preparing for winter…in spring

We rely on the age old renewable forest timber for our winter heating. It keeps us warm at night, it drys our wet clothes and it helps with the proving of bread in the depths of a cold winter.

We don’t have access to piped natural gas, we have delivered bottles of gas but it’s too expensive for us to use for heating so we rely solely on forest timber. Unlike natural gas, or electrical heating, timber is actually renewable. If a forest is managed properly and allowed to regenerate with new trees then the cycle just continues as it has done for thousands of years. The problem is that there are just too many of us in the Western world to make this a viable source of heating for everyone. Thankfully there are some great alternatives, as is the case with most things. I once read about thermal heating in apartments in eastern Europe where waste matter was used to generate heat. In China there was methane collection units at pig farms that heated houses for free! There is always a better option out there.

For us, as renters, we have to use firewood. And it’s now the right time of the year to pack up the kids, head bush to the allocated coup and cut the felled tiber. It’s hard work, thats for sure. A cuppa break is well deserved. Even by those not really working very hard.

For us, it’s renewable forest timber. And one day, when I build our cabin house, the walls will be lined with insulation as will the roof. The house will be heated with a fireplace, which will also heat hot water service and thermal pipes will run through the house heating all the rooms making the most of the timber burnt.

It’s hard work, this log cutting, but it’s making the best use of my body whilst it’s still working and I’m fit enough to work. After working a day on the saw I’m usually in bed early. I sleep well, I don’t wake at 3am like I used to. I’m convinced that’s what our bodies are designed for. Doing activities that give us a direct benefit. They (our bodies) seem to react well to physical activity rather than sitting at a desk under dim florescent lighting for 8 hours a day starring at a computer screen. That seems rather unnatural to me and I refuse to go back to it. Ever.

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  • Kerry Adams

    I read a lot of blogs, but this is by far the most inspirational.

    Many thanks.

    • rohan

      Cheers Kerry!

  • ben

    Hey, ive just completed a 4 month trip around the west of oz mainly bush camping, cooking on fire and fishing with my three daughters (4,6,8) and wife. Setting up camp and preparing fires and meals most days has seen the weight fall off me and i have returned better than i have ever felt. In hindsight we ate great food prepared from scratch, no take away and drank plenty of beer….plenty. You are correct, our bodies are designed for movement, good food and clean air. I write this from my desk under flourescent light :(

    • rohan

      Poor bugger!!! At least you had a great trip!

  • sandra

    Life’s rhythm, A heartwarming post to wake-up to. Wishing you good luck with all your plans.

  • jaime @ sweet road

    We have to do this every summer when there are trees in the woods behind the house because trees fall every hurricane season. Sometimes we hold off and don’t get to it until spring … it’s always a warm winter though!

  • Lee Valentine

    Hey great post, thank you. I think this type of work is what we are made for.
    Would you mind telling me were you find your water bottles, they are very cool. thanks Lee

    • rohan

      op shops!

  • Margaret Hogan

    I love the thoughtful way you talk about blokey kinds of things, like huntin’, fishin’ and choppin’ wood. I appreciate how you take time to enjoy a moment. To share it. To make it beautiful. Know that it does make us look at our own actions.

  • Fraser

    Hooray for never going back to the office, the commute and the daily grind.

    Our stove came with the shack and compared with the rest of the house it is surprisingly good. With well seasoned and very hard wood we go through very little timber over a season and I could cut and split in less than a days work enough wood to do as you say… Heat the house, supply hot water, cook with, dry the clothes and meditate upon with a glas of red. I have on our own small property with existing trees and plantings we have done enough timber to do the same for generations.

    Plant firewood.

  • Jane @ Shady Baker

    Inspiring and thoughtful as always!

  • Cybele

    I went on a blog hop. As I was hopping along, I landed in here and was instantly pulled in. I have since showed Husband and he is now eagerly watching along as well. We are also renters and tried to do very similar things to what you have succeeded at. Unfortunately, circumstances meant we had to down size and give up the veggie patches, open space and our beloved chooks. So we look at this blog wistfully and also with hope of where we want to be again someday. Thank you for allowing us to look through your window.

    • rohan

      Thanks Cybele, anything is possible….even in a rental!

  • Simon

    When looking into doing your own house have a look at passive solar heating with the design. We spent a winter or two in an old school house and i understand the pain of winter (it snows usually during winter, not foot deep but cold enough!) – they must have built those things from a template (i.e. no insulation, no consideration to where the sun is). Our version was not as pretty as yours luckily – it may have demotivated us into staying a bit longer and not getting on with our own build.

    Our place is a bit more modern than a cabin type design but is clad in colourbond, insulated to the hilt and uses solar passive design – house oriented to the north and has polished concrete floors. Should also add that our space heater is used as an inslab heating system. Our electricity bill for the winter quarter was $300 (and that is including when we had a few issues with the brand new wood heater and had to keep using some electric heaters). I cannot recommend enough to look into solar passive design in your abode.
    We also have a lot of trees on the block but they don’t burn as well as some – so we have had to plant some to coppice – but can’t touch them for 8-10 years or so!

  • Emma

    I liked this post but all I have to ask is:

    Did you mean to make the tree pun by writing ‘fir’ in the 3rd paragraph?

    If so: high five. If not: still high five.

  • Brendan

    Ugh. The office. Yes I know what you mean. I’ve gone to 4 days a week and spend every Wednesday working in our urban veggie garden – its the best day of the week and the financial sacrifice is more than worth it.
    Plus the quality of the produces is far better than that shyte the so called Fresh Food People throw at us.

    • rohan

      100% right brother!!!

  • Jason

    Couldn’t agree more with your statement about timber being a sustainable resource. It’s a pity that some of our pollies want to lock up all the trees and not let them be managed in a way that can benefit more then just the person cutting the tree down. By using timber there is less reliance on non-renewables like fossil fuels.

  • jeff

    I am with you brother, have my winter supply stacked and covered. Hard work yet very rewarding. Bring on winter, but let me catch a few fish first over summer.

    • rohan

      That lake trout I bagged a few days ago made a nice dinner for the family! He was a biggy!

  • farmer_liz

    that time of year again…. my husband cuts the logs and I load them on the ute. Its nice to have a good stack coming into winter, you know the house will be warm (and we cook on the wood stove too), but its hard to get motivated to cut the wood when its 30degC outside! I agree, its hard work, but you feel good afterwards, like going to the gym, except you don’t have to pay someone else :)

  • Sue from the Sunshine Coast

    Hi Rohan, You’ve made me think – we’d better get busy collecting our firewood. Nearby is a state forest where the tree fellas (ha ha) regularly sweep through and drop dead trees to prevent hazards and clear the fire trails. The trees they drop stay where they are, so we buzz in and chain saw them for firewood, we pick nice hard timbers. And you know, there’s plenty for everyone. After we’ve taken our share, you’d never guess anyone had been. I’m sure others might be in a similar situation. It’s hard graft on the body as you point out, but when I look at the resulting pile I feel like I’ve contributed to my well-being, much like munching into my veggies and cackle berries. Our firebox is not very efficient, researching alternate models that may deliver the efficiency we need. I know, we live on the sunny coast, but the hinterland can be very cold, misty and windy. With self-reliance comes a serenity that I can no longer live without, it’s not about being self-sufficient, we can’t do that, be we can be self-sustaining, body and soul.

  • Mara

    I live in Kingston Ontario Canada and we are just entering the winter season. I have a 950 sq ft home and no other source of heat except the firewood that my dad and I cut, haul, and split every Sunday throughout the spring, summer and autumn months. I just finished getting all my wood stacked in my garage and now can rest while I wait for the cold and the snow. My friends think I’m crazy, why would a girl opt for all that hard work when there are so many “easier” options. But I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I love the hard work, it feels good! And I feel satisfaction from knowing I’m not reliant on a gas or electricity company to keep me warm. And above all there is no better feeling than sitting in front of the crackling glow, watching the flames lick the glass, smelling the sweet smoke, and having my bones warmed to their core.

  • Peter Patenaude

    There is no better heat than the kind that comes from chosen hardwood splits- stay warm.

  • Dale

    Very nice! Keep the entries coming! This has been my favourite blog for over a year now! Keep it up!

  • Chris

    You are truly inspirational. I’ve just bought a house in the country…not as wild as you..but this is England. I hope you don’t mind but I am poaching multiple ideas from you, from recipes to chicken houses to a substantial veg plot. I have your book on order so I don’t feel too bad about it all. I think you have a passion and a dream and I admire not only you for following it, but also your wife and children for supporting you in it. Your website makes be want to be a better man, and human. Thank you for that.

  • Caitlin

    Thanks for the beautiful photography, and insight into human living! It was a little sad to read the last part, while on my computer screen at work. :) But I appreciate the message! thanks.

  • Bruce Danek

    Always wrap your thumb around the handle in case it kicks back, it could slip out of your hand easily.

  • Gavin

    Our neighbours have just had a gum trimmed to remove the dead wood and ‘tidy it up’ (mainly as it dropped a branch on his new car recently). The tree lopper was kind enough to cut it all to length and stack it in my front yard, so this will be burnt in my wood fired oven over the next couple of months.

    Reminds me of camping, every time…

  • David Griffiths

    Hey Roh,

    I harvest wood from our block here and we use a lot of wood over the winter . Though the wood is a renewable resource I am always trying to be more efficient with it .

    Next winter we are due to replace our combustion stove and I am going with a rocket mass heater that I will build myself.

    here is a link to a whole heap of info and videos etc if your interested.

    All the best mate

    and thanks again for the great blogs


  • Brian

    Few things are as simple and satisfying as a hard days work in the bush cutting fire wood. Great Post Ro! Way to promote wood!

    • rohan

      That little Sthil does great work!

  • Bill Di Donna

    I burned about 3 tons of wood over winter in a coonara heater and small open fire. Trips to Mountain Ash forests are haphazard as DSE collection points are not clear or you need a huge saw. My 33cm Poulan which was free is not up to that and ash tends to burn like icy pole sticks when cut and split anyway. Box and Stringy Bark are better. Now is the time to spot wood left on roadsides or nature strips and I have collected nearly a ton in the past month incluiding Melaluca, Iron Bark, Liquid Amber and Cherry. Mostly larger heavier pieces with knots that take more effort to split but it is free after all. This will continue until next year as I stockpile. A ute is certainly handy if you are a scavenger like me. My assistant is also a bit bigger then yours!

  • Joe

    Love the blog. Get yourself a proper timberjack from Peavey and keep that Stihl from touching the ground. Nothing dulls your chain faster than a bit of dirt.

    • rohan

      Looks can be deceiving. That chain never touches the soil brother! ;-)