pear tree log: I started this blog to keep my younger son, Jonny, in touch with life in Lincolnshire, while he spent a year working in China. That year turned into five! Now he is home and training to become a physics teacher. This is simply a patchwork quilt of some of the things I enjoy - life in rural Lincolnshire, our animals, friends, architecture, books, the gardens, and things of passing interest.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Woodcutter and the Miller's Daughter

Monday dawned bright, cold and sunny.  George decided to do some work in the wood, sawing, chopping, stacking ready for next winter.
I was faced with the difficult decision - clean windows and do housework - or go and work in the wood in the fresh, cold air. 

I got to work on this lot, feeding the tangle of small branches and twigs into the shredder and ended up feeling like the miller's daughter in Rumpelstiltskin, because no matter how much I fed through, the piles never seemed to diminish! 
Borrowed from
However, I ended up with lots of lovely mulch, which I tipped onto the paths of the vegetable garden.   It is great to get something useful out of that which would otherwise have to be burnt or disposed of;  it also helps to keep the wood tidy and saves us the cost of buying mulch for the pathways!
The hens were constantly underfoot - but I didn't mind really.  They were just looking for insects - although I like to think they enjoy my company too.
When he'd finished with the chainsaw George got out the splitting axe and got this pile of wood ready for stacking.
These are the logs which we have prepared ready for next winter.  Almost there!

Here is a version of the old Woodcutter's Poem - and it has proven to be pretty accurate and helpful.

Beechwood flames are bright and clear
if the logs be kept a year
Oaken logs burn steadily
If the wood be old and dry
Chestnut's only good they say
If long dry years it's laid away
But Ash when new or Ash when old
Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold.
by Dorothy Tilson

Birch and Fir they burn too fast
Blaze too bright and will not last
Build a fire of elder tree
Death within your house you'll see.
If you would bake the sweetest bread
Use Hawthorn, or so 'tis said
But Ash when green or Ash when brown
Will please a queen with a golden crown

Elm will burn like churchyard mould
Even the very flames are cold
Poplar gives a bitter smoke
Burns your eyes and makes you choke
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells of flowers in bloom.
But Ash when wet or Ash when dry
A queen may warm her slippers by.

I am happy to say that most of our logs are ash - so I'll be able to warm my slippers next winter.


  1. Hmmm, I see Sugar Maple is missing from that list!
    Jane x

    1. Hi Jane, Welcome back - I hope you are taking it easy though, no housework allowed! Now that is an interesting thing - I wonder whether there is a Canadian version. Look after yourself.x

  2. No wonder you chose working in the woods - what a lovely day!

    1. Hi Scarlet, Yes, it was no contest really. Of course when I got back indoors the sun had shifted round and was highlighting the dog and cat paw prints on the patio doors which I should have washed. But hey-ho, tomorrow is another day!

  3. What a charming poem. Can any old queen warm their slippers by? (It seemed fitting to say it, but I've never been very queenly.) I probably would have chosen cleaning the house after about 15 minutes ot THAT work. Where's Rumpelstiltskin when you need him?

    1. Hi Mitch,
      When we burn ash logs you can probably feel the heat all the way over in Spain! Today is pouring rain, so I'd better do the housework- no getting away from it for long.

  4. I can't even ponder next winter until this winter is over!! :) That said, we'll be getting our wood for next winter delivered soon, which means spending time stacking wood. Looks like you had a beautiful day to be outside.

    1. Hi Knatolee,
      We have had a mild winter so far, so we have taken the opportunity to get ahead and get out in the good weather. No snow here, although they are expecting a little on the hills, a few miles away, later this morning.. all we have got is rain today.

    2. When I lived in British Columbia, winters were like that. Rain, rain, rain! But oh so green!

  5. That's a great poem, and very instructive. Like Jane, I will have to look for a Canadian version. When Peter was alive and we heated our house with wood, we always used maple. I stopped heating with wood after a couple of scary chimney fires, but I miss the wonderful warmth it gives. And I agree it would be no contest between working inside or out on a day like the one in your pictures.

    1. Hi Evlyn,
      There are lots of versions of that poem - but the basic properties remain the same - and from our experiments they are pretty accurate! Our heating, hot water, cooking are all fuelled by wood, so if we do the work ourselves we can enjoy the exercise and save on cost. I love working outdoors, especially in cold weather.
      I must do a bit of research on that Canadian poem. I'll let you know if I find one.

  6. Hi Elaine...I'm thinking how nice it is you have a partner to share in the chores. You guys make a great team.

    1. Hi Meggie,
      It is nice having George around as he worked away for most of our marriage, often for four months at a time. Now that he has retired we have had to learn to work as a team. Luckily there is a lot which still needs to be done around this place and those keep him occupied!

  7. Wonderful posting! I loved the chickens underfoot while you toiled and the rewards of having mulch and neat stacks of wood. Best of all was the addition of the poem.

    1. Hello Ms Sparrow,
      I am so pleased that you enjoyed the poem, I love folk poems like that. Those little old hens spent their first year in a battery farm and now they enjoy the freedom of the wood, they have a great time!

  8. I have a beautiful ash chest, turn of the century. It came from a summer camp for inner city children. How nice to know ash is honored.

    1. Hi Joanne,
      I love wooden chests, especially those with a bit of history!


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