Living off the grid

by Tish Newlin
(Santa Barbara CA USA)

We have a one room log cabin in the woods of north-west Montana. It's a twenty minute drive on an unpaved road to the nearest neighbours and town. We cut our own firewood and stack it for the wood stove there. I use a twelve pound sledge hammer and two wedges, my husband uses a one-piece cast maul.

The wood is mixed, so some is dense and some is light and softer. So we burn it mixed, too, unlike the locals who stay for the winter and burn only larch, or tamarack it's called in eastern states. We don't have a snowmobile so we don't stay for the winter.

I noticed that most folks have two years worth of wood stacked, one they cut this year for next year and the older pile for now. Is that right? Should the wood age just one year?

Down here in southern California we use our wood stove here for heating the house, and if the power goes out I can cook on it, too, as we do at the cabin.

My wood supply here is also mixed wood. Eucalyptus burns quiet and clean, it's very dense and difficult to split especially when dry. We also
have oak and other shrubby types of wood like pittosporum and myoporum. I accept wood from people who need to get rid of it, even old lumber from taken down buildings. I have never purchased firewood. Big stumps were the most challenging for me to split. I'm a senior so I have to be careful what I try to do. I'm used to very hard work, but as I age there are more limitations.

I realize it's not advisable to stack our firewood under the porch, but that's what we do, and it invites those pretty but naughty wood rats, or pack rats. There nests are HUGE. We set traps for them, poor things. Rats aren't supposed to be so pretty.

That's part of my story.

Comments for Living off the grid

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Oct 12, 2015
Good post NEW
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Jun 12, 2015
Good post NEW
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Dec 11, 2012
Thanks Tish, sounds like a great lifestyle!
by: Mike from

Hiya Tish,

Thanks for the comment. It sounds like you have a great lifestyle. Here in the UK the idea of needing a snowmobile for winter just sounds daft! I can't imagine swinging that one past my wife, although she does approve of the 4x4 when the roads get icy.

You ask whether seasoning your wood for one year is sufficient: I would say that one year seasoning is generally adequate, although it would be much better after another year. Many people do get by without seasoning their firewood at all - it isn't recommended because it is very inefficient, and potentially leads to chimney fires!

Personally we are aiming to get two full years ahead. Our new wood shed has 3 bays - one being emptied and two full for the coming two winters. We sized it so that one bay should pretty much do a winter. We haven't got there yet as we cut the majority of our wood ourselves and, working full time, struggle to find time out in the woods to cut. I actually just got back today from a day with the saw - feeling that lovely muscle ache now from a good day's work!

As far as stacking your wood beneath the porch goes - some parts of the USA have termites and other nasties that can be moved with firewood. I've not heard any substantiated stories about bugs being transported to a home on firewood, but it is a theoretical risk and one that a lot of people avoid.

Secondly, does the area beneath your porch get good ventilation? This is the critical factor for drying wood; more so than having a roof over it. You could consider making free standing stacks a little further from your house, or building your own wood shed for your needs.

All the best


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