Jennifer Cockrall-King | enRoute
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The Best Tips for Stocking Your Woodpile


Norwegian tree feller Lars Mytting gives us the lowdown on wood.

By Jennifer Cockrall-King | enRoute magazine Dec 2016

You don’t need heavy liquor all the time. Sometimes beer is fine,” author Lars Mytting jokes as we enter his woodshed in the little town of Elverum, surrounded by birch-studded forest in the interior of Norway. Showing me the variety in his wood collection, he makes an analogy to a well-stocked bar or a wine cellar. He likes to pair different woods that have different combustion characteristics: Some give off fast heat and bright light, others burn slowly and create hot, glowing embers, so he doesn’t have to keep stoking the two wood stoves in his house.

A novelist, Mytting became an international celebrity when he wrote a slender meditation called Hel Ved (Solid Wood) on a very Norwegian obsession. Now in translation in 16 languages, Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way has sold more than 500,000 copies since its release. He tells me he was baffled by the book’s success, but these days he’s not surprised that a parka-clad pilgrim would drive one and a half hours from Oslo for a chat. The man, like the book, is a fount of poetic knowledge about the pop and hiss of pine and spruce amid flames, telling stories about the pleasure of a log cleaving under the strike of an axe, and offering step-by-step instructions and factoids about the drying rate of birch.

Wood is split with a narrow-head axe before drying.

As we walk back through the Nordic chill to his chopping block, he offers another revelation: Wood splits more easily when it’s frozen. My toes are cold, but I’m closer than ever to that incandescent glow that gets us through the cold and dark of winter, like our own personal indoor sun.

Wood sheds of the Norwegian interior inspired Lars Mytting’s writing. (Photo: Lars Mytting)

The open square shape of woodpile is demonstrated by a resident of Loren, Norway (Photo: Lars Mytting)