Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Soap Opera-As the Log Burns

As The Log Burns....the daily soap opera of my life right now LOL...As anyone reading knows by the short text blogs recently, or because it is all I've been tweeting and facebooking about...we've been dealing with heating the new house with wood.

The house has electric baseboard heaters and a propane "fireplace" heater/stove for a heat source. When we moved in we had no idea that the propane stove here was such an inefficient way to heat. But when the tanks that were 65% full on closing day dropped to 18% full, and a quick calculation by hubby revealed we burned through over $400 in propane in less then 3 weeks, we figured that other sources of heating were absolutely necessary right away!!

After we recovered from near heart failure from this discovery, we shut off the propane heater and discovered that the baseboard heaters that were set to 10 degrees Celsius were actually throwing off about 17 degrees C, so when the hydro bill comes I plan to be sitting before we open it.( This whole thing just makes me wish we could get off the grid even faster, then our plan and intent.. the wind here is amazing!!!).

Our water is heated by the propane as well, so we've been using the remainder of the propane for hot water and it has dropped down to about 14 % full now since then. With the propane heater off, and a warm spell in the weather, we quickly found a wood stove to buy. I had been searching for a cheap as possible option on a wood stove anyway as we had planned to heat the house with wood partially, and "at some point" but we didn't anticipate that we'd have to resort to wood almost completely right away.

We are regular users/givers of the Freecycle type community based programs locally, so I had asked there, but nothing was available for free that we could get here without a rental of a forklift and a huge truck, but a person we freecycle with regularly who has become a friendly acquaintance, emailed me and said for a donation to her charity of $50 she would sell me a woodstove she had stored away for her living room since she was in the middle of renovating and wouldn't be able to utilize the stove until over a year from now.

It was very thoughtful of her to do, as she now will need to find another wood stove when she has her renovations done next year. I was happy to make a donation to her charity helping people in the 3rd world with books and personal hygiene items and clothes she boxes and mails to them. She also offered us a bunch of fallen down deadwood in her back yard that we can come and gather at our leisure through the winter, which I was supposed to go get today...but could not do... and I'll touch on that later..... So we installed the woodstove over a couple of days, with a few trips to the city to try and find proper stove pipes for the hole in the wall provided for the stove! ( someone didn't measure!! Ahem... not ME) That was most frustrating, but it gave me the opportunity for a drive by myself to the city while everyone rested at home, and I got to see the new Lowe's Store that just opened. A peacefull drive alone is a rarity around here. The night we got the wood stove installed, a wind storm provided us with some fallen trees to burn almost right away, and we managed to scavenge some free broken pallets from large boxstores to break up to burn to get us through the first week.

On the first days of gathering fallen trees, the small circular saw on a dying battery and the reciprocating saw on battery as well ( crappy JobMate from Canadian Tire set), proved to be pretty useless after the first few minutes or trying to cut through nay peice of wood, but i was better then nothing and t provided us the ability to cut enough of a line in the branches to crack them with our feet and body weight.

Scrambling for a better option for tools after the holiday seasons with little left in our bank accounts, we made the executive decision that a chain saw was necessary for us to be able to deal with heating the house with free wood. This meant we would have to tap into the kids allowance account. We just cannot afford to purchase a cord of seasoned firewood right now, after the moving costs, and the holidays so close together on our minimal monthly income our pensions give us.

We used most of what we had left in the budget and moving allowance to already purchase the wood stove and pipes necessary to get it installed. But, my 8 year old Daughter has a bank account that half of her allowance gets deposited into monthly and any gift money she is given for birthdays and holidays. She has been saving up since early September for a new camera, which we promised to help her buy by matching her dollar for dollar for. She already has the Canon camera she wants picked out, but we are waiting for it to go on sale to save a few extra dollars, so we informed her of the delay and reassured her that the camera will happen, but that it needed to be delayed for the sake of heating the house right now. She was a little worried, but with reassurances she understood and with her contribution we had enough with what we had left in our monthly budget for emergencies to be able to combine it to purchase a decent little 13 pound Poulin gas powered chainsaw for $140 ish at Lowe's. My 3 year old son was excited that it was green and matched my Virgin Mobile LG Rumor Phone...LOL.. truth be told I kinda was too :)

Having grown up in the country and also helping out at Dh's Aunt's campground in years past I know how to work a chain saw well enough to look like I know what I'm doing, and as long as it is not too heavy, and I can start it, I figured I could do pretty well at using it myself to keep us in free wood for as long as possible, and do a majority of the physical work my hubby is unable to do due to the limiting nature of his disability.

The first few days, he wore himself out using it, and he had to start it for me. It took a bit to figure out how to get it started, and I near ripped my arm off the first few times I went out side to our wood pile to gather some wood for the house. Funny enough... if you read the manual all the way through step by step...the instructions actually tell you what you need to do to be successfull at starting the darn thing LOL...Being ADHD, I'm kinda like a guy... I don't read manuals well.They are boring to me...takes too much time. I'm more suited to Ikea type picture directions with no words or just stumbling through things until I figure it out, or give up in frustration and have to concede that I need help or to read the manual.

So the last 3 weeks or so have been filled with busy busy days or physical hard work, not very much unpacking, and faling behind on regular housework like getting Laundry done. Every day feels like the groundhog day movie with Bill Murray...Wake up...Get up, start the fire, get the house warm again, eating, feeding the kids breakfast, going out to cut the pallets we've collected on our trips to bring in wood for the day, going for drives to collect dead fall that people on freecycle have said we could go pick up, or going for drives to wooded public land areas near the lake where there is older deadfall laying on the ground we could chunk up and filling the back of our minivan with and bringing it home. OR scavenging pallets from stores in the city when we are there for other purposes.Come home...prepare dinner together, which has been nice since we have not done that in AGES, and was one of the prime reasons for buying the house with the master bedroom on the main floor ( to give hubby more access and ability of his own)

We all do the collecting of the deadfall together...I do the cutting of the pallets and wood to burnable sizes at home mostly, and bring it in two times a day in a yardcart, and hubby makes the heat :) He's great at building fires,being the boy scout he is :) and the stone floor and brick wall the stove is on is like a heat sink and just keeps the heat in it for hours. We are able to maintain a decent enough temp in the living areas of the house and have the bedrooms be a bit cooler. Slippers and sweaters and snuggling with lap blankets are necessary at times, but it's cozy, and we're warm enough...we're not shivering, or chattering our teeth with blue lips by any means.

The transition to wood heat that is more hands on and needs to be tended to has not been too difficult for us. We've been down this road before when we live in Cape Breton, and I grew up heated by wood stoves. The ability to just turn on a thermostat is an ability a lot in our society in this day an age take for granted. I thought of my childhood and called home to thank my father for working so hard all those years ( he's STILL doing it!) to keep us warm.

I've been pretty impressed with ourselves and our ability to heat the house for essentially nothing once you subtract the purchase of tools like chainsaw and Maul Axe, and ongoing small amounts of gas and oil, but a big pile of wood in my driveway would not be turned away, or unappreciated. we're still living out of boxes due to the need to change over this early in our move.

My kids have a new appreciation for being warm, and the cost of keeping a house warm, and my three year old keeps going around the house telling me to shut off lights cause I'm "waisting the lectrickity"

I love the wood stove. It carries a lot of good memories for me growing up rural, and being warmed by the fire after being outside in the cold winter day sledding, or skiiing. Hubby loves tneding the fire, as there is something Zen and medatative about building a fire to warm us.

The kids love the wood stove too, and enjoyed sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows next to it to warm up after an attempt two days ago at skating on the frozen Mill pond across the road from our house....

Which brings me to today....and Why I have the time to sit here and FINALLY blog about it all.... and why I could not go and gather the dead wood at the friends house whom we bought the woodstove from, before the cold weather came on tonight...plain and simple... I shoveled the pond for skating... and I hurt myself.. again! :( You would think I'd learn, but I've never any other year in all my 34 years hurt myself shoveling like this... I've had sore arms from the workout or using an axe and chainsaw, etc, but I REALLY hurt myself again like on Solstice! Feeling like I put my lower back/pelvis out of alignment again.

Pain sucks...and today I was supposed to go cut up wood and bring it home to keep our heat going and I just could not... I can hardly get from the bed to the couch, where I sit now, typing this with a wireless keyboard on my lap.

I certainly cannot operate a chainsaw and axe today, bend and lift, and drive, and do all the things necessary to keep us in wood. I brought in what I could manage the other day and we burned through that the last two days, and then today we had nothing in the house. The temp was around plus 1 celcius, but snow and rain mix iwas forcast for the evening ( which it is doing now) and then 4 to 5 days of -12 to -20 degree temps.. not good collecting wood temps! Unsure of what to do I was chatting with a friend on facebook about my back, and when she asked how I was feeling and if there was anything she could do to help, I took her offer of help. Not sure if it was doable because it was a BIG favor, I asked if she knew anyone who heats with wood and could she see if they could spare a donation of some wood to get us through the next few really cold days until my back heals up enough for me to get back at sawing and cutting and splitting etc...she said to leave it with her, and got back to me a little while later, and called me to say she is on her way out with some wood for us...so I sit here waiting for her arrival, worried about the roads and her travelling in it, ever greatful for kindness and great people in our lives, wondering how I can pay it back in kind at some point.

My children being their usual energetic selves, drove me crazy this morning because I could hardly move and they were jumping all around me, and ON me and I could not tolerate even noise from the pain...they soon thereafter showed their compassionate sides and offered to come outside and help me gather the little bit of wood I could manage to gather with pain meds in me, and cut up with a table saw in the work shop so I wouldn't have to bend over, in order to keep the fire going today.

And somewhere on the coast of Scotland, a tubular log maker is making it's way to the Shetland Islands to my cousin's house, from a kind woman giving it to us, and posting it at her cost to my cousin, who is in turn going to box it, with other goodies from her family over across the pond to us ASAP, so we can utilize the abundance of cardboard and newspaper here to use as alternative fuel for the woodstove as well.

Though I feel sick to my stomach from the codine I'm taking for the pain, and a little spinny in the head too, and sore...I am smiling because we are blessed with warmth, by fire, and by kindness from people in our lives.