AROUND THE FARM: “Winter is coming.”

If you’ve ever watched Game of Thrones or read the series of books, then you’re familiar with the Stark family motto. It’s all about getting ready for the long, dark cold to come: a time filled with fear and fraught with danger, when resources run low and living gets mean. Even the monsters may come to get you…

While it won’t last for generations, and neither the White Walkers or Jon Snow (unfortunately) are likely to show up anytime soon, around here winter is still a season to prepare for. Stockpiling firewood, preparing the animals, and winterizing the house, outbuildings, equipment, and vehicles are all jobs best done before the first snow falls.


Part 1: Putting up firewood

Although there is plenty of cut wood around here available, I get some delivered each year to mix in with my own.

Although there is plenty of cut and split wood available around the farm, I order some seasoned firewood each year to mix in with my own. Here are two cords delivered and ready for stacking. A typical winter will use up three to four cords, if burning daily.

Getting winter’s wood supply ready is a labor of love. It’s a choice really, to use more of your own time and energy, to make a green(er) effort toward heating your home. Wood is efficient and renewable, and requires no electricity or fossil fuel. And while my house is equipped with a propane-fueled furnace as back-up, I burn wood as much as possible when I’m home.

This year I decided to put the old attached greenhouse to use storing wood. it's too shaded now and no longer heated for starting and growing seedlings. Plus it needs some new glass and foundation repairs. But I am hoping it will serve it's new purpose keeping firewood (and me) dry and snow-free.

This year I decided to put an old attached greenhouse to use storing wood. It’s no longer heated and too shaded now for starting and growing seedlings. Plus, it needs some new glass and foundation repairs. But I am hoping it will serve a diffierent purpose keeping firewood (and me) dry and snow-free.

Geared up and ready to tackle the whole pile, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon. Since it won't stack itself, you might as well try to enjoy the process. Plus, it's safer to take your time and not rush: The dry wood splinters easily, and a dropped piece can easily bang or bruise.

Geared up and ready to tackle the whole pile, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon. Since it won’t stack itself, you might as well try to enjoy the process! It’s also safer to take your time and not rush: The dry wood splinters easily, and a dropped piece can easily bang, scratch, or bruise.

I wasn't always so prepared. This is what splitting wood looks like in the winter - not much fun, right? Fortunately, a few years later I've learned my lesson about staying ahead of the snow and ice.

I wasn’t always so prepared: This is what splitting wood looks like in the middle of winter – not much fun, right? Fortunately, a few years later I’ve learned my lesson about staying ahead of the snow and ice.

Burning wood as a green alternative to fossil fuels has other rewards. The work involved in cutting, splitting, and storing it is good exercise: you can eat a lot more when you know you’ll be working off the calories soon. You can have a clearer conscience, and a source of heat when a winter storm knocks out the power. And it’s a lot more cozy sitting by a woodstove in your living room than hanging out by the basement furnace, whiling away the winter hours with a book, a glass of wine, a pet, your significant other, or all of the above.

A few short hours later, the stacking is done. Two cords fit easily with room for a bit more. The wood will stay warm and dry, and is easily accessible from the house.

A few short hours’ effort and the stacking is done. Two cords fit easily with room for a bit more. The wood will stay warm and dry, and is easily accessible from inside the house.

With some extra space, my next plan is to move some of my own wood in here, filling the middle section. That should give me close to three cords stored here, allowing me to avoid trudging through heavy snow or a storm to feed the fire.

With some extra space, my next plan is to move some of my own wood in here, filling the middle section. That should give me close to three cords stored here, allowing me to avoid trudging through heavy snow or a storm to feed the fire.

A Lopi woodstove and a couple of well-placed fans go a long way toward moving heat around the house. I also gave up my much-loved wooden windows for replacements as a step toward better efficiency. All it still takes to heat the upstairs, however, is opening a bedroom door. Like many old farmhouses, this one has many lathe and plaster walls and an under-insulated attic that no new vinyl window can remedy.

While that may not seem like the most energy-efficient strategy, snow melts easily and ice dams are less likely to form on the roof and cause leaks. The house also breathes better, preventing stale air, indoor pollutants and allergens from building up. It makes you wonder if the old-timers didn’t understand more about constructing houses than we do now. Regardless, I’m happy to join them in a long-standing tradition of heating with wood.

There is nothing quite like the warmth and comfort of having a fire on a cold winter night. Here my cat Clark and I sit by the woodstove, enjoying the first of many fires to come.

There is nothing quite like the warmth and comfort of having a fire on a cold winter night. Here my cat Clark and I sit by the woodstove enjoying the first of many fires to come.

Categories: Inspirational