The past few days have given us a well needed break from the sub 30F temperatures that gobble up the wood, but today is the last of that. Tomorrow the temps dip back down below 20F during the day and below zero at night. While the last stretch wasn’t too horrible to endure, thanks to the backup heat of an oil furnace and an abundance of maple and birch for a wood source, I’m a bit concerned this next one might be a tad more difficult. We’re now into a cord of willow. Many people refuse to burn willow. It burns hot and fast. It means more reloads and less of a chance that there will be coals in the morning. Given that it was split in early December – after being cut for the appropriate amount of time – and that it was from a tree larger than 24″ at breast height, some of the wood is fighting to dry out still. That means stacking it in the house before using it.
Prepping for this next snap also meant busting out more kindling as we’ve used up much of what I prepped in the fall. While Little Mister played in his room, I was able to move to the front wood bin the wood for the next day or so and work out a wheelbarrow full of kindling. Even though it will be cold out tomorrow, here’s hoping I get the chance to get another load in.
It might be willow, but it will burn.
Wow. While it would be nice to say that everything is picture perfect at the Raymond Homestead – which would be the ultimate excuse for not posting in forever – things are….well, they’re not falling apart, but they’re far from perfect.
Saturday was a bit hectic. With everything going on lately, we just haven’t been able to get to splitting up the wood until now. While last year we did about 80% of it by hand, we came to the decision that this year we might not be able to. Hubster really wore himself out last year of on the massive rounds that called for the “sledge and wedge” treatment. So we made a decision: We rented a log splitter from the local TrueValue and hammered out about a cord or so of split wood. Hubster’s mom – GiGi – was able to come over and watch Little Mister once he woke up so that Hubster and I could go out and work as a couple on the wood. This is something that we’ve rarely had the chance to do since someone’s been up and running on his two legs. It was <i>wonderful</i> being able to work together.
Sunday saw the death of our 9 year old washer, which at the time contained a full load of water and laundry. Thankfully Hubster was able to come in from doing something – I can’t remember what – and fought with the thing to get it to drain. We’ve been debating for the past year or so about getting a new control knob as it had been flaky for a while now. Now we’re glad we held off since the motor died on it. That would have been a bit of a waste of money, for sure. Needless to say, we lucked out. The in-laws still had the washer that came with the house that they bought from us and weren’t using it. Now we have a working washer. It doesn’t have a “quick wash” setting, and it’s not energy efficiency rated, but it’s better than nothing.
Tuesday the car had to go in for rear shocks and a sticker. It passed, which I wasn’t to surprised about, and we were able to figure out how to get it back despite the sweltering heat that is just too much for the pup and the boy. Unfortunately the car still needs tires. But, that will come later. They’re still legal right now and holding air.
On top of this all, we’ve now been working on staking the split wood as it dries. The past two mornings what little exercise I’ve been getting this week has been half hour spurts of stacking wood out in 90F heat. Now, I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m just pointing out that sometimes the reason why those of us with a homestead don’t get time to do certain things that we want to – or need to – is because of recuperating time that we need to take for ourselves. Too many people forget this and over do it. I guess the only point of this last paragraph of this random post is more of a PSA: PLEASE take it easy in the heat. Yes, do work. But do it slow. Take your time. Reset.
Today has brought the first cold, shiver-inducing rain of fall. While we’re looking at 80F for the next few days, mixed with humidity, there is no doubt that fall, and thus winter, is right on the horizon. After spending just ten minutes stacking wood, I was soaked to the bone and had to make the conscious decision that it was too wet to trust swinging an axe. Even though we’re behind on wood right now, I have no doubt we’ll get caught up before snow flies.
(I’ll be honest and admit that part of the issue is me not being able to wrap my head around us having to treat homesteading as a job. It’s hard to let the husband go off to cut wood when I haven’t seen him all day. I’m trying to forcibly adjust to that.)
Needless to say, we’ve come a long way from the above photo, taken in 2009. We’re no longer hesitant on whether something will burn. We know how to spot dry, dead-standing wood, and realize the need to use as much as possible from each and every tree that’s cut. While our jobs have changed since Vaughn was born, and I no longer get to help spot and load, I’ve become adept at emptying the truck and banging out two to three days worth of split wood in a twenty minute period. Joe has become more confident with felling and cutting to the point that, if he wanted to, I’m sure he could do a basic Wood Harvesting 101 lecture.
Aside from getting the wood in, food storage is coming along. It’s going slow, but getting there. Some items in the garden have been planted that we’ll try to winter over with a thick blanket of hay. Others still need to be planted. We have plenty of jam, some vegetables frozen, and are working on getting pickles put up. We’ve diversified greatly since last year. Here’s hoping we’ve done better with our estimates on what we’ll need to last through the winter now that there’s three of us.
There may be chores that need finishing and events that need to come to pass before we’re fully ready for the winter, yet that doesn’t set us to worrying. There have been times where we’ve bit out nails not knowing if we’ll be ready, but what’s the use in wasting time fretting? There’s stuff that needs doing.
Well, the gas to get the pallets and the screws might have added some cost, but the concept’s there. By scrounging at a local business, Joe was able to get the okay to take as many pallets as we want, when we want. This has worked out great! Not only were we able to use them for help fence in the gardens, but Joe’s been putting his creative New Media skills to work are created these wood sheds that each hold roughly a cord. Each shed takes eight regular size pallets and some scraps to tie it all together. While right now the roofing is plastic sheeting that we mis-bought this winter, the long term goal will be to get metal on them that will by far outlive the sheds themselves and will be used on the next generation.
We’ll need six of them on the property, but we definitely have the room, so it won’t be a problem. We’re also planning on building a mini one out front, maybe half the size, that we’ll keep stocked up during the winter and that will give us a couple weeks worth of wood at the ready during the cold spells. Hurray for better planning than last season!
I’m not going to make this a long, lengthy post as I think Joe would be the best one to handle explaining all the background and particulars of our long journey to wood burning, but we’ve done it!
We’ve been using the stove for over a month and love it. We do still have oil backup since Teeny (lovebird) can’t get below 62F for long at all, but it’s barely been running.
Needless to say, we love it! :-)