Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wood Stoves

Last night, we began using the wood stoves. The night time temperature has dropped into the 40's, so we needed the heat. I always look forward to this time of year. Both autumn and spring we have the cold nights and warm days. We light the stoves and it is so nice to hear the crackling of the wood and feel the heat coming from the stoves. It also means that I am able to stop using the electric stove and start cooking on the wood cookstove.

On of the downfalls of the autumn and spring is the large increase in having to use fire starters. To purchase the firestarter sticks at the store can become expensive. The sticks or bricks are simply wood shavings and sawdust that has been mixed with a oil or wax based product that will light easily. The mixture is then formed into bricks or stick shapes and compressed to become hardened as they dry. I have been thinking about ways to avoid having to buy so many of the firestarters, preferring to make our own. I don't want to use a wax base such as paraffin or old candles as the wax not only has nasty chemicals in it but can make a mess in the bottom of the stove as it melts.

In past years, I have always saved the paper egg cartons and dryer lint. I make simple fire starters by packing the cups of the egg carton with the dryer lint, then pouring on some cheap vegetable oil. This is placed in the stove under the kindling and lit. The starter worked great most times. The only time we have problems is when the wood is damp from ice or snow after a winter storm.

This year, I am looking for something that will work well. I have a few criteria that it must meet though. First, the firestarter has to be made of easily found recycled materials. I want to do these without having to buy as little new supplies as possible. Second, the starters have to be clean burning, not leaving a mess in the bottom of the stove such as a wax or some fats can do. One thing about using fats - never use an animal fat such as lard as it can cause a nasty odor!

As a child, my father used kerosene in a bucket filled with wood shavings and sawdust. He kept the bucket close enough to the stove for easy use, but far enough away to not be a fire hazard. The problem with this is that we have 2 little ones who could easily get into it as there is no place we could store it high enough to keep them out of it. I would prefer to avoid using this method. So the search for a better way is on.

When we get wood for our stoves, we are careful to not cut down healthy trees. Most of the wood that we burn has come from trees that fell during storms or recycled wood. This year, we still have several ricks of wood left over from last year. In addition to that, Joe has been bringing home wood pallets from work. The company normally just burns the pallets to dispose of them. Now, Joe gets to bring them home and what cannot be recycled to use for building material is used for firewood. The wood is well seasoned, untreated, and a hardwood that burns slow putting out a good amount of heat. Currently, we have 3 large shipping crates full of cut wood from the pallets to be used in the stoves. One of the crates is full of wood cut small enough for the cookstove.

I would love to hear any ideas that you may have for firestarters. Once I find something that works well, I will post it in a future blog.