Monday, December 5, 2011


We're lucky. Behind our house is a largely vacant lot of forest. It's a plot about 20+ acres, with a ring of houses all the way around it. No one appears to ever go back there (judging by talking with neighbors as well as simple observations that there are NO paths at all). It's full of downed wood, half rotted stumps, and trees dangling precipitously from other tree branches. We decided that we wanted to both improve our view and heat our home.

We don't have a wood splitter this year. We don't have a 20 lb maul. We don't have a tractor to drag out the logs to convenient places to buck them. But we do have one another, a decent 8 lb maul, a wheelbarrow, and a really good chainsaw. With a bit of (okay a LOT of) work, we've managed to pull about 2 cords worth of trash wood out from behind the house. We're not touching standing live trees, as it isn't our property as we're well aware. But the fallen (and partially fallen) trees are dangerous to our children, who go tromping around in the woods (and as it isn't posted, it IS free for people to go wandering through). The neighbors who've noticed (most of them) have commented how nice it looks back there now. Go team!

So this is how it works. Gray goes out back and finds a solid but downed tree. It has to not be punky or riddled with too many holes. He proceeds to use his chainsaw to buck the wood into 16" logs. These are loaded onto the wheelbarrow and rolled out to the front of our house. There, we have a nice stump just right for splitting wood on. The logs go onto the stump, and Gray splits it with his little (but extremely effective!) maul. The kids and I pick up the pieces and until today, we'd been putting them into the emptied blue bins we moved our things in. Today, our wood supply exceeded our available bins (and porch space) and so the remainder of the wood (a half cord or so) was wheeled over to the side of the driveway and neatly stacked by the children.

The full bins came into the roofed porch, to wait for use. When we get low inside, we pull a bin in and empty it into the space behind our woodstove. There, it dries sufficiently to be used in the stove. By using this "free" wood, we have kept the house at a livable temperature since the October snow storm. The furnace is set to 55F, but I don't believe it has come on at all since we got the woodstove hooked up! The main part of the house stays at about 64F or so, quite decent.

Wood, as the saying goes, warms you several times., so you really get your money's worth. You're warmed while harvesting it, warmed again while bucking and splitting it, then warmed while bringing it in to burn. Then, when you burn it, it warms you again. It's lovely heat, so cozy and deliciously scented. Some of the wood we've gotten has been hard maple, oak, and spruce. All of it has its own scent, its own burning time, and its own temperature while burning. It's all very interesting and fun to learn about as you struggle to keep the fire going efficiently.

How do you heat your home? Do you have an oil furnace? Gas? Plain ol' electric forced air? When I grew up, I took heat for granted. It was "just there" no matter the time of day or night. The gentle flick of a finger brought about a change in the temperature that kept you from knowing exactly what the outside world was like. Now, working for my heat, I have much more appreciation for it. Our children are growing up in a different world, one where "not stacking the wood" means "being cold every night for a week."