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Burning Wood Again  RSS feed

 
Travis Johnson
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Well after 5 years, I am burning wood again. I don't really like it, as wood burning stoves scare me. My house is the only house on this hill out of 7 that has not had some sort of wood stove incident, but most losing their houses completely to fire; my own parents included.

But yesterday I checked my propane tank and it consumed over 200 gallons of propane in 49 days, which means on Feb 24th I would have to refill. Fooey with that I thought, so $80 bucks later, I return from the store with stove pipe, grab a bunch of triple wall I already had for a thimble and start hacking through my houses wall. Then it was over to the scrap yard where I keep all my steel and rummaged around in 20 inches of snow until I found my old pot bellied stove. It was froze to the ground so I had to winch it out with my tractor, then haul it to my house, drag the beast inside only to find out the bottom leg had broken off and would not stand up straight. We also discovered after the snow and ice melted off that the ash door was missing.

Returning to last previous places it was, we shoveled shy of forever into the snow trying to find it. We didn't, but got sore backs from all the shoveling and stove-wrangling so our efforts were NOT rewarded. There is a stove shop, stove parts and museum close by (my Grandfather worked there most of his life), but the owner did not have the part we needed. Drat.

But all was not lost, I have a few more stoves kicking around, so we shoveled into the snow for them. We found one, it has not stoked a fire for 6 years, but had all its parts but was frozen to the ground. I managed to bust it loose with the tractor but bent the tin shroud that covers the firebox. Drat. Then we got it loaded into the bucket of the tractor; pretty near got stuck in the deep snow on the way out, but managed to get it inside our home with more wrangling. I had to yell at Katie to quit being a sally, but honestly the poor girl weighs 130 pounds and was trying to pick her half of a 500 pound wood stove. That was great, but I had to fit all the stove pipe, manual damper, auto damper and get the outside chimney built before I got o cleaning out the last fire it had.

Then there it was; a broken fire brick on a Sunday night with no stores open and -17 below zero (f). Drat, but oh well, we got propane to burn and a boiler that works, so this morning...while I intended to go logging...but wonder of all wonders my bulldozer would not start, probably something to do with being SEVENTEEN BELOW and blowing TWENTY with temps we are having! Anyway...I get my firebrick at the store; a modest price of $2.89, and realize I can't slip it in between the grate and the angle iron bracket that holds it in. Drat! So not wanting to fuss with taking the entire stove apart, I just take my angle grinder and diamond blade and cut the brick in half, slip both ends into place and have a functioning stove after 5 years of sitting in the weeds.

I stoke it with some old barn boards, some paper and am now sticking it to the propane man! But in all honesty, for $82.89 we managed to get a woodstove going again in the house in a day and a half. Not bad considering. Just another day of life on this farm; adventures in woodstoving I guess.

 
Su Ba
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What brand of stove is it? Just curious.
 
Craig Dobbson
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I've finally gotten to the point where I'm heating my house solely with wood.  I have an oil furnace but haven't had to buy oil in like 3 years now.  That's a good feeling to know that I can just cut wood, season it and burn it.  Maine is 90% forest... we ain't gonna run out of wood any time soon LOL.  I plant way more trees than I cut so it's a fair trade in the long run.  When I cut a tree down, I end up using all of it anyway.  firewood, hugelculture, biochar, animal feed, fencing, critter habitat, mushroom cultivation... etc. 

I use the ashes for the chicken's dust bath and also to help melt ice on the driveway during sunny days.  They are also good in the garden to help balance out some of our acidic soils.  Any little bits of charcoal (biochar) are also helpful in the garden. 

I'd say that going back to wood heat has been so much better than dealing with oil or gas.  It's such a more comforting heat as well.  I'm glad you were able to find a good and inexpensive solution.  Good work and congrats!

Don't be scared. Mastery over fire is built into your humanity. 

 
Travis Johnson
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I just prefer to burn coal because the heat is so much more intense and there is no danger of chimney fires; that was why I was really hoping the pot bellied stove would work out; it can burn both. In the shoulder seasons when you just want to drive the chill off, or take out the dampness I could burn wood, but when it is 17 below out like yesterday morning, I could stoke it with coal, get a good 14 hour burn and have to open the doors to let the heat out of the house.

But as you said, Maine has plenty of wood and I am sure I can finish out the last half of the heating season with slabs just coming off the sawmills. I probably have a cord and a half of dry hemlock slabs from my barn build two years ago, so my plan was to use them. Hemlock burn pretty quick, but also some hot. If I have to I can cut ash, as that burns right off the stump, but causes a lot of creosote too. I hope to avoid going down that road if I can.

 
David Livingston
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E....r you can get chimney fires with coal too . As the son of a coal miner I know this too well . I have used wood coal and coke in many different fires and I prefer wood I find it cleaner . Better still to insulate the home better , to keep your chimney clean and make sure your flu has no kinks or tight bends where a build up of soot and other stuff can accumulate or animals can live
 
Travis Johnson
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David Livingston wrote:E....r you can get chimney fires with coal too . As the son of a coal miner I know this too well . I have used wood coal and coke in many different fires and I prefer wood I find it cleaner . Better still to insulate the home better , to keep your chimney clean and make sure your flu has no kinks or tight bends where a build up of soot and other stuff can accumulate or animals can live


This might be true if you are burning bituminous coal (otherwise called soft coal), or lignite (also called brown coal), but anthracite coal (also called hard coal) has no creosote. It actually gives off a flyash, which is dry like the ashes of a cigarette and very fine. This actually coats the chimney lining and removes creosote from any wood burning that took place.

It depends where you live of course, but unless you live next to coal mines, most heating coal in the USA is anthracite coal, which burns much hotter, produces less ash, and is very clean. There is no smoke coming from the chimney, only a heat haze that is how clean it is. It also does not require a secondary draft to burn like bituminous coal only requiring a bottom draft. In fact if you get a draft across the top of the coal bed, it will actually go out. It took me a long time to figure out how to best to burn anthracite coal, but once I did I loved it.

It started out in 1998 when a neighbor gave me a coal-only Surdiac stove. He did not know how to use it, thinking to get coal to burn he had to leave the air intake wide open. Well he lived in an old 1970's trailer with aluminum windows. It dropped down to -20 below zero (f) one night, and the house was 120 degrees inside. It was so hot that condensation ran down the door, hit the draft at the bottom and froze and he thought he was going to die, so he gave it to me. Two weeks later we had the ice storm of 1998 hit and we were without power for 14 days. It was then that I learned to burn coal because I simply had too!
 
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