The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Even colder night


It only got one degree colder this time around than during the previous cold spell, but the outside world seems to have hit another level of frozen.  I think the issue is that the ground never thawed (in most places) from last time, so we were starting out at a considerably colder point.  I barely managed to keep the trailer above freezing overnight, and the creek (as you'll see in the next photo) actually came close to forming a solid skim on top.

Frozen creek

FireWe're settling in for the longer haul with this cold spell too.  While helping our movie-star neighbor with an audition tape, we filled up jugs of drinking water, knowing our water lines probably wouldn't thaw before the four gallons we had on hand ran out.

The oak firewood we've been cutting this week turns out to be damper than I'd like, but not too much wetter than the walnut that spent all (wet) summer in the shed.  The photo to the left shows a dry hunk of box-elder (on top, flaming), a supposedly-seasoned hunk of walnut (smoldering, right), and a damp round of oak.  The last will burn, but only on a really hot fire, and I wonder how much heat we use up driving off the moisture, compared to how much heat we get back from the wood.  We may decide to simply stockpile the oak for next year and think about another solution for late February firewood.  Or maybe we'll get lucky and this cold midwinter will give way to a warm early spring?

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

After a warmer Sunday, I'm afraid the start of the week is going to be just as cold. After that temps should moderate for about a week.

Do you think adding a vent pipe heat-recapture fan would help with the temperature in the trailer when you are cranking up the rate of wood burning?

Comment by Gerry Sat Jan 25 15:27:14 2014

I am a serious procrastinator, so I have a lot of experience trying to burn damp wood. I have to say- dry trash woods (box-elder, cedar, poplar, etc..) are better than damp premium woods.

My advice is to split some of the walnut to even thinner splints and stack it in the trailer near the stove. Then use that when it gets really cold.

Comment by Eric in Japan Sat Jan 25 19:02:58 2014

A considerable amount of the energy released in burning wood goes into elevating the temp of the water content, but, compared to the inherent inefficiency of an open fire, with so much heat wasted up the chimney, I bet the wet wood isn't that much worse than dry wood.

A "roaring fire" is considerably less efficient than a smaller, smoldering one. The total energy in the wood, lb for lb, is the same, but it's the calories released per unit time and the rate at which the heat is lost up the vent that's important for the efficiency of heating.

The bigger the heat reservoir- the stone in a fire place, the metal in a pot-belly stove- the more efficient the set up. Having the fire heat a water reservoir is can improve efficiency.

Comment by doc Sat Jan 25 19:04:28 2014
We have lots of black walnut on our farm here in southwestern Ontario. It is a good hard wood and burns well in our airtight woodstove, but we have noticed that it is quite a resinous wood. In our experience black walnut takes at least two seasons to cure properly to where it burns without smouldering, and causing the fire to die down. I understand that in your situation, you cannot be as selective with what you choose to burn but I just thought I'd share that bit of info with you.
Comment by Tom B Sun Jan 26 13:03:06 2014
If your firewood contains 70% humidity (I hope that's the right word:) then 70 % of the energy will be wasted drying the wood while burning. Percentage is compared to a living tree. Oak has the highest kWh rating of all firewoods, but it has to be dried before using. The only tree I know of that can be burnt right after being cut down is fir, but that is no good in an open fire. Heating is a science when you have three months below -10C every year like we do here in Norway.
Comment by Lisbeth, Norway Sun Jan 26 18:47:18 2014

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.