Thursday, November 30, 2017

November 30, 2017

Heating seems to be the order of the day around here.  The nights have been around 30, and the days in the 50's and 60's.  So far this winter, we have had the heater on for 2 days.  That was before we got the wood stove thoroughly installed.  Now that we have the wood stove, we haven't turned it back on.  Our house is really efficient, we designed it as a passive solar with most of the glass on the south, and have flash and batt insulation.  The addition of a wood stove and a lean-to greenhouse on the southern side has made it about perfect.  So far, we are usually only putting a fire in the wood stove in the mornings, and opening our bedroom windows about 10 am to let the sun heat the house for the rest of the day and store heat for overnight.  This minimizes wood collection.  Since we installed the wood stove late, we bought one load of wood for $40 (very good deal), and have gone to collect some already felled wood that we split ourselves for the price of two cartons of eggs from a neighbor.   My husband and I made a good team, with him doing the splitting and me loading the truck.  I did give the splitting a try, and found that I am more successful with the wedge and sledge hammer than the splitting maul my husband likes to use for speed.  He does tell me that the red oak we were splitting is very hard wood, though, so maybe I can try a different wood in the future.  We love having a fire in the morning while we are enjoying our coffee.  I told my husband I feel like I am at a Swiss Chalet, it seems so luxurious watching the flames.

Having a wood stove brings with it a number of issues to solve.  We are well on our way to finding permanent solutions for most of them.  The first one we solved was where we were going to store the wood, and how to get it close to retrieving without having to re-stack it.  Research brought me to a wood caddy on wheels, so I set about constructing one. It works great but still needs some tweaking.  I am not happy with the wobble in the top and plan to add some stability in that area when it is not stacked so full.  Additionally, I designed it so we could use the top of it as a work surface when we were grilling out or doing our canning on the propane fish fryer.  However, I still have not decided what kind of countertop I want to put on it that will be waterproof (keeping the wood dry), that I will be able to slant (since the wood sits under the eave of the house and I want the water to roll off), and that will last.  Currently we are keeping a tarp on the top until we come up with a good solution and make time for that.

Then there is the problem of how to haul enough wood in the house so we don't have to keep opening the door (counter productive), as well as not having to re-stack it once we get it in, and solving the problem of how to store it inside.  I had thought of a metal wagon, but we did not have one and I was surprised at how much they cost.  Then someone from Off Grid and Homesteading Ladies suggested a hand truck.  We happened to have one just sitting around, so once we gave it a trial run and decided we loved the look of it inside in it's laying down position, I painted it to match our wood stove and it solved that problem.  I love that the profile is so nice and low that it works well in front of the window.

Then there is the problem of cleaning out the ashes.  When I was trying to figure out what to do with this, I read several accounts of issues I wanted to solve from reading people's complaints.  One was I wanted it to have a lid so it wouldn't blow around the ashes  and it would keep the ashes dry, and the second was I wanted it to have feet so if there were hot coals in it, it wouldn't burn the floor.  I was thinking of a bucket with lid on a low plant stand when I ran across this old coal hod that I found on Ebay.  It was not in very good shape when I bought it, so the first thing I did was sand it down and repaint it with high heat barbecue grill paint.  As the hand truck full of wood already took up a lot of space, we decided to keep it just outside the door, since we don't have to clean out the ash all that often yet.  The bucket that hold the ash is a great design that tips easily into the wood stove door so we can just scrape the ash and coal into the bucket.  I had read that some people keep it inside in a room that is distant from the fire for an additional heat source with the hot coals inside.

We still have to find the right tools for the wood stove, especially an ash shovel.  As our fire box is small, it is difficult to find one that has a short enough handle.  In the meantime, we are making do with what we have.  A spatula (that is being missed in the kitchen) and a set of barbecue tongs. . .

On other matters, we processed another steer, this one being larger than the last at 1320 pounds, with the carcass weight being 833.  Our freezer overfloweth.

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