Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Wood Corral

Like any good "micro-farm" (I say this with tongue firmly in cheek, for those of you with actual farms), we have one or more of everything:  a range of food plants, a barn full of tools, and a few wood piles.  It is this latter that has been of great concern.

We typically separate our wood into multiple piles.  The pine we save for cooking out, replacing charcoal or propane for our meals cooked outside.  (It makes for a wonderful flavor, by the way.)  The hardwoods we separate out for burning in the house, where we have a fireplace insert/stove that does an admirable job of heating our primary living area.

To say that we heat with wood would be a gross overstatement on par with calling our 0.71 suburban acres a "farm."  (I am planning a post, in fact, on the damage I think writers do when they take on the "farm" label as a writing stunt.)  However, there are about a half a dozen weekend days a year that we wind up avoiding use of the whole-house heat in favor of heating the primary living area with the fireplace insert.  There are an additional comparable number of deep winter weekends that we can close off this primary living area, cut the whole-house heat down to the bare bones, and cuddle up with a cozy fire.  We have secured most of our wood over the past several years from deadfall and tree trimming, so it is free.  (And, for those of you keeping score, it would also already be giving its carbon back to the environment by rotting, so burning just speeds the process a bit.)

Our piles, however, are in disarray under our pine trees, and I decided to do something about it while hubby was out of town on business.  I went to the local big box hardware store and got a dozen foot-square tiles and eight garden fence stakes.  Total cost:  $41.  (Actually, less, because I  bought 12 stakes but used four of the stakes in the garden.)  I contributed some rabbit fence to divide a small kindling area off from the main log area, as you can see in the photo above.  It is nice to know that rabbit fence does something on our property, because it doesn't do anything else other than keep the rabbits feeling safe while they sit in the garden and eat my veggies.

I laid the tile out in a 4x3 grid, then put the stakes in the arrangement you see.  It is a very loose design that will just keep logs from rolling off this platform, while allowing the wood to cure a little faster.  With any luck, it will also eliminate those days when we opt against a fire because we haven't brought wood up to the house, and going out back would mean prying wood out of the soggy ground.  Also, should we have to store a significant amount of wood one day, it is easily expanded, and we can move it if we ever replace the barn.

The Analysis

Fast:  This took about 90 minutes for me and my wimpy muscles to construct.  But I found I am strong enough to swing a sledgehammer!   Go, me!

Cheap:  I don't think $41 is that bad for solving a problem and cleaning up the appearance of the wood area of the property.  However, it will take us a while to have enough extra fires to truly offset the cost in heat savings. 

Good:  I'm pretty proud of myself, actually, and I burned a few calories in the cause of gaining a few BTUs this winter.

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