Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wood Heat

It's a thing I love to talk about and learn about--heating with wood. Some might call it pyromania, but it's always been my dream to have a hearth and heat with it. It's a most natural inclination, perhaps, and I believe it's the most satisfying.

I just got back after seeing "The Road," so this blog-post is partly an attempt to focus my mind on something other than the movie's disturbing portrayal of TEOTWAWKI. If you are seeking a movie that's depressing but very well done, check it out. After watching it, I think I need to purchase more shotgun shells.

Anyway, woodheat. This is my second season of heating our house entirely with wood heat. This year, we've turned on the furnace mostly for convenience's sake, and at that only a handful of times. Our propane furnace is efficient, but propane is wicked expensive. Hence we try to avoid it whenever possible, using it only as a back up.

Wood: In some ways, a wood heater is only as good as the wood you feed it. I am presently burning our seasoned reserves, and the differences between seasoned wood and unseasoned wood are stark. With seasoned wood, you increase your burn times immensely, in addition to your heat output. There is also less ceocrete (soot) to worry about forming in your chimeny. Seasoned wood costs more, but you'll get more from it.

I've been heating entirely from scavenged wood. In the fall I began taking a chunk a day from work, splitting and stacking it in the present pile area. Works well, but it takes a while when all you have is Mustang trunk. Ideally, I would have split and stacked all the wood I needed for winter back in the early days of Spring. Nine months or longer is the ideal seasoning time, and the longer the better. Anyway, I was not able to make it happen back in the spring, but this year, now that life seems a little more normal, I'll be making it happen.

Stove: I have a used Jotul F3 woodstove. It's sweet except that it's made for a combustor, which I don't use. The combustors burn up excess emissions on these models and were known, supposedly, for clogging quickly. I have followed the previous owner's recommendation of not using it and the stove works fine.

That being said, while it is a pretty stove, I wish it had a larger fire box. I would like to load it up at night and not have to worry about waking up to feed it. So the bigger the box the better in terms of loading frequency and heat output. If our stove was any larger in our current space, it would take up the whole room and make it a suana. When we add on, God-willing, in the years ahead, we will move the present stove into our living room and purchase a larger version of the one we have for the addition. I will purchasing one to be set up without a catalytic combustor.

Chimney, Flue, & Draft: Sounds like the name of a 70s band, or an English law firm. Anyway, it's critical to make sure your chimney is installed correctly. I don't know much about the process, except that your chimney, like the exhaust system of the car, directly impacts your stove's efficiency and the amount of draft and/or pull you get from it.

This year we have been far more successful, I think, about working the woodstove. That is to say, adjusting the flue and level of draft coming in. Slow burning coals is the goal. Wood selection certainly helps in that regard, but basically it's something for which you acquire the feel for one's particular setup.

Chainsaw and Axe: When I purchase a saw, it will be a STIHL MS390 Farm Boss with a 20" bar. I have one on loan from work, so I am not in dire need. While any saw will do, chainsaws are touchy beasts and have to be loved and used frequently so the engine does not develop issues. Chainsaws are easily the most dangerous hand tool out there, with some 50,000 accidents occuring every year. I follow these main rules when sawing:

1.) Do not cut when I am tired (most chainsaw accidents occur at the end of the day);
2.) Do not cut with my body directly behind the saw;
3.) If I feel uncomfortable for any reason about cutting, I calmly stop and reassess the situation. Sometimes I just walk away.

I have heard wood splitting be called everything from a "pain in the ass" to "soul-building." For me it's mostly the latter. I love splitting wood. It's great exercise and gets your mind off stupid crap. My personal axe is a light, flanged head True Temper with fiberglass handle. Thing works great for my style of splitting and is an essential tool out here on the homestead.

Peace Out,


Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Preps

(The view from our yard after the 2009 Blizzard.)

Well, we were plastered with 22 inches of snow this past weekend. It was gorgeous and amazing to behold, and fun to go play in. My play consisted in shoveling out my walkway, deck, and top of the driveway. Below are my wintry thoughts and reflections on being prepared for serious snow.

1.) Shovel. I purchased a new industrial grade shovel at Lowes before the storm hit. It's not a snow shovel at all, but a fiberglass square shovel made for shoveling loose debris. This makes a whole lot more sense to me for my situation and is a lot more functional year round for tasks other than snow shoveling. Because of it's smaller size, it's also much more versatile, as in handling the 3 foot snow drifts in front of my driveway.

2.) Tractor. Wish I had one. My neighbor came over with his Kubota with front-end loader, to push the drifts back from the corners of my driveway so the snow plows wouldn't plow me in. What took him 10 minutes would have taken me 10 hours. It's on the list of nice to haves down the road, along with that diesel Ford truck.

3.) Snow vehicle. I have a Jeep Wrangler 4x4 equiped with new 31 inch mud tires. This thing kicks astroids in all kinds of inclement weather. Storms, snow, whatever. Though it's not very spacious inside, it gives us an edge if we need to bug out. God-willing, after tax time, she'll be paid for and be my permenant BOV.

4.) Heat Source. That is, other than electric based. Even my propane furnace has electric controls, so we'd be screwed if we lost power and didn't have a wood stove. It happened last year for a couple of hours, during an ice storm and temps in the single digits. Luckily, I was able to get a fire started.

5.) Wood, that is, if you heat with it. It is critical to protect your wood and make it accessible before a big snow. I spent the first hour of the blizzard hauling 3-4 days of wood into our enclosed porch. Walking for 80 ft. through 2ft snow drifts to gather wood sucks and should be avoided at all possible.

6.) Generator with fuel. Damn, I wish I had one. Had we lost power, having a generator would allow me to run my furnace (that is, if it was a hardwired genny back up). I am considering investing in a propane back-up for that very reason. It would also give the ability to run the well (for which I would like a bison hand pump).

7.) Chainsaw with treated fuel, bar oil, and extra chain. Again, I wish I had one. I use the one at work for all my wood cutting, but in an emergency, a chainsaw is an unbeatable tool to have to deal with fallen trees or emergency demolition. And, of course, cut your woodstove wood.

8.) Food and water. This should probably be at the top of the list, but this applies for all emergencies, not just snow.

9.) Ice pellets. I bought a bag of this stuff for the walkway to our vehicles. Hopefully it will work well and last for the duration of the snow melt.

10.) Plenty of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. There's nothing like a warm beverage to boost morale and warm up your spirits after time out in the cold. Before and after shoveling, a hot beverage makes your labors seem less cumbersome than they were and helps you relax and warm up quickly. When you are warm you are able to work better and less prone to injury.

In closing, I would like to say that the ability to keep up with a storm as it's falling is critical to making it a fun event instead of a crisis event.

Peace Out. Merry Christmas.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

157th Post

Can't believe I've put up that many, but I am glad that I have.

I skipped a week since I've been busting a move on an editing project I'm tackling. I am about 10 yards away from the goal line at this point, in the final minute of the game, but you know how long that takes. I am looking forward to finishing this behemoth because it will free me up for all the stuff in life that has been on the backburner.

Yesterday, we spotted a red fox bound through the yard as the snow continued to fall. It was awesome. Right outside our kitchen window and then *shoom*, off into the forest behind our shed. I'm sure he had lots of tricks up his sleeve. He was freakin beautiful. Not the kind of animal I'd want to shoot or hunt, just the kind I want to admire. I'll save the guns for the bobcats.

I've been obtaining a greater appreciation of the versatility of the shotgun lately. I think this comes from my reading at www.wethearmed.com, www.madogre.com, and Martin's Blog. (I know I should be working, but sometimes you need a break). You can just set them up in so many different ways to do a variety of things, including handle SHTF. Two Remington 870s and 2 Glocks and you have plenty of firepower and reliability to take care of most situations.

That's going to be my standard advice for SHTF gun questions and discussions from now on. Two and two. If you can't defend yourself with this stuff, you probably need to reevaluate your plan. I recall watching a video of an Arizona home-owner repelling 4-5 armed thugs, one of whom had an AR, with a shotgun. If you need more than that, you are probably defending the castle wall against an onslaught of zombies, or taking the castle.

Right now I am running a Maverick 88, which was given to me as a wedding present. It's a great gun, especially with the 18.5 in HD barrel. I have it set up with 2 3/4 00BK. It's not very tacticool, but I have 100% confidence in it's reliability. I'm considering purchasing another one for redundancy before buying some 870s. Having two of the exact same setup is a powerful way to go, IMO, and makes for a good armory.

Ok, over and out. I have work to do.