Monday, October 12, 2009

Ode to Our Wood Stove

I love my wood stove... let me count the ways...
It warms us not once, but twice,
It warms our nights and our days.
Wood heat is very very nice,
And much cheaper than gas.
In Northern Michigan you pay a hefty price
Unless you heat with wood, like this lass.

OK... maybe poetry isn't my thing. But I do seriously love our wood stove. We realized the need for one after getting our first gas bill after our first fall month living here. It was quite a shock. We had budgeted for most things, and had moved here with the intentions of using only Chris' income to support our family. With a gas bill that would soon be higher than our mortgage payment, we headed down the the local wood stove dealer, bought a wood stove, and started looking for wood.

It definitely helps that Chris is a forester, and skilled at using a chainsaw. He even claimed that he enjoyed manually chopping wood... for about the first 3 months. They we decided to get an electric splitter. It can be used by all of us. With hardwood forest plentiful here in Northern Michigan it also wasn't hard to find cheap sources of wood, although I still find it hard to put beautiful chunks of maple, oak and birch in there. You can buy a $20 wood permit to collect dead and down wood at any Forest Service Office, or State Forest Office. Last year one of the designated collection areas was adjacent to our house and land, so that made it VERY easy!! One permit allows a family to collect 5 full cords of wood, which is more than enough, even up here.

We usually start working on our firewood supply in the Spring. Preferably we get what we need for 2 years in advance, so it has plenty of time to dry. It has been a family activity. Going out into the woods, we all work to carry the logs, then split and stack them.

Once the weather turns cold, there's yet a few more steps before the wood even gets to the wood stove. I get my trusty wheel barrel out and haul wood from the wood pile to the front porch so we have a handy source. During heavy snows we have to dig out a trail to the wood pile. Once it's on the porch, it's a matter of bringing in a small load to keep handy to feed into the wood stove.

It takes a bit of patience and understanding, even a bit of skill to heat with wood, but it's quickly learned. My 11 year old son can now skillfully manage the damper and door to control the fire. He can start a fire, and can be counted on to "keep an eye on it" when I'm busy, or to add a log or 2 when asked. I love the fact that my kids know how much work is involved in keeping a home warm, and know how to do it.

I also love the fact that we're getting our heat source locally and we are using a renewable resource. I use the dry heat it produces to dry out wet coats, hats, mittens, and boots. Last fall I bought 2 large drying racks from a local Amish store to dry loads of family wash without the use of a dryer. I even use it to warm up food occasionally. Plus it makes us feel very secure knowing that if the electricity goes out we'll be able to stay warm.

What more can I say. It's something I'm really going to miss. With a winter's worth of wood in our yard, we'll be using it as barter soon, or as gifts for friends. Up here, firewood is "currency". Plus it makes for an endless supply of dog toys!!!

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