Not Enough Wood


It has been so cold these past few weeks. We’ve been burning wood in the wood stove almost every day, and all through the night. But today as my husband carried an arm-load of logs into the house he said, “Well, that’s the last of the wood.”

Not the last of our pile. But the last of our dry, seasoned wood. The rest is still fresh, and wet, and won’t be any good to burn until it has cured for most of the year.

Chopping wood is one chore that has been hard for us to have time to do. My husband still works a full time job, six days a week, which doesn’t leave him much time to get into the woods with his saw and ax.

We were super blessed to have a friend come over last weekend and help us get a bunch of good hardwood cut from a huge maple which had fallen over the summer. But those beautiful logs won’t be ready to burn until next Winter.

I shudder at the thought of turning the electric heat back on. Last month’s power bill was outrageous, and I just got a letter from our electric co-op this week saying that prices will be going up soon. The push to get off-grid has never been stronger, and yet we are held back by one important factor- running water. You know. Hot showers, flushing toilets. Is it possible to have without spending a fortune in solar panels? If we can just figure out an affordable way to get running water without the use of electricity, a major hurdle will be behind us.

Before we ever started heating our home with wood, I didn’t realize that you can’t just go out into the forest, cut up a tree, and bring it in for the fire. I knew nothing of the curing process. It stinks to look out into the yard and see a big pile of split logs just sitting there, knowing you can’t use them for another year.

We have got to be better this year about building our woodpile before we need it again. I appreciate that we have electric heat if we need it, but I hope to be able to turn it off after this winter and never use it again.


Kendra
About Kendra 1106 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

45 Comments

  1. We have had a coal/wood furnace in our house for 35 years. We mostly burn coal, but do burn wood as a starter or when the fire gets low. I have always heard you are to cure the wood, but in all our years, I don’t think we have ever left our wood cure. My husband logged trees for about 10 years, so I would think he would be aware of the possiblity of creosote build up. But, My husband starts cutting in late fall and we burn everything that winter that he cuts. He has cleaned out the flue before, but I don’t think we have ever had problems with buildup. I’ll have to ask him about that to be sure we don’t have any problems in the future.

  2. My husband and I have heated with wood for several years. This is the first year we have ran out of wood. We are in upper east TN and winter has been very cold. Our house has 2500 sq ft with 3 bedrooms upstairs and 2 bedrooms in a finished basement where our wood stove is. We have been sleeping in the basement most of the winter. Even when our fire goes out the coldest it has been in any room in the house is 63 degrees. My heat pump has not been turned on this year and my electric is still $150 a month. I also wash all our clothes in cold water. Not sure how I would react to a $400 electric bill.

  3. I’m in a similar situation, so I’m very interested to read what you end up doing in regards to running water and solar panels. Our furnace and hit water are run off propane and the price has more than doubled since last fall, electricity price isn’t bad but the power goes our quite often- thus I sure want to get so we don’t rely on unreliable and expensive utilities. I have about 3 days worth of cured wood left until winter is over (mid-end of April). Btw great website, i found it on the barn hop you share with prairie homestead.

  4. Kendra,
    Look up paper log netiquette maker on Amazon. I know you like practical gadgets and repurposing. The paper logs take a while to cure but it may be something to add to this year’s spring chores. Plus it just seems,like a good item to have on Hand.

  5. Kendra,

    We don’t have kids so this may not be something you can do, and we have a basement that protect our pipes, but we totally turn off the central heat and air at night. Even when it was 8 degrees, our house in the morning was 59. We sleep under down comforter and a with a heated mattress pad. Our upstairs is closed off, vents shut for the winter, and we have an electric bill of $115.00 a month. During the day it is on 67. I would have a fit at a 300.00 electric bill.. Yikes! Our house is 2800 sq feet, if we had to heat the whole house it probably would be over $300.00. I sleep in sweats and thermal socks, sometimes a hat! Saving the money in my budget is more important than complete comfort in the winter.. We are in Middle TN.

    • Gina,

      I was telling my husband this morning, our modern style house isn’t made for off-grid living. We are one story, no basement, with a very wide open layout. If it was only us, we would be fine turning off the heat and only using an electric blanket during the night. But it is harder with the kids. Especially a little one. You worry about them not staying warm enough through the night. We were blessed with some more seasoned wood this weekend, so we have a few more days of heat 🙂

      • Just a tip for the future, I have been preparing to homestead and doing a lot of research. One thing I learned for wood processing is to skirt or girdle trees you will be using for heat in the early fall that you are going to use next winter. This will dry them out over the year and when you cut them down they will be ready to burn and a lot less heavy to drag out and easier to split. To girdle or skirt a tree you take an ax or chainsaw and remove a two to three inch section of bark all the way around the base of the tree. This will cut off water and the tree will die and dry natural. Also if you live near a forest or national park some will issue permits to take fallen trees and branches for free. Good luck and hope to be joining the homestead life soon

  6. My husband usually has some project where he has to push timber every year, and this year it was lots! (I’m not a tree hugger, but I don’t believe in cutting down trees just for heat.) Due to a surgery, he was unable to man a chainsaw, but we hired an unemployed local man to cut, split, and stack all the timber. He was glad for the work and we ended up with 40 ricks of wood. Normally we only go through about 15 ricks, but we run two enclosed fire places. It certainly is nice to only have our propane for cooking and as backup heat.

  7. Hi Friend,
    Sorry to hear about your wood woes. Joey has made it has hobby finding wood and bringing it home. Check around your neighborhood for anyone clearing land and ask if you can get the laps (left over wood to small to sell in a log) Also any dead trees are already dry so that could be a possibility. If you have a good hot fire with good coals in it you can stick a piece of green wood (not seasoned) in the middle and it will help your fire burn longer. We do this at night to keep the fire going till morning. Also wood like hickory is hard and dense and will last all night. If those are pictures of your wood stacks you are going to have to get the top of them covered with a piece of tin or something or the rain will cause them to rot before they dry. Keep it up you are doing a great job, this wood thing is no trouble to learn. We will have the men folk talk soon.
    Blessings Milkmaid

    ;

    ;

  8. I just read somewhere that you can get “free” solar panels in a lot of places now. They are free in that a lot of places have rebates or refunds for installing them. Some are in the form of tax credits while others are cash back. It might be worth it to check with your city, township, county, state and federal governments, or any other government entity that has control over your area.

  9. Kendra, Wood is a precious commodity in the winter time! I know it. I also know that our church has a “Firewood Ministry” through which we haul wood to folks who need it. You might check around at your local churches to see if anyone is doing this there. I pray God keeps you warm this winter.

  10. I feel for you, Kendra! We bought our wood for the winter thinking it would be more than enough. Come to find out it wasn’t even close to enough. We have had to buy more wood already. We are in MN so the weather here has been beyond miserable. Many days with high temps way below 0 and nights down in to the -30 range. Ick. We also have propane heat but propane is running close to $6 a gallon here due to the shortage. People are having to take out loans just to heat their houses. I have been dreaming of buying a chunk of land and building an efficient, off grid house. I hope it happens!

  11. I, too want to live off grid as much as possible. We do lose our electricity pretty often. (fallen trees, the occasional ice storm) We do have propane fireplaces. (I do wish they were real fireplaces). I am learning and printing out how to make a sun oven and such as that. I would love to have a roof full of solar panels on the south side of the roof. We do have a solar powered gate in the driveway, and a small solar panel to keep the lawn mowers charged. We have been thinking of getting the propane generator.

  12. We burn pine in our pot belly stove. Most of the time when we lose a tree to age, we let it sit until we need it but this year we have burned fresh wood. I know you should let it sit, but what is the reason for it? Thanks,
    Bobbi

  13. I’m quite fortunate to have lost my house in a fire from a wood stove last year. I say that because I’m able to rebuilt much more efficiently, even if it is taking forever. I’m investing quite a bit of money into a wood boiler system that runs my concrete radiant floors and potable hot water. It burns green wood better than dry, because it has to pull moisture out to be the most efficient – the dry will burn way too fast. I will put green logs in it twice a day. I am installing the solar option – not just for the tax credit, but also so that I can have hot potable water in the summer as well. We’ve got the plumbing tapped into the tankless heater, so we’re using the electric more as a back up than a main heater. There are many on the market, but we chose a HeatMor to heat our small house. It can also be hooked up to run the clothes dryer, but I know you don’t use one anymore. When we had a regular wood stove before, we’d burn seasoned and green at the same time to give heat and longevity. We even hired someone this year to cut and stack wood from our fallen trees, and they stacked a few pieces, took the money and ran. smh

  14. We didn’t get our wood stove installed this year, for a number of reasons, and really felt the pain of that mistake when we got our power bill the other day – $585.40. OUCH. We’ve got a good supply of dry wood stacked up, but we will definitely be increasing this supply over the summer so that we don’t run out next winter. Thanks for sharing a valuable lesson, Kendra!

  15. It’s so funny to read this because we ran out of wood this weekend and had to actually PURCHASE a cord from someone else. It was a miserable purchase because it was something we should’ve planned for but it was still cheaper to buy it than use electric or propane. So I’m right there with ya!! We ate our one year supply up in less than 3 months of cold like our area never gets.

  16. Oh I feel you! I used to have a wood stove back in Turkey and used to burn coal in it (which was more readily and easily available through shops, you can order by phone anytime and get bags whereas you have to place your order of wood before winter and it requires huge job of cutting and storing-impossible in my case). So many times it was very hard to heat the house with only one stove so I had to use space heater in my room. The worst winter of my life… Now we relocated in Tanzania, although I miss to cook in my stove I am glad we don’t have winters here.

  17. Another thing to consider is Coal. If you can find the right grate for your wood stove, it will work just fine. Even better, one only has to reload it every 4-8 hours depending on the size of the stove and the outside temp. It’s way less work too.
    It also depends upon how close one is to Pennsylvania as far as cost goes. Be sure to get the hard Anthracite which burns with a blue flame and is not as sooty as the soft stuff.
    You can store it in a pile outside in any weather… no curing necessary!

  18. I live off grid and we still have an endless supply of HOT water. We wrapped copper pipe around our woodstove pipe and fed it to an old water heater. Cold water gets pumped in via our generator run well pump (we fill it approx once a day since we invested in a huuge pressure tank) and so it works just like regular plumbing. The water circulates in the tank and through the pipes . It’s called thermal siphoning and you have to do it a certain way (eg set the water heater above the bottom of the copper coils, install a pressure release valve, watch how hot your woodstove gets, etc). Once ours got too hot and the pressure gauge had to open up, which let some super hot water go on the floor so you need to pipe it away from where kids are. But if you do things right it is a really great system and seems to be just as safe as a regular water heater.
    We found videos on YouTube and articles online.

  19. I just learned about Rocket Mass Wood Stoves during a Survival Summit last week. They are supposed to be 90% more efficient than traditional wood stoves and you can build one yourself. You can use sticks or scrap wood, like from a cabinet maker or old pallets. I heard one guy heated his place using just junk mail.

  20. I’m in my second year of heating with wood and very much learning by trail and error.

    In December, I blew through all my dry wood and have been managing with seasoned wood since. It would’ve been best if I’d mixed the two. Live & learn.

    As for the heated water issue, I know that Elm Wood stoves in Vermont has hooked up a way to heat water via the wood stove for some of their clients. I have an Elm Wood and it is a wonderful, powerful stove.

    Lastly, look around to see if you can find a firewood supplier that can sell you kiln-dried wood. You can mix the kiln-dried with what you have. Get the fire burning bright & strong with the dry wood, then add your seasoned to extend the fire.

    Stay warm!

  21. I work a full time job and a part time job and still got my firewood up in Sept. I have a splitter, chain saws, and a skid steer to speed up the work. But how an where you split and stack is important to being able to have wood you can burn in a short time. most of my wood is oak also. I wish I could post a pic. You are better off covering your wood with poly or something.

  22. We are going thru the same thing! We are in our second year of wood burning, with the same amount of wood as last year and we are almost out of wood! Last years lasted us til April. So I freak out! I stop for a moment and remember that we do have electric heat but that is so $$$. Next year we will be putting a different plan early in the spring so that we have wood and dry at that for all of next winter. I guess its a trial and error kind of thing.

  23. I just ‘liked’ your page. I really enjoyed this article. It was very informative and very valuable. Thank you for submitting and I hope I encourage more to share their valuable information too! I look to be off grid within a year! Send me knowledge not luck please!

  24. In the country where we are, we have to buy logs for winter as early as late Spring…prices are cheaper and you can dry them a bit more for winter use. Electric can be very expensive here too…but perhaps you can buy some charcoal for use when logs ran out? It’s dirty but more calorific they say.

  25. When you split the logs try splitting them into smaller logs of 4 to 6. They dry faster and burn hotter. We heat with wood also and the bigger logs can be a challenge. This seems to help a lot.

  26. You know? I dream of getting our in the woods somewhere and getting off grid totally. But you just made me realize how much I don’t know about actually doing it. I am going to follow you, if you don’t mind. It will be great to see things like this and learn before I jump out there. Hope to see LOTS from you!

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