It's Friday and now that I'm back in town I'm making an attempt to stick to my schedule - that means a homekeeping post. My home projects have been guided by my attempt to clean my way through Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook. You can read more here and here.
The first cool nights and the faint glimmer of autumn light have inspired a wishful thinking post - I want a wood stove, but I haven't come across the deal that will make it happen yet. However, I do practice the art of building a good fire whenever we get away to the cabin in the fall and winter.
Today I explore the firewood chapter of the Homekeeping Handbook.
There are two major categories of firewood: Hardwoods which come from deciduous, broad-leafed trees and softwoods that come from needle-bearing coniferous trees. Hardwoods are the best burners; they are more dense and contain less resin. Softwood is great for kindling; it gets a fire started fast.
Any wood you use should be seasoned first. After being cut and split the wood needs to rest outdoors for six months to a year. Seasoning reduces the moisture content; to get good burn you're looking for it to drop by at least 25 percent. If you're having wood delivered take a look at the center of the log, seasoned wood should have cracks and a dull color. For stacking and storing firewood provide a supporting base at least three inches off the ground to protect from moisture and bugs and allow for air flow. Bark up, crisscrossing layers work well. Leaving air flow is important to assist with seasoning. The handbook passes on the advise found in The Old Farmer's Almanac: the space between each log should be, "large enough for a mouse to run through, but tight enough to keep a cat from chasing it." There is debate about covering outdoor wood piles during seasoning. A tarp keeps the rain off, but if you're not removing it frequently you're missing out on the benefits of sun and wind and trapping moisture. Your attention to the weather will make for better burning fires all winter.
Check out this link for some beautiful pictures of firewood and a chart ranking trees by their energy content per air dried full cord in 000's of BTUs. This is interesting information, but very few people who depend on wood for heat have access to the best hardwoods; mastering the seasoning is what's most important.
My dream stove.
Oh, one more thing about the beginning of fall - I begin to work in papier mache again. Sketches are ready and I can't wait to post the first pieces of the season!