A close up of our thawing compost.
Today in St. Paul, MN, it was 37 degrees outside for a high. In Minnesota in February, that is very warm. The sun was out, the birds were singing, the snow was melting, and I thought it would be a good day to check on our compost. For the last two or three months the compost has been frozen through, and has almost filled the entire bin. Like I said earlier, today and the past few days have warmed up significantly and the compost has thawed itself out. We stirred it around and it naturally created some more space in the bin. I didn’t take an internal temperature of the compost, but I am going to guess that it was at least 50 or 60 degrees inside the heart of the compost. In about another month and a half the compost will really start working and reduce in size by at least half and become ready for the garden.
As the temperatures increase, the compost will reduce by almost half.
Another winter ritual we have is emptying the ash from the wood burning stove. All of the ash and charcoal gets added right back to the gardens. It also adds organic matter and many trace minerals back into the soil. We get the benefits of slash and burn agriculture without the slashing. All of these practices adds to the soil’s health. Organic matter, added water retention, and trace minerals all add up to a healthier more productive garden.
Ash and charcoal will add trace minerals to our gardens.
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A hatchet, small sledge hammer, and pointed wedge all used for splitting wood.
Splitting fire wood has become a regular winter chore for us here at Autonomy Acres. Like I said in a previous post, the majority of our home heat comes from our wood burning stove. My two favorite types of wood to burn and split are oak and maple. Both types are hard wood that burn long and hot which is great for heating a house. Elm is another very common species of tree found here in Minnesota. It is another hard wood that is great fuel for heating your house, but it is very hard to split by hand.
This pile was twice as big at the start of winter.
Compared to oak and maple which are very straight-grained wood, elm is very knotty with a wavy flow of the grain. Due to the trees natural traits and disease that affect elms, it is a pretty easy wood to find for free off of peoples curbs at all times of the year. What I have found that makes splitting elm easier, is waiting until the coldest days of the year. Something about the extreme cold temps make splitting elm that much easier, the colder the better. For me this is a great thing. The cold days, the best ones for splitting wood, are almost always sunny. Being easily depressed from the long dark nights, getting out to chop wood on a sunny afternoon is a shot of good medicine. It is also good meditation and exercise, I always feel better after splitting a pile of wood. We have another few months of having to heat the house, so we will keep splitting wood and thinking warm thoughts of spring.
A freshly chopped pile of Oak and Elm, also my axe and splitting maul.
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Posted in Autonomy, tagged Wood Burning Stoves on January 21, 2010|
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Staying warm for almost free!
I think I’m starting to get cabin fever; I really want to write about green and growing things,but I look out my window and it is white with dirty spots of brown and gray. So here is something to warm us up. I thought I’d write about our wood burning stove. I put this in our house about four years ago and to this day it is one of the best projects I’ve done. It paid for itself within the first year and a half. The stove itself was about $300, and the hardware for it ( black stove-pipe, double walled stainless steel stove-pipe for the exterior of the house, and the fireplace screen) was about another $300. Most of the tile, grout, and mortar we got off Craigslist for barter. All of the lumber used for the stove inset/stand was salvaged. So this whole project cost just under $700. As far as the wood we use to heat with, it comes from all over. We have purchased wood twice from a local nursery for about $315 for a full cord. I sometimes can get wood from the local compost for free, and I scavenge as much as I can. Having a wood stove in Minnesota sure makes the winters more pleasant, and the heating bills a lot less stressful. There is a lot of work involved, but it gets you outside in the winter and heats you twice from all the splitting that has to be done.
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