Growing up here, I’ve known all my life the fullness of the four seasons and what they can offer in the heartland.

Growing up here, I’ve known all my life the fullness of the four seasons and what they can offer in the heartland.

My mom, the epitome of a Scout, was always prepared. She would listen to the weather reports and keep our shelves stocked. Days before a big storm was due to hit, she’d start cooking stews and soups. Dad had the type of job where he was gone a lot of the time, so Mom had to deal with seven kids many times on her own.

Our large, old house was notorious for the power going out for days at a time. We would build a big fire in the fireplace and put one of Mom’s soups or stews over the coals. She would read aloud as we would pile around her. You can imagine how we would pray for snowstorms, not only so school would be out but just so we could experience our own adventures at home.

I have had many wonderful experiences around those fires, and many others since and cannot fathom living in a house without a fireplace. To me, a fireplace is the very heart of the house. Whether you are enjoying fires inside the house or around a campfire, you may want to be aware of some of the differences between firewood logs and the qualities they offer.

Most people know that if properly dried, hardwoods provide more heat because they are denser. Hardwoods holding the most energy include Osage orange, hickory, locust, oak, ash, and hard maples. The rule of thumb is the slower growing the tree, the denser the wood. Less dense woods, with a lower heat emission, include basswood, cottonwood, cedar, pine, silver maple, elm and sycamore. Contrary to popular belief, walnut may be a wonderful wood for furniture and cabinets, but it is not a good choice for firewood. I have worked with foresters who said Osage orange (or hedge apple, or hedge tree) burns so hot you should only put one log in the fire at a time and mix it with other woods. They also proclaimed never use Osage orange in a stove because it burns so hot, it can crack the stove.

Not only do hardwoods burn hotter, they also split more easily and don’t spark or smoke as much, making them a safer and more enjoyable fire.

If you have not already had your fireplace cleaned this year, this is a good time to do it. Although, fireplaces create the charm we all desire, when it comes to adding heat to the home, they lose. More heat goes up the chimney than into the room. Adding glass doors can help a lot, and a good fireplace insert can maximize your fireplace’s energy efficiency. For true heating, a good, airtight wood stove is the way to go.

Remember, firewood is one of Missouri’s natural, renewable resources. It is heating the GREEN way! It’s also the best way to make some good memories! I hope you’re able to enjoy some good fires this year with family, friends, or just a good book.

How good is that wood?

Species              BTU per cord

Ash                       23.6 million

Basswood       14.7 million

Box Elder       17.5 million

Cedar (red)       18.9 million

Cottonwood       16.1 million

Elm                   20.1 million

Hackberry       21.6 million

Hickory                  29.1 million

Locust                  28.1 million

Maple (silver)       20.8 million

Maple (sugar)       25.0 million

Oak (red)       25.3 million

Oak (white)       27.0 million

Osage orange       30.7 million

Pine                  19.0 million

Sycamore       20.7 million

Walnut                   21.8 million

A BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is the heat required to raise the temperate of a pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit

Source: University of Missouri Extension Service