Downsizing The Sequel

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Not much lasts forever and wood stoves are certainly no exception.  Living at 9,780 feet we get more use from our wood stove than most folks would.  Since it is our prime source of heat we want to be certain our heating element is 100-percent safe.   We usually start to burn wood in September and are  done towards the end of May; although when we got up this morning it was 37 degrees and snow flakes were floating down. Our wood stove is in constant use for 8-9 months a year, and certainly gets plenty of use. Today we are hoping to get by with several layers of clothes and not have to fire it up.  I notice though that the dogs are all curled up tightly so unless it warms up we may get an early start on the season. 

What does this have to do with downsizing?   Well,  a couple of things actually.  First, when I took the old wood stove out it left the chimney open from the bottom.  As I sat there contemplating cleaning it this year  I thought how much easier it would be if I just went ahead and ran the brush up the chimney from the bottom instead of climbing up that steep roof and precariously hanging onto the ladder to run it down the chimney.  The more I thought about this the more reasonable it sounded.   Enter Murphy’s Law, what can go wrong – will go wrong.  I figured an old bed sheet wrapped around the shaft of the wire chimney cleaning brush would jam in there and still allow me to clean the chimney without incident if I were careful. 

What sounds good in theory rarely works in reality.  I prepared the area by laying down another old sheet, started my cleaning process as planned, jammed the old sheet into the end of the stove pipe, and started to run the brush up the chimney. Had gone up about 20 feet when without warning the plug suddenly fell out.  Plumph, a huge quantity of soot and creosote came cascading down.  I was so happy I was wearing my Croc’s because the holes in the top allowed the soot to fill up my shoes, and get between my toes. I also noted later that when I went to get my keys out of my pocket I had quite a bit of soot in my pockets. When the cloud had  finally settled and I stepped back I was covered with soot and now as I went to open the front door that soot puffed out of those same holes in my shoes onto the carpet. 

I looked over at our dog Boz laying on the black leather sofa and he had one eye raised like only a German Shepherd can do and was silently telling me this was all my fault and he would lay there and watch me clean up which is exactly what he did.  He also said he would need a bath along with his two sisters as he was no longer clean.  Things unexpected happen and as I spent the next three hours vacuuming the walls, shampooing the carpet, (4 times) cleaning the plants one leaf at a time, wiping down furniture my one thought is how glad I was we only have a small house to clean versus a large house.  I would be days cleaning a larger area, and I was able to clean our small area and its few contents in a few hours.  Another big advantage of downsizing, albeit unexpected advantage.

The second advantage of a new wood stove – at least this wood stove – is that it is about half the size of the old one and takes up less space.  The heating is actually about 2000 BTU’s an hour greater than the old stove, and it is advertised to heat the same amount of area.  It was manufactured by the North American Division of Yotul so it is providing jobs at home in the USA. With our temperature hovering around 40 degrees today we may get to use the new stove sooner than later and find out if it will function as advertised and heat our small home.

Living in the mountains is much different from living in other areas without question.  Murphy’s Law is our constant companion and what can go wrong usually will.  We have learned to accept this aspect of mountain living and to be more self sufficient.  I recognize that this may sound funny and I also know with so many comedians out of work trying to be funny is not in vogue.  It was anything but funny as all that soot came showering down and floated everywhere.  The bright side is that I was able to clean it up much faster than if we had a large house.  Yes, the dogs did need a shower, as did I.  We are all clean again and the white wall needed to be painted anyway so that will be next.  On to the next segment of Mr. Murphy’s Law …