Homesteads can't operate independently without heat (cold Minnesota winters) or water, so long term planning has to include a way to provide these necessities in an inexpensive manner - and potentially without electricity.
Our current source of heat is an oil furnace. Oil USE to be an inexpensive source for home heating, but that is no longer the case. We looked around at the alternatives; electric, propane, outdoor wood burners, and even heat pumps, but they were all cost prohibitive. Enter the soapstone wood stove.
We decided to install a soapstone wood stove in our basement this past summer in hopes of making our TV room more homey and cozy in the winter. This has proven to be a great decision. Everyone enjoys the wonderful dry wood heat that the stove produces, and the fire glow provides wonderful ambiance during cold winter nights.
Last year we had a small space heater in the basement to take the edge off the chill, this increased our electric bill significantly. This year our December electric bill was cut in half from last year. Fuel oil use has been cut by 2/3's, and by leaving the basement door open the average temperature for the entire house averages 69 degrees. The soapstone tempers and holds the heat, making the basement very comfortable while heating the rest of the house from the ground up.
If we lose electricity the fireplace is available to provide heat indefinitely, dependent upon the availability of fire wood and our determination to get it into the house. Worse case we can use the stones to boil water and even to cook soup.
The soapstone fireplace has proven to be a great buy. I have no idea how long it will take to recoup the costs via electricity and oil savings, but what price can you put on peace of mind? Oh yeah, the government is providing us a $2500 tax rebate for purchasing the stove this year - even though the CO2 released will contribute to global warming - who knew?
I am an Ocicat. My duties include; security (rodents), counter intelligence (predators), infiltration (sneaking) and night surveillance.
I live in NE Minnesota on 10 wooded acres with; my best friend Mocha, three dogs, chickens, Guinea Hens, Nigerian Dwarf Goats, Cascade Sheep, Icelandic sheep, and a few humans.
When we moved here it was completely wooded, our plan is to turn this property into a working homestead.