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Nov 05

Mysteries of firewood and breeding

Is it art or is it firewood?

“Ahhh, so that’s how it works,” said two people after I’d helped one grasp the principles surrounding wet and dry firewood and the other to understand duck reproduction.

Here’s the lesson about firewood: “Wet firewood can be dry yet can still be wet, while dry firewood can be wet yet can still be dry.”

This was a mystery to me until the learned farmer explained that “wet” used in association with wood, relates to the freshness of the sap therein. Therefore wood from a tree that’s recently been chopped down is wet, even in a drought. After a while, the sap dries, creating wood which is dry even if it gets wet in the rain.

The urbanite who’d bought wet firewood and was agitated when a few days under cover didn’t dry it out, was thrilled to learn the reason why.

Our niece was similarly pleased to be enlightened about the business of breeding ducks and poultry.

“But she’s got two children,” exclaimed the farmer. “She must know how it works!” This niece, I hasten to point out, is from his gene pool.

If you’re fuzzy about such things, this is how it works based on my observations and unscientific research.

Q: Is it art or is it firewood?
Clue – it’s on Gibbs Farm, Kaipara and that spiky thing in the background is art.

A hen – or duck – can become fixated on motherhood especially if you let her hoard eggs. After she’s laid about a dozen, she’ll want to sit on them till they hatch. Strangely, I felt it necessary to say that eggs won’t produce chickens or ducklings unless they’re fertile, i.e. the female has to have been having it away with the male.

And yes, went my tutorial, fertile eggs are edible. If you’ve got a rooster or drake, pretty much all your eggs will be fertile. It’s even possible to put them under a clucky hen after they’ve been sitting on your kitchen bench for a week or two – and hatch chickens.

The niece seemed satisfied with my explanation and fortunately didn’t delve deeper into the breeding process.

For example, we have a hen that produced chickens due to the attentions of a rooster which is also her father. He is also her grandfather, which makes him the father, grandfather and great-grandfather of the chickens.

Is this legal? Don’t ask. The only thing I know for sure is that the principles of wet and dry firewood are elementary in comparison.

About the author

Rae Roadley

Rae is a journalist, freelance writer and writing tutor. Soon after returning to her hometown to work for Northland's daily newspaper, she met beef and sheep farmer Rex Roadley. He lived in a historic home at Batley on the Kaipara Harbour and after moving there, Rae reported on farming then wrote a newspaper column, The Country Side. Her wryly amusing tales of country life earned many followers and led her to learn more about the local people, past and present. She tells the story of her new life in 'Love at the End of the Road: Finding my heart in the country'.

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