Wood. Wood. Wood.

Our thoughts have been consumed with gathering more wood as the winter grows colder here in the southeast. Try as we might, we never seem to build a big enough pile to get us through until Spring. This is only the second winter that we’ve heated solely with wood, so we’re still trying to figure out exactly how much we need to keep us warm from late November through early April. It’s easy to underestimate. It can also be difficult for my husband to find time to cut up trees with his demanding work schedule.

log splitter

Jerry tries to get into the woods as soon as he gets home, and works on chopping up fallen trees ’til it’s almost too dark to see. Then he loads them into a trailer on the back of the lawnmower and hauls them back to the house. We use Jerry’s grandfather’s log splitterto break the logs into pieces that will fit into the wood stove. It makes the work SO much quicker. I can split logs while Jerry stacks them or goes back for more trees. Jerry hurt his back a couple months ago though, so the work has been slow going.

We were down to burning green (unseasoned) wood, which burns slow and cold, when some friends learned of our condition and blessed us with a dump truck load of seasoned logs. I don’t know what we’ve done to find such generous people to call friends. They truly rescued us.

The kids and I bundle up during the day to try to save the wood to burn overnight when it’s much colder in the house. We use fans to push the warm air from the living room down the hall to the children’s bedrooms.

small fireplace wallWe’re considering knocking down the wall where the fireplace separates the homeschool room from the living room, and opening that space up for a free-standing wood stove, which we think would be much more efficient than the wood stove inserted into the fireplace. But that would be quite a remodel as it’s a load-bearing wall.

If we had the money and ability, we’d put a Russian Masonry Heater in place of the entire fireplace wall. That would be a dream.

I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we need to do something. We’re losing way too much heat up the chimney. We thought about pulling the wood stove out in front of the fireplace, and running the stovepipe from the back of the stove up into the wall above the fireplace, connecting into the chimney there. I suppose that’s another option, though it would take up more floor space.

Anyways, these are our thoughts right now as we try to stay warm through the Winter. We’re going to have to really focus on building a significant wood pile in Spring so that it has enough time to cure before next Winter. Having seasoned wood for heating and cooking will be critical for off-grid survival.

20 thoughts on “Wood. Wood. Wood.”

  1. We have a Vermont casting cast iron wood stove. It has a convection option or a catalytic convertor blower option. when the electric goes out here the convection works to still heat the whole house 1900 sq ft. When we first started using a wood stove we would get the house to hot and open doors and windows to cool down the house till we learned the proper loads we needed. Load 2 to 3 times a day. one of those times is the over night load.

  2. We live off grid in basically a metal shed – a large shed, but a shed. This is our first winter and it is cold! Soon enough, we’ll build a straw bale house, but for now, our cold shed keeps us covered and out of the wind, anyway.

    We are going to build a rocket mass heater… have you explored this yet?

  3. Kendra, we have a wood stove now that sits out and away from the fireplace. I think its actually called a wood circulator….it heats our split level house great…..up into the 80’s. Feels great on these really cold nights we’ve been having lately.

  4. I saw something on the news this morning about how the open concept floor plans allow home fires to spread more quickly. While it might be chilly, there is at least one reason to be thankful for that load bearing wall.
    You have a very beautiful home by the way!

  5. Yup, it can take time to get enough seasoned wood on hand.
    We aim for 2-3 years of seasoned wood before the first fire of the year (usually in September).
    I think we go through 3-5 cords of wood a year (Sept-May), but we have an 11yo Quadrafire. Pretty darned efficient, although the Blaze King hubby’s been eyeing for when the time comes is even more efficient (only needing to load it once every 18-30 hours? yes please!).

    As for the actual wood cutting… all the cool gear (chaps, chain sharpening thingie, steel cable and blocks) is counted as hubby’s hobby (mine is the canning and herbal remedies and such), and he goes out with a few neighbors and a few kids. He usually takes the 11yo and 8yo boys, sometimes the 6yo girl. The boys are almost to the size where they can throw the small rounds, or at least the half rounds and help stack up everybody’s pickups or dig stairs into the steep hillside, whatever, which makes their day go quicker.

    • Man Lanna, the Blaze King sounds like a dream! I think it’s fantastic that your kiddos help with the wood gathering. Nothing like hard work to build character and a good work ethic, and put all that energy to good use. My oldest two help stack the wood now, and my oldest son loves to go into the woods and hack at little dead trees with an axe. 😉 It’ll be great when he’s big enough to do more chopping and splitting with his daddy.

      • See if you can get the kids to help our your hubby this year and bulk up the wood pile quite a bit. Hubby (he’s a worldwide biomass expert for his company) says it’ll take at least two years for your small round hardwoods (since that’s what they look like) like the ones above to dry/season enough to be efficient for burning. We only have soft woods available, so one season dries them out nicely.
        They also can run the splitter with hubby’s supervision. I have the cutest photo of my 4yo running it (with goggles and ear protection) from last year.
        What stove do you have again? Yes, my hubby’s nosy. 🙂

        • Lanna,

          Our 7 year old boy loves to help run the log splitter when his daddy is working beside him. It practically runs itself it’s so simple 🙂 That’s good to know about letting hardwoods sit longer than soft woods. We have a generic Logwood brand wood stove from Tractor Supply. Not exactly the most efficient.

          • If/when you’re in the market for a new one, hubby recommends the big Englander you can get at Home Depot (or Lowe’s?), in the $600-$700 range I think he said. About 65-75% efficiency if I remember right (yours may be 20-30% efficient?). Less expensive option than the drool worthy Blaze King he’s eying, but still totally neato.

            Heh, yeah, folks are surprised at how much my kids are expected to do around the house, but that’s part of why they tend to be nice/behave, at least when they’re not at home letting all the crazy out. Even their Christmas gift, a big go-kart, has a bucket we can attach to the front for plowing snow or moving dirt for us.

  6. I agree you are probably losing a bunch of heat up the chimney. We heat with wood too and live in eastern North Carolina. Our wood stove is out and believe me the loss of floor space is well worth the heat. Wood is a penetrating heat once you get the stove warm as long as you stoke it properly, (always too warm to touch) you should be good to go. Good Luck! 🙂

  7. When my sister-in-law inherited her parents home she removed a load bearing wall & used columns to support the weight. Works & looks great. Columns come in a lot of different designs so it is easy to fit your decor.

      • Hi Kendra,
        I have heated with only wood for my entire life. Accumulating a good stockpile of wood is difficult but doable.We try to cut a pickup load a week to add to the stockpile in addition to a couple of major wood cutting marathons in the fall and stay 2-3 years ahead. It is a never-ending chore.
        I do not know if you have a wood cook stove but you might consider the option of one in your renovation. My wood cook stove heats our entire house ( 2500+ sq feet) and provides a great place to put a pot of beans or stew to cook all day. Saves propane dollars because I cook on it most of the winter. Many stoves will hold a fire overnight without difficulty. Just a thought.

        • Paula,

          We actually do have a wood cook stove on our back porch (as a summer kitchen). I would LOVE to put one in the house. Something to work towards for sure! Your comment was helpful to me with regards to how much wood you put up each year. Maybe at least a truckload a week is a goal we need to shoot for as well.

          • Kendra,
            I should have been more specific about the actual amounts of wood we burn each year living in the NW Rocky Mountains. We need 6-8 cords depending on the severity of the weather.Our state allows us to buy a wood permit/person for $10 and we can cut 4 cords on national or state forest land. On the all day family cutting marathons we get 2-3 cords each time, so the weekly pickup load is really the supplement that allows us to build the stockpile. My husband is also an opportunist (in a good way) and after every storm he scouts the neighborhood for fallen trees. Many neighbors are grateful for him just cutting the fallen tree and hauling the wood away!
            I really enjoy your blog. I have lived this self sufficient lifestyle for 39 years and would not change it for anything. You are doing the right thing for you and your family. God Bless.


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