Larry Brumm stays warm in the coldest weather sawing trees, then is warmed again when the wood heats his home
Larry Brumm works so hard cutting and splitting wood to heat his home that he sometimes ends up in just a T-shirt and gloves, even when the temperature drops below freezing.
“You really have to love nature and being outdoors,” Brumm said. “If you don’t like it, there’s no sense doing it. You’ll never keep up. It’s too much work.”
Brumm lives with his wife Sue and beagle Tillie along the Milwaukee River in the Town of Saukville. A retired teacher, he taught science in the Port Washington-Saukville School District for 33 years.
Brumm has been heating his home with wood since 1980, but doesn’t cut much of it on his local land.
He owns more than 40 acres in Sherman Center about 15 miles north of his home, where he chops oak, maple, beechwood and box elder trees year round.
“I decided that if we’re going to buy the land, we’re going to heat the home with wood to help pay for it.”
The process starts when Brumm fells trees with a chain saw and removes the branches.
He then splits it with a hydraulic splitter he bought from Fleet Farm about five years ago.
“I hit the first log of the year and my whole body ached,” Brumm, 68, said. “I decided it was time to get a splitter. I’ll never go back.”
Then he hauls it away in a trailer that holds about a half cord, or just more than 40 cubic feet of firewood.
He goes through five or six cords of wood every winter.
Finally, he has to unload it and stack it in large piles around his home that are covered by a rubber roofing material.
The Brumms are on their second wood burner, which is in the basement of their home. It goes through about 10 to 12 logs a day during the winter.
“I build a pretty big fire in the morning and add a few more logs during the day,” he said. “Then at night, I build up a pretty big fire again.”
Every morning he takes the ash and spreads it on farm fields near his land.
“You have to do something with all the ash,” he said. “It has a lot of good nutrients that help fertilize the soil.”
The house stays at about 70 degrees during the day.
The alternative is an oil-burning furnace that the Brumms use when he gets sick or they go on trips.
But it’s too expensive to use all year, Brumm said. The 300-gallon tank runs on fuel oil that costs upwards of $3 per gallon.
“When you fill that up a few times, it takes a big bite out of your budget,” he said. “If there comes a point where I can’t do it anymore, we would probably switch to propane.”
He said he saves a few thousand dollars a year heating his home with wood instead of oil.
Brumm doesn’t sell any of the wood he makes, saying it’s enough work to heat his own home.
He makes wood a few times a week.
“It’s a good way to get exercise and stay in shape,” Brumm said. “People think I’m nuts, but if you work hard enough, you’ll stay warm.”
Sometimes his friends will help him chop the wood and they’ll “have a few beers, talk silly and have a good time.”
Other times he’ll help them out with their wood making.
But the land is a sanctuary for him, a place to get away.
“I go out there by myself with a sled, chain saw, oil, tools, something to eat and some coffee,” he said. “It’s beautiful in the winter with all the deer and rabbit tracks.
“It’s quiet and wonderful.”
Image information: Larry Brumm sawed willow logs on his Town of Saukville property and later loaded seasoned firewood into his woodburning furnace.
Photos by Sam Arendt