Campers need bonfires, and bonfires require firewood. Every summer roadside stands appear along edges of roads near campgrounds up and down the coast, and, optimistically, quite a few miles away.
This is a seasonal business. I doubt anyone makes a career from selling firewood—it is just one of many jobs that is another piece of the income jigsaw puzzle Mainers put together to make a living.
The stands are elaborate sheds with illuminated signs, or cobbled together with bits of old blue tarp and scrap wood—whatever was at hand to keep the rain out.
They sport marketing efforts at their most basic. “Big bundles,” one proclaims, while another offers dry wood for one price, and green wood, simply called “wood” and sure to smoke, for less. Some call it firewood, others say campwood, and then there is campfire wood, or bonfire wood. Some entice with offers of newspaper and kindling, other wisely start signs several yards away, allowing potential customers time to slow down and pull off the road.
It can be a tough business, and theft is one of the biggest problems. This surprises me. Veggie or flower stands with the honor system have always been part of my life, and not paying for what is so sweetly and trustingly offered is not something I will ever understand. There is not a big profit in selling wood, and theft makes it even less. More and more signs speak to wood thieves, and they may be comical or heartfelt, but still give a sadly negative twist.
The uniqueness of these stands delights me. There are no computer-generated signs, Square CC readers, or prefab stands. Each one speaks of the seller’s personality. As with most marketing, the signs and stands give a message regarding product. Neat piles and clear signage are an indication that the seller cares and is selling good wood.
How the wood is bundled is also revealing. Hand-bundling is time-consuming, but results in a rustic, more appealing product. If I was looking for firewood, that is what I would choose to buy. This is because I know a person has tied each one of those bundles, trying to make them all equal, and cared. More and more wood comes plastic wrapped, and sometimes four wood-stands in a row buy their bundles from the same supplier. The wood is just as good, but it is the supplier who makes the most profit.
Hardwood or soft wood was rarely mentioned five years ago, but now signs proclaim the difference. Hardwood burns hotter, lasts longer, and is best for cooking. If you want a blazing, sparkling fire to sit around, tell tales, and watch sparks go skyward, soft wood is your best choice.
Full disclosure: We have sold wood for years, and at one time I helped cut the wood to length, and tie the bundles with twine. Now we buy it for two dollars, sell it for three. I am not convinced that is a profit, given the time involved moving it, making signs, and absorbing theft, but my husband thinks it is, or maybe he just likes selling wood.
Oh, please, hard wood or soft, plastic-wrapped or hand-tied, buy your wood in Maine. Out-of-state wood can harbor hardwood borers and other non-native insects that can destroy our hardwood forests.