No, I am not going to leap into the current “conversation” about climate change, global, warming, and extreme weather phenomena. So if you’re thinking of commenting on that, just don’t. It generates too much heat and too little light.
No, what I want to do is shed a little light on heat. (See what I did there?) In my part of the country, we’ve been experiencing below-zero temperatures, inches to feet of snow, and wild panic-buying of household staples.
(I’m not sure why bread, milk, and toilet paper are the most popular choices after shovels, salt, gloves, and the like. I get nervous if we run low on chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and cat food. But that’s just me.)
My reaction to this dire predicament is a profound shrug. I used to live in upstate New York. On the top of a bald hill (no windbreaks). In a log cabin. Heated primarily by wood. During the winter of 1978-79.
During the recent cold snap I have rediscovered why I both like and dislike heating with wood.
The pluses: A lovely roaring fire in a wood stove is a good thing. It heats the house. You can put a pot of water on top and have an instant humidifier or a pot of tea. The cats like to lie impossibly near it. (Don’t ask me why.) The wood stove is a wonderful supplement to another method of heating and a godsend in an emergency power outage.
The minuses: Stoves require frequent tending – loading and poking and stirring and ash disposal and adjusting the damper, etc. They tend to stop giving off heat between bedtime and morning, and to get them started again you have to get out from under the nice warm blankets.
Most of all, you have to acquire wood and transport it from place to place.
You can buy wood, of course, but that’s really practical only for the occasionally used fireplace or the wealthy. All that I will say about that aspect of wood gathering is that I should never be permitted anywhere near a chainsaw.
Carrying wood from the basement to the second floor of that cabin (it was a big cabin) is what injured my back the first time. The doctor told me I should rest it by not carrying things. This was not an option for me. There are only so many sweaters a person can wear before becoming immobilized.
The upshot is that, while I can appreciate a wood stove, I can no longer operate one by myself. Several bulging disks, pinched nerves, and surgeries later, about the most I can do is advise my husband on how that next log should be positioned. (I do remember the theory; I’m just unable to practice.)
So what I like most about wood stoves is having something other than a wood stove to provide most of the heat and having a husband who can handle the wood transport and assorted bending over that’s required. That and the lower electric bills, of course.