Saturday, November 1, 2008

It's Time for Corn!

The photo above (note the date) shows what prompted us to head to the grain elevator this weekend. This will be our fourth winter of heating our home with corn, which here in the midwest is a very plentiful & renewable resource. For those of you not familiar with our home, we live in a ranch-style on a slight hill, with a walk-out lower level (one-story in the front, two stories in the back). In the lower level is our family room with a large glass window facing north. The house is very well insulated and the forced-air natural gas heater keeps most of the house very comfortable. Unfortunately, the family room where we spend a lot of our time was ALWAYS cold. We would sit down there watching a movie in multiple layers of clothing and with blankets covering us! We explored several options to heat this room, including adding a gas fireplace but then settled on a corn stove. Corn is very efficient and burns hot. We purchased a stove from the Amaizablaze company and my brother Tim and I installed it in one afternoon. No chimney is required, just a "dryer vent" through the wall to the outside. The family room is now the warmest room in the house and by running our central fan 24/7 and keeping a ceiling fan running at the top of the stairway the cornstove is able to heat most of the house. Our furnace rarely kicks in anymore.

Pros of heating with corn: Efficient- even with corn prices relatively high this year at almost $4 per bushel, I will heat the house for approx. $600 this winter; Environmental- not using oil based energy to heat; Easy- light the stove and keep the corn hopper full and it will run for almost 2 weeks with little effort. Twice daily I'll pull a "clinker" of compressed ash out of the burn box and refill the hopper. Every 10-14 days I'll shut the stove down and clean it with a wire brush and shop-vac; Aroma- the smell of roasted corn is great!

Cons of heating with corn: Bulk & storage- we've gradually added storage over the 4 years using mainly large trash cans. We now have 15 of the 45 gallon cans and 11 of the 32 gallon cans as well as about ten 20 gallon containers. These will hold 150 bushels of corn, which is what we burned over the course of last winter. Approx 2/3 of the corn is now stored in our utility room just off the family room. The remainder is in an outside shed. Corn is heavy, at 56 lbs per bushel. Yesterday and today we manually unloaded over 4 tons of corn into the various containers; Dust- every time you manipulate the corn from one place to another, you have dust. You learn to deal with it!

We borrowed Dan Stephenson's truck and got 5 loads of approx 30 bushels each

Three of the kiddos played while we unloaded. Jeremy helped with getting empty cans and lids ready.

Caitlin preparing to unload. Note Jeremy's head just behind the truck.

We scoop with 2.5 gallon buckets, each weighing about 17 lbs when full.

Caitlin passes to Grace, who passes to John...

...who dumps into the trash can

note the accumulation of dust on Caitlin's jeans and sweatshirt

as the truck begins to empty, the shovel is used to move the corn into scoopable piles

and eventually a dust pan gets the last kernels

Caitlin empties her boots!

The utility room, holding the 15 x 45 gallon cans and a single 32 gallon can. Dusting soon followed!

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