Sunday, January 01, 2017

Wood Shed, Wood Box, Wood Stove: heating with wood in Michigan

Howdy! I'm glad you're here.  
This post probably contains run-on sentences, sentence fragments, 
affiliate links, and unnecessary ellipses.  If none of that bothers you, let's be friends.

Interview question six:

"How much wood do you have to bring in every week to keep those fire burning stoves going? Who brings in the wood? Who takes care of the chickens?"

First, let's talk about the whole heating with wood system we've got going on up in here.  There is a wood stove in our den as well as a fireplace in the original living room with a wood burning insert in it, complete with blower fans to move the heat into the house (as opposed to straight up the chimney, which is what happens with a regular fire place). Guys. These things are amazing.  We live in Michigan (hashtag Tundra Junior) and if we keep even just the den stove going, the furnace does not come on
And would you like to know what our furnace is set at? Yes you would.  69 degrees.  Not 65 or 63 or some other toe-freezing temp.  69.  And it still doesn't come on.  That's how incredible wood stoves are.

The only time, in fact, that we even need to run the second one is if it's going to be below zero (Farenheit! which is something like -21 C.  Brisk. ), and that's only because we need to get some more of the heat up the stairs.  If we were all just living in the den?  Fuhgettabout it.  Toasty warm for days.

Now, on to using those amazing tools.  Here's a snazzy little aerial view of the north part of the land with the buildings on it (the orange lines mark the east and west property lines.  Down there on the lower right is the wood shed, which you can't see in the actual photo because of all the trees- I'm just guessing at the size.  It's a three sided lean-to type building with three open stalls.  You stack new wood in the center stall and take old wood from the right stall so that you're always burning wood that's been curing for a year or two (or 3).  The far left stall is basically empty right now.  Once we fill it up and empty out the first stall, we'll start filling the first one again while we take from the center one.  You know, like a rotation?  I feel like I'm explaining this in way too much detail...

Oh look!  I found a blurry photo so you can see what I'm talking about.
Cecilia is standing in the right bay with the oldest wood.  Tommy and Paul are filling the center bay for use in future years.  Eventually we will fill the far left bay and then start the cycle all over.
Okay, so you bring the cured wood up to the house to burn it, but do you really want to be hiking down to the shed (it is downhill from the house) and then hiking back up to the house with a sled full of wood when it's 6 below outside?  Not so much.  Enter: The North Porch.  On TNP (I marked it on our handy diagram, too) you will find a large wooden bin for holding firewood.  The porch is covered and even has removable walls to block the wind during the winter, so when you go out to grab firewood for the day, it's not so excruciating for your poor fingers and/or nose and the wood also stays nice and dry (crucial for burning purposes, obvi).

Now I'm finally getting to your initial questions! Aren't you proud of me? Here we go:

The logs are basically chopped into quarters during the warmer months, so when I say "piece of wood" I'm talking about a quarter of a small log that's about 18" long.  To heat the house for a whole day when it's nice and cold (say in the teens), with no sun to heat the house, takes about 18 pieces of wood.  You start the fire in the morning with 4 pieces, and then you feed it 2 pieces roughly every 2 hours.  It's really low maintenance. During the night the fire usually does die down and the furnace will come on, but that's a really small percentage of our day, so I'm satisfied with it.  If we were to lose power, we would have no stress about keeping ourselves warm (which we definitely did back at the old house).

Here's half the den with the wood stove.  You can tell it's summer because there's no ugly gate around it or cart filled with wood next to it, but you get the basic idea.
As for the who, well, that depends.  When there's no snow on the ground, Tommy drives the tractor with the trailer full of wood up from the shed (he's going to be doing that today, as a matter of fact).  Everyone helps to load and unload it.  When it's very snowy but we need to bring wood up, the two eldest girls suit up and fill sleds, and haul them up to the porch.  Two sleds full per person usually does the trick and they count it as their PE for the day.  Handy!

Katy and Lizzy are also the chicken people.  They take turns by the week- so one girl does it for a week then they switch and the other girl does it for a week.  Paul takes care of the dogs and will be graduating to chickens when he turns 10 (the barn door is large and heavy, the latches on the coop can be finicky, etc. etc.  It's a pretty demanding task so I'd rather them be very ready than do a poor job and hate life.)

How was that?  More info than you ever wanted to know about our house-heating adventures?  Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaat's what I thought.  I aim to please!

Posting for the 12 days of Christmas...
12 in 2016 (a photo year in review)
Stuff That Makes My Life Better
Where did all these children come from?!?!
Homeschooling High School
I Dream of Houses
Dollah Dolla Billz

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  1. Dumb question—what on earth is a wood-burning insert? Doesn't a fireplace ordinarily burn wood without one? Huh?

    1. It's a metal...enclosure thingy? that converts a normal fireplace into something that's more like a wood stove. A normal fireplace burns wood super fast and lets a lot of heat escape up the chimney. You can't really heat a whole house with one. With an insert, you change that dynamic so the wood is burning more slowly but the whole thing produces more heat.

  2. This is like my dream post! I'm gonna have to find you some more questions! -FarmAndAway

    1. Please do because it really makes everything so much easier! "Well, at least I know Terese wants to know this stuff..."

  3. I feel like "wooden shoes, wooden head, wouldn't listen" should fit in here somewhere. My dad is Dutch and my mom loves to rib him about it. :)

  4. We ended up having to purchase a new insert this summer after a routine cleaning/inspection revealed some not so pleasant news about no liner, old insert too big for the opening etc. What a nightmare. BUT, this new insert is amazing and we love it. It's incredible how well it heats the house. We need to take some lessons from you guys on how to stock up on wood! Bravo! 😃

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