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A Story of Two Stoves

| 12/5/2018 11:00:00 AM

Old and new stoves

Something about a wood stove crackling away on a cold day just seems fitting for a homestead. When we purchased our home, its antique cook stove was a selling feature for us. The old stove had a firebox, oven, water tank, and six “elements”. It boasted lots of character and produced a lot of heat. The stove was invaluable when the power was knocked out by an ice storm or high winds.

But all was not sunshine and roses with the old stove. It was impossible to close down the airflow to maintain a slow burn and the stove consumed several cords of wood during a single season. We didn’t risk baking anything in the oven, though we did use it occasionally for roasting vegetables and meat. If we stocked it fully before bed, it would burn through the wood within a couple hours. And with nothing but a grate as the floor for the firebox, the ashes and coals would fall through so that a new fire had to be started from scratch each morning. We used the stove to supply heat during the day but each night our propane-fueled furnace would start-up. We discovered later that the firebox was outfitted to burn coal.

The stove was also housed in a single-story addition to the original home and most of the heat it produced was trapped under an 11 ft ceiling so that the remainder of the house dropped steadily in temperature while the addition began to feel like a sauna. We tried to spread the heat throughout the house with ceiling fans and strategically placed floor fans. We went a step further and did some minor renovations; we enlarged a doorway and added a ventilation fan that took the heat trapped beneath the ceiling blew it into the second storey hallway. We had mediocre results. It was time to decide which was more important - an antique cook stove with lots of character or an efficient, modern wood burning stove? One thing we knew for sure, we did not want to depend on propane for our heat - but we needed to improve our current stove situation.

Chop Wood, Burn Calories

We knew we wanted to use wood to provide (most) of the heat in our home. For one, it enables us to buy our fuel locally and to support our neighbors. Within the last decade the Emerald Ash Borer had decimated the ash trees in Southern Ontario and the dead trees provide an excellent  source of quality firewood. Secondly, natural gas and propane have a much higher cost. They must be mined, processed, stored, and transported, and all by specially trained personnel, high-tech facilities, and specialized vehicles. The price varies based on forecasted supply and demand. Not so with firewood.

True, heating with wood does require more work. What, with the collecting, splitting and stacking of the firewood, and then hauling it inside and later cleaning out the ashes...only to do it all over again. But using wood to heat a home does connect a person to the earth in a way that flicking a furnace switch never can; it makes a person more aware of the effort and energy required to produce heat. And, at least for me, a realization of the stamina and fortitude of the early pioneers. And if calories matter, much more are expended dealing with all that firewood than fiddling with a thermostat.

12/6/2018 6:28:36 AM

Have a 404 Jotul that is an amazing little wood cook stove. There is a special attachment to a wood stove that plays so many roles in a farmstead life. Thank you! Love these posts so so much.

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