More on Nome Refueling, and Homestead Heat

By , January 20, 2012

Yesterday, I started answering a reader’s questions about the current effort to refuel Nome, Alaska. I grew a bit long-winded, so today I’ll answer the rest of her questions.

Specifically, Judy asked, in conclusion: “. . . other than wood, what kind of fuel do you use (for cooking, heating, etc.)?”

On the homestead, our woodstove is our sole source of heat (excluding passive solar from the windows). We have a propane stove for most of our cooking, although at this time of year we do the majority of our cooking on the woodstove, since it’s already going at meal time.

I fought the propane stove for a long time before, thankfully, Michelle’s opinion won out. Cutting and processing firewood is a major occupation for us, as is evident in our many posts on the subject. Even our sometimes overly cautious methods are labor intensive, and dangerous. Relieving the need to fuel the woodstove all year for cooking reduces that effort, and makes the cabin more comfortable in the warm summer months.

cat by the wood stove

Spice, always cold, contemplates the face of her Divine (Photo: Aly Zeiger).

On the other hand, firewood is free for the taking on our land, while propane costs money. And, as anything else brought to the homestead, it comes on our backs most of the time. Our propane canisters weigh 22 pounds empty, (the trip out) over 41 pounds full (the trip back). We move them by water when we can, but even with 3 canisters to rotate, our need rarely coincides with favorable weather and tides.

Further, I resisted (and still dislike) becoming dependent on outside suppliers to provide our needed fuel. While the lovely couple who run the local propane depot would likely risk their lives to ensure their customers receive the propane they depend on, I doubt the entities that supply the propane to them have any such scruples.

The current effort to supply fuel to Nome points out the danger of needing to rely on others for one’s fuel. While we are far less isolated than Nome, we could easily find our propane supplies cut off through no fault of our own. I’ve reconciled myself to a luxury that may not be sustainable over the long run. Luckily, we have a choice. We lived here for a couple of years without the propane stove, and could do so again if we had to. The good people of Nome have no such safety net.

One final observation on the Nome refueling effort: I’ve been following the story on the state news, where it’s been the top story lately. While it is an amazing achievement on many levels, and an exciting, history-making event, it’s not quite the life-or-death, hair-raising race against disaster the national news has characterized it to be. Brave, resourceful, and generous men and women are working together calmly and deliberately to solve a huge problem—you’d think that would be dramatic enough without the breathless headlines.

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