If you’ve never seen the PBS show Frontier House, you should. The basic premise is that they took three modern families (in 2002) and put them in the shoes of similar families that lived in 1883. They had to travel out to their 160 acre claim, build their houses, tend their animals, grow their food, cut their own wood for heat, etc. They had to survive for three months leading up to winter, and then experts would judge them on whether they were prepared enough to have survived the winter. It’s a fascinating series, and it makes me wonder how well I would do. Could I actually survive without technology? I mean, I think I could build a log cabin with Google and YouTube to assist, but without?
Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice
– Henry Ford
We’ve been going for the full experience here. We haven’t run the central heat at all yet, even though we’ve hit single-digit lows (6°F), relying completely on the wood stove and cutting all the wood ourselves. We’ve even fell most of the trees with axes instead of chainsaws, though we’ve been using a chainsaw to cut it into rounds (I want to find a crosscut saw for cheap somewhere, I just haven’t yet). We’ve also been splitting all the wood by hand with a maul. I’ve found that Henry Ford was almost right. What he missed was that you are warmed when you fall the tree, again when you slice it into rounds, yet again when you split it, still another time when you stack it, and finally you’re warmed again when you burn it. A more accurate saying would have been “Wood you cut, split, stack and burn from a tree you felled yourself, warms you five times.” It’s not as catchy though.