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Here in Maine, winter is in full force. You’d think after living in New England for 35 years, we’d be used to biting cold and mountains of snow because usually, the temperature drops gradually, giving us all some time to adjust and put on a layer of insulation (there’s a very practical reason to gorge on holiday treats). But this year winter didn’t wait “ a bitter breeze hit us all right in the face.

Mother Nature certainly likes to keep us on our toes and dressed in SmartWool.

In light of winter’s early arrival and in efforts to fight the bitter chill, we’d like to share a few wood burning tips with you. Here’s to hoping they will help keep you warm and your wallet spared throughout the cold months ahead:

–  Choose dry well-seasoned hardwoods as your main fuel source “ Beech, Maple, Birch (has to be split), Cherry, Poplar, Apple, and Oak (if split and seasoned 2 years). However, soft woods (pine, spruce, cedar) can be used for kindling (split easier and ignite faster).

–  Split the wood, stack loosely out of the rain, and allow plenty of time to dry by sun or air. Freshly cut wood has a moisture content of about 50%. If stored for about 1 year, the moisture content drops down to about 25%. If stored in a ventilated space, moisture drops down to 20% (or less) – the appropriate amount of moisture – ready for firing.

–  Please note that people burn their heaters in different ways but we advocate a Top Down Burn – stack split, dry firewood in log cabin fashion (laid flat or in a criss cross), then add 3 or 4 crumpled sheets of newspaper and several sticks of kindling on top. Above the kindling, add another 3 or 4 sheets of crumpled newspaper and light them. Watch as the fire slowly makes its way down through the wood, causing less smoke and a cleaner burn.

–  Avoid poking the fire during the beginning phases of a fire.

–  Once the fire is established, make sure to shut the by-pass channel, adjust the slide damper, and shut the ashbox door. Excessive air will actually cause a less efficient burn than one with air coming in primarily through the loading doors.

–  A masonry heater works best if you can cycle it once or twice daily. If you only fire sporadically, it should always be brought online gradually to avoid shocking the mass.

We hope these tips are helpful, and keep you and your family warm this winter.