Monday, September 14, 2009

Weather Forecasts: How Much Firewood Do We Need This Winter?

Used to, the only thing we had to do to prepare for heating in the winter was to make sure there was a match stick long enough to light the gas furnace of the central heating unit.

We do not have central heat in this house. We have a wood stove for most of our heat, and one of the new things I am learning to do (in addition to learning how to build a fire - that will be fun to write about when winter comes) is to store up enough fuel for the winter.

The first thing I learned was that we had to get wood that was cut in pieces short enough to actually fit into our stove. They can be pretty big around but if they are longer than 21" they will not fit into the fire box.

How often in life does that question "Will it fit?" turn out to be THE essential one?

One of the best sites I found that answered my questions about using wood is Loads of good, helpful information. Our woodstove was in place when we bought the house so their chapter on firewood has been a HUGE help to us.

The wood available in this part of Texas is generally 4 different tree families: Oak, Mesquite, Pecan, Hackberry. Hardwoods burn very hot, soft woods burn very fast. We chose oak, as the best-of-the-best. Oak does not cost any more than other wood in this area. We also have some pecan because it came from having our own trees trimmed. Pecan wood is wonderful for barbequing with. It gives a good flavor to food. We are hoping to use it for that, and stick to the oak for heating.

Wood apparently needs to sit for a while (6 months) after it has been cut so that it can "season" (meaning for it to dry out so it will burn better). So, it should be gotten in advance. We had an opportunity last year to stock up on wood. We had no clue how much volume of wood it would take to keep us warm. As it turned out, the winter was pretty mild, and we used about one cord of wood (a "Cord" is a stack that measures 4' tall by 4' deep by 8' long). We have about 2 cords remaining.

But do we have enough? That question has me looking at long range forecasts.

Texas weather is goofy. Something like 6 different climate regions, 8 different hardiness zones (which do not necessarily coincide with the climate regions), and a squillion little microclimates within it all. Our winters are mild compared to the Northern and Midwest states. The main concern with whether or not it will be a hard winter is whether cold fronts will hang about and keep it cold for a week at a time, or whether it will be so warm that snow won't even stick.

I've found a promising site Called Texas Winter (, also linked from my Blog List, that is focused exclusively on forecasting for this coming winter in Texas. I live right near one of the dividing lines for their snow predictions, but they are predicting good snowfalls for nearly all of Texas! WooHoo! Their forecast is available from the Winter Maps tab on the site.

On the home page, they have various articles that give insight into weather prediction, including historical El Nino effects. It's a good site to follow that is written in plain english with lots of helpful information.

I was going to write about weather signs and lore but this is getting too long! I will write about those later in the week. Thanks so much for reading, and have a wonderful day.

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