It’s at about this time every year that two events happen in my life. First, I walk into the Locus office and, for the umpteenth time of the season, proclaim “we’re still heating with wood at home.”
For about seven or eight years we’ve been going deep into winter each year, heating our house only by the solar gain through our south facing windows and the fires in our Gemini heater. Each night we jam the firebox full of wood and turn the damper down so we get a long, thorough burn. In the morning, we uncover the embers to bring the fire back to life again and, depending on the conditions outside, we might have a fire burning for nearly two months straight. We enjoy the freedom of providing our own heat, the changes in how we use the peripheral spaces in our home and the exercise we get from cutting, chopping and hauling each log.
The added connection we feel to the natural environment outside as the temperature inside moves up and down the thermometer is tangible. Clients Mike and Linda are taking this to another extreme, planning to heat all winter long only with their masonry heater and wood gleaned from their own land. “We like our bedroom a little colder” they said. Mike thought he’d much prefer living in a yurt, where he could experience the full impact of the natural environment. Their house, soon to be completed in SE Minnesota, was designed to take full advantage of their site, while providing an experience where environmental factors play a stronger role in their daily activities.
Back at my home in Minneapolis, the second event closely trails the first as we buckle under and turn on the boiler heat. The enthusiasm that keeps our fireplace running through the fall is equally strong when the flame goes out some time in December. Literally burnt out from the constant attention, we might only have one or two “ambiance” fires for the remainder of the winter. Conviction gives way to comfort, however, as the warmth of that last working fire fades and we begin paying for “invisible energy”, the memory of each BTU carried into the house, stick by stick, remains.