Filed under: cold, Corn Stove, Trees, weather, winter, wood heat | Tags: burning wood, farm, fireplace, heating with wood, wood, wood burning stove, wood heat, wood stove
“Every man looks at his wood pile with a kind of affection.” Henry David Thoreau
I’ve been heating with wood now for over 30 years. Every fall I look at the wood pile and hope it is enough to get me though the winter. This year there is no doubt. I’ve got enough wood to get through this winter and into the next.
When I first moved to this house we had a cast iron stove sitting in the living room, and a sheet metal stove in the basement. Although I had a gas furnace, I planned on it only running when I was not home. Through the years the basement stove has been replaced with a corn stove, and the living room wood stove with a gas one, but I still heat with wood.
Three years ago I bought a Central Boiler wood furnace. This wood burner sits outside so it keeps all the mess of wood burning outside. The Central Boiler heats water and then pumps the heated water into the house. This hot water first goes to the water heater where it leaves some nice hot water for us, then it goes to a radiator in the furnace plenum. When the furnace fan kicks in we get hot air right away, no waiting for the furnace fire to kick in. Before the hot water goes back to the boiler it makes a trip to my shop where it helps keep that building warm.
Over the years I’ve learned a few things that may help you with your burning questions as you contemplate heating with wood.
- A fireplace is nice, but to get the most heat you need an enclosed stove.
- Burn dry wood, it is less of a fire hazard for your chimney.
- Clean your chimney. No matter how hard you try you cannot avoid a chimney fire, cleaning it properly keeps chimney fires from happening so often.
- Burn your fire hot, then let it go out. A slow smokey fire adds creosote to your chimney, a hot fast fire helps keep that chimney clean.
- Air dry your wood for at least 6 months before burning, longer if possible.
- Wood stored inside molds, wood stored outside dries even in rainy weather. Having a roof over your wood is nice, but walls are bad for drying wood.
- Keep you wood off of the ground. I like to store my wood on old pallets. This allows air to get under the wood. It also discourages rot where wood touches earth.
- Rotate your wood pile. Burn the oldest wood first. It helps keep insect populations at bay, and keeps rodent nests cleaned out.
- All woods do not produce the same amount of heat. Ash, oak, hard maple, beech, birch, hickory, pecan and dogwood produce the most heat.
- Some woods are not good for your chimney. Pine and fir cause more creosote build up and chimney fries than other woods.
- Some fires smell better. There is nothing like the smell of a hickory or apple fire, most fruit and nut woods smell nice when burned outside in your fire pit.
- Some wood stinks when burned. A cottonwood fire is truly vile.
- If you cut wood, you need to plant trees.
Wood heats a man twice. Once when he cuts it and again when it is burned. Enjoy your wood fires.
Filed under: Biofuels, cold, Corn, Corn Stove, home addition, house, Minnesota, winter, wood heat | Tags: alternative energy sources, cold, Corn, electric heat, energy sources, farm, Minnesota, solar heat, winter, wood heat
I have to admit I’m a bit unconventional when it comes to the heat sources for my home. The very fact that I have multiple heat sources is in itself unconventional. It does make for some interesting conversation when we talk of cold and how we stay warm.
I purchased the house I live in in the late 70′s, not for the house, but for the land it sits on. As a young farmer at the time I was looking for land to farm, and this piece was near the rest of the families farmland. Having just met my eventually to be wife, the house was not part of my thought process.
The house is a two story Gordon Van Tine model # 501 purchased by previous owners as a precut, build it yourself house in 1925. It had a full basement, kitchen, living room, dining room, entry porch and back porch on the main level and three bedrooms, bath and a sleeping porch on the second floor when we bought it. Since then a half bath, office, family room and screen porch have been added on the main level where the old back porch used to be.
When we bought the house it had an older LP gas furnace in it that never seemed to quit running in the winter. This was a replacement for the old coal fired furnace that was original to the house. The replacement of the older LP furnace in the early 80′s helped us increase our furnaces efficiency.
One of our first additions to the heat was the purchase of a cast iron wood burning “parlor” stove for the living room. This and a wood burner in the basement kept us warm for several winters. Since we have access to several farm site tree stands, I have plenty of wood just cleaning up the fallen trees and trimming branches that are in the way.
The 80′s were a period of increasing fuel costs and the first big push in solar energy. The house now has 3 air to air solar collectors on it. One of which helps warm the living room and the other two heat a rock bed under the office and family room.
When we added a mud room onto the house we placed coils of tubing into the floor so that we could heat that room with hot water. Heating coils were also added later under the floor of the kitchen and the front entry to help heat those rooms. A small electric boiler was added as the heat source for these rooms.
Five years ago I replaced the basement wood stove with a pellet stove. This stove will burn either compressed pellets of sawdust, or kernels of corn. Even with the current high prices of corn I can afford to burn corn as a heat source. It requires about the same amount of work as a wood stove, but is overall cleaner having less ash and a smaller chance of smoke entering the house.
After a chimney fire three years ago we had to replace the parlor stove. In it’s place went a LP gas fired “parlor stove” that adds the heat, but not the dirt, smoke and insects associated with wood heat.
Also at that time we installed an outdoor wood burning furnace. This heat source uses wood to heat water, which is used to transfer heat to my house and shop. The hot water also adds a boost to our water heater.
There are also three small electric space heaters to help heat up rooms like the bathroom when you are using those rooms.
So there you have it. I have 5 sources of heat for my house, wood, corn, solar, LP and electricity. Unfortunately 4 of those sources need electricity to run. As you might expect, I’m looking for a way to produce my own electricity also. I’ll not be happy until I have no need for a fuel truck to come to my farm.
Filed under: Corn, Corn Stove, Farm, planting, rain, spring, Uncategorized, weather, wood heat | Tags: Corn, Planting, rain, spring
We’ve been blessed by rain again here in southwest Minnesota. My gauge had four tenths in it so we’ll not finish corn planting until Monday.
We only have 80 acres of corn left to plant. Many are done with planting, but some are only getting a good start. With the cool temperatures I’m still not in a hurry.
Our trees are finally starting to show the growth we expect at planting time. We have not yet had the arrival of barn swallows we expect. Due to cool temperatures the insects are not here in the numbers to feed them.
The furnace seems to kick in every morning, but my solar collectors are providing heat for the house unless it’s cloudy. I may have to put some more wood into the boiler.
Filed under: blizzard, cold, Corn Stove, Farm, Minnesota, School bus, snow, travel, weather, winter, wood heat
My morning bus route means I’m up well before sunrise. I check out the corns stove in the basement, have breakfast, then head out the door. On the way to the shop I stop to check out the wood boiler, rake coals to the front and add enough wood to keep the stove going until I get home.
When I looked west through the trees it looked like a car was sitting there shining their lights on the field. When I drove out to the highway I realized that it was the moon shining on the polished snow surface.
Our storm of monday and tuesday did not come with much snow, but the snow we did get polished the ice on top of our snow covered fields. Except in areas where new snow was blown, the snow has been polished into a reflective layer. The sunshine or moon glow is reflected back from all over. It really is an amazing sight.
Filed under: Biofuels, cold, Corn, Corn Stove, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, winter, wood heat
My last post, “Slave to the fire,” generated a question about heating with corn. I’ll expand on my corn stove for those of you who are interested.
I’ve been heating with biomass, mostly wood, in my house since my first winter here over 30 years ago. At one time I had two wood stoves in the house, one in the basement and one in the living room. The basement wood stove was always giving me problems, it smoked into the house, wood was carried in and ash was carried out. The day came 5 years ago when it needed replacement and I went with corn.
With a corn stove you use the kernels of dent corn (Not the sweet corn or pop corn you eat) to create heat. The corn is harvested in the fall and dried to about 15.5% moisture then stored in bins for later sale or sold right out of the field. The corn we burn is taken from the bin and added to the hopper of the stove. Corn is metered into the fire box where a constant stream of air is blown upon the fire. Corn will burn, reluctantly, but needs to have the fire fanned. This is the only draw back of the corn stove, you must have electricity.
The corn stove could also be called a biomass stove since it will run on any pelletized fuel including wood waste or other plant materials. I’ve burned both pelletized wood and straw. Wood and straw ignite easier so I keep a bag around for starting fires.
Corn as a fuel generates a good amount of heat at about half the cost of propane, and much less than electricity or coal. Since you are burning a fuel source that is renewed every year it is a very green fuel. Corn is easy to store and easy to find in rural areas since it is used in livestock feed.
Corn for a biomass stove must be dry and clean. I have burned corn at up to 17% moisture, any higher is not recommended. Also corn needs to have the broken kernels and other fines removed. These fines tend to pile up and create problems for the stove. Another problem that can happen with corn that is not clean is foreign material. Since I take corn directly from my bin I have had things like small pieces of metal or rock in my corn. These can get caught in the auger and stop the flow of corn.
Some farmers have made a nice bit of extra cash for themselves cleaning and delivering bags of corn for biomass stoves. For those who do not have a dry place to keep corn outside, bagged corn is best. You also could use a wagon or small bin to store the corn. I have one neighbor who has an auger from his bin outside straight into his stove.
Corn is not for someone who wants everything neat clean and simple. It takes less work than burning wood but more than propane or electricity. The stove needs attention everyday. Cleaning and adding fuel are everyday activities.
For me the corn stove is my main source of heat. The stove is in the basement and keeps the floors for the upstairs nice and warm. When the weather turns extra cold my wood boiler provides added heat. As a fall back, I still have my propane furnace for when I am gone for over 48 hours.
Filed under: Biofuels, cold, Corn, Corn Stove, Minnesota, snow, Trees, winter, wood heat
When the weather turns cold I feel like a slave to the fire. I seem to be always working to keep warm in the winter.
When the weather is warm I am scouting for dead trees and branches to be cut for the wood pile. When the summer winds blow and tree branches break they are cut and stacked to add to winters warmth. If a tree has branches that are growing into places they should not go they are also added to the pile.
In the winter there is the feeding of the fire. Chunks of wood are added to keep the fire going as needed. Lately that has meant either digging into the rapidly disappearing wood pile or cutting and splitting one of the old dead trees I have located. Then there is the ash to haul out, one bucket at a time.
Keeping the corn stove going is no easier. For a corn farmer the summers harvest is in the bin and the corn must be hauled to the house and added to the hopper. Every day the “brick” of unburned material is dug out of the fire box and more corn is added to the hopper. I have 7 buckets of corn that are hauled in and waiting. With just under 2 buckets of corn going through the corn stove everyday, those buckets are empty in 4 days. Then it’s get the sled or wheel barrow out to the bin to haul in more corn to fill the buckets.
Both stoves need to be cleaned out after the heating season and prepared for warm damp weather. When the heating season starts minor maintenance may need to be done before heat is needed. The chimney needs to be checked and cleaned and pumps and fans need a test run.
Really though I don’t feel so bad about it. My furnace hardly ever turns on. The wood is going to have to be disposed of some how and using it for heat is a really good use. The cost of wood and corn for me is cheap. The best part is I know where my fuel is coming from. I’m not paying someone in some other country for the fuel to heat my house.
Filed under: blizzard, cats, Corn, Corn Stove, Farm, Minnesota, snow, wood heat
Winds topping out at over 55 mph, six inches of snow and temperatures of about zero. Yep, we have a real blizzard today. Schools are closed. Most businesses are closed. The snow plows are not out on the roads. The DOT has advised no travel. The National Weather Service has us in a Blizzard Warning until 3:00 p.m. It’s a day to stay home and stay warm.
We’ve had so few severe snow storms the past few years that most folks have forgotten how to act when the real thing hits. I’ve seen folks freak out at a bit of blow with some snow. This morning when I got up I had trouble seeing my barn. This is the real thing. I’m gong to stay home and stay warm.
I did have to get out early this morning. The wood stove needed to have some ash removed and wood added. Knee deep snow around the wood pile complicated getting wood to the stove. The trip to the pit to dump the ash bucket, a distance of less than 50 feet, resulted in a very cold face. I would not have liked to try a longer trip in these winds.
Usually when I am doing stove chores the cats come out to see me to see if I might pet them or even feed them. Today they did not even stick their noses out of the shed. They are being sensible and staying out of the wind.
The corn stove also needed feeding. I put my barrel on the sled and made the trip to the corn bin. The weight of the corn pushed the sled deeply into the snow making for a heavy pull. Then in crossing one drift the sled tipped unloading some of the corn into the snow. Another trip was needed to pick up the spilled corn.
With the wind and cold the furnace fan is running quite a bit. The radiator from the outdoor wood stove is doing a great job of transferring heat into the house, but that means I’ll need to keep feeding the stove.
Our basement corn stove has been running for a few days now. It has pushed the basement temperature to over 70 degrees. That has really helped to keep the house warm. It’s really interesting to have the basement warmer than the rest of the house.
Karen has taken the opportunity of a snow day to clean and decorate for Christmas. I’ve been instructed to clean out the office today. We’re not going anywhere until this wind goes down so we’ll just stay home and stay warm.