I saw a meme on Facebook the other day. Something along these lines:
I have a love/hate relationship with fall. I really do adore the cooler temperatures, the beauty of the falling leaves. Yes, I do love sweaters, and (*gasp*) pumpkin! But I hate what fall represents. Fall means that winter isn’t far behind, and forgive me if I tell you that I don’t have a love/hate relationship with winter. Can any of you relate to me with that?
I *H*A*T*E* winter. I hate the cold, I hate the mess it makes in my house when people come in and out of the snow. Driving on snowy or potentially icy roads gives me the heebie jeebies!
Winter also means a different kind of preparedness. Fortunately, whether you live in an apartment or a house in the suburbs, or you live on a rural swath of land, this next thing is something anyone can do with a little forethought. Using a fireplace or woodburning stove could potentially be a wonderful way not only to add ambiance to your fall and winter, but also heat your house. In some cases, you can use it to cook, bake, and even help dry clothes.
If you live in an apartment, your only recourse is to look for an apartment that has a fireplace already in it. When we were first married and living in Austin, Texas, our little 800 sq. ft. apartment had a fireplace. Fortunately being in Austin, there was less chance of needing a ton of wood during the winter. But there are apartments out there that have fireplaces. A big plus for you!
Storing wood could be a little more tricky, but it’s still doable. When we lived in our apartment, we had a decent sized outdoor closet (3’x5′ or so). While we used this to keep our boxes, there’s no reason it couldn’t be used to keep wood for winter. Another option for you would be to rent a garage along with your apartment. Many apartment complexes have garages that can also be rented. You could rent a garage space and use some of that to store your wintertime firewood.
Also, if you are renting, look for small houses to rent. You might have better luck finding a house with a fireplace. You will also probably have a better way to store firewood if you rent a house as opposed to an apartment.
A House in the Burbs
We are very fortunate. The house we purchased has not one, but two fireplaces. We are hoping to convert one of them into being able to use our wood burning stove that we’ve purchased. We’ve been told it’s really expensive though so we’re working on saving up for it. You know how that goes, right? Yea, I thought so.
If you have a place to put a wood stove, I would highly recommend it! It allows you to heat a decent sized portion of your house, cook on the top of it, bake in the front of it, and sometimes even heat water to circulate through your house! We chose the Vermont Bun Baker for its ability to bake. We don’t plan on using it as our hot water heater though. Many houses that don’t have a fireplace can still have a wood stove installed. Check with your local fireplace company to see if they would install one for you. We found a company that specializes in installing fireplaces in our area.
Using a Fireplace or wood stove for Heat
If you want to use a fireplace to heat at least the room your fireplace is in there are a few things that you can do to make it more efficient.
(1) Start by using a Window Shrink Film Insulator Kit. These are incredibly inexpensive ($5 on Amazon as an add-on item). The reviews for this item are very high. This will help you keep the room with the fireplace much better insulated, but it sure wouldn’t hurt putting it on the windows of your other rooms as well!
(2) If you feel you need another layer of protection or you don’t want to buy the window insulator kits, cover your windows with heavy quilts.
(3) Use quilts or heavy blankets to separate the room with your fireplace from the others This keeps the warmer air trapped in the room with the fireplace.
(4) Use draft stoppers for your doors. This will keep the air from coming in under your door keeping your room warmer.
Cooking over a Fire
When we think of cooking over a fire, oftentimes we think about hotdogs and smores, but there are so many more things that can be cooked in and around a fire. So add these others to your hotdog and smores regimen.
(1) Bake potatoes in the coals. Potatoes can be wrapped in foil and set in the coals.
(2) Use a pie iron. There is SO MUCH that you can do with a pie iron! You can make pizzas, grilled cheese, hand-held pies, Reubens, ‘pot pies’, cheeseburger pies, stuffed french toast, egg sandwiches, chunked ham and cheese, chocolate chip cookies, and so much more! If you want more ideas of things to make with a pie iron, this book will help!
(3) Depending on how your fireplace is set up, if you have heavy duty tiles with plenty of room as your hearth, you could even use a dutch oven to cook food. You could scoop coals out from the fire, place them on the tiles. Place your dutch oven over the coals, fill the dutch oven and put the lid on. Set more coals on top of the dutch oven and let it cook. Make sure you monitor both the dutch oven and the coals closely.
Pie Iron Pizza
2 slices of bread
1/4 C pizza sauce
1/4 C mozzarella cheese
5-10 slices pepperoni
- Butter your bread or grease your pie iron. Place a piece of bread one side of your pie iron butter side down.
- On the piece of bread put the pizza sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni. Top it with the second slice of bread and close the pie iron.
- Cook over a fire for 5-10 minutes depending on how hot the fire.
Cheeseburger Pie Recipe
2 slices of bread
2 T shredded cheese
1/4 C freeze dried beef
2 T ketchup
2 T mustard
Bacon Bits (optional)
- Rehydrate your freeze-dried ground beef according to instructions.
- Butter your bread or grease your pie iron. Place a piece of bread, butter side down, on your pie iron.
- Measure out your ketchup and mustard onto the bread. Top it with your rehydrated ground beef. Sprinkle the cheese, pickles, bacon bits, and onions (if desired).
- Place your other piece of bread, butter side up, on top and close your pie iron. Cook over the fire for 5-10 minutes.
Stuffed Strawberry French Toast
2 T strawberry jam
2 T (room temp) cream cheese
1/4 C milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
- Mix the strawberry jam and cream cheese together. Spread on one of the pieces of bread. Top with the second piece.
- Mix the egg, milk, and vanilla in another bowl.
- Grease the pie iron. Dip the ‘sandwich’ into the milk, egg, and vanilla mixture. Set it in the pie iron.
- Cook for 5-10 minutes over a fire.
What About You?
Have you ever considered taking these steps to prepare your house for winter? Have you thought about cooking over a fire in your house using some of the methods above? I would love to hear your suggestions on how you keep your house warm in the winter with or without a fireplace! Leave a comment below, or if you got this by e-mail, just hit ‘reply.’
Remember, knowledge isn’t just knowing something. It’s living it!
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