Sunday, October 30, 2011

not for the uninitiated

Heating was something I never thought about before this year, not really. It was a thermostat and a bill, something that simply happened. My whole life heat came out of oil, gas, or electricity. The fireplace I grew up with was for decoration, comfort, and emergencies.

Right now the farmhouse is 65 degrees. It's that warm because since 4:30AM two fires have been roaring in my wood stoves. As the early-season snowfall coats the world outside, here in the house my home is warm and lit with candles and jackolanterns. But it is my two stoves that are the true workhorses of this farm house—one in the mud room where all the house's plumbing pies converge and exist, and the other in the living room. The wood stove in the mud room is a 6-year old Dutch West box stove, a classic workhouse that doubles as a cooking surface for cast iron and metal percolators. The living room stove is a Vermont Bun Baker, a half wood stove/half oven contraption that creates a soothing fire that heats the living area of the house and can roast a chicken, rise pizza dough, or bake a loaf of bread in it's oven box. It is a genius invention. Both are assets, and they are the way I mainly plan on heating this farm this winter.

there is an oil tank in the basement, but the thermostat is set to 48 degrees. Unless I have to leave the farm for a few nights, I don't plan on raising it. Heat is now a pre-meditated act. Wood was delivered all summer, chopped this fall, stacked, and now everyday I carry inside dry wood to fuel the stoves. I tend them, and watch them turn the temperature up in the farmhouse to a comfy place where sweaters are shed and a cheap humidifier keeps the air in check.

I like this system. It requires presence. For some reason, being needed by our homes and families has gone out of fashion. Tell someone of the uninitiated that you can't go out to the bar after work because you have livestock to feed and a house to heat and they see a prisoner. Nothing could be further from the truth. This house on the hillside might require its human caretaker more than some, but it gives back an astounding amount for my humble efforts.

A home heated without the need of an electric grid, foreign oil, or fear of losing my pipes and warmth if in the case of a disaster. Fuel that is renewable, and local, and supports my local economy. IF I had too, me and my pony and an axe could harvest it ourselves.

A home surrounded by animals that provide meat, eggs, wool, transportation, work, and company. A home filled with three kind dogs, the CAF pack, that have pulled sleds and herded sheep. I love my working dogs. I am one too.

A home with a future in real vegetable production and preserving. My last few years getting fences and livestock in order have left me without much dedication to the garden. Next year I get serious. It will require a hoop house and fences to extend the seasons and keep out the critters, but a farm that just grows herbs, a few cans of sauce, some hanging onions and a small bucket of potatoes won't cut it. Not for me. I have a seed vault and I plan to use it!

A home that constantly strives to get off grid. This year was the heat for the home, next summer I hope to afford a small solar system for the hot water. Eventually more solar and wind power will be added as the farm grows. It will require more work and dedication to this blog, workshops, and books than I have the energy for now, but the growth of this dream is my biggest source of energy. I do what I can, and then some more, and it returns the favor.

A home surrounded by forests and resources. There is wild game, foraging, ponds, streams, and other gifts just beyond the fence lines. A whole other world of goodness I have yet to barely tap into. But wish me luck this deer season.

A home that educates and shares. I will continue to have workshops and classes at this farm. Teaching and inspiring beginners has been the greatest joy. I have folks signed up for sausage making, fiddle 101, and urban homesteading workshops already. The Chick Days workshop in the spring is a huge hit (come learn about chickens, and go home with three chicks and a book!), and I am already have a third of the spaces for next year's Antlerstock worked out, with classes expanding from folks down at Polyface (a goat raising intern might come with Nigerians!), candle making, pig 101, and more!

This post started about wood heat, and ended with an anthem. It's what happens when 6:24 AM on a Sunday already means you walked the dogs and lit the fires and have a pot of coffee on the way.


Blogger daisy g said...

What a vision you have. And how blessed we are to see it come to fruition. Go, Jenna!

October 30, 2011 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger becky3086 said...

I thought your post was lovely and I could picture myself there. It is almost funny now that I have finished it that I can't smell the wood smoke.

October 30, 2011 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger sash said...

Inspiring and great post. Thank you!

October 30, 2011 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

This is the reason I LOVE heating my house with wood. I love having to be so attentive to something. These kinds of acts bring into sharp focus for me what's important in my life and what isn't.

October 30, 2011 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

We've had a rough couple of days. The sump pump in the new part of the house isn't working properly. The contractor who put the addition on for my parents made a perfect mess of our yard. Water is bubbling up everywhere, it's getting pumped out and then flowing back in and worst of all our window wells are like swimming pools. When you go into the basement it's like being in a ship. None of this makes me feel independent. It makes me feel angry and anxious!!! We did roast hot dogs over an open fire in the snow though.

October 30, 2011 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

Your posts make me so nostalgic. My life in NY was surrounded by wood heat. From the 3ft beast that graced the center of my parents' home, to the beautiful wood cook stove at my granparents' camp, to my beloved fireplace in my first home. We don't have one here in our current home, but I'm working on my husband to get one of the Bun Bakers in the next couple of years. A stove that can heat the house and cook food at the same time would be so awesome! Until then, I'll just keep living vicariously through your posts. :)

October 30, 2011 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

We have heated our home primarily with wood for 17 years. About 10 years ago we added on to the house and the first thing to go in was a new woodstove. We now have 2 Vermont Castings Encores and never worry about heat. I work close enough to home (only 4 miles) that I can pop in at lunchtime and "feed" the woodstove. We only have one burning now and the house is a steady 67, you can't ask for much more.

October 30, 2011 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Kira said...

Jenna, I heat primarily with wood too and while it makes for some cold weekday mornings when I don’t stoke the stove prior to going to work and for the occasional need to turn down that after work drink you mentioned in your post, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My foray into wood heat began when I moved into my 1920s house that had been cheaply updated and “modernized” with electric wall heater units and very little insulation and no new windows. Ugh. I hate those wall heaters. And they make me nervous too so I rarely turn them on as my fear of fire far outweighs how cold I may be. So I decided to embrace the woodstove and I haven’t looked back. My property is just under ¼ acre so there’s no woodlot I can utilize but I worked at a place where wood is a bountiful resource and the people are generous and charitable - my wood is delivered split and all I do is write a check out to the local food bank for the cost of the cord(s) that were delivered and I’m set for the winter! Local wood from completed research projects or from private woodlots, a donation to a local charity, and a tax deduction too. It can’t be better than that! And I feel good knowing that I’m responsible for my heat – it sure makes you think about things differently when you just can’t (or don’t) flip on a switch!

October 30, 2011 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

I curled up in front of my wood stove with the Maine Sunday Telegram and a bowl of fresh leek and potato soup. The sun is shining off and on now so I guess I need to do a critter check.

October 30, 2011 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger m.e.w. said...

Hi, where on the blog is a listing of the workshops? pls point me in the right direction, thanks!

October 30, 2011 at 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We (in Halifax, NS) are getting the weather as rain and wind at the moment, which is fairly seasonable. How I wish I had a fire -- a house -- land -- I love hearing all about this. I'm a few years behind you, Jenna (though I think we're the same age -- I went the grad school route and so am just starting to save money for the House and Land Fund), and I find your posts such a wonderful inspiration for my own desire. I don't have much interest in sheep, but I do want a garden (and chickens, perhaps a cow, a horse...certainly dogs), combined with a writing life, and you help me keep my eye on that target. Today this speaks so much to me...

October 30, 2011 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

workshops are here, but for some reason, i can only see posts in October from 10-15 onward? can anyone find older October posts on here?

October 30, 2011 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger pawsfurme said...

A Nigerian raising intern? That settles it, I'm there! How much is the deposit?

October 30, 2011 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

Well Jenna, the people have spoken! Looks like I have no choice but to come! ;) LOL. I'll have to see about putting my deposit down soon...

October 30, 2011 at 5:41 PM  
Blogger Joshua Tolley said...

I was about to write essentially this same blog post, about winter approaching our own homestead. I guess now I don't have to :)

October 30, 2011 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Great post on wood heat. I am sitting by the wood stove now and it is wonderful. Knitting by the stove is very relaxing as well. I knew you must be faring well during the Oct. snow storm because of your wood heat. Very nice not to be dependant in that area. We keep a fairly large garden and am looking forward to seeing yours. From the Phony Farm in TN.

October 30, 2011 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger Zev said...

I love heating with wood. I hadn't thought of putting a second stove in where the majority of the pipes connect -- may have to consider that.

November 1, 2011 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

When I read this post, it highlighted just how unprepared I am if something were to happen. Kudos for getting your affairs in order and being self-sufficient. You are a gem and it's so fun and enlightening to read along with you.

November 4, 2011 at 1:36 PM  

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