Preparation

Our mild winter lulled had me into a false sense of security. But just as we were cruising along through a warm sunny winter, we got hit with a record-shattering Arctic blast.

Now I know that what feels like crazy Ice Age cold to us is just a normal winter day to some of y’all. But we’re not used to it.  And in my case, I wasn’t ready for it.

Until a couple of years ago I always had at least one full woodshed at all times.  I tried to let the wood dry and cure for a year before I burned it.

But as we’ve gotten busier on the farm in the non-winter months there just hasn’t been much time for cutting wood.  So I’ve been doing it all in the winter.

By December this year my reserve was almost all gone and the wood I was cutting was going straight to the stove that week. But instead of just setting aside a few days to cut enough wood to carry us all the way through, I would usually only cut enough for the next few days.

Then when the temperatures plunged we started burning a lot more wood.  On top of that the snow and ice made it difficult for me to get into the woods and I’d already used up all the low-hanging fruit. So when we needed wood the most, we came perilously close to running out.

We made it through, but barely.  And even if we had we run out we wouldn’t have frozen.  We have propane heat as a backup.  When the wind chills were sub-zero it was tempting to just turn things over to the propane company. But I was able to scrounge up enough wood to keep the fire going and now we’ve made it through the worst of it.

The lesson in this is to take advantage of those warm winter days to get the woodshed filled.  Time will tell if I learned it.

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20 comments on “Preparation

  1. BeeHappee says:

    Warm days? Where are warm days? I walked out this morning, it did feel like a beach for a second, although it says it is 20F and 13F windchill. But surely feels like complete thaw after what we had. . Good luck. We are also masters of procrastination, nothing ever gets done until it is life and death situation. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I know what you mean. I came in from chores and told Cherie its much warmer than it was. It’s 18, she replied.

      We’re supposed to hit 55 tomorrow, just a few days after being at zero. Crazy.

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  2. Bill, oh, boy, been there. Done that. Not with a stock pile of wood but with many other life stressing things. I’m not sure why I do it but last minute things were and still happen way too often. I’m getting better but still every so often last minute things put stress in my life. You’d think after almost seven decades of life, I’d be a little better at keeping the stress out of my life but nope it still happens.

    I’m just glad that you found a way to make it through the cold snap and not have to depend totally on the propane. There’s not too much in the way of wood heating in my urban area. Once in a while I can smell a fireplace burning in the neighborhood but I suspect it’s not for heating and only for living room atmosphere. :-p

    Have a great heating with wood day.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m generally pretty good at staying ahead of things. I’ve just slowly fallen behind on wood gradually over the last couple of years until I’ve left myself in a bind. Hopefully I learned the necessary lesson!

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  3. valbjerke says:

    Firewood. We’re not fortunate to have enough land to harvest our own (other than small windfall) so we buy it. We ‘could’ go get our own – after all we’re surrounded by millions of acres of forests – but after costing in the fuel, the wear and tear in our truck, our backs, and the time needed to bring in ten cords each year – it’s cheaper to just buy it. We have a rule though, it must be split and stacked by July so it’s good and dry come winter. Years ago we were short in funds and found ourselves nearly without in December. We scraped enough money together to get a dump truck load of birch that the fellow assured us was dry. It was not. We nearly froze. To. Death. Yikes. Lesson learned.
    Speaking of propane – please tell me you have carbon monoxide detectors in your house?

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    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      You said it! Finding a dependable “Wood Guy” is like finding a good mechanic – hard to find and worth their weight in gold – ’cause birch is never dry (been there; ) and larger pieces must be split to allow it dry out… I’ve seen birch laying in the woods with bark still intact and the innards gone completely to pulp):

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Yes we have the detectors. Fortunately we don’t use the propane heat except in the spring and fall when the stove isn’t on. Unless of course I let us run out of wood.

      Friends have told me it’s cheaper to buy wood by the truckload than to try and do it yourself. I may look into that. I’ve just been cutting up the fallen trees on the farm and that’s always been enough for us. But I’m starting to deplete the supply and I don’t intend to cut down any living trees. Something to think about.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. bobraxton says:

    empathizing. Our firewood comes from our small suburban lot; however we burn for fireplace only on rare occasion(s). We have a relatively new hybrid (natural gas, electric) so we are feeding two corporations, as we have done for three decades living this same 3-level place.

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  5. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    You had me wondering about this before, but like you, I figured it wasn’t a really big deal – however, now I’m not so sure I was right in just letting it ride – so buckle up, this is going to be short and sweet (and, if you find it terse, I apologise in advance):
    Up here, where wood burning is a much bigger deal, having dry wood to burn is imperative. If you want to get your money’s worth, and depending on the species, allowing at least a year to season is de rigueur. The harder – and better – the firewood, the longer it takes to dry.)
    You most likely already know the bad physics of using up the heat of the fuel to stove dry but, knowing you’re also trying to live lightly off the land, here goes anyway. By burning wet wood you are throwing off incredible amounts of junk into the air and doing really bad things to your stove’s guts and pipes. You are also wasting massive amounts of the fuel’s stored energy just to make fresh, wet wood burn.
    If you prepare a year’s supply of dry wood the year before you need it – being sure to cut in the Fall & Winter when the trees are dormant and have less sap to get rid of – you’ll find you need a lot less cordage to heat your home = a lot less work for you, your stove and the environment.
    To quote Bruce Cockburn, “If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear?” To which I would reply, that depends on who’s listening…

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    • Bill says:

      I’ll try to be better next year, he says (hanging head in shame).

      You’re right of course. Although I do sometimes burn wet wood (not often) I don’t burn green unseasoned wood. Aside from the things you mention, there wouldn’t be any point in it, since it doesn’t give off much heat.

      We’ve been fortunate to have plenty of wood that is ready to burn. Hopefully I’ll get back on track soon and have the shed full of dry wood long before next winter.

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        While Standing Deadfall is awesome for a hot, quick burn and doesn’t usually need much, if any seasoning; removing live, but diseased or overcrowded trees and unwanted species is also good wood lot maintenance and [once properly seasoned; ] will give you much more (and longer-lasting) heat in your stove.
        And do you know about looking for “checking” on seasoned wood? I’m seriously not trying to be cheeky here – my parents heated with both a Fisher airtight and Elmira wood stove for most of my life and we’ve also used an airtight here for over twenty years {and there’s not much that ticks me off more than fighting with wet wood: }

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  6. avwalters says:

    Don’t kick yourself, it’s not like you left the life preservers on shore and went out in a leaky boat. It’s not like you ate up your seed corn. Still, it represents how, in the old days, there was a season and a time for each task. We’re stepping back into an agrarian life, but we don’t yet have the rhythms for it. Also, we still carry some of the modern burdens, leaving less time to shoulder those traditional patterns. I used to use the winter months to sharpen my gardening tools. I haven’t had time for that in several years, and every time I go to dig, my shovel reminds me of that neglect.
    In pioneer days, these seasonal rhythms and chores could mean the difference between making it, or not, sometimes even questions of life and death.

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    • Bill says:

      You’re so right about finding rhythms. My grandfather would use the winter to cut all the wood needed to heat his house and cure his tobacco crop (and he had no chainsaws). He’s also build a new barn every winter. All in addition to tending to milk cows, pigs, etc. That was as natural as a summer day in the garden.

      I’m generally pleased with the rhythm we’ve fallen into her, but there is surely room for improvement.

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  7. EllaDee says:

    It happens to most of us in one way or another… we get busy with something and other things seem to be fine, until they’re not. My recent version of your experience is since we’ve been back from holidays and visits I’ve just been doing ad hoc grocery shopping at smaller markets and local stores… which I can walk to and where the quality & integrity is good enough but not as good as the weekly farmers market. To weekly shop there I need to drive, and so reattach the battery to my car, get my car from its space in neighboring apartment building… all too hard until the economy of scale tips the other way and I’m cooking meals and eating food I’m not happy with and know could be better. I knew I could have been doing better but the temptation of postponing the effort was tempting!
    We only use our woodfire at our house in the country when we are on holidays in the cooler months but we like to buy a year ahead so the wood seasons. From reading the comments, we aren’t the only ones 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      As A.V.’s comment suggests, in my case I think getting into a natural rhythm of life is important. That doesn’t mean that we won’t run short or underestimate, but it should help us to plan better. Actually we do pretty well on this, but there is definitely room for improvement.

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  8. The temperatures the past few days have been bitter. On Friday morning the wind chill temperature was -17!

    I’m hoping that this winter has finally turned the corner toward spring.

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  9. shoreacres says:

    I think you might get a kick out of this post. I have it tucked in my files for an entirely different purpose than house-heating hints, but I remembered it and thought you’d enjoy looking at it.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I remember seeing that post. 🙂

      That’s the way it is here. I have wood that’s been ready to burn for years, but is still waiting to be cut and stacked.

      We’re a little short of labor on this place. 🙂

      Like

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