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We rely on two ancient, rusted-but-functional wood stoves to heat the Music Room and the Bunkhouse, rooms that are attached to the barn.

The Music Room is the better-insulated of the two. A Franklin stove dominates the middle of this space; it puts out a lot of heat once it gets going! This is where we spend our mornings, at the diningroom table equipped with back-to-back laptops.

The first thing James does in the morning, after crawling out of the warm bed into the frigid Bunkhouse, is go to the other end of the building to light the fire in the Music Room stove.

Meanwhile, I go to the main barn section where our Airstream trailer is parked, and into our little silver “pod” to heat water for tea. We continue to use the trailer’s kitchen and bathroom, since those corresponding rooms in the add-on section are not yet functional.

By the time James brews the tea and pours it into our two Japanese thermoses, the fire is well under way. Lately, the room temperature has been starting out in the upper 40s (with the outside temperature in the mid-30s), but warms up to the 70s in a matter of minutes.

The doors on the Franklin stove are usually closed while the fire is burning, but I wanted to show the flames in this picture.

We arrived here In the Woods too late this year to cut and cure our own wood (of which there is plenty, especially pine) so we had to place an order with a local woodcutter. It is NOT cheap; he charges $750 for three cords of oak. We bought six cords total, which required two trips up from Nevada City. This should take us through the winter.

I managed to capture the second delivery of wood on my video camera:

The woodcutter was impressed that we had already stacked the first load, which he had delivered the previous day. It took several hours of surprisingly hard labor. Stacking wood is rather an art; you have to place each piece in a logical way to fit in neatly with its neighbors, so the growing pile does not become slanted and uneven.

For the second day, I devised a system in which James loaded the large wheelbarrow full of wood, then brought it into the barn for me to stack. This worked out better than each of us carrying a few pieces in at a time.

Although the large pieces of wood can be burned now, we quickly discovered that they burn much better when split into quarters. At first we tried splitting the wood the old-fashioned way, but it ended up taking far too long, and we’re still sort of city boys!

So we bought a wood-splitter. It’s a very cool, simple tool, which attaches to an air compressor. The process is gradual and gentle; not violent.

We’ve spent a couple hours a day for the past two days splitting the cylindrical logs (large branches) that had not been split at all.

There’s something about being more involved in the heating process of our house which is more “up-close-and-personal” than simply turning up the thermostat.

I’ve always loved fires; my father had them going in the family room fireplace in Sacramento each winter night.

James has become quite adept at building and maintaining fires. So far, he’s been in charge of this, although I have watched him closely so that I can do this, too.