers Branch would also gain even more notoriety as being more than a little, uh, shall we say eccentric. Like we need the extra press.