When Dave and I moved to the farm, I wanted three things: a gas cook stove, a well and a wood burning stove for heat. I’m not sure Dave understood why those things were important to me, at least, he didn’t understand until cold weather set in. That first winter of 1995-1996 was the coldest this old place, and we, had ever seen. One January night we took turns sleeping in shifts so we wouldn’t freeze to death…literally! I went to bed around 11:00 (I was much younger then –smile-) and Dave stayed up and fed the fire for two hours then, I woke up so he could sleep, and I fed the fire for two hours. This continued until 7 a.m. when we both got up and, while I started breakfast, Dave went to the woodpile for more wood. He stopped by the thermometer and called me to COME! I went outside and looked at the thermometer; it read 35 degrees BELOW zero Fahrenheit! Thank God, there was no wind chill or we’d never have made it through the night. We didn’t have walls, only R-19 insulation stapled between the studs and six mm plastic stapled over that. The plastic was to keep the insulation from being blown out of the walls when the wind blew and, yes, it did happen; that’s why we decided to put up plastic walls. Oh lawz, we felt like we’d moved uptown when that happened! As it was, we had an electric blanket, topped with quilts, on the bed which was set up about three feet from the wood stove. We had two cats stuffed under the blankets and Dave and I were sleeping in layers of tee shirts, sweat pants and shirts and wool socks. Friends: it was C.O.L.D. Seriously cold.
(I need to blog about those early days; I look back on them now and think, “YEP! We were tough!” …waaay good memories…)
Anyway, I thought we’d get a normal cast iron wood stove but Dave researched stoves and decided a soapstone stove was both beautiful, practical and would fetch its price again when, sometime in the future, we sold the farm. He was right; I’m sitting here looking at the invoice from 1995, when we bought the stove, and the price has increased dramatically. (Dave had the most vision of anyone, man or woman, I’ve ever met!)
Prior to actually using the stove, we had the chimney lined to make it safe. This house was built in 1900, finished in 1902, and all the brick is slave made on site. The only chimneys that aren’t lined are the ones that are closed off or only used with gas logs.
We stopped using the stove a number of years ago when Dave developed COPD. I didn’t notice the difference in air quality but he did and the increased difficulty he had breathing didn’t warrant using the wood stove.
That, has all changed. There’s half a barn full of dry, cured hard wood and Donald, Mary’s husband, delivered another load earlier this week. I’m burning with wood, baaabbeee, and it feels great! In the first photo, the stove is cleaned of all ashes, dust and readied for kindling. Donald gave me a great lesson on the easiest way to start a fire in the wood stove. Yes, both vents have to be open to make a draft…remember, oxygen feeds fire…and, in the second photo, on the left, a paper poke…er, bag to you non-country/mountain folk…is filled with twigs, smallish branches and bark. This is stuffed into the stove and then lit; within minutes a beautiful blaze is lapping at the wood and the room is gathering warmth. It’s a beautiful thing. In the same photo, a copper kettle holds more kindling because I let the fire go out on warm days but today, the weather is cold and rainy…perfect for a fire in the wood stove.
Once the fire is dancing merrily, I slow it down by closing both stove vents. This slows oxygen flow to the fire causing the fire to slow burn. Prior to going to bed later tonight, the vents will be shut entirely; in the morning, the coals will still be red hot and easy to begin again. On top of the stove, an iron kettle is filled with water to put moisture into the air. The top of the stove may be raised and that’s where I bake biscuits, scones, etc. when the power goes off.
Some of the many good things about this Palladian soapstone stove include: the fire may be seen and that was important to Dave and I. We like sitting around the stove, being mesmerized by the crackling flames. The soapstone stores heat and continues to radiate heat long after the fire has died down which results in a long, steady flow of warmth. It can hold forty pounds of wood and will burn 8 to 10 hours on a single load and has a heat output range of up to 45,000 BTU. It has an internal catalytic combustor and meets the US Environmental Protection Agency’s emission limits for wood heaters. Perhaps best of all…it’s a pretty stove and, like Gran used to say, “pretty is as pretty does” but in the case of this stove…it’s pretty and useful…a winning combination. I think I’ll have two fingers of Lagavulin to celebrate; join me?
Blessings ~ soapstone stoves ~ Donald ~ hard, dry wood ~ Lagavulin ~ Dave ~
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