Wood to keep us warm and keep the propane bill lower
One of the first things we added to this house in 1999 was a wood burning stove. We’d planned on getting one from the beginning after deciding to buy this house, just to keep heating costs down. Over the winter of 1998-99 we had started to consider just buying a generator to keep the furnace running in case of a power outage. Then one very cold night I woke up to feed the baby and noticed it was quite chilly in the house. I checked the thermostat and it read 55 degrees! I woke up Keith, he went to check the furnace and came back up saying, “Throw some more blankets on the kids.” This happened twice in a week. The first time the propane line from the tank to the house froze. The second time it was some other part on the furnace that broke. We’d been debating – wood stove, or generator??? After the 2nd very cold night in the house, even with electricity, the debate ended. Wood stove! A generator won’t do us any good at all if the furnace is broke or the propane line freezes. At least these times we were able to call a repairman who promptly arrived and fixed our problem. But what if that had happened during a blizzard? We live 6 miles from the nearest town with a repairman and if there is a snowstorm, our roads aren’t plowed until the wind stops blowing. So far the longest time we’ve been snowbound is 3 days. Three days with no heat wouldn’t have been very fun! After a year or two we also purchased a blower attachment which helps distribute the heat a little better and makes the stove more efficient. (We did have an incident 2 winters ago with no power during a bad cold snap and high winds. The loss of that blower was definitely felt, and we’ve since decided to add a generator, too, but I’ll save that story for another post.)
Now, we only have an acre and a half of land and very few trees, so we don’t have an unlimited supply of firewood on our property. Buying firewood can be just as pricey as propane. But we haven’t had to buy any so far. How? We’ll, as it turned out, 2 of the beautiful trees that were in our yard didn’t survive that first winter we were here. They were perfectly alive in the fall when we moved in, but they never came back. So they got cut down, split and stacked to cure. That kept us going for the first 2 years. But once other people found out we had a wood stove, we started getting free wood from other people. A dead tree here, a storm-killed one there, another that is just in a bad spot and we want it out of our yard. We’ve actually had more offers for free firewood than we’ve been able to take advantage of due to time constraints. Sometimes they had wood for us but they wanted it gone in the next day or two and we were just unable to get over there. But, we’ve always had enough to get us through the winter.
This year we were so busy with the barn, and new pig set-ups and other stuff, that we thought we wouldn’t get to refill the storage shed this year. We had some from last year left, but not a lot. The cold weather set in and we thought we were done. But this week Keith was on vacation and we had an unexpected warm day that wasn’t rainy – and nothing else planned. So we spent about 4 hours moving, cutting, splitting and stacking wood and the building is full again. Now we’re ready. When the highs drop back down into the 30’s, we’ll fire the stove back up and be nice and toasty!