Here's the Scoop: Nov. 12, 2008

Are you using that wood?
Some things never change. I’m proud to point out that I’m not a “bandwagon-jumper” when it comes to burning wood. I’ve always been a bit on the “thrifty” side and, as a result, have long thought that burning wood was a sensible way to save money on heating costs. So, for close to 20 years, wood has been part of our heating system.
It’s only natural that as fuel prices have shot up, more people are turning to wood-burning to keep costs in check. This is good. And not so good.
The positive part of all this wood burning is that many more people are able to avoid paying The Man for heating products. Of course, it’s probably only a matter of time before The Man moves into the wood business…
In the meantime, it’s good to know that the firewood business is largely confined to local business owners trying to make some hard-earned money. The downside now that firewood is “hot,” is that prices are on the rise. That’s OK — some classic supply and demand in action.
As noted, I don’t have any problem with those in the firewood business making some extra money. It’s difficult, dangerous work and they deserve what they can get for their labor.
What I do have a problem with is how possessive some non-burners have become about wood on their property.

Tree for the taking
For instance, a few weeks ago during a freakish October snowstorm, many parts of the region were covered with broken trees. This was bad news for those who receive their electric supply through wires, but seemingly good for those who use firewood.
A few days after the storm I drove past the house of a friend who I knew had not made the switch to firewood and asked him if he was interested in having me “help” remove the remnants of the large tree that fell in front of his house.
“Be here at 10 a.m. Friday,” he instructed me. “We’re auctioning off the wood.”
I replied that I understood and quickly “bid” him farewell. I wondered if a small branch had possibly struck him in the head.

Roadside stands
It wasn’t long before I realized that such protective attitudes were becoming the norm. In the coming days, I spotted at least half-a-dozen “Log-in-Ade Stands” featuring freshly fallen trees, cut just to the right size to provide heating refreshment.
Unlike the little sheds that dot our countryside during the summer and rely on the honor system for travelers to leave the right amount of money for the vegetables being offered, no such chances were being taken with the firewood. Every stand I saw was fully manned and there were no offers to simply “leave” the cash.
While I understood that people want to “Turn logs into Log-in-Ade,” there was something about this situation that saddened me. Then I remembered, I have a dislike of paying for firewood.
Again, it’s not that I want to deny anyone the right to make a living. It’s just that for so many years, wood just seemed to always be available — kind of like air — with bark.
My fondness for nostalgia transported me back to the days when I would joyfully cruise the back roads in search of areas where road crews had recently trimmed back dangerous trees. I didn’t have a truck, but no worries — you could fit a bunch of wood into a hatchback, if you knew how to pack the stuff. This certainly wasn’t stealing, but it was a task best done under cover of darkness because wood hauling isn’t normally a selling point used for hatchbacks. The scene could be a bit embarrassing.
That’s not the case anymore. If you’re clever enough to be the first one at the scene of a “cutting,” more power to you. Chances are, though, you’ll probably just find you’ve been left in the dust.