A friend of mine often tucked leftover tidbits of his breakfast, lunch or supper in scraps of napkins.  Then he slipped these caloric riches into various pockets of his clothing or even his daypack.  I remember spying such a package under his favorite reading chair!

His wife brushed off the hoarding behavior by sadly pronouncing, “He’s a child of the Depression. . .  family didn’t have much.”

It’s a common malady that folks have. I call it the “fear-of-running-out syndrome.” Folks usually hoard because they think that the collected items will someday be useful or valuable. Sometimes we hoard for purely sentimental reasons. And then there are folks stash and collect items because of afflictions of disorders such as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression.

Anthropologists often debate when this hoarding business first started. It was likely some 11,500 years ago, when humans made the leap from being strictly hunter-gatherers, to learning to poke seeds in the ground to raise crops and that tending livestock and fowl. With surpluses at hand, people could barter for foods and services and civilization as we know it, experienced a jump-start.

Just last week we laid our first, later-than-usual, morning fire in our kitchen wood burning stove. With November on the horizon, Nancy and I celebrated our annual frenzy of firewood hoarding yesterday. This week we completed filling our two wood storage sheds and packed a third of a cord of wood down in the corner of the basement, near the wood burning stove. We use that only during the  honest-to-goodness cold spells. One could argue that we are indeed hoarders. Nothing spells winter security better than stuffed woodsheds.

Given that recent winters have been pretty mousey we don’t burn as much as we used to. And usually our kitchen wood burner is enough to do the job. A few years ago we spent the money to have a professional energy audit. Using a blower door test and an infrared camera, a professional energy technician checked for leaks, inspected home insulation and heating systems in our house. The infrared camera images betrayed the telltale orange-yellow hot spots showed where our heated interior heat was escaping outdoors. Consequently, we were able to target specific spots with caulk, foam insulation, and other energy saving efforts. It has made a significant money saving difference.

Granted we spend very little on propane in the first place since we heat primarily with wood. The forced air propane furnace is our back up if we are away from the house.

It’s true we are adding some particulate into the atmosphere but we are not adding any fossil fuel carbon. The carbon released from our burning wood was not extracted as ancient carbon found in the earth’s crust. The carbon in our burned firewood has been cycling for some time in that very thin layer of earth and atmosphere that is capable of supporting life.  Known as the biosphere, the carbon is released through burning and other decomposing mechanisms and then is taken in, or sequestered, by plants for their growth. Eventually those plants die and the process begins all over again.

As long as we are confessing to autumnal hoarding, we have enjoyed picking, freezing and putting up sauce from the five gallons of wild cranberries that we have picked over the last couple of weeks.  While that might seem impressive, a neighbor lady has put up 200 quarts of cranberry juice and sauce!

Most folks don’t realize that here on the Anoka Sand Plain the underlying sand, combined with abundant wetlands provide ideal conditions for native cranberries. Minnesota has two species, the large cranberry and yes; you guessed it, the small cranberry. The large cranberries are the ones that we find dished out every Thanksgiving.

In picking cranberries you need to get out into the wetlands where the ground quakes. I wear a pair of chest waders and Nancy wear hip boots so we can kneel comfortably on the soft, wet sphagnum moss to pick the tart, grape-sized red fruits.

We were not the only hoarders in this wetland of sedges, leatherleaf and tamarack. We found small piles of half eaten fruits, etched with tiny rodent incisors. . . likely red-backed voles or meadow voles.

One day we bumped into a flock of wild turkeys that had ventured out onto the boggy site to pick ripe fruits. Being a turkey hunter, I couldn’t help but wonder how one of these cranberry-infused birds might taste.

Another day, as we approached with buckets in hand, a pair of sandhill cranes croaked out their alarm calls as they took off. And I have even picked my way around perfect round bushel basket depressions of deer beds. I can’t imagine a more comfortable bed than one of thick soft sphagnum moss.

In about three weeks, I am hoping to hoard some venison for the upcoming winter. There are few marriages as perfect as venison and cranberry sauce served in a room lit and warmed with burning oak. Now that is prosperity.