Sunday, January 31, 2016
The High Cost of Free Heat
This past summer my creative writing professor at National University Ireland Galway said this, "There is no fodder without family." He was referring to the wealth of excellent writing ideas right at our fingertips via our family relationships.
I could not agree more.
Per esmpio (yeah, still studying Italian, God help me) a relative of mine recently commented, "Must be nice to have all that free heat." Really? Do you really think you can say that without setting me off on some kind of fuel rampage? People. You kill me. She said lovingly.
Our source of heat, our rocket mass heater, is indeed free of any kind of monthly bill. We do not receive reams of paper every 30 days telling us how many sticks we've burned, the cost per piece of wood, the total amount due and any threats of penalty for non-payment. This much is true, but our heat is far from free. Houseboy Coco (see Mad About You reruns) does not don a thrift store flannel shirt, heavy gloves, clippers and a serious ax nor push a heavy wheel barrel about in order to collect/split our wood. My husband does. I do not pay him in cash for this service but there is the cost of his time, plus maintaining his energy level which requires food and food requires cooking. Cooking requires my efforts and a bit of propane. An extremely fair trade for a warm home in my opinion.
After cutting wood out of fallen trees on our property it is carried into a small plastic calf hut to dry, then hauled in wire baskets to our Looney Bin. From there it is stored alongside our RMH to be placed in the feed chamber of our rocket mass stove at lift off time. After each burn we clean ashes out of the feed chamber which are carried outside and redistributed on our pastures. Genuine homesteading is cyclic.
The wood we burn is in the form of small twigs, larger sticks and split pieces of bigger wood logs which have to be cut back to pieces that are 3-4 inches wide and 18 or so inches long. We use newspaper and smaller sticks or cardboard as kindling. Paper needs to be collected, sticks and cardboard must be cut into smaller pieces. When we start our fire, we must restock it every 15-20 minutes as it burns hot and fast. Usually we use the RMS once a day for about 2 hours if temperature is above 30 degrees, but if the weather is around that 10 degree mark we run it twice a day for a couple hours in the am and about 4 hours in the evening. On average the Looney bin internal temp on any given day is 65-72 degrees.
Today the temp is 50 (!) so we've not needed to run the RMH in almost 48 hours. But it is winter in Illinois and this freak of nature will subside and we'll be back to using our source of cheap but certainly not free heat. Yesterday I was thrilled to hang clothes on the line...in January no less. We have no regrets about our decision to get off the natural gas grid and feel the amount of time we use to keep ourselves warm well offsets the amount of time we would have to work off our homestead in order to pay someone else to supply our heat.
It is all just a matter of choice.