just in time fuel obtainance
Thursday, January 25 2007
For days now I've known that a brutal arctic air mass was on its way, and I also knew that in the garage the stocks of burnable firewood (cut, split, and dried) were not sufficient for the imminent cold snap, particularly after yesterday's fiasco with the cottonwood. So today I dragged an ancient downed oak (or, perhaps, a chestnut) and a few lesser trees out of the nearby woods and cut them up with the electric chainsaw. They produced an impressive pile of perfectly dry firewood, which I stacked on the south deck near the sliding door, not far from where the woodstove lives. I don't normally pile firewood here because it's not sheltered in any way from the weather. But we were expecting clear skies with our cold air, and though the amount of firewood was impressive, I knew it was only good for a couple days of intense heating. I also piled some of the smaller pieces in the dog house (this unused outbuilding is a legacy of our house's previous owners).
For me this whole heating season has been a series of exercises in just in time fuel obtainance. Some mornings I go out with a cardboard box and gather just what I can snap into pieces with my bare hands, and then I see how hot and long-lasting of a fire can be built with it. My ability to make fires with so little planning has done much to allay my fears about the amount and quality of firewood I've stored away in the garage. Admittedly, though, this winter has been a rather anemic one and I haven't even had to deal with snow.
As I cut up today's harvest of scavenged firewood, temperatures fell into the teens. By the wee hours of the night they had fallen down to around four Fahrenheit. The overnight low would be three.
I've noticed that in the daytime, even in such extreme conditions, the boiler only has to work to heat the laboratory and household water; the woodstove heats all the other parts of the house that we haven't abandoned for the season. At night when the woodstove dies down, the upstairs bedroom boiler zone runs occasionally to maintain the 59 degree thermostat setting. Meanwhile the basement is the Siberia of the house, always in the 50s, coasting on whatever heat is left in the slab. (I haven't been able to heat it with solar energy since the cover on the solar panel was torn off by the wind, and, since nobody goes down there, I haven't seen the need to heat it using the boiler either.)
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