Woodstoves are still a very traditional heat source for our homes and cabins. Firewood and stoves have always been messy with chips and bark in a trail from the woodpile to the stove, but it’s the way of the north.

Sadly firewood isn’t as close to town now as 25 years ago and permits are required, but it is still available for those with the ambition and equipment to go and get it.

If money is no object, or time is tight, it even comes in lengths to suit your stove and also split for better burning.

Most people who have it delivered get it in 8 foot lengths or stove length, but not split. There’s never been anything like splitting wood to wind down or work off some frustration.

The more expensive modern wood-burning appliances are high-tech, burn clean and keep putting out heat for as much as 24 hours. Not everyone can afford a new generation stove and many of us are just content with our older low-tech stoves as they have become part of our lives and still work for us.

We have four older wood-stoves between the garage and our cabin. None give us any longer than an eight to 10-hour burn and the heat decreases as the burn progresses past the halfway point.

In order to get more heat for a longer time I have learned a few lessons and follow practical routines. An important and ongoing routine is to keep the stove relatively clean as far as ash build-up is concerned. If ashes accumulate to the point where they cover the incoming air (draft) then the fire will choke itself down or even out.

Our largest stove has the draft coming in at the bottom of the rear wall so it is easily blocked. It is simple to remove this with a shovel or dust pan in through the front door of the stove. (Any ashes removed should be put in a metal pail and carried outside right away.)

A clean chimney is essential to maintain a good airflow for a hot fire.

Our dish water is heated in a 3 gallon stock pot with a lid. This stays fairly full, on the stove and hot all day and into the evening. This 30 or so pounds of water holds – and therefore radiates – heat all day and well into the night until it cools.

My final discovery was to put various shaped pieces of steel, painted black with high-heat paint on top of the stove. I have in place six pieces of railway rail cut into 1 foot pieces and some other flat pieces up to 1 inch thick to fill up most of the area on top of the stove. These pieces get very hot to the touch and hold and radiate heat for hours after the stove has died down.

A heat-actuated fan (Eco-Fan) works to move the warm air around, and, of course, limiting the time doors and windows are open really helps hold onto that heat.