Thursday, January 3, 2013

Colder Weather

No sleep last night, and that's fine. I stayed up through the whole thing, feeding the wood stoves until they roared back at me, so hot it hurt to open the door and stand in front of it. My efforts kept the place warm, around 55 degrees as the temperatures dropped 40 degrees below freezing. This is not a complaint, but a triumph. I was grateful and excited for the night fighting against the cold, battling for my comfort. I shared that quote from The Dirty Life because I know it to be true. You live like this, on a farm like this, and you forget about distant comforts. They become another realm, just like she said. That is not a life I miss or want back, sleeping in a warm house without sheep to feed or chicks to rescue from woodpiles. I could not find meaning or happiness there. My work and effort did not make sense. Last night, if nothing else, made primal sense. I would not have traded it in for anything. I'll catch up on my sleep and sneak in a nap today when the thermometer rises above ten degrees and the house is in the sixties. For now it's just the high of woodsmoke and not having to commute to an office.

I feel like my life is starting at thirty.

45 Comments:

Blogger JoAnne Schnyder said...

I am in northern Arizona, where we do dip down in to the 20s at night and right now the temperature goes up to about 50 during the day. That is nothing compared to what you are experiencing. We, too, have begun to primarily use the wood stove as our source of heat. What do you find is the best/quickest/most efficient way to get the fire started? Do you just use kindling or do you add other things like bits of paper and cardboard? Thanks! Love reading your posts.

January 3, 2013 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Stephen Andrew said...

I lovvved that book! This is kind of an airheaded suburban question, for which I'm sorry: what does A house heated with a wood stove smell like? Does it smell kind of woody? Or smoky? I imagine it smelling fabulous.

January 3, 2013 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Alicia-Marie said...

Life has a different rhythm. Yeah, I know; that statement sounds like a cliche. With experience comes wisdom. I use "experience" instead of "age" because I have met people who are wise beyond their years.

January 3, 2013 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger chesapeake said...

Had to pop in to leave this review on Amazon of your latest book that made me LAUGH:

"The story was convoluted and disappointing. Easy read, but didn't make much sense. Who rents an acre and a house and puts goats, chickens, a turkey and sheep on it."

Hahaha! Jenna does, that's who! And now she has her own farm and woodstove and horses and feels "like (her) life is starting at thirty." Get it, girl! If I were you I'd print out that review and hang it above the fireplace ala Fred Astaire with his rejection letter. "Can't act. Slightly bald. Also dances." Stay warm!

January 3, 2013 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

To Stephen--if your stove is working properly, you generally don't smell smoke indoors. You do smell that wonderful woodsmoke in the air outside the house. I love coming home, seeing the smoke curling up from the chimney, and catching that whiff of the air scented by our primal heater.

January 3, 2013 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Little Dash Rambler said...

I dont have a fireplace or woodstove, but I envy those who do. There is no better smell in the world to me - and I love visiting my sister in VT in the winter where i am always greeted by that cozy, inviting aroma. My plan to own a small camp in upstate NY or VT will not be complete without a woodstove!

January 3, 2013 at 12:03 PM  
OpenID vintageandhandcraftedinnovascotia said...

This morning, although still around only 10F is sheer bliss - the wind has finally dropped. Yesterday was a constant shuffle between wood supply and stove as the wind sucked sticks of wood through at a huge rate and also whistled round the floors of my 1820's cape house. Today I am building up a supply of wood beside the stove and relaxing in a balmy 60F house - I am no longer wearing a hat and fleecy bathrobe over two layers of clothing. I'm even considering doing something other than reading beside the stove.
My wood is paid for, and next years wood is laying about my acre of land waiting to be processed - leading the frugal life has many blessings, not the least of which is not being in thrall to big oil.
Cheers from beautiful Nova Scotia
Janet

January 3, 2013 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Sue Sullivan said...

@JoAnne,
This is by far the easiest way I've ever found to start a fire in the woodstove -- homemade lint and leftover candlewax firestarters in egg cartons. One partially filled egg segment does the trick beautifully.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Waterproof-Dryer-Lint-Fire-Starter/

With one of these, I need no tinder whatsoever and can get fire made of half inch to inch thick sticks and larger logs going just fine.

Wow, Jenna, 40 below is some serious cold. That must have broken some longstanding records.

January 3, 2013 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Noël McNeil said...

I can't imagine it being that cold!!! We get cold here, but not THAT kind of cold. Glad you were able to keep the fires going. :)

January 3, 2013 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger pawsfurme said...

I think she meant -8...40 degrees below 32. If it WAS -40, there's no way in hell you'd find me living that far north!

January 3, 2013 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger pawsfurme said...

I think she meant -8...40 degrees below 32. If it WAS -40, there's no way in hell you'd find me living that far north!

January 3, 2013 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Harmony Hill said...

I think Jenna meant 40 less than 32. ( Fahrenheit freeze point). So, not so terrible.

January 3, 2013 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

To Elizabeth from Berkshires:
Thanks for info. on woodstove. I wondered about the inside smell too:) I want the Lehman's version of Bun Baker or the Bun Baker itself. I got woodstove envy:)
Holly in Illinois

January 3, 2013 at 6:15 PM  
Blogger ican said...

As a fellow dweller of NYS, I can attest that it got nowhere near -40F last night! I don't think we even got near zero (F), but then I'm in a different region. They are calling for high winds here tomorrow though!

I wonder that you're up all night feeding the fires Jenna. How efficient are your stoves? We fill ours up around 8:30-9:00 at night and it simmers along nicely for about seven hours...

January 3, 2013 at 7:29 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I didn't say 40 below zero! I said 40 degrees below freezing, it was -11 degrees this morning. the point of freezing is 32 degrees right? is this metric confusion?

January 3, 2013 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Imagine you will fly... said...

what kind of wood stove do you have? Is it airtight? Do you have a catalytic system stove? it's more efficient.
We fill ours up around 11 in the evening ... close it airtight and push the lever to the lowest air supply.
In the morning we usually have ambers left, to rekindle the fire. We don't smell smoke in the house. We also have some electric heaters installed to help with the very cold temperatures ... am living just across the border in Quebec ... same temperatures!

January 3, 2013 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Stephen Andrew said...

Thank you!

January 3, 2013 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Pit Stop Farm said...

Ican - how do you get an 8 hour burn? I fill my woodstove completely at night and the most I get is 4 to 4.5 hours before there are only a few embers. I believe Jenna's stoves are small which would mean feeding them more often.

January 3, 2013 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger Pit Stop Farm said...

Ican - how do you get an 8 hour burn? I fill my woodstove completely at night and the most I get is 4 to 4.5 hours before there are only a few embers. I believe Jenna's stoves are small which would mean feeding them more often.

January 3, 2013 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger WillowBrookFarm said...

I don't have a wood stove, I heat with a pellet stove, so I may have no idea what I'm talking about but do some people add coal to their wood stoves at night so the fire lasts longer?

January 3, 2013 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

We've been dipping into the negatives the last few nights here with wind chills that make even a seasoned Mainer add another layer while stoking the stove! Stay warm, get some rest and add another layer, friend.

January 3, 2013 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger aart said...

40 below . . . freezing threw me at first too. Still, that's pretty damn cold!

January 4, 2013 at 5:45 AM  
Blogger Maine homesteader said...

Yesterday was -10 here in western Maine. We also heat with wood, but are lucky to have a lot of solar gain on sunny days.

January 4, 2013 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

So the Bunbaker is a 14" stove box, not large. I only use it to heat about 600 square feet though, which it does a great job. I can shut it up and close off air and it'll keep coals till the morning but just because it is holding a small fire doesn't mean it is pushing out the heat I need to fight off burst pipes and such. I need to have it red hot to keep the place comfortable. It'll be 55 degrees inside the house and -11 outside, and that kind of intense fire cant die down.

January 4, 2013 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

I think your stove may be undersized for the area you are trying to heat. I have Waterford that I fill at 9pm and when I come down at 5 it has enough hot coals to begin again. Yesterday the outside temp was 0 and my downstairs was 68. A Jotul or VT Castings would probably keep you warmer. I also have window coverings which help tremendously. With your skills you could easily make some. Do you have a ceiling fan to get the heat down to you?

January 4, 2013 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I have a VT casstings in the mudroom. It is a powerhouse and is in the most important spot in the house, near the plumbing! But the bunbaker was free, and a new stove would be either used in the hundreds or costs thousands. I also like the bunbaker, and I like the work. So thanks for the stove suggestions and advice folks, but I am happy!

January 4, 2013 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger jim said...

our stove has built in fans which draw heat off the jacket around the stove and blow it into the room. My son accomplishes the same thing with a small occillating fan sitting near the stove to blow the heat out in the room rather then have it go straight up-bought a box of walmarts firestarters and broke each one into thirds- these work great to get the chimney drawing before adding the kindling.try it you'll like it

January 4, 2013 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

To CAF community:
Since we are talking about woodstoves I need some advice. I will have 400 sq. foot mail living area with a 200 sq. foot sleeping loft and an open ceiling area of 160 sq. feet (if it wasn't so rustic I'd call it a cathedral ceiling) on my farm. I have new roof and I have caulked, insulated, vapor barrier applied. and drywalled walls. Plan to insulate ceiling area prior tp drywalling that. Using high R value in insulation. With all that in mind I am not sure of the size of woodstove I need. I am leaning towards the Bun Baker, as I want to cook and bake with it as I will have no electricity. But now I am wondering if it will be too small. I have to say that I like a temp of 60 degrees in the house not any warmer! Women of a certain age will understand:)
Thanks
Holly

January 4, 2013 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

I feel compelled to post about the wood stove thing. Jenna, you have a system that works for you and I think that's great - this kind of thing has no universal fix because houses, climates, and people are different. We have one that works for us. Folks seemed curious, so I thought I might share. My husband was fire chief in town for 10 years before he gave it up to take care of his Mom and has been an active member of the fire dept. since he was 16 - he's 50 this year. He is extremely picky about how we manage our wood stove since he's seen the consequences of not being careful and keeping gunk out of the chimney. We don't use anything other than un-glossy/uncolored paper to start the fire with - kindling goes on top of that, then slightly bigger sticks, etc. until you get up to full size split pieces. Works really well for us. We live in MA on the VT border and had -6 here yesterday morning. We have a Pacific Energy woodstove that we heat approximately 2,000 square feet with. Yesterday it was 65 - 70 degrees in here even though the outside temp. never got above 20-ish. I can't say enough good about this stove and my husband is impressed with how it keeps coals. The heat doesn't get distributed throughout the house as well as we'd like, but that's a house design issue, not a stove issue. We'll be putting in floor grates next year when we can afford it so the second floor bedroooms will be warmer. This year, extra down comforters are just fine.
On a side note - we lost a chicken some time yesterday. She just disappeared. No evidence of foul play (or even fowl play). Can't figure out where she could have gotten to. We checked the rafters since my husband found her up there the previous evening, looked all around everywhere and couldn't find a trace of her. I am very sad because I am not optimistic about her chances alone in 10 degrees last night and she was not back this morning. Any thoughts or ideas on how she could have just vanished? We live in an area with predators, but there were no footprints of anything anywhere outside and no feathers, blood, or anything anywhere. AND, just for the record, your books may not make much sense to some but Chick Days is how we got started with our chickens (including the lost one), so thank you and keep not making sense to those who don't "get it" because the rest of us sure appreciate it!

January 4, 2013 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Hi Jenna. I love reading your posts about winter weather. Living in E Tenn, I don't get nearly enough cold weather or snow. Would love to live where there is a true winter.
I was wondering if you are still milking your milk goat Bonita? I haven't read any posts about her lately and was wondering how that was going. We are considering a milk cow or goat after we move to our farm. I think I would find theh size of the cow to be intimidating but not so much the goat. If I could get used to the taste. Love all your writing. Have your chicken book and plan to get the others too.

January 4, 2013 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Colin Williams said...

I think you like the martyrdom and attention you feel it brings you, not the work itself. There's no shame in doing things more efficiently when there's opportunity for it.

Two stoves and you struggle to keep your house at 55 degrees? Are you sure your flue isn't open? What type of wood are you burning? A denser, hotter burning wood like oak may cost more, but will get you more heat for your effort in the long run. (and before you question my credibility, I'm 60 years old and have been heating with wood my entire life, first as a chore growing up and always in my own homes later on).

Farmers are about efficiency and what's best for the farm, not how much they can brag about their struggle on blogs and facebook.

January 4, 2013 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Colin Williams said...

I think you like the martyrdom and attention you feel it brings you, not the work itself. There's no shame in doing things more efficiently when there's opportunity for it.

Two stoves and you struggle to keep your house at 55 degrees? Are you sure your flue isn't open? What type of wood are you burning? A denser, hotter burning wood like oak may cost more, but will get you more heat for your effort in the long run. (and before you question my credibility, I'm 60 years old and have been heating with wood my entire life, first as a chore growing up and always in my own homes later on).

Farmers are about efficiency and what's best for the farm, not how much they can brag about their struggle on blogs and facebook.

January 4, 2013 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Hi Jenna - metric confusion abounds here too (I'm in the UK). Freezing point is 0 in C, but 32 in Farenheit (I had to check on Wikipedia...). So to someone using C, -32 sounds like a LOT of cold (Siberian cold levels).

But yeah, -8 or -11C is still pretty cold!!! Glad you have a stove system that works for you

January 4, 2013 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Colin, I assure you there is no martyrdom in a white girl with a pony feeding her wood stove on a cold night. That's a mighty harsh judgement.

I just write about what happens and what I do here. I have the stove I have because it was bartered for ad space and I am grateful for it. I would be happy to be more efficient, but in this case a more air-tight/larger system isn;t a financial reality. So If that means the 3 nights a year it gets that cold I pull an all-nighter, than that is fine with me.

And I do love the adventure of an all nighter with the firewood. Makes the next night's sleep sublime

January 4, 2013 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Karen? are you sure she didn't hide under a house or barn? when it gets really cold around here the birds are either under the side porch or their coop or up high in fir tree where their feet don't get cold

January 4, 2013 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Cindy: bonita dried up in the late fall, so not right now. Milking starts again in March when the kids arrive!!

January 4, 2013 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I do apologize for the confusion! I think saying 40 and below makes everyone think of zero, not the point of freezing. Duly noted!

January 4, 2013 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger high st farm said...

I've always found wood stoves appealing, though it's not an option as I currently live in a barn. Now im second guessing how interested I am in them after reading your blog. The coldest nights are yet to come and you're already having sleepless nights. What will you do for the next few months? I certainly don't want to invest in a wood stove if it means being kept up all night. Sounds worse than a new born!

January 4, 2013 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger ican said...

Addressing the wood stove issue, we heat about 2000 square feet with a Lopi insert in the living room and a small Englander in the back area of the house (it's a ranch). We burn about 5 full cords a winter and keep the house very comfortably in the low to mid 70s (lovely!! On this cold, windy, New York evening, only the Lopi is burning and it's 72 in the house...the furnace hasn't kicked on since 5:30 this morning!). What kind of wood are you burning Jenna? Hard or soft? Well-seasoned or no? As you know, seasoned wood will always put out more BTUs. I understand that cost is an issue, but if you can stay at least two seasons ahead, you'll get far more BTUs out of your firewood...if you're just thinking about replenishing your wood supply now in the middle of winter, you're likely losing half your BTUs due to unseasoned (green) wood.

While Colin's post may be a bit too harsh, there is certainly some truth in what he is saying re: efficiency.

To answer PitBull's question, we get an overnight burn by loading it to gills at bedtime, getting a good fire going, then pulling the damper out to about an eighth of an inch from closed.

@Holly, a Bunbaker will be fine if you don't mind having to reload it all the time. But you might also want to look into an Englander (1300 series)...they're generally less than $1000, and you can usually find them for less at someplace like a HomeDepot in the springtime (after-season sales).

For more wood-burning expertise and discussion, might I direct those interested to the forums at www.hearth.com? :-)

January 4, 2013 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Jenna, just wanted to let you know that our mysteriously missing chicken has just as mysteriously reappeared. When I went to put everyone in for the night tonight she was just... there, when I turned around. Standing outside of their fenced in "run" (really a fenced in garage bay). I opened the door and she came in and is snug and warm with the rest of the flock tonight. Thanks very much for your reply. We really did look everywhere we could think of near the coop area and my husband bought me a nifty hand held spot light for Christmas so I thought we really had looked everywhere but apparently she was *somewhere* safe. It never occurred to me to look in the trees! I think I forget sometimes that they are *birds*! I picked her up and hand fed her a piece of pumpkin - maybe that will convince her to stay home from now on! Thanks again.

January 4, 2013 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

ican-
thanks for the info. The price of bunbaker was a bit high for me right now, so good to know of an option. Appreciate the link too.

January 4, 2013 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

high st farm, staying up all night to load a woodstove is definitely not the norm. Most people load up their stove at night, shut it down low, and let it burn through the night. They wake up to embers and load up more wood to start the fire for the day. The key is getting a woodstove that's big enough for your house, and Jenna's aren't. That's why she has to load them so often.

January 5, 2013 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

My stoves are fine unless the weather drops below zero, then to be comfortable and to keep the pipes from freezing I stay up to keep it roaring - putting out heat. It was twenty degrees here last night and I was asleep by 10 and woke up at 5:30, the stoves were still red coals inside.

January 5, 2013 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Mary Rives said...

My woodstove is the most comforting entity in my life. The familiar smell in the house, the smoke curling from our chimney, the wait in the morning, knowing it will heat our whole little farmhouse if I give it a little time. It is dependable. I caved into my teenaged daughter's demands for propane last week so she wouldn't have to "carry wood like a frontier child." And I regret it. It felt like a betrayal. And when I got home from work, she had hauled wood and built a fire anyway. I think maybe my little diva daughter loves the stove, too.

January 7, 2013 at 11:24 PM  
Blogger Mary Rives said...

My woodstove is the most comforting entity in my life. The familiar smell in the house, the smoke curling from our chimney, the wait in the morning, knowing it will heat our whole little farmhouse if I give it a little time. It is dependable. I caved into my teenaged daughter's demands for propane last week so she wouldn't have to "carry wood like a frontier child." And I regret it. It felt like a betrayal. And when I got home from work, she had hauled wood and built a fire anyway. I think maybe my little diva daughter loves the stove, too.

January 7, 2013 at 11:25 PM  

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