Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wood Stove Comfort

Copyright © Lif Strand 2011

I’ve just come in from feeding the horses and splitting some wood.  Yesterday it snowed briefly and never got above 48°.  I built my first fire in the wood stove.  I used wood that had been sitting stacked next to the stove since this past spring when I let the last fire die out, so it was plenty dry and fast to ignite.

The wood stove is my only source of heat in the house.  I hooked up a propane wall heater a while back but when I tried it, it leaked and no matter how many times I reconnected everything I couldn’t get it to stop leaking.  So wood still remains my heat source. 

Trust me – wood heating is a lot of work.  I’m a lazy person.  The two don’t go together all that well if the person in question expects to stay warm when it’s blowing and freezing outside. 

It occasionally freezes inside my house, too.  As a result I have no house plants, just those potted herbs, veggies and flowers that I’ve brought inside to keep them going a while longer.  They only last till the night I insufficiently stoke the wood stove before retiring, or when I go away and just let the house get as cold as it is going to get.

Lest you worry, the cats and dogs all have fur coats and deal with the occasional frostiness inside my house just fine.  I don’t.  Trust me on another thing:  If you’re sitting around a blustery winter evening reading, you need a wood stove to keep you warm.  Quilts, furs, fleece and down won’t keep your fingers, your nose or your toes warm enough.

Thing is, there’s so much work associated with wood heat.  Oh sure, you can get yourself  a paycheck from a 9-5 job and just buy split wood, get it delivered and stacked - but my boss is me, and I don’t get paid enough by me to spend money on the multiple cords of wood I need to get through the cold season. 

My best intentions are to cut early and the wood will be dry by the time I need it.   I choose trees on my own place that have been hit by bark beetles or are just fading away because of drought – I not only get wood for the stove but also provide a better environment for the remaining trees while making my land more wildfire resistant.  My best intentions rarely ever pan out. 

Remember my boss?  She just doesn’t ever seem to give me a break.  Work, work, work – I wear out the lettering on my keyboard keys all the time (good thing I’m a touch typist).  Typing does not = a stack of wood.

And there are so many other reasons for not going out there and cutting wood – don’t want to do it when it’s hot, can’t do it during fire season, and when it starts raining, I don’t want to do it then either.  Right now, October, is a good time of year for cutting wood, though it won’t all be as dry as it might be before I really need it in winter.  I really should be out there with the chain saw today – but I think I’ll take it into town instead and get it tuned up and sharpened.  I’ll cut wood another day.  Probably, like last year, in the dead of winter.  Hey, logs pull down the hill much easier on snow!

Even if I cave in and buy wood (it could happen!), that’s not all there is to a wood stove.  There’s splitting the wood, carrying it in every day (twice a day if it’s really cold), cleaning out the ashes regularly, sweeping up all the wood debris and dirt that falls off the logs, climbing up onto the roof every so often and banging on the stovepipe to knock the creosote off the walls and of course, stoking the fire regularly enough that all the work yields a warm house in the dead of winter.

And yes, it’s worth it.  There’s something about the heat from a wood stove that is very different from any other heat.  It’s as if it reaches out to something in my very being and touches my core with comfort and security, not just physical warmth.  When it’s snowing and blowing outside and there’s a cheery blaze in the wood stove, enough logs in the burn chamber to last the night and a stack of wood nearby to build the fire up again in the morning, when I turn out the lights and see the yellow flickering light cast by the flames through the vents in the door and I feel that warmth on my skin all the way to my bones, I know all’s right with my world.
Baseboard heaters just don’t do that for me.