Posts Tagged ‘hearth’

Notes from the hearth: Being settled in the safe and sane confines of a vintage trailer is good for the wayfaring Senior. A few stepping stones away is the doorstep of my eldest daughter who is running, essentially, a boarding house for family refugees, and such a place one would never wish to graduate from! She’s a magical homemaker, serving up vittles worthy of royalty on a regular basis… and smoothing all the ruffled feathers brought to her home, and turning her husband to on a thousand fixit needs that effectively bring her foundlings into the bounds of self-sufficiency, step by step.

She points out to me that living in a trailer is a great training grounds. She knows…she lived in this very trailer with her husband for three or so years while they put their own house through a vast renovation some ten years ago. Her husband, a contractor, of course did these improvements “in his spare time” (read “hardly any time to breathe, actually”). So it took a long time.

The place has everything one needs for living, but in such efficiency that one HAS TO put things away where they go or else one cannot walk. Like a small boat, you have just enough room for your needs, and no extra. If you need extra room, you have to dump stuff out of your life. One pot, one pan, one whisk, etc. Use, wash, put in cupboard. Soon you are like a short order cook, reaching automatically to where the pot lives and finding it there every time, since there was no place to put it other than where it fits.

For a haphazard soul like me, this is the best boot camp imaginable. I always did say I liked simplicity. Now I get to really orchestrate daily and immediate simplicity or I die of “stuff” in the way. And the more I succeed, the more I like myself!

Will I be able to do this same thing in my new shop? That remains to be seen. The garage at my other daughter’s place is full of boxes containing my working materials and tools and supplies. Really a LOT of it.

Time will tell.

But for now I am remembering a precious meal with family last night with my littlest grandchild prancing around in her auntie’s very high heeled shoes pretending to be a grown up, and my eldest grandchild confident and wise chatting with two of his younger cousins about cars and computers and life. My children scarfed up traditional and original and new culinary wonders with abandon and lots of appreciation. We love each other here, in spite of being very much individual eccentrics, most of us. It’s just GOOD.


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We have a tyrant at our house.   About three winters ago we spent a ton of money thinking we would be conserving energy.

blog post photo

This is what our tyrant looked like when we first had it. (I think there is a reason the photo is so skewed.  Not only was our fireplace not ready for this new gadget, but it sort of threw us for a loop too! )

First of all it was HEAVY.  We had to build a ramp to extricate it from the back of our Odyssey!  We had to rig a block and tackle!

This was not the way to conserve energy. 

Conserve energy?  No no no.  Don’t think a wood stove is going to be efficient and fun all the time.  Think hard about how much you really want to get warm, and in which ways!

If you think the stove comes with a fire included, you will soon find that it is not included. 
If you think it comes with split wood included,  you will also soon learn that it is not included. 

If you think the chimney is ready for this new gadget, you will likely find that you have to call a chimney man on Christmas Eve to rescue you from a living room full of the bits and pieces of chipped out masonry innards, jerry rigged hearth stones, tools, and instruction manuals from DIY efforts that lasted for literally weeks before we threw up our hands. 

 This wonderful handsome thin young guy named Tom came and whipped things together in a couple of hours.  Where we had struggled with a horrible, heavy, rented scaffolding that turned out not to reach our soaring chimney top after all, Tom ignored the scaffolding and just propped up his ladder, climbed up fearlessly and strode around on the steep rooftop installing a liner and chimney cap.  Then he came in and charmed the woodstove into the fireplace, connected all the fittings,  set a little fire in it, and told us the funny new stove odor would be gone in a few hours.  Then he packed up his stuff and a check (no, that was not a Christmas gift to US…it was one for HIM), and left us to dig our living room out so we could sort of use it for Christmas! 

We used such a lot of energy in just getting that thing rigged up.  Heat. 

Then there was the wood.   We have trees out back.  They stand fifty to a hundred feet high, and now and then they fall down.  When they fall down they lie there whole. We had some whole trees lying there waiting for just such a time as this!  We got a chain saw for Christmas.  And an axe and a splitting maul and wedges.  (Using these sorts of Christmas presents is heartwarming! Especially if you are doing the work in spring or summer.   Heat again.)

Fallen trees don’t last forever when you whittle them up for fire wood.  I say whittle because the wood has to be SMALL to fit into this little stove.  But even the biggest fallen tree eventually gets consumed.  Earlier this year we knew that to avoid having certain of our trees fall down on neighbors’ houses, we really had to clear the overgrown woods of a lot of dead and dying trees.  After three days (this was also not a gift) of big cherry-picker activity and the dragging, grinding and hauling machinery creating lots of noise, the arborist and his helpers had provided us with — ta da…
blog post photo  The Eastern Log Pile  and…
blog post photo The Western Log Pile.


These are the SMALL logs. They are maybe 12 to 18 inches in diameter.   The Tree man had pity and (for a lot of money) carried away the monster logs that were way too large for our chain saw.    His machines gobbled up truckload after truckload of branches and roots.  It was quite a circus.  I loved watching.  High priced entertainment, though.

We get warm while sawing up and splitting this stuff, and we also get heated up sitting in front of the stove persuading its fodder to ignite!  While doing this, the heat is usually coming from our state of mind much more than from the matches, butane lighters, fire starters, or blazing newspapers held inside the stove to heat up the flue. The smoke which is confused about which way it is supposed to go does make your eyes burn, though.    Oh, I forgot to mention the energy needed to clean off the sooty glass window of the stove before we get started with the above procedure.

 Right now, as I write, there is a nice glow inside that glass.  It is because someone has been sweating over a hot stove, literally.  The whole time I have been composing this blog today my faithful fellow traveler has been reasoning with our tyrant in thought, word and deed — not all of them sweet and friendly. It’s like the stove has a servant! He got it going.  And will keep it going. 

And The Tyrant will keep him ( and me ) going and going and going.  Going out to the wood pile.  Going out to split more wood.  Going out to empty the ashes.  Going out to get more wood.  Going out to cover the wood pile so it doesn’t get wet.  Going out to the store for a new chain for the chain saw. I will help.  I do help, but he does better at it than I do. 

Are we enjoying our Tyrant?  Yes.  It is cheerful usually.  It is quiet and a little kettle on top makes some moisture in the air.  This year we got one of those little fans that sit on top and run on the energy from the stovetop. It blows the heat around some and doesn’t need to be plugged in.  The cat thinks it’s his TV.  The ambience is lovely.  I heat up soapstone “bed warmers” that I wrap and tuck into the dogs’ crates on cold winter nights. 

But the stove does not conserve energy.  It DOES keep the heating bills down. Definitely! It will pay for its initial cost in a year or so more in gas bills that we will not have to pay.  But it will use energy of another sort relentlessly, every winter day,  and many of the summer days to come. 


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