Jennifer Cockrall-King | Westerlies Winter 2017
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Westerlies Winter 2017

Editorial Note from Winter 2017, Cottage Life West

It’s that time of the year again…when a woman’s thoughts turn to her woodpile. Or, at least, this woman’s thoughts do.
Have I collected enough throughout the year to last me until spring? Did
I split enough “small stuff” to coax a roaring fire until the hardwood logs catch, making coals to keep me warm until morning? And have I given it enough time to season, so that it’s dry when I haul armloads inside to burn?

I obsess over firewood. It’s a habit  that I picked up eons ago at the family cabin. I love the scavenging expeditions when a tree falls. I get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction swinging an axe, splitting logs, and stacking wood like I’m prepping for the apocalypse. And then, of course, the payoff: that soft light and cozy heat saturating the room. (Ready to fire up your inner lumberjack? Turn to this issue’s Workshop section, starting on p. 29, for tips on cutting and season-ing your wood—and a handful of other projects to keep you warm and busy.)

And thank goodness for this obsession, because it came in mighty handy last winter when I inadvertently went—sort of—off-grid. Just as the snow started to fly and Okanagan Lake saw ice around its edges, my furnace decided to blow only cold air. There were three rather expen-sive service calls, but no one could figure out the root of the problem. In the end, the furnace had failed and couldn’t be repaired. It was going to be a big, disrup-tive, and costly job to replace it. In the meantime, I had already taken to using my two woodstoves for heat as much as for ambience and entertainment. I realized that I was able to keep the indoor temperature cozy enough to put off the furnace replacement until spring.

It was quite a satisfying feeling, spending my pseudo-survivalist winter stoking the stoves. (I do have backup electrical heating, but I would have gone broke heating that way entirely.) And  my routines changed. I watched less TV.  I read more, including—in service of  my obsession—the slender bestseller Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way. (It has become an international bestseller for a reason.) When friends came over, we basked in the soothing orange glow, playing board games and cards.

“Are the games we played as kids still at the cottage?” I asked my mom after reading the article about preposterous—but real—Monopoly spin offs (p. 26). Mastermind, Monopoly, and my per-sonal fave, Wide World—an airplane travel game—entertained us for so many cold, wintery days out at Lac Ste. Anne. Of course, Mom replied. My nieces and nephews were playing with them.
“Even Petropolis?” I asked. That one, Mom and I agreed, was a game of its place and time and perhaps a bit weird for the current generation. Could there be anything more mid-1970s-Alberta than a board game where Saudi Arabia is the jackpot akin to Boardwalk? And where players buy derricks and oil rigs for their oil-producing properties, rather than little green houses and red hotels?
No matter. Between board games, my new furnace, and reassuring stacks of firewood at the ready (just in case), I plan to enjoy the cold season. I hope you do too. Game on, winter.
—Jennifer Cockrall-King, Western editor