How to heat your house for $14.58 per month

Nobody ever said heating with wood was easy. Nothing worthwhile is easy, except breathing. But I like it. I like everything about it, and if you’re up to it I highly recommend heating with wood.

Let’s do the math.

Chain saw (I have a Husqvarna 460 Rancher with a 24” bar) annual maintenance: $100
Chain saw fuel, additive, and vehicle gas to get up the canyon, annual cost: $50*
Wood permit from the Forest Service: $5/cord, four-cord min: $25**
Total: $175
Divided by 12 months: $14.58
(Granted that we don’t generally burn in July and August, but I have!)

While we were building this house we lived in an old rental overlooking the lake. It was four rambling stories full of leaky windows. Great view, but propane for heating was $400 per month. Ouch! I’ll take this instead, thanks.

Money in the bank.


I love everything about wood heating—even the splinters. (All I have to go to my wife, hold out the afflicted finger, and say “Habadlibah” [which is one of about 1800 code words we have] and she digs it out. Hey—any time with my wife is worth it.)

I love being in the woods early in the morning, blocking up trees as the kids load them in the trailer. They don’t enjoy it much, but they don’t complain, and the older ones have thanked me for it after the fact.

I love dropping trees, even though I’m terrible at it. One time I dropped a tree without sufficient warning and it actually hit my daughter—with the very tippity-tip, and she wasn’t hurt. Another time I felled a tree exactly between the Suburban and the wood trailer. I couldn’t have done that if I’d tried!

I love the way a sharp chain pulls into the wood while a rooster tail of sawdust spurts up behind me. Sadly, I’m not very good at this, even though I get lots of practice.

I love the sight of those wood blocks stacked eight deep in my driveway all summer, baking in the sun. It’s like money in the bank.

Splitting wood blocks is play for me—pure entertainment, mixed with large doses of satisfaction. I’m always sorry when I’ve split everything for the season.

I love working with my kids  to stack the wood in the shed. Nothing beats going into winter with a full wood shed! (Unless it’s going in with a full root cellar as well, which we manage most years.)

Loading the woodshed

Loading the woodshed—a late September project

I love lighting the first fire of the season, and the 200th. Lighting a fire in under one second is an art, and vigorous yellow fire blossoming in a wood stove is one of the loveliest sights in the mountains. Heating one’s life without electricity—even in an outage, or even the hint of smoke—which also smells good, in low doses, adds to the charm.

And I love being warm for next to free. There’s a lesson in firewood, maybe several.

* Why not get wood off my own property? I sure would if I could; there’s a lot up there just begging to be used. But the property is very steep, and I have no way to bring the wood down through the heavy growth without a four-wheeler, which I don’t have.

** That’s years that I actually have to go get the wood. Last year it came from a local state park where the trees were already down—some of them were already blocked up! In the summer a friend dumped off 4-5 cords of trees in the duck driveway just to get them off his property. This winter I’m trading logo work for more firewood. So my fuel will be even cheaper. But I’m not bragging.

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