Blogger Mama Pea recently wrote a post on "Getting in wood", which inspired me to write a (slightly cheeky) update on our own heating adventures.
Back in December 2008 (seems so long ago!) I wrote a post on "Winter prep, homesteading-style." In it, I described how we used a combination of an external wood furnace and a Elmira cookstove to heat our home and garage.
We still do, but we've learned some lessons along the way.
Lesson #1: Deciding you want to harvest wood from your own woodlot is easy. Actually doing it, especially when the primary tree cutter/harvester/splitter is working 60 hour work weeks, is much harder.
Lesson #2: Buying logs is easier, especially when compared to harvesting it yourself. Or chasing down above-mentioned tree cutter/harvester/splitter.
Lesson #3: Cutting, splitting and stacking those logs isn't as easy as buying them.
Lesson #3b: Finding a kind-hearted friend (yes you, Dr. B), especially one with a heavy-duty wood splitter, a fancy tractor equipped with a grapple and a free weekend, to help you mow through your massive woodpile makes life so very much more pleasant. And warmer.
Lesson #4: If you think you have enough wood to last the season, cut and stack more -- especially if you don't have enough seasons under your belt to base your opinion on. We thought that log order would last us two full winters. Evidently, we were wrong.
This is our woodshed. It's only mid-March. Insert panic here.
Lesson #5: Desperate situations call for desperate actions. Translation: When it's January, minus 30 degrees out and you're rationing wood, buying a cord that's already cut and split is super easy.
Lesson #5b: Especially when you have lots of little hands to help unload it.
Lesson #5c: It's also way more expensive. We won't be doing that again. Guess I'll just have to knit more...
Lesson #6: When you compare the dollar cost of buying wood versus an annual gas or oil bill, bought wood still comes out ahead -- but not by as much as I expected.
Lesson 6b: In the long- and short-term, wood has the feel-good factor of being more sustainable than fossil fuels, environmentally and financially. It also provides us with a tremendous sense of independence, despite having to buy 'processed' wood this year. Put differently, when oil hits $200 a barrel, our home -- and our children -- will still be warm.
Lesson 6c: I'm not convinced our external wood furnace is the way to go. It's convenient, but hungry. We're considering our options. That, too, is expensive.
Lesson #7: The biggest and our most underestimated 'cost' of heating with wood is time: you need lots of time to harvest, cut, split and stack it, plus time for seasoning. In a perfect, or maybe just functional, world we'd be putting up wood for the 2012 or even 2013 winter, not scrambling to get through this one. But with Lucas working as much as he has the past 18 months, it's been a challenge to carve out the time needed to get ahead. Challenging, but not impossible; I know we'll get there.
Lesson #8: Despite all the headaches we experienced this past year using wood for fuel, it's one of the things that I'll truly miss when Old Man Winter finally gets to rest.