Birch is the firewood of choice here along the old Iditarod Trail, but only for home use. That’s because, in the round, birch never dries, only rots. Year after year it remains wet inside the bark. Birch bark is so impervious it will not let moisture from the green wood out. Birch wood will only dry when spit, stacked, and left a good while to cure. So for campfires, travelers of the northern wilderness turn to other woods which dry while standing dead. The most commonly used is spruce. But for cabin use, where you have time to work ahead on next year’s supply, you cut and split a few cords of birch, which produces more calories of heat per cord than spruce.
My mother spent her last years here with us near the old Iditarod Trail. But she grew up in a sod house and half dugout on a land claim in New Mexico Territory. She was born at a time when Pancho Villa’s raiding was keeping things lively thereabouts, before the territory became our forty-seventh state.