Minnesota Farmer

How much wood

It’s Christmas eve, the morning temperature here in southwestern Minnesota is -6F (-21C) and my wood burner has just been filled for the second time today at 8 a.m.  Yes, I burn a lot of wood.

I’m a confirmed wood burner.  Our houses main source of heat has been wood ever since I moved here in 1979.  We live in a several times remodeled 1925 Gordon-Van Tine Co. model number 501 home.  Here’s the catalogue our house was ordered out of.GVT 1923 Pre-Cut Homes Catalog   024

As with all old houses of the era, it had very little insulation.  If we had not had the wood burner, the furnace would never have quit running in those first cold winters.  Now with much added insulation and several added rooms, keeping the cold out is easier.

Our earlier attempts at wood heat were crude to say the least.  We had a stove made out of a 50 gallon oil barrel to start with, crude but effective, that sat in the basement.  Later we purchased a Vermont Castings Resolute, an earlier cousin of this one.  Ours was black.  MHSCWebImages42_P_fullThe Resolute lasted over 25 years in our living room and though small, it provided a lot of heat.  The problem with these stoves was hauling the wood indoors.  This added dust, ash, insects and smoke to our living area and those are not popular items for my bride.  The advantage was we always knew where to go to get warm.

Three years ago we went to an outside heat source by Central Boiler.100_2533Now our wood stove sits outside near the wood pile.  Heat is pumped via hot water in insulated, underground tubes to our water heater, house and shop all from the same source.  Much cleaner, and adds more uses to the one heat source.

As you can see, I have a sizable wood pile.  You can see about six cords of the pile. (A cord of wood is 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet.)  I also have another two cords behind the shed.  Most of the wood in my pile is green ash, but there are also some hackberry, apple, maple, mulberry and walnut branches in the pile.

I never really have to go looking for wood.  We have enough trees broken by wind and ice here to keep me well supplied.  Add trees that die or are overhanging buildings, and we stay nice and warm in the winter.

So now we get to the question in the tittle, How much wood do I use for winter warmth?  That depends.  A warm winter will find me using just over three cords of wood from November to March.  Colder, windier winters can double that amount.  How much of the wood is the heavier ash rather than the lighter maple will also be part of the equation.

Wood burns best if it is dry.  I try to dry my wood for at least 6 months before I use it.  One year I use from the front of the stack and the next from the back.  Thus I can be cutting wood for the next year while I am still burning older, dryer wood.  I also store my wood on pallets to keep it off of the ground and cover the pile with used steel siding pieces to keep the rain off.

Yes, I do have a furnace, and there are several electric heaters in the house to add warmth to cold corners, but as long as I can handle a chainsaw and stack and split wood, I’ll be heating my house with wood.



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