It’s the first of May, raining hard and there’s a fire burning brightly in the living room.
Currently, our only source of heat is a wood stove located centrally in the home. We have a fire, non-stop September through May. The cut-off date is determined by how well the house holds the day’s heat through the evening and into the cooler morning hours. Mid-May usually marks the beginning of constant 70+ degree days and 50ish degree nights, a comfortable range allowing us to close down the wood stove for the season.
Wood stoves (and less efficient fireplaces) are dirty business. While they’re great for the pocketbook, wood debris, soot and ashes provoke constant cleaning. The flue needs to be brushed several times a year ridding creosote in order to maintain a better, safer fire. Occasional smoke escaping in the room adds a different layer of cleaning complexity, however, there’s something pleasant about the scent of a lightly, wood smoke-scented home. And then, there’s the carbon footprint caused by burning wood, but we make exchanges by driving less, using less power, using organics and reducing our CO2 output overall.
Supplying wood for the stove is another level of business to attend to. As we strive to make our land more fire safe, as well as manage the forest, we have to thin. With a mixed woodland forest, we have ample black oak, tan oak, madrone and red cedar. The madrone and tan oak are especially oily, resinous and combustible, so we ardently remove them during our cleanup to become our staple fuel source. We cut, split, stack and season wood throughout the year and usually burn 4-5 cords (a cord of wood is 4x4x8ft) during the colder months.
Henry Ford said, “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” I wonder how much firewood Ford really cut, split, stacked (“ricked,” my Dad’s term), lugged inside and burned? Yes, heating a home by woodstove is a bit more work than the nostalgic Ford hints, but it’s really not that bad - When you finally get to put your feet up, gaze at the dancing flames and doze off feeling all toasty and warm, well, it’s pretty special.
(Photo: Madrone firewood)