Sunday, January 1st, 2023
Before Bressenden starts to prepare for its sixth year of hosting B&B guests, the quiet, largely guest-free period of the dark weeks around the solstice provides an opportunity to reorganise the wood shed and use up old stock, particularly as a fair number of trees came down during the recent storm. There are now new piles of logs dotted about all over the garden that will need to be collected, seasoned and stored. At this time of ridiculously high energy prices, a log fire is no longer an occasional treat but an all-day provider of heat. With long nights, short days, cold temperatures and often atrocious weather, the temptation is simply to hibernate. But this winter’s favourite pastime involves beating the hell out of enormous slices of tree trunk with an axe and a mallet. One learns by trial and error. It is strangely satisfying to go out in all weathers with thick leather gloves, protective goggles and tough shoes (essential to avoid toe injuries from falling steel, iron and heavy logs) and get to work in the sheltered space of the wonderful shed that Robert Ghent rebuilt for us. A second axe and a couple of heavy wedges are essential accessories and valued friends when an axe head gets stuck fast in an unyielding piece of wood. How satisfying, though, to wield these traditional tools with their smooth hickory handles and then to enjoy the fruits of one’s labours at the end of the day. Colin the gardener says that those who chop wood get warm twice. How true!