I heat my home with wood. There are a lot of reasons for this: wood is carbon-neutral, it is local, it is a renewable resource, my home is a lot warmer than I would keep it if I used a different fuel source, dealing with wood is good exercise. I’ve been able to scrounge up some of my wood for free, but I have to buy a fair amount of it. I have three or four different suppliers that I’ve dealt with over the past few years. There are a lot of suppliers that I’ve bought from once and crossed them off my list completely. There are a lot of wood suppliers who lack integrity. The basic unit for purchase of firewood around here is the face cord. A face cord is supposed to be 4’ tall, 8’ long, and 16” wide. You can’t measure wood by weight, because the weight of different kinds of wood varies a lot. But the basic measurement of 4’ x 8’ x 16” is supposed to be a standard. The problem is, when your wood is delivered, it is just a big pile of unstacked pieces of wood. By the time you get it stacked, so that you can see if it measures up, the wood-seller is paid and gone. Almost everyone sells you a stack of wood that turns out to be smaller than a face cord. Sometimes it’s 4’ x 8’, but the wood is cut to be shorter than 16”. I had one where the average length was about 12”. That’s quite a shortfall in terms of wood volume. (Math word problem alert: What percentage short would that be?) Then there’s the issue of whether or not your wood is “seasoned.” Everyone says they are selling seasoned wood, but to really burn well it has to have been cut and split for over a year. I’ve totally given up on trying to find seasoned wood for sale. I am buying wood now for the 2014-15 winter, because that’s the only way I can be sure of burning seasoned wood.
So, over the weekend, I had my favorite wood-supplier deliver three face cords for me. I told him that green (unseasoned) wood would be fine. His price was a bit steeper this year than it has been in the past, and I talked him down a little bit. (He wanted $70 per face cord, and we agreed to $200 for the three face cords.) The first thing I noticed when he delivered the first one was that the pieces were cut long. The average length was around 18”. Then, as I stacked the first face cord, I found that it came to about 4 ½’ x 8’. Not only was the wood longer than it needed to be, but he gave me more of it than he needed to. (Word problem alert: What percentage over was he?) Well, before he left, I thanked him for his generosity, gave him the $10 that we had negotiated down, and sent him on his way with some fresh peaches.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention this: most of the wood is already seasoned. No one sells seasoned wood!! This stuff is like gold to me.
How do you respond to someone’s generosity in a situation like this? Does it surprise you? Does it make you want to be more generous yourself? Or are you jaded by your past experiences to the point where you are just glad not to be getting ripped off? I was profoundly affected by this experience. I find myself wanting to be more like this fellow in my dealings with people.