It gets hot in Central Alabama. We haven’t crossed the century mark yet this summer, but we’ve seen plenty of highs in the 90s, and it’s routine for the heat index to run up to 105 or so.
But this is Alabama, not the tropics, so winter brings cold temperatures too, with plenty of lows in the 20s and occasionally in the teens. And when those cold nights arrive, we will depend almost exclusively on a small wood stove to keep our little home in the pole barn warm. Amanda gets tired of my saying it, but it is true – even if the prose is purple – that firewood is the thin red line that stands between us and freezing to death. And even though the lodge has a conventional heat pump, all of us prefer to use its wood stove as well.
We have a simple, elegant system for ensuring we have plenty of seasoned, dry firewood available as we enter the heating season. We have 12 stackable pallets but use only about six during the course of the winter, and we work during the winter to keep them filled with wood so that, by the following winter, the wood we burn is seasoned. And we keep those pallets under cover during most of the winter so they are bone dry when it’s time to use them. The result is that it’s quite easy to start a fire in either wood stove.
The problem is that our simple, elegant system broke down completely this year. We have no excuse; we just allowed other priorities to take precedence and neglected our firewood. At the beginning of this week, 10 of our 12 pallets were empty. Today’s podcast spells out our plan to cope with this failure.
Here’s our plan in a nutshell, capitalizing on our pallet system that allows us to move firewood easily from place to place without needing to restack:
- We will work to fill all 10 of those pallets that were empty and put them all on the orchard floor.
- We will use firewood as sparingly as we can until we develop confidence that we can get through the winter.
- We will keep two pallets under cover at all times in addition to the two in active use, so they can be drying out completely.
- We will leave the remaining pallets on the orchard floor to get as much benefit from the sun’s drying as possible. Yes, they will get wet when it rains, but they will dry out more in the sun.
- Going forward, we must, simply must make it a priority to refill pallets during the winter soon after we empty them. Not only does this ensure an adequate firewood supply; it’s also much more pleasant to do that work when the weather’s cool.