Energy Systems

Firewood Igloos – Adapting an Austrian design for Australasian Conditions

In certain parts of Austria, firewood igloos are a traditional way of storing firewood without needing a permanent shelter. Placed in a windy spot for good air flow and topped with overlapping shingles, the igloos are a convenient way to season, dry and store firewood. In winter a cap of ice and snow keeps the wood snug and dry.

My late husband, Joe Polaischer, built many of these on Rainbow Valley Farm in the north of New Zealand. Without the ice and snow cap to keep the wood dry, it was necessary to keep the rain off with a cover of some kind. Plastic sheeting or a tarpaulin (we live in a high rainfall area) proved to be the best way to protect the otherwise exposed wood. Another option was to build the igloo in winter or spring so that it had all summer to season and dry and move the wood inside before the winter rains.

Instructions: Place a pole in the ground, attach a piece of string and mark out a circle. Lay out the first row of firewood exactly around the outside of the circle, then continue with the second row letting the wood slant slightly inwards to avoid the wall breaking as you are building it higher.

Continue building the outside wall making sure to stabilize it by wedging pieces of wood in behind the wall. After the first 2-3 layers are built up start throwing wood loosely into the middle of the circle. Not packing the wood tightly in the middle ensures that there will be enough airflow during the seasoning time.

Once the igloo is evenly built to about 2/3 of its finished size begin to change the angle of the outside wall to create the “roof” of the igloo (See Image 2). Every layer added is set back 3-4 cm from the previous one so they eventually close the igloo off as shown in the picture below.

Trish Allen

32 years ago my late husband, Joe Polaischer, and I co-founded Rainbow Valley Farm, an organic farm and permaculture education centre near the village of Matakana in the north of New Zealand. Over those years we ran farm tours and permaculture-related courses including PDCs. Joe died suddenly in 2008, and I moved on from the farm to the village. Rainbow Valley Farm is now being run by a family who are continuing the work Joe and I started. Joe and I discovered permaculture in the early 1980s and were totally inspired by the concept. It made sense to us and we were keen to put it into action. After doing PDCs, we bought 50 acres of run-down farmland and established Rainbow Valley Farm (see above) where we created an abundant permaculture paradise. Since leaving the farm in November 2010 I have made a new home for myself in the village and created a mini permaculture paradise with 50 fruit trees around my small eco-house. I am also teaching PDCs and other permaculture related courses and my new passion is waste minimisation. I co-founded Mahurangi Wastebusters in 2017 and our mission is to reduce waste to landfill and recover resources for the benefit of our community.

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