Winter Supply of Fuel (wood)
(as recalled by
Herman J. Gerwing)
|Joseph Gerwing’s farm home was likely typical of
many pioneer homes built before 1920 in Saskatchewan. It
was a two story frame structure with little or no
insulation. The rooms on the main floor consisted of a
porch, pantry, large kitchen-dining room, living room
and a bedroom.
There were four bedrooms on the second
story. Heat was
provided by a wood burning furnace located in the basement. A
single duct fed warm air to a large floor register on the main
floor. Heat to the second floor occurred by natural flow through
a smaller register on the ceiling of the main floor. Needless to
say it was cold upstairs on those –30 deg. F. winter nights!
The annual fuel requirement for cooking and
heating for one year was 25-30 sleigh loads of
wood. Poplar trees were
plentiful in the area, so they were the logical choice
for firewood. In any case they had to be removed as the land was
cleared for cultivation.
Wood was cut a year in advance. The reason
for this was the poplar trees contained a lot of moisture.
Cutting & piling for a year allowed the wood to cure. Cured
wood burned much hotter and easier than “green” wood.
Securing the wood supply was always done in
the winter because summer was too busy due to the never ending
schedule of field work. The wood for the most part was cut by
hand with axes from green poplar stands located on the farm. The
wood was then manually loaded onto sleighs. Sturdy draught
horses were used to haul the loads to the farm yard.
After the 25 to 30 loads were assembled at
the yard, the logs were sawed into stove length pieces. About
25% of the wood was then split to assist in curing and so it
would fit the stove/furnace more readily.
All the wood was then piled and left to cure.
In the early years the sawing was done by
hand with a two man “buck saw” of the type you see in
lumberjack competitions. Splitting
was done with an axe and a wedge. Joseph automated the sawing
and splitting of the logs in the 20’s when he acquired a
circular saw and a splitter powered by a single cylinder
stationary engine. Later the engine was replaced by Joe’s
first farm tractor, a cross motor Titan International which had
a belt pulley. The belt pulley was used to run a variety of farm
equipment such as the saw, splitter, thresher and the grinder
for making chop. Chop is ground grain that is fed to livestock.
On Joe’s farm the cured wood was hauled
from the wood pile to the house by stone boat and horses once
per week all winter long. A
trap door in the basement wall was opened and the wood was
tossed into the storage room below. A fire in the well stoked
furnace would last through the night. However the heat generated
by the furnace gradually diminished hour by hour and by morning
the temperature in the house would sometimes be below freezing.
The wood for cooking and heating water was carried indoors each
day and piled in a big wooden box near the stove in the kitchen.
The kitchen stove had a reservoir filled with water attached to
it. That reservoir was the main source of hot water for washing.