And Man Made Fire...

In the 40 years since Better Farm has come into being, heating methods for the house have varied wildly.

Gone are the days of splitting logs right on the kitchen floor and keeping drip buckets under the ramshackle stovepipe that ran along the kitchen ceiling and up through three levels of floor. Over is the time of stockpiling wood in the basement for the split oil/wood furnace. With geothermal an attractive but painfully expensive option to defray the use of the fuel-fed furnace currently in Better Farm's basement, I started investigating other ways to reduce our carbon footprint and make the house a little toastier this winter season.

One thought was to go solar and switch to electric heat; but the price tag for that overhaul is far too great. And in speaking to solar households around this area, there are many times throughout winter up in Jefferson County that a gas-fed generator is necessary to keep the power going. Ditto for wind power.

Meanwhile, the environmental benefits of heating with wood are very well-documented. The carbon dioxide released by wood fuel is equivalent to the C02 that same tree absorbed from the atmosphere over the course of its lifetime: an even tradeoff. Do your part to replant trees wherever possible, and you are replenishing this resource completely; and even improving atmospheric oxygen levels.

I took a look at the stove pipe sticking out of the wall in the kitchen, a remnant from a former incarnation of Better Farm when the kitchen stove was wood-fired. And so I asked around to see if anyone knew of a wood stove for sale. Not for cooking, persay (though options abound for all sorts of wood stove-based baking and cooking), but to give us additional, cozy heat in the house and keep that nasty fuel furnace on at a minimum.

Our friend Milt Davis, owner of Davis Construction, had a stove on-hand that he graciously donated to the farm. That left us in need of a lot of wood, and a new stovepipe. So I brought in the dream team: Better Farm resident and ax-wielding extraordinaire Joel DiCaprio, and master carpenter Gary Stevenson to get the stove situated.

Joel set out into the marshes of the property and felled a dozen or so dead trees. He split the wood, brought it to the yard, and I wheelbarrowed it onto the decks and stacked. And stacked. And stacked (thanks to Joel, David Garlock, Brian Purwin, and Cory Flack for helping to stack; and to Walt Dutcher and Jody Szepeski for doing so much work on the wood splitter in a snowstorm!). Meanwhile, Gary and his accomplice Steve stacked a beautiful stove pipe up along the side of the house, constructed a stone wall in the kitchen, a hearth for the stove, and hooked everything together safely.

All that's left to do is install a big hot tub and sauna somewhere on the premises, and you won't hear another peep out of me about the harsh North Coutnry Winter. Happy fireside snuggling, everyone.
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.