ReadyNutrition Readers, we’re having a heatwave out here in Montana…it’s 9 degrees Fahrenheit while I’m writing this. I hope you guys and gals are nice and warm and you have a good wood stove in front of you keeping it so. You recall I wrote one on wood stoves not too long ago, and I wanted to supplement this for a few more things you can do with yours. Aside from using wood stoves to stay warm and cook food on, here are a few tips you never knew on how to get the most out of your wood stove.
10 Ways to Make the Most of a Wood Stove Ashes
One of the things you should consider is the potash that comes from your stove. Yes, all that wood turns into ashes that can be recycled and used. One of the things that you can do is to store them in a container (preferably a metal one that has a tightly-fitting lid) and use them later for producing your own soap. The ashes are boiled down in water (yes, this too can be done on your wood stove!), and combined with lye and other ingredients.
Your ashes can also be used for metal polishing, for the likes of metals such as brass and silver. It works really well straight up, or mixed with just a few drops of water. The ashes can also be combined with your compost piles and used as a form of fertilizer to replace many valuable minerals and nutrients that comes from carboniferous materials being burned. Why do you suppose a new forest sprouts up in a few years after a forest fire? All of that burned wood goes into the soil and enriches it. You can turn it into your gardens when you’re planting in the springtime for the same effect.
Charcoal is another product that you can take from your wood stove. Used for a variety of things besides just cooking, charcoal can also be finely-crushed and added to your ash supply to make soap. It can be set aside for use as cooking material or a fire-starting ingredient and even used to clean teeth. Charcoal can also be used to filter water (see previous articles on water purification).
There’s also soot from the chimney (although you’ll probably have to wait until springtime to obtain it when you brush your chimney pipe). Soot is the black substance formed by the combustion of your wood in the stove. This is fine particulate matter that adheres to your pipe walls, and is blackened, consisting mainly of carbon that has not been completely burned. Soot is responsible for many chimney fires. Soot can be mixed (in small quantities as needed) with a little bit of vegetable oil and some water to make your own ink. A type of soot is called lampblack, and is used in enamels, paints, and inks from a commercial perspective.
That soot also has a great deal of unburned oils and resins in it (especially if you burn a lot of pine…don’t scoff…if you live in the Rockies, you will burn pine unless your last name is Rockefeller, believe me). The oils, resins, and unburned carbon are excellent to mix with things such as sawdust and lint, with some wax for fire starters for the wood stove or camping and backpacking.
The top of the stove is great for dehydrating food as well. You have recipes from ReadyNutrition for pemmican and jerky. You can make your own on top of the stove with small-aperture wire racks…of the type to cool off hot sandwiches and the like. Lay your meat on top of the wood stove top on the racks and allow that heat to dry them right out.
We’d love to hear any suggestions of things that you have found to do with your wood stoves (along with heating your home and cooking, of course). It is all part of your preps and homesteading and learning to economize and obtain the maximum use for all of the materials you have at your disposal. Explore some of these and let us know what you think, as well as things you have discovered on your own. Keep up that good fight, drink a good cup of coffee, and stay warm!
Don’t forget to join us March 9th 7 p.m. (CST) for a FREE interactive webinar about solar cooking. Click here for more details!
Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.
Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.
Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.
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