Winter Heating…


Once the kitties start to seek afghans all day and night, you know it’s time to start heating the homestead.  We like to wear hoodies and sweaters and save money so we do wait as LONG as we can before we really start to heat up this old house.  We actually have three ways to do it and we alternate between them as the funds present themselves.

We have a wonderful wood stove in our big office where we spend a lot of time during the day and evening.  So, it makes sense to use that as much as possible.  And since one of our businesses is a wood working business, well, we sure do have kindling and some fuel available to us.  In fact, for the month of October, we heated both the shop stove and the house stove totally on waste wood from the shop!  Maggie collects it through the spring, summer and fall and it was a great savings.  Plus, we do have a lot of trees on the property and we gather limbs and such through the year.  You’d be surprised at how much wood you can stash those three seasons if you work at a little bit.


However, by November, it was getting a little more nippy and our free wood was running out.  We still weren’t using the stoves all day and night, rather, we would start them up around noon as the house would start to cool and then stop when we went to bed.  The stove would burn a few hours after and then the hot metal would keep the house comfortable into the morning, around 60 degrees or so.  It sure saves on fuel and sleep!  One of the things that we don’t like about wood heat, is keeping the stove going during the night.  We can get about a four hour burn with our setup and after that, all bets are off.  Pretty much someone has to get up and add wood to keep it going.

We do have one wall propane heater and we turn that on in the late evening, stoke up the wood stove and go to bed.  In the morning, the propane heater would have kept the place a little warmer and it would save on sleep!  IMG_2601

We also block off areas of the house with curtains.  Even a simple, sheer curtain will stop air flow and looks pretty!  So, we close off areas of the house that are just not used much or areas like my little office where lives a little radiant electric heater!  My office is small, 7 foot by 12 foot, and my little oil filled, quiet electric heater on medium will keep it pretty cozy most of the year.  We also curtain off our big studio room because there are two large windows in that room and they are just very leaky and old.  It’s on our radar to replace them at some point, but even with plastic and all, they just make that room almost impossible to keep warm.  So, we curtain it off and use it as a storage and pass through room for the coldest parts of the winter.  IMG_2605

Our local wood suppliers often sell off their trim bits and stuff that didn’t pass muster.  Often it’s got nasty cracks or knotholes in a piece.  They sell HUGE bags of the waste wood for $3 to $5 a bag!  These bundles of kindling are $1 a bundle!  So, when we go to buy wood, we always buy whatever they have.  It hardly costs us over $20 and we can sometimes get a couple days burn for both stoves out of the treasure fuel haul!  Why not?

We have several local guys that we buy wood from.  A new young man in the next town over has some super nice wood…  but he just harvests part time so we usually have to wait a month or so between loads!  Darn!   There is another fellow, and his wood is okay, but often a little bigger than we really like.  We’re not that good at splitting wood and we’re so busy that it’s very nice when it’s pretty much ready for us to use.  The third place is kind of our last resort…  it’s a self pay place and the wood is a little weird sometimes…  it’s waste wood and sometimes old telephone poles or just weird cuts and sizes and chunks.  But we can get nearly a full truck load for $25 and there is no calling, appointments or delivery arrangements.  Just get your cash, and load your bin of choice.  We’ve gotten pretty good and checking out the bins for the best available.  Once we got a load of oak stumps and those were amazing!  You just need to be a little picky.

Maybe some year we will get smart and start buying loads of wood through the summer!  After all, we are going into our seventh year at this and you would think we would be a little better at planning it all out.  Maybe this next year will be our transition year from worrying over keeping the wood pile full to the year when we have a couple cord ready to go!  Maybe…

I do think we will budget for another propane heater.  We’d like one in the kitchen.  Right now, our kitchen can get a little chilly and we end up using oven heat when we are in there long term.  I’m guessing you’ve never been on the low income side if you have never used oven heat for your kitchen!  We do plan meals that need a lot of prep work for when we are baking bread or a roast  because of the extra heat that it adds to the kitchen!  And on very very cold mornings, a open oven on 250 can really make it much more tolerable for a few long minutes when you’re waiting on eggs and bacon!

We were smart and got our propane tank filled during summer when the price of fuel was only 86 cents a gallon.  Right now?  It’s $3.09.  Our tank is only at 15% right now but I think it will make it another month or so.  Just one wall heater uses it, so it’s not a huge draw.  Our tank is 400 gallons, so that can be expensive to fill in the middle of winter!

Maggie has two small 20 gallon tanks that she uses in her shop with a little workshop heater topper.  She has a small wood stove as well, but that can take awhile to really heat up her little garage shop.  She took care to really insulate the old garage, but it’s still a little drafty and we have some upgrades to do this year if possible.  So the moveable tank heaters are GREAT for bringing the temperature up to tolerable, quickly.  And she can move it to where she is working and that helps, too.  She gets those filled twice a month.

It’s a bit of a mixed up mash of heating sources for us, but the best part is that only one relies on the grid for it’s power…  our several small electrical heaters.  Of course, we do buy wood and propane, but if we were to have a bad ice storm or some other weather related outage, we would stay warm and be able to heat and cook on our wood stoves.  It would be rugged, but it would be doable.  That feels good.

Our plan this year is to experiment with some small scale solar energy! We are thinking about some solar lighting out back in the barns as well as perhaps one small panel that can charge electronics and perhaps our well pump in an emergency. We do keep some water in storage, but not a lot.  (We are hoping to add some serious rainwater collection this year, too!)  We learned the hard way a few years back that having animals and no water is no fun.  We were driving about 16 miles round trip to a fresh water spring just about daily, with every bucket and barrel that we could find for several weeks, in the winter, when our pump went out and it was just too hard and expensive to replace in the cold.  If we were to loose power, we would loose the ability to run our water pump to the well.  With a small solar set up and a couple charged batteries, we could turn the pump on for a brief time during the day and pump water for our needs.  And we could keep devices  and small tools charged.  All in the plan!

Hope you enjoyed our little “How We Do It” post on winter heating!  It’s not always easy, but it works.  Right now, first of February, we have spent just about $700 on heating for winter.  Considering that our first two years here our bill was well over $2,000, I feel that we have definitely learned and improved our heating situation!  Except for the most bitter times (under zero and negative temperatures) we enjoy a fairly comfortable heat level of about 65 degrees all winter long.  And we keep working to improve and simplify heating each year!

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About Mobymom

the banjo player for Deepwater Bluegrass, and the editor of as well as the main graphic designer of the Westvon Publishing empire. She is a renaissance woman of many talents and has two lovely daughters and a rehab mobile home homestead to raise.

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