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Southern France
Lynn Deasy is a freelance writer, author, foodie, and garden tinkerer. She lives in a 600 year old house in southern France with her husband, Christophe. Currently, she is looking for a literary agent for her memoir CA VA? STORIES FROM RURAL LIFE IN SOUTHERN FRANCE which examines the oddities of French provincial living from an outsider’s point of view through a series of adventures that provide more than a fair share of frustration, education, admiration, and blisters…. yes, lots and lots of blisters. Lynn blogs every Monday, Wednesday, and sometimes Friday.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wood heat

Wood in the garden
There you have it, while heating season hasn’t started yet wood season has.  We heat by wood and we don’t buy it, we collect it from fallen trees in the area.  Autumns can have warm days, cool nights, and can last pleasantly long.  Sometimes, we don’t light the first fire until October and when we do, we only heat in the evening as a question of comfort rather than need.  On the other hand, this mid-season can also be cold and wet, so we need to prepare while the weather is still good.

For the last two months, Christophe has been collecting wood for the season.  If a tree is cut, it’s too fresh to burn that year, so it’s left to dry.  This year, he’s collecting fallen trees for this year’s heating season and cutting some with neighbors.  Basically, he’s working two years of wood at the same time, but that’s common, at least for Christophe.

Once the wood finally makes it into our garden, it is cut, split, and stacked.  I cannot say exactly how much wood we burn.  In France, wood is measured in stère or in cubic meters, not cords, but I can say when it runs the entire length of the garden wall Christophe stops worrying if we have enough.  How many cubic meters is that?  He has calculated that, but like any heat source, it’s used in relationship to the weather, most of the time that is enough, but there are exceptions.  Late last winter, it was terrible cold, and we burned through stacks of wood in no time; however, up until December, we only light the heater in the evenings.

For those who don’t heat by wood I’m certain this idea is a bit archaic.  Some think we contribute to deforestation, but the forest gains 5% of agricultural grounds each year and needs to be trimmed back; after all, France is an agricultural country.  And, most of our heating wood comes from fallen trees.  We are actually cleaning the area by removing dead wood that could contribute to a forest fire.  Our heater, or poéle, has a double combustion, meaning it re-burns gas that escapes from the burning wood; the CO2 output is as minimal as it could get.  

Then there are others who think heating by wood is rather romantic.  Honestly, it is, after you get past the cutting, splitting, stacking, and hauling it in everyday.  Heating by wood simply is what it is: hard work, but there’s a satisfaction is knowing it’s done and turning up the heat by throwing another log in the fire isn’t going to change the heating bill – as if we have one.


  1. What is the position in France on gathering fallen wood? Technically is that ok. I have been told that wood fallen on the ground is ok to take while obviously felling a tree, not belonging to you, is not. Do you know if this is true?

  2. Arabella,
    From what I understand, there is still an old law on the books that dates back to when France had a king. Only the king or a noble (that would be a landowner) can cut down a tree. The peasants were allowed to pick up fallen wood. We still act on that principal and gather fallen wood. That said, I wouldn't take wood from a friend's land knowing they need it too, but according the laws (again, as I know), you can. Pretty neat, eh?