When I was growing up we had a wood stove to heat our house. Mostly, this was an economical choice. It was a lot less expensive to burn wood than oil, especially in our old house with its old furnace. It got me hooked, however, not just for its penny-wise benefits, but for the heat it produces and the process it requires.
Back in the day we would get a truck load of logs delivered to the house and prep it all summer. A full-sized logging truck would back down the driveway and unload with the claw. I remember raising the power line to the house with a long board (safety first!) so the truck would fit under it. Then we had a pile of logs to cut.
At first my dad did it all, but then I was allowed to help out. I used the chain saw at some point and I definitely helped split once we had stove length pieces. We borrowed a homemade log splitter from John Coile, one the tallest men I have ever met, and spent days busting them into logs that would fit into the stove.
We then, of course, had to stack it in the wood shed, rotating through the dry stuff from the previous year. It was, indeed, a lot of work. And we still had to start and maintain the fire once winter came. It saved us money, sure, but I enjoyed all that work. I learned to love to split wood. And I learned how to start a fire and keep one going. Now, married and with my own children, we have a stove and we keep it fired up.
It does save money. We might get a tank refill of propane that costs us as much as a cord of wood. We save hundreds of dollars each winter. I like that the resource is both local and renewable as well. It produces more greenhouse gases from our house, but probably fewer if you account for extraction and transportation of fossil fuels. What I really love, however, is the ritual if it all.
I love to rise early on a cold morning, the house chilly, the clouds low, and crank up a fire. I love to sit next to the stove with a book. I love to feed the stove, carry in wood, split logs into kindling. It is more work than turning the thermostat dial, but not all good things come easy. I have no expectations that heating with wood is simple or takes little labor. It is a task. I emptied the ash bucket for the first time this winter, for example. I had forgotten about that task. Even that, however, helps us build compost when I dump the ashes on the compost pile.
We have a fire in the stove right now and I sit next to it as I write. We have enough kindling and firewood indoors to start a fire tomorrow. We will be warm when we head to bed and the house will cool as we sleep. When we are gone during the day tomorrow, the propane will kick in. I can live with that. When I get home after a day of work away, I will pile up some wood and take a match to it. Then I will warm my back and know that we will stay toasty, even in the worst of weather.