In search of wood

With a forecast of several feet of snow and almost certain power outages — neither of which occurred — firewood was in as much demand Monday as food, gasoline and batteries.

Social media was abuzz with people looking for firewood. When Stop & Shop and Village Market both sold out, people turned to the giant woodpile at Gregory’s Sawmill on Route 7.

“There was a line out to Pimpewaug all day,” a worker at the sawmill said. With people concerned about power outages they were looking for trunkloads of wood, he said. “It was pretty crazy here all day. There was an hour’s wait from the end of the line to the woodpile.”

And when they tried to cone the lot off at closing, people were still coming, he said.

What people were buying at Gregory’s was seasoned wood. For local farmers in the 19th Century and earlier, December was the time to work on wood, not for the winter ahead, but for the next summer and beyond. Wood for stoves and fireplaces needed drying, for sap-filled “green” wood cuts heat output by a third.

Split up, firewood dries quickly and, as the Old Farmer’s Almanac said, it was best left outside a while in the late-fall weather. “Give it the wind a few weeks before housing, and it will dry all right,” the “old farmer” wrote.

Today, many people still heat with wood, using sophisticated stoves that burn logs and even conveyor-fed wood pellets, or employing high-tech furnaces that can burn both wood and propane or fuel oil.

But the old farmer’s old advice on firewood still holds true: Dry it right to burn it well.