Hilaire Belloc once wrote that he never burned anything but oak in the huge fireplace of his ancient home in West Sussex. For a while I considered doing the same in the wood stove of my home in the Shenandoah Valley. Oak of several kinds are indeed abundant here. Then practicality intruded. It has a way of doing that. There are in fact a number of eastern hardwoods that have a higher heating value than oak, such as hickory and locust. When upon approaching my home in winter one smells the smoke curling out of the chimney, there are a number of possible suspects: oak (red, black, and white), black locust, red elm, hickory, and less often, cherry or maple. For thirteen years we have heated this house almost exclusively by wood; and I have never purchased a single cord. All the wood that I use is bucked with my chainsaw and hand split with a maul or axe, by me, my family, or my college students. My commitment to purchase neither wood nor hydraulic splitter is at times a sign of contradiction. It has been pointed out to me on numerous occasions how much time I would save with a hydraulic splitter—a ‘splitter’ in common usage. When upon hearing that I heat my house by wood somebody asks, “Surely you have a splitter?” I usually point either to my son or to my arms.
more from John Cuddeback at Front Porch Republic here.