This Winter Prep Could be the Most Essential Tool in Your Arsenal

Do you have woodstoves in your homes?  This article is a primer on some of the things you can do with your woodstove, as well as an invite for you to share your stories and experiences with us about what you do with yours.  You may provide food for thought for one another.

I also have a question that perhaps you can help me out with.  I saw an article in a magazine several years back that had a camper with a woodstove.  The stove had a “closed” system of a hot water heater that heated the water on the top of the woodstove and sent it through copper coils wrapped around the stovepipe into the receptacle for the hot water heater.

If anyone has any further information about a system such as this, I would really appreciate it.  You can share it here in the comments section, or write to me at: jj [at] with some details on it.


That being mentioned, your model of wood stove is not as important as your desire to use it for what you will.  Mine measures about 3’ x 2-1/2’ x 2-1/2’ and has a flat top without holes for pots.  I have cleaned the surface immaculately, and if I so desire I can make eggs, pancakes, or toast right on top of it.  The latter I do all of the time.  Usually, I set my cast iron cookware on the top, and make myself eggs and coffee with toast in the morning.

I have a large 2-1/2 gallon pot that I use for soups.  If I put sliced onions, carrots, and diced potatoes (sometimes I shave them down with a cheese/carrot grater), and some water on, along with seasonings, I have my base in no time.  Then I can pull some meat out of the freezer and throw it in, and voila!  In about two to three hours, the soup is on!

The woodstove (also called a wood burner out here in the West) is great for heating the whole house, and that’s without using an electric blower.  I have a cabin; therefore, it isn’t as difficult.  Don’t let the size of my stove deceive you: once it’s fired up, you can bank one log on one that it left to embers and keep that fire going for about 2 hours per log.  The trick with your woodstove (if you’re new to it) is to find out how much wood you will consume in the course of a day, and what the minimum amount is that you need to heat the house and cook all your meals with.

Essential Winter Prepping Tools

When you have the woodstove heating your home, you should always keep a large cast iron pot of water on top of it.  This will provide some steam (a primitive humidifier, if you will) that will put some moisture into the air so the woodstove will not dry out all of the air in the house and potentially mummify a sleeping family member or pet.  Then if you’re an instant coffee lover (the way JJ is), it is a simple task to pour yourself a nice hot cup of Joe whenever you wish.

I also advise good stoneware as an accessory, to place your meal on top of your stove and
keep it heated while you’re situating yourself prior to eating.  Another good one to have are those cast-iron plates with a separate wooden “base” or support dish, like these.  These are great to eat from and keep from burning yourself from the metal plates while keeping your food nice and hot for a longer time.  To rewarm, just take some tongs and set the iron part on top of the stove.

I have a huge stainless steel pot (5-gallon) useful for soups, but more importantly, if the SHTF and/or the power goes out, I can melt snow and ice on top of the woodstove for hot water, if needed.  As with anything else, it’s important to find as many uses for a thing as you can for when times become tough, or just to be as self-sufficient and independent as you can.

Accessories for the woodstove are your fire tools, such as poker, brush, and shovel.  The latter two are useful for saving the ash, as you can use it to make soap, and to shine/polish metals, such as silver.  One thing that I must stress is you must clean out your stovepipe a minimum of once per year, preferably before the fall.  The brush you can pick up in a hardware store, along with the rods for as long as your pipe measures.  Brush it straight down and then sweep up all the creosote and blackened soot that lands in your stove into a can for disposal.  Remember it can be extremely flammable, so take precautions.  If you do it this way, you’ll save a lot of money rather than hiring someone to do it for you, and the rods and brush run about 30-40 dollars.

In summary, a woodstove will make your home more self-sufficient than you might ever have imagined.  There’s plenty of information out there on them: it’s a matter of “rewiring” your modern life with old skills already learned.  That’s the whole point of returning to the basics, to enable you to be self-sufficient and ready for things when it hits the fan.  Stay warm, split wood, and warm up your place with a wood stove…believe me, it is worth the effort and gives you another asset that may really save you when the chips are down.  JJ out!

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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