Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wood, it warms ya four times...

So goes the saying here in Maine.  Once when you cut it, Once when you split it, Once when you stack it and Once when you burn it.  No need to worry about cold Maine winters when you have all that work to do!

We're pretty serious about wood here.  And thankfully we have plenty of it.  We burn about 6 cord a year of firewood, maybe a little more, depending on the year.  With that wood we heat our entire home and all of our domestic hot water (showers, sinks, etc.) all year 'round.  To pull that off we use this baby, right here:

The day we said goodbye to #2 heating oil
There it is, in all its glory.  The EKO Wood Gasifying Boiler.  Load it with wood once a day (or less) and you have all of the heat and hot water you could want.  It is plumbed into our heat system just like the oil boiler (burner, furnace...whatever you want to call it).  So the fire heats water in a big pipe...that goes into a coil in our hot water tank.  That hot water then gets circulated to our heating system which ends in flat panel radiators in each of our rooms in our house.  Pretty slick.  The same burn also heats the water that comes out of our taps. These gasifying wood boilers are a lot more efficient and cleaner burning than their "outdoor" cousins that have gotten a fair bit of flack.  

Most of our property is wooded--a mix of hard and soft woods with a decent variety in the size/age of trees.  When we bought our property we tried to assess what small portions we would clear back into pasture and what portions we would carefully manage as woodlot.  It seems to be working so far.  Supposedly, a properly managed 10 acres will provide heat for a modest family dwelling, continuously. 

Clearly, no consumption of fuel is totally clean.  We burn gas and oil in a chainsaw to cut down trees.  Then we use a PTO driven splitter and saw rig to finish our wood for stacking.  (We used to split by hand but the tractor sure does make quick work of it) Those implements drive off a tractor that burns diesel.  Then we burn the wood and even with a clean burn we emit particles into the atmosphere.  Clearly there is an impact.  That being said, we do love having that level of independence.  Knowing that we can keep ourselves warm (and showered...and with clean dishes)without having the oil truck come down the driveway, pump our tank full and leave us with a whopping bill.  It's all right in our back yard.  We just have to get out there and work for it. 

Step #2: Cut to length (this is before we had the tractor implement)

There is really nothing as satisfying as taking a nice long wood-fired hot shower without the guilt and cost of burning oil.  And who doesn't love a guy in logging chaps and a safety helmet??  Seriously! 

Also contributing to the coziness of our home is "the Queen" which will be featured later this week as she deserves her own full post--so stay tuned--.

As the temps start to drop around here, thoughts turn to wood almost intuitively. We're all set for this year.  Stocked up.  But each year we have to cut and stack the backlog of drying wood so that we have seasoned wood to burn the following.  So, just as we finish the harvest and put the gardens to bed, we turn to the woods and carefully plan our harvest there...assuring that there will be continuous and healthy growth of the tree stands for years to come.  And we revisit the sweaty backs, the hollow sounds of thrown logs, the thwack of the splitting maul, the beauty and security in a stack of wood and a warm home and hot shower at the end of the day.


  1. Some day when we have land we dream of not having the natural gas bill...or the water bill...sewage bill two (or five if you include the goats) have cleared a lot of land while maintaining a great forest.

  2. I love this post - All we have is wood to heat our home and the harvesting, cutting, splitting, and stacking and then carrying in to the porch and then some inside to the wood holder is truly a year round job - it sure beats having to pay for a membership at the local health club to stay in shape.

    Warm wishes, Tonya

  3. So true! Its neat to think of how many of us New Englanders are going through the same motions. There is just something about wood heat! And BTW we were thru Northern VT a while ago--I just love it. We used to live in the Upper Valley on the NH side. That was nice, but prefer being further north.

  4. Hi there--I found your blog yesterday after Country Sister commented on my own blog. I really like the stuff you two write about, so I'll be following along from now on. :)

    I really like this post. We live in the city right now and can only dream of heating our home with wood, but it is indeed something we've always dreamed of. Someday! For now, we'll try to enjoy our electric baseboard heaters, lol.


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