Surviving the Winter – Heating by Wood

Many of our hikers in the rural area heat by wood, either as a supplemental or primary heat source. Experienced homeowners have already prepared their wood stock in the fall, and if smart, have at least a two year supply built up, allowing the wood to season properly. Managing a wood stock requires a great deal of physical activity, cutting up different sizes of wood dependent on the size of the stove, chain saw experience, and stacking the wood for easy accessibility to the heat source. For more information on developing a wood lot contact cornell cooperative extention.

Many of my friends have shared information on their struggles this winter with the extreme artic cold temperatures which dramatically effects their heating expenses. In an attempt to keep their wood stoves efficient with heavy usage, many are using their wood stoves as a primary source of heat. Managing your wood stove requires routine daily chores of bringing wood indoors to dry, a good source of kindling, newspaper, lighters, container for disposal of ashes, as well as regular cleaning of the wood stove as well as the area surrounding the hearth. Heating by wood can be real messy and time consuming.

My own experiences this year have been more difficult than in past years. Thanks to Dean and Bob, two members of our hiking group who run a wood bank in Springwater, I was able to secure a source of about 3 cords of beech wood from Sugarbush Hollow, cut, split, and delivered. Luckily I had about a cord of wood left over from the year before. Although I have some experience in the game of logging and using a chain saw, I have no knowledge of cutting up wood, just felling a tree on a marked spot, and do not own a chain saw. Therefore I am depending on free sources of wood if I continue to heat this way. One would have to figure out if it is worth it to purchase wood compared to heating with alternative sources.

In January my source of kindling was low and I began to search for fallen branches, twigs, pine cones around my property. Frozen branches needed to be dried and this can take two days at least.
Sometimes it would take me a couple of hours to get my small Vermont Casting stove up to temperature. In search of better kindling two hikers, Bob and Marty offered sources of kindling that if I’m careful should last most of the winter cold months. Now it only takes 10 minutes to get my wood stove up and running efficiently. It is now mid January and I am warm. If I had planned better I should of been prepared by October.

A lot of our conversations at the hike and socials revolve around survival issues, which includes heat and food, for those that live simply in the little finger lakes area and don’t have the luxury of traveling to warmer climates. One hiker had a load of wood delivered just recently. Living on a hill and impassable driveway, she managed with a neighbor to pull the wood up closer to the house by some sort of pully system.

Some cautions if you allow friends to stay at your house while you are away.  Make sure they completely understand how to light the stoves. Make sure you have an updated fire extinquisher, working smoke alarms and leave clear instructions. In addition, with the cold temperatures, usage of wood can double, and a large wood stock for two years may be necessary.

In addition many wood burners have used other ideas revolving around heating sources. Some wood burners use their ashes to reduce ice build up in their driveway or sidewalks. I throw it on my garden for composing. The smartest idea I saw recently was one wood burner had his stove in the basement with vents in the flooring for the upstairs area. Putting a stove in a lower level, unused area greatly reduces the mess in the main living area. If you have a small stove, chances are your wood will go out at night and will have to be ignited again in the morning. Rather than getting up every 3 hours to restock your stove, purchasing a efficient electric heater, a heating blanket, and warm comforter and placing it in a small bedroom can help you get through the night if the temperature drops.

Do you heat with wood stoves.  I would love your comments*.  Please add your stories to this article.

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