The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Firing Up the Wood Stove

It's that time of year, when the temperature occasionally drops down far enough for us to run the wood stove to heat the house. There are many winter days here that are in the 50's, 60's and even 70's when it is just too warm for the stove. But this week we have had some cold, wet, icy weather with high's in the low 30's. So it was time to check everything out before we lit that first fire. Our stove is a DutchWest Federal with a catalyst. When we bought it, it was made my Vermont Castings. Times change.

To check out the bottom of the stove pipe and the catalytic converter we have to take off the top of the stove. To take off the top of the stove we
have to take off the warming shelves. This is a real pain, very awkward and difficult to see. It's nice to have a small battery powered vacuum with a hose that can pick up all of the loose soot down around the damper. We didn't get a lot of pictures of this process because it took four hands to get it done. You know when you are all contorted in a knot trying to manage an open end wrench in a space that is too small, and you can't hold
the flash light or get your bifocals in the right place to see? It's not the time to
say, "Hold it right there, we need a picture for the blog!" So you will just have to use your imagination here. This is a great cast iron stove. We chose to not get an enameled version because, one, we like the looks of the cast iron and two, we are just too hard on things. I figured I would have a chip out of the enamel before long and it would be one of many. 

After Frank finished contorting and putting everything back together we both agreed that it was just too much trouble, so next year we plan to leave the warming shelves off when we inspect the stove again. They are pretty and make for nice aesthetics, but we don't trust them to sit anything very heavy on, so off they go.

We keep a bus tub (a plastic tub used in restaurants to clean tables) nearby to keep our equipment in when it's not in use. For now we used it to hold the ash and soot we were cleaning up.

Our equipment consists of: this excellent fire poker (this is one of the best we've ever used - plain and very effective), metal dust pan, brush, the handle used to open the doors and damper,
a small flashlight to see the thermometer, a bag to carry wood and a pair of welder's gloves that work great.

Now that we have everything cleaned up, it's time to light a fire. We have a number of battery operated lanterns that we use on a regular basis. If the grid goes down we will be able to recharge them with solar panels. We feel this type of lighting will last us longer than others that require fuel storage. It came in real handy on those dark spots where it was hard to see. Just for information purposes, this is a Coleman LED, variable rheostat, with eight rechargeable D cell batteries. The only negative is the batteries will not charge in the lantern. They have to be removed and charged separately. But eight D cells on low power lasts a long time.

This is a small stove, but it can quickly heat up our small home to the point that we open several windows a bit. We always keep a window close to the stove cracked open for ventilation and oxygen renewal. There are several settings on the stove to review and familiarize ourselves with again: the damper, air intake and catalytic converter. We always review the manual each year to make sure our memories are correct. Fire is not something to take lightly. It can be the end of all you have including your life, in very short order. So even though it is a pain to take the stove apart and inspect it each year, we always do so before we use it. It is well worth our time and effort to insure our safety and the safety of our home.

After the first fire or two, we had everything up and running right. Our stove has an ash pan that needs to be emptied once or twice a day depending on how much wood we burn. This is one chore that requires much care. Frank uses the poker to stir the coals and cause the ash to fall down into the ash pan below the firebox. We keep a heavy cast iron pot of water on top of the stove for moisture.

 We empty the ash pan out on the back porch. There is a small galvanized can there just for that purpose. Frank carefully carries the ash pan out the door. I get the door and the lid to the ash can. We feel this chore is much safer when performed by two people, but it can be completed by one person.
As the ash can fills up over the winter, we empty it into the garden for the calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, aluminum and sodium it contains. As a side note, you can also use hardwood ashes to make lye for soap. I have also used it around the base of 
new squash plants to deter squash vine borers and other insects. One time when we emptied the ash can in the garden the coals weren't quite out and when we looked out the window there was a nice line of fire going across the garden. It didn't take long to put it out, but it is something to learn and remember.

Now that we have a good fire going, I think it is time for some soup. I tried something like this a couple of times last year, but I don't remember how it went. There is a small flat surface on top of the stove that will hold a small pot. I am careful not to cover up the thermometer that goes with the catalytic converter. I think this was the reason I got the smaller cast iron dutch oven. My other one is just too big to fit on this small surface.

It is great fun to go into the store room and pick out things we have grown and preserved to put into a meal. This time was no different. Yesterday I baked a goat loin and had some meat leftover that would go great in a soup along with some green beans, squash and carrots. I used corn, onion and tomatoes from the store. The potatoes we grew in the spring are starting to sprout quite well, so I used some of them and a jar of the dried pinto beans we canned. Add some salt, pepper, dried minced garlic, barley and parsley and we're in business.

Now to let it simmer on the stove for the afternoon and dinner will be ready. 

The blessings of a simple life never cease to amaze me. It's not that this life is not a lot of work. And it's not that this life is not way outside the norm and looked upon with some derision. After all, it's so much easier to go and buy it at the store. It's just that this quiet, simple life is what feeds our souls with a deep and abiding satisfaction. It gives us confidence and knowledge that we can provide for ourselves given the time and opportunity. I pray that the privilege of living our lives the way we see fit will always be an opportunity before us and not a memory behind us.

Until next time - Fern

1 comment:

  1. We've had our wood stove a blazing for a while now (in Missouri) .... (it's all we heat with) Don't forget to clean the chimney