I was walking back from my friend Claire’s through Beatswell Wood the other day when I noticed it. A fallen branch. A nicely rotting fallen branch. Then smaller branches, conveniently broken into wood-burning-stove like lengths. My inner French peasant knocked urgently at my brain. ‘You can’t leave those!’ she said, in perfect English. ‘Fuel for free! Whaddya mean you’ve got no bag? What are arms for? Get on with it!’
And it’s true. No self-respecting French country person – man or woman – would think of leaving for a walk without a just-in-case (‘au cas où’) bag. Here’s an account of what we used to do in France, especially in autumn.
Yesterday we were better prepared. We both set forth, equipped with large strong bags, just big enough to collect stove-length pieces of wood, or ones dried out enough to break in two. A stout thick branch each – to be sawn up later – completed our haul. Kindling sorted. A day or two’s heat sorted. Well, you know what they say about wood, and about how it heats you several times? We aren’t woodcutters. But we do gather it, then stack it, then burn it. That’s three times. That’s good value.
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