Grit Blogs > Windy Meadows Farm

Practical Preparedness ... The Woodpile

Mary Murray head shotI obviously don't exercise enough.

After stacking wood with my family this weekend...
My back and shoulders ache.
I'm feeling old.
It's time for the heating pad.

However, on the bright side, we have a terrific amount of firewood ready at a moment's notice should it be needed! 

The barn is filled with the sweet scent of freshly-cut wood as the aromas of cherry, hedge, and ash mingle to greet us each time we step inside. And while it's a delight to take in, on the more practical side, it has a very important role to play in our preparedness.

Should we have a power outage, this wood will not only keep us warm, but will help to feed us as well. Living in a farmhouse that's 148 years old has blessed us with 3 each in the kitchen, dining room, and what was most likely once a parlor. 

Those fireplaces most certainly kept the original homeowners warm from many a winter storm. However, somewhere along the years, a previous owner decided it was a good idea to remove the chimney of the fireplace in the dining room, and toss it down the flue passageway. Sadly we couldn't rebuild the structure to make it safely usable, however, we did have the firebox reworked and then refinished an old mantel to keep the home's original look.

Now, how to store that firewood to make sure it's ready when we need it...

Choose where you store the wood carefully. Find a spot that's dry and allows for air to circulate around the woodpile. A barn or an open-ended wood shed are both ideal. Wet wood will rot, crumble, and give off very little heat. It's essential to keep the wood dry.

Remember to stack the wood off the ground. Wood pallets work well, or you can easily put together a log rack you'll find available at your home improvement store. (I say "easily" because I didn't put it together...hats off to my hubby on this one!) Look closely at the wording on each log rack will tell you how much wood the rack support. Most come ready to hold 1/2, 3/4 or 1 cord of wood. It's important not to overload the rack.

If you choose to place the log rack outdoors on the ground, instead of on a cement pad, stake the rack to keep it steady. If that pile begins to lean, eventually the entire log rack will come with it.

If the woodpile it outside and no barn/shed is available, be sure to cover it with a tarp to keep it dry, and secure the tarp from the winter winds. If you happen to get a sunny winter day, you may want to even uncover the wood to let out any moisture that's trapped inside.

While wood is generally sold by the cord (4'x4'x8') how do you know how much wood you'll need? Well, that depends on many factors. How many hours a day do you need a fire? Are you cooking in a large fireplace or on a small wood stove? Is it your only source of heat/cooking, or are you also using coal, wood pellets, canned heat, or kerosene?

I've read that Montana pioneers needed 12 cords of wood to make it through a winter. However; that was a 24-hour a day fire for warmth and cooking, with winter lasting often from October through April. And while most of us wouldn't need anywhere near that amount, it would be wise to do the math and find out how much wood would sustain your family through a hard winter.

How long will your wood last? Well, the experts say indefinitely if you keep it dry and the air can freely circulate around the woodpile. I have to agree. Last year we finished burning several logs tucked into a corner of our barn that were at least 10 years old!

Yes, a crackling fire on a Sunday afternoon is a favorite around this old house. Good for curling up beside with a good book, some knitting, or even a little nap. But knowing that we're prepared for the winds to blow and the snow to fly, also gives peace of mind. 

susan berry
12/18/2012 10:38:53 PM

Hello, Great post. My husband and I have been heating with wood for years now. It is our main means of heating and we have a propane fueled furnace for our alternate heat. Wood is such a money saver. We also have 3 cords stacked and ready with an available fourth that can be chopped and split should we need it.

11/23/2012 9:50:31 PM

I wish I had a fireplace in every room. I love them. Heating with wood is awsome. It helps temendously with the huge electric bill we have. If I could I'd heat with only wood and get off the grid. I don't want to live on the grid anylonger. I'm ready for a change from dependancy to independancy. Yay for wood stoves!!! :)

nebraska dave
11/11/2012 3:07:07 AM

Mary, I have not resorted nor will I ever resort to heating with wood. However, my wood pile will go to the patio fire bowel or camp fires. The brush acquired from the tree I cut down at Terra Nova Gardens will most likely be used in a hugelkultr raised bed. That's when a trench is dug out about a foot deep and wood of any kind including cardboard and paper is piled in the trench and then covered up. Then it's left to begin to rot for one year. After that it can be planted with any kind of plant. The rotting wood can last for many years and retain water better than any thing else. Yet another garden experiment is forming in my crazy brain. Have a great day heating with wood.