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let’s toast marshmallows over the baseboard heater

January 28, 2011

How do.  Come on in, mosey on over to the fireplace, take off

those wet boots, dry your socks  and warm your feet while we

swap yarns.

There’s something inherently folksy about heating with wood.

It might be because it’s our most interactive way of warming

ourselves.  Furnaces and heat pumps do their job out of sight

at the flick of a switch.  Passive solar is too laid back to earn

our affection.  Steam radiators are too moody.

Plus, nobody ever told tall tales sitting around a floor register.

I have never heard anyone say “let’s toast marshmallows over

the baseboard heater”.  And I’ve listened to many people.

Heating with wood is different.  You have to actively seek out

your fuel, whether you cut you own or have it delivered.  You

learn that a grease-stained pizza box makes a good intermediary

between paper and kindling.  You realize that when nature prunes

your trees, the blown-down limbs can go into the firebox instead

of the landfill.  You appreciate that ashes can be used in your


Jude and I heat with wood partly out of necessity, mostly out

of choice.  Since we’re off the grid, we have to use diesel gas to

supplement our micro-hydro to run the electric baseboards.

A lot of diesel.  Diesel not available on the island.

Wood we got.   That’s one of the perks of living in a forest.  In fact,

a logging company is doing a clear-cut about a mile from the farm.

The trees are down but can’t be hauled out until March because

winter has ravaged the gravel road access.  Our friend Lee and I

plan to harvest the smaller trees in February.

This is fine with the loggers because they benefit from it.  All that

they cut and leave behind is measured.  The company then has to

pay the government a stumpage fee for harvesting on leased

Crown land.  So the more of the little guys — perfect for firewood —

we take, the less they pay.

Besides, I save on health club dues.  Cutting, splitting and hauling

wood is strenuous.  I’ve never done it without sweating like Ted

Haggard at the YMCA.

I don’t have any statistics on how eco-friendly wood heat is.  Lee

says it takes him half a gallon of gas to cut a cord (128 square feet)

of wood.  Some of our neighbours use only 4 – 5 cords per season.

That’s got to be more efficient than occupying Iraq.

Since our wood stove is at the end of the house, heat isn’t evenly

distributed.  No matter.  The stove is in the living room where,

oddly enough, we do most of our living.  The cathedral ceiling

in the room funnels heat into the bathroom and our bedroom

upstairs.  Because it’s so well insulated, it stays quite comfy up

there.  We even slept with the windows cracked open last night.

The kitchen stays warm because of the cook stove.  Tonight it

will be especially cozy because Jude will be baking chocolate

chip cookies with Maese as we babysit her and Mowat.  Mo and

I will be here in the office, the coldest room in the house, playing

“Harpoon Lagoon” on the ‘puter, as he calls it.  We’ll likely stay

warm enough from the laughing and shouting.  If not, we’ll find

a video of a fire burning in a fireplace, put up our feet and swap

some yarns.

UPDATE: M and M were here for four hours as their folks enjoyed

a slide show and film at the community centre.  The aroma of

cookies baking blessed the house.  Maese and Jude watched the

Treehouse Network as Mowat and I set a personal best score of

1571 on “Harpoon Lagoon”.  We didn’t get cold but we did take a

break and joined the girls, putting up our feet and watching the

Backyardigans contend with a giant ball of yarn in a sock factory.

  1. Nina permalink
    January 28, 2011 9:18 pm

    How true – there’s something very soul-satisfying about cozying up to a crackling fire. It seems to resonate with some ancient part of ourselves that equates the warm embrace of a fire in the woodstove with comfort and security. There’s nothing better than coming inside after a day spent in honest labour ( cutting wood? ), peeling off the sodden layers of work-clothes, then curling up in front of the hearth with a warm cuppa… or, alternately, a stiff shot of whiskey, which will thaw one out even quicker! .
    Love your blog, Allen! We’ve placed a shortcut on our desktop and will be faithfully following your and Jude’s adventures in rural living.

    • January 29, 2011 8:08 am

      Why, thank you, Nina. I’ve never been at the end of a shortcut before, to my knowledge. I have some friends who watch their fireplace more than they watch their TV. They call it Channel One. (Editor’s note: Nina is a neighbour. She chronicles the hijinks and low jinks of our community in “The Gazette”.)

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