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Keeping Warm with Wood Heat

Our two-and-a-half story “Frame House” at Topsy Farms is heated primarily by a wood furnace in the basement.

"Super Skid" on the tractor, carrying a load - note the muddy tires. It is easy to get stuck before the ground freezes.

“Super Skid” on the tractor, carrying a load – note the muddy tires. It is easy to get stuck before the ground freezes.

That’s a huge improvement over the early years, when we had only one wood stove in the living room, where everyone and the laundry hung out. Each time we filled that less-than-airtight stove, it would belch ash and dust into the room. We shared an elderly vacuum between two houses, and getting it meant dressing two toddlers to drive the km each way, so the house was cleaned too seldom. Our boys were active early, so we built a frame around the stove, to pen it rather than our explorers.

Kyle has been the primary wood gatherer for some years, backed up by his dad, Ian. The goal is to have this year’s wood stored in the open-sided shed adjacent to the basement door, and next year’s wood already cut and drying in the back lot. Part of the winter’s work is to begin to cut and gather the wood for the third year. The quantity required varies a lot from one year to the next.

This autumn, before leaf fall, Kyle marked the dead trees. Unfortunately, there seems to be a bottomless supply. Many of the dead elms have been taken down, but with the ash borer threatening, the somewhat overcrowded conditions in our bush, the limbs that threaten our perimeter fence, there is no lack of dead wood to be trimmed.

Some of the pathways through the bush were established years ago, when the sugar shack was in active use. An early wonderful gift from Ian was the clearing and extension of those for Sally and friends to cross country ski, and to give us access to this lovely wooded area. Since we have shallow soil, many of the trees are Eastern Red Cedar, but deeper pockets of soil also support oaks, Beech, maples, Ironwood, Shagbark Hickories, White Pine and spruce. There is also a disturbing amount of Prickly Ash and Garlic Mustard. Sadly, the deer have grazed most of the trilliums and young saplings.

Kyle in the wood shed, handing a manageable log to Mike, younger grandson, who helps fill the wheelbarrow destined for the basement.

Kyle in the wood shed, handing a manageable log to Mike, younger grandson, who helps fill the wheelbarrow destined for the basement.

Ian organized a chainsaw safety training session in our home for the extended family a few years ago, so they have certificates of safety. Patience with sharpening the chains, with recalcitrant motors on cold days, and just dealing with the perversity of inanimate objects is required.

Most days the men take an armload of wood into the basement storage area as they come in from work to shed their duds. Fortunately Don is up early and Kyle stays up late, so the fire in the furnace rarely goes out.

Our home smells and feels good too. We’re even less grubby.

Christmas tree outing – Topsy Farms style

 

Red cedar will make fence posts, with the top a scruffy Christmas tree

Red cedar will make fence posts, with the top a scruffy Christmas tree

Our son Jake wrote this song last year.

These pictures show his dad Ian, and his sons, Nathan and Michael, on this year’s Christmas tree outing down our laneway. This lovely tree gave us two sturdy six foot fenceposts, a few pieces of firewood that may also be used for our aeromatic red cedar squares for storing woolens, and a floor to ceiling tree, perfuming our livingroom.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all from the Topsy Farms folk.

pleased grandsons

pleased grandsons

SCRUFFY RED CEDAR

G Em D C

DECEMBER, MY FAMILY, TROMPING THROUGH THE SNOW

MY DAD HAS THE CHAINSAW, MOMMA HAS MY BROTHER AND ME IN TOW

I’M 9 YEARS OLD, AND I’M COLD, BUT IT DOES NOT BOTHER ME (hang on G)

D C G

THIS IS MY SPECIAL MEMORY, FINDING THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS TREE

D C G

THAT SCRUFFY RED CEDAR, MY FAMILY CHRISTMAS TREE

WE FINALLY PICK ONE OUT AND DRAG IT HOME, BUT IT’S MUCH TOO TALL

THIS OLD FARM HOUSE, MY HOME, HAS ONLY 8-FOOT WALLS

THE EXTRA, DAD LOPS OFF, IT’LL BE A FENCE POST IN THE SPRING (hang on G)

THAT SCRUFFY RED CEDAR, MY FAMILY CHRISTMAS TREE

OUR TREE DOES NOT LOOK LIKE ONE YOU MIGHT BUY IN A STORE

SURE IT’S A LITTLE ‘CHARLIE BROWN’, THE CEDAR SMELL I ADORE

WE GET OUT THE OLD STAR, THAT GRAM AND GRANDPA PASSED TO ME (hang G)

D C G

TONIGHT WE PUT THAT GOLD STAR UP ON TOP, OF A SCRUFFY CEDAR TREE

THAT SCRUFFY RED CEDAR, MY FAMILY CHRISTMAS TREE

A GOOD TWENTY YEARS HAS PASSED BY, NOW I’M A GROWN UP MAN

THIS TIME OF YEAR IS CRAZY, MY WIFE AND I DO THE BEST WE CAN

THIS YEAR FOR DECORATING, NO SPRUCE OF PINE WILL OUR 2 BOYS SEE (hang G)

D C G

WE’LL TAKE A SAW AND THE TOBOGGAN, FIND A SCRUFFY CEDAR TREE

THAT SCRUFFY RED CEDAR, MY FAMILY CHRISTMAS TREE X 2

(OUTRO) G D C

TROMPING THROUGH THE SNOW, LOW, LOW, LOW, LOW x 4

© Jacob Murray 2009

Amherst Island weather

Amherst Island is, I’ve been told, the most drought prone area of Ontario. It can be very frustrating in the summer; standing in a parched field watching the clouds open up on the mainland to the north of us. Or to see the large cloud banks to the south of the lake soaking the aptly named Watertown in New York State. It’s not so bad in the winter though as we seldom have more than a foot of snow on the ground. This allows us to keep our sheep outside all winter.

We roll hay out on pasture and hay fields and that creates a rich mulch for the next growing season. It also means that we do not have huge quantities of manure to move in warmer weather when there are lots of other things to do. The sheep are able to stand a lot of cold provided they are well fed and can find shelter from the wind behind bushes, trees and rocks. They are healthier in the cold weather as the various tiny critters that harm sheep are inactive.

The dogs do not seem to mind the cold much either although some of the older dogs usually find a sheltered spot to rest in. The bitch that we bought from a ranch in Colorado whelped 7 puppies last month. They are now quite active and are solid little fur coated barrels. We hope 4 of them will find good homes in working environments – we won’t sell them otherwise. Three more dogs will bring our total guard dog numbers up to 15. There are also 2 Border Collies and 3 pet dogs on the farm – lots of dog food required.

Nous vous invitons à communiquer avec nous en français à info@topsyfarms.com, ou par téléphone: 1-888-287-3157. Demandez à parler à Sally.