So we are on the downhill side of winter at last, or at least can see the light—or more to the point, feel the heat—at the end of the tunnel. And I have to say I will miss the wood heat and I will not. To have a morning free of that familiar ritual will be both liberating and a bit melancholy. But mostly liberating. The job is entirely mine, start to finish, and it adds up to an awful lot of touches, reaches and bends, lifts and carries from start to finish.
An all-day all-night seven day a week fire starts maybe in early October. It ends maybe in early April. That’s six months of constant fires, plus intermittent temporary daytime warmups on either side. So maybe seven months of the year require stoking the stove about hourly during the daytime and starting the next morning, first thing after plugging in the coffee percolator.
We run through far more wood now than we used to, what with the both of us (including the Ice Queen who is always cold) being here most of the time now. This year was particularly frigid starting in November and we’ll have depleted all six cords laid up behind the house. I’d hoped to have a third of it left, but not this year.
A cord of seasoned hardwood weighs at least 4000 pounds. Six cords weighs 24,000 pounds. Divided by 210 heating days, that’s about 115 pounds of wood a day to heat this house. Each piece of wood is handled multiple times—from where the dump truck leaves it into my pickup; from my pickup to the wood stacks; from the wood stacks to the Gardenway cart; from the cart on the back porch to the stove.
And keep in mind the fact that 24000 pounds of wood makes a considerable residue of wood ashes that have to be cleaned out of the stove every few days, the colder it is outside, the shorter the time to a stove full of cold ashes. And the glass gets cloudy and needs a weekly Windexing.
Wood heat is wonderful when there is plenty of it out on the porch and temperatures are seasonal “normal” and after the fire is built of a morning and Herself is not complaining that she’s “freezing and miserable” and the glass door of the stove is clean and ashes are not falling out every time another couple of sticks of oak are sacrificed to the insatiable beast.
But you can understand when I tell you that I am ready for a break. I am ready for our heat to come directly from the source rather than its cellulosic proxy—a most wonderful alchemy to be sure, and we treat our winter heat like it grew on trees. But the sun needs no kindling and leaves no ash. And that’s kind of a nice way to heat one’s home from April to October.