Hi! Name is Chris and we live in N. Central Illinois, just south of the WI border.
I grew up during the "wood boom" of the 70's/early 80's. My parents built a big, contemporary design home, equipped with dual ground source heat pumps with a Woodchuck add-on furnace for the basement and a German Weso tile stove for the family room. This was in Southern Indiana (Jasper). The Woodchuck gobbled wood by the wheelbarrow, but we were toasty warm in that home. My father and I spent a LOT of time cutting, hauling, splitting and stacking wood. I bet we burned 3 to 5 cords a winter. The Weso stove was a work of art - one of the most beautiful and well crafted stoves I recall from that era.
One winter we ran short of wood and Dad ordered up a ton of Indiana bituminous. I think it was $35 a ton delivered. We then proceeded to cover just about everything in the neighborhood with soot. Dad grew up in Scranton, PA with a coal stoker (anthracite, of course), but I don't think he realized what he was getting into. The sulfur also turned the beautiful, handmade copper chimney caps a nice shade of corroded green!
Ever since that time, however, I've been enamored with solid fuel heating. I just love the feel of a stove in a home. I have been trying to get some sort of stove installed in the two homes I've lived in since getting married, having a family, etc. but both homes have had natural gas heat, been new construction, and not well set up for a stove installation. The heat bills were also never high enough to justify a stove installation.
For me, wood is out of the question, as I have no source. Pellets look to be a good option, but it seems that they are getting $$$ as everyone is putting in pellet stoves. At least they are a good use for wood waste. Heck, the Kimbery Clark company up in Wisconsin sold diaper waste to a pellet company to pelletize. It's all wood anc cotton cellulose, and made a nice pellet. Looked real funny with all the multicolors in it!
Coal, however, is my real interest. I've had a chance a few times to see a quality anthracite stove burn, and it's rather impressive. Now it just is a matter of seeing how to make one work out here in Illinois, far away from the source of the 'good stuff'.