The Crazy Coe’s – Off Grid living and crafting

Wood for Warmth

“People love chopping wood, in this activity one immediately sees results”

Albert Einstein

I think there are few things in life that symbolise family, wellbeing and comfort more than a warm glowing fire. The Irish certainly consider the fireside to be the heart of the home, evoking memories of family gatherings and evening meals. Despite that there is only around 20% of Irish homes still heated by open fires and of that percentage only 1 % use wood as their heat source.

My memories of the inefficient coal burning open fire come from after school visits to my Gran. Standing as close as I could to her open fire to get some warmth and being warned that chilblains would surely follow my actions. I never did get the threatened chilblains but I absolutely believe that the memories of never being quite warm enough in front of that fire stayed with me always and when it came to choosing our back to basic heat source the open fire was never on the cards.

Hail then the wood burning stove.

We live completely surrounded by trees, both on our land and in neighbouring forests therefore wood was the natural choice, plentiful, free and from Simons point of view great exercise.

I know there is argument for banning the burning of coal, peat and wood that emit smoke into the environment but there is a huge difference in the smoke from burning wet timber than dry well aged timber. The future will certainly see further legislation around the burning of these fuels but I do believe that wood based sources will continue to evolve so I am not worried that we will see a ban on wood burning stoves yet. The facts are this – burning wood is actually better for the environment than using other fossil fuels such as gas, coal and oil. Scientists have explained how burning wood is part of a natural cycle because during its lifetime the tree absorbs carbon dioxide and the carbon stays within its structure. During burning the wood releases the carbon back into the air but if the same tree had been left to decay in the forest it would have released the carbon anyway and then the cycle begin would begin again. This is a simplistic view and perhaps I haven’t explained it particularly well but essentially when burning wood no new carbon is added over and above what actually exists in the cycle. and in fact by using wood as your fuel instead of oil or gas you will in reduce your own carbon footprint.

Of course for many people wood is not free thereby bringing budgetary implications same as any fuel. In the local area here the cost of a pallet of kiln dried oak which would be an average winters supply will cost 440 Euro’s and then there would be cost of kindling and maybe firelighters to add to that. I cant comment on whether changing to wood is budget friendly compared to utilities in this country as we have not had mainstream fuel but I do believe even if you live in less rural areas than us and you want to change to a wood burner you can, with a little imagination, supplement your wood supply quite easily.

In the UK we lived in a heavily populated area but daily dog walks in parks and local walking routes saw my scavenging husband collecting fallen twigs and small branches off walkways and pavements. A big bag over the shoulder and before you know it you have wood and kindling aplenty once it has dried out.

I know that sounds weird but why not- he never chopped anything down in the UK nor does he now. All of our wood and kindling comes from trees that have dropped branches or fallen over in the winds. Having had one bad experience with a tree on our land that had fallen halfway and was a hazard I can safely say chopping down was scary and we wont be in a big hurry to take down any big trees again

Of course long term we do have plans for wood coppicing and have planted over 250 trees in the last 5 years to allow for this, but more about that later.

Well that’s why we heat with wood and will continue to do so. I love my stove. It is just so versatile, with the added bonus of being a great place for the all day kettle or the slow cooking stew. It also makes a mean piece of toast but you do have to watch your fingers.

Now some people talk to friends about their kids but we don’t have any so Simon talks incessantly about wood and chopping wood and believe it or not he has friends who do the same. Simon is absolutely passionate about his wood stores – we have 3 at the moment but he is eyeing up a new space so I am sure we will post about that later along with his top tips for drying wood and which wood is good for different days of the week. Now that’s a joke but sometimes it does feel as if chopping and storing wood are all we talk about. Of course I shouldn’t be too scathing as he keeps us warm every year and we currently have enough dry wood for the next 2 winters and more drying for after that. Anyway to keep my husband happy here are some pictures of one of his wood stores and the ever exciting pile of fresh wood just collected and waiting to be chopped up and stored.

All that remains to be said for now then is think on it and get yourself a big bag if you think that wood might be for you. Come back again and we will talk about cooking on the stove and wood coppicing – I know you cant wait,

In the meantime

Just Breathe