Woodstove Love: The Joys of Wood Heat

Reader Contribution by Stan Slaughter
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Winter is woodstove season at our house. Almost 40 years ago a GrandMa Bear Fisher woodstove took over heating my house. It was a heavy welded-steel unit lined with fire brick. When fully stoked up with my favorite (well-dried osage orange, AKA hedge or bodark) firewood, that baby could really pump out the heat. One of my great pleasures in life is backing up to a good woodstove and warming myself after a long work session outdoors in the cold. The infra-red waves that come off the stove make the whole space cozy. With those rays in mind we started calling our stove the macro-wave.

A second great pleasure is not hearing my furnace running, something a good woodstove can provide in spades. That Fisher stove moved with me to five different residences over the years until finally finding a permanent home in New Mexico. Today’s house warmer is a 70s vintage Earth Stove insert in my suburban fireplace. It was modified to fit into the fireplace and some bricks were removed for the flue to work properly. In addition the four noisy propeller fans have been removed and replaced by a special housing and a dual squirrel cage fan that moves more air and is much quieter.

I also “lined” my clay-tiled flue with an eight inch stove pipe to reduce the excessive draw the 12-inch tile produced. With these modifications the old Earth Stove has kept our 1,300 square foot living area warm all night without the furnace running even with lows in the single digits. As a bonus I sift out the charcoal from the ashes (after they cool) and put that into my garden. I have too much ash to put on my garden and there are some concerns with applying wood ash continually so mine go to the landfill.

Heating With Osage Orange Firewood

The Osage Orange firewood comes from my family farm where the first settlers planted it in the 1840’s in rows for fencing, decades before barbed wire. They would slash the trees to encourage sprouts that were woven (yes, with those vicious thorns) according to the traditional English guild of hedging. We’re practicing sustainable harvesting as our two households seem to make no difference in the stands of trees after my nearly forty years of cutting. We’ve been cutting 3 to 8 inch limbs and trees because the larger trees are grown together and very hard to split. Osage Orange sprouts vigorously (making it great for a living fence and) ensuring that our coppicing yields lots of the smaller limbs we prefer. They also make the best fence posts in the country.

This pergola is made from ten foot long straight 8-inch hedge posts. It will be there for a long time.

During the most recent ice age, mastodons ate the “hedge apples” and scattered the seed over much of the Midwest. With the retreat of the ice and demise of the mastodon, the range of Osage Orange is shrinking back toward a home turf in western Missouri. The leaves are a favorite of cattle, the wood is dense, slow growing and hot burning and I’ve grown to love the bark and shape of the trees, even with the thorns.

These days I don’t hunt much but I love the afternoon sessions out in the fresh air cutting and loading firewood from the family farm. They say that burning wood warms you at least twice and I love them both.