In the forty-some years we've lived here in northern Minnesota, we've heated our home almost exclusively with wood. We have the capabilities to heat with wood, and we know how to do it.
But this year, we're contemplating heating with L.P. gas utilizing the gas furnace in our basement.
Why are we thinking of doing this? Contrary to what one might think, heating with wood is not free in a financial or energy expended sense. We either purchase eight foot lengths of cord wood from a local logger and/or use trees harvested from our own property. Our own trees may be "free" but one has to figure in the cost of time and energy (both human and fuel-wise) to fell the trees, bring them to our wood working area, work them up into usable sized pieces and then stack them in one of our wood sheds.
Obviously, L.P. gas would also require a financial outlay. What wouldn't be required would be the time and energy Papa Pea and I put into the wood fuel. We really have no idea how much we would spend on heating gas for a season or if we would even be happy with the "different" heat the furnace in the basement would put out.
In the meantime, we're still working towards having a two year supply of wood cut, dried and stored right here on the property. To give you a simplistic idea of what this entails, here's an overview.
We start our wood fires with a few sticks of dry kindling on top of some crumpled paper.
As soon as the kindling catches fire, we add three or four pieces of what we call "small" wood. The picture above was taken yesterday as we were working at splitting larger pieces of softwood (balsam and popple this time from our woods) into proper sized pieces. The small pieces of softwood catch fire quickly but also burn quickly and don't give off as much heat as hardwood does.
Our hardwood (which we split into bigger pieces than the small wood) is a mixture of maple and birch we ordered and worked up into the right sized length for our stoves. The hardwood (in the bigger pieces) burn for a long time.
We also save whole, bigger log pieces of hardwood to put into the stoves at night when winter temperatures are at the coldest. Papa Pea places one of these logs on a bed of hot coals before we go to bed, and it burns slowly and keeps us toasty until the next morning.
How much would we spend over the coming heating season for L.P. gas? Would it be comparable to what we know we spend for wood for fuel? And how do we figure in the effort we both expend working up the wood for heating? Would we miss the unique heat that a wood burning stove radiates?
If we do make the decision to heat with gas this winter, we'll still have the option of knowing we can go back to using wood at any time because of the ready and available wood we'll have as a back-up. (Good thing we both honestly enjoy wood working!)
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