Feeding the Wood Stove

A wood stove newbie

When I bought this 155-year-old house in 1998 there was a wood stove in the back corner of the keeping room (old time all-purpose room). I was thrilled just imagining the cozy warmth during our long, cold winters.

Never having had a wood stove before, I had an ‘expert’ look at the stove. He told me that it should be replaced immediately. “It’s one of those cheap [name of store] stoves.” As I got to know some people in the village, I asked their opinions. The consensus was, “looks fine to me!” I liked that opinion the best and went with it. The stove wasn’t that old — from the 1980s. It certainly wasn’t an expensive, fancy stove, but it was airtight. (I also took into account the fact that the ‘expert’ sold stoves.)

The old stove is still working fine. I had a new section of stove pipe installed and put down a new pad, and this year I had to replace a few of the fire bricks.

Feeding the warmth

Bower over Lander RoadThe biggest concern of somebody like me who lives very frugally, is feeding the stove. My house is on a village lot (only 1/4 acre), so no woodlot. Over the years, I’ve purchased many cords of cut and split wood from different people. The only problem is that most pieces must be split again to fit in the old stove, and cords of good firewood don’t come cheap.

The best source of firewood, and it’s free, is to find it throughout the year — fallen trees or branches, prunings, etc. Sometimes it’s worth following the township people when they’re trimming branches. They usually chip the branches, which is a sin in my mind. I was lucky, in a way, this winter. Some of us were very disturbed to discover the workers cutting more than necessary from a beautiful local roadway that had an overhead bower of touching branches. Many of us let our concerns be known and managed to convince them to at least minimize the damage. The next time I saw them cutting, I stopped and politely asked, “if I begged you, would you please not chip the wood and let us have it for firewood?” “You don’t need to beg; we’re happy for you to take it as long as you promise you won’t leave any behind.” They even cut the branches to a size that would fit in my small car and helped me load them! Some of my neighbours picked up some, too.

The moral of the story: It’s always worth communicating and sometimes there really is a golden lining to the cloud. I now have about 1/4 cord to begin next winter’s stash for the stove and friendly relations with more people in my community.

 


3 thoughts on “Feeding the Wood Stove

  1. Thanks for this article! Wood burning for heat is a subject close to my heart. I started doing this a few years ago, mainly to get away from ‘un’natural gas heating. I try to use as little fossil fuels as possible. This was a decision with big implications! Given the the premise was to not use fossil fuels, I also saw gas chainsaws, truck hauling, even the oil to lubricate a saw chain as counter-purpose. Being lucky to be in such a natural ecosystem allowed me to ‘man-up’, walk across the highway from my house, go into the forest and find dead trees to cut down, and buck up, using a rechargeable electric chainsaw (10″ bar!) lubed with vegetable oil. I split the wood on site, loaded a large hikers backpack to the brim, and walked home accompanied with two loaded fabric bags of wood for each hand. Every day of the winter. Things have changed since tat first couple years…I’ve acquired old hand saws so that I may cut using mostly muscle energy, instead of relying on the multiple batteries needed for the electric saw. Masses of grand (lodgepole) pine trees have died over the last couple years due to the huge numbers of pine-beetle attacks on them, which is due to increasingly warm winters that would usually kill them, due to humanities continuing use of fossil fuels. This has allowed my ‘hunt’ for dead trees to be…not challenging. Also, because the time commitment was so high, I’ve switched to wood-burning on only the very cold days, and use a couple electric space heaters in between.

    Wood burning for heat does not have to be destructive to forests, or pollutive of air. It does need to be done correctly to ensure these things don’t happen. It may be easier to flick a switch and heat your home with fossil fuels, but as the deadened red British Columbian forests tell us, that is not the path to healthy life. Burning with wood has given me great exercise, wisdom, comforting warmth, and great joy. I will never gain the majority of my home-heating any other way. Long live trees, and the gifts they bring!

  2. The very first comment on my new blog!

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Brad. I used to have one of those small electric chain saws, but it died. All I have now is what I call a Swede saw; others call it something else (don’t remember what). That was a lot of work you did in the beginning! It’s such a crying shame about the destruction of so many tree species – nature’s circle has closed in this case.

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