As the end of November neared, Ryan and I were beginning to feel a chill inside the cabin. Early mornings and late afternoons left the cabin feeling cool. While it was warmer inside than out, our sweaters, hats, and booties were becoming a must.
Through Spring, Summer, and into Autumn, we use our Sweetheart cookstove. With six “burners,” and an oven beside the firebox, it is quite the satisfying cooking experience. We split our wood small and a hot fire is reliable – the size and location of the fire within the firebox is determined by how many pots and pans sit atop the cooktop. In this manner, it is easy to cook precisely - and even extravagantly – all with the convenience of wood. In the hottest weeks of July or August, the loft can be a tad too warm after dinner is cooked, but by and large the cookstove keeps the cabin comfortable: warm when it’s cool outside during the shoulder seasons, and not too hot in the peak of summer. And as an added bonus, as the stove cools down at the conclusion of a meal, the oven becomes an excellent location to slowly dry herbs and flowers.
However, as the full moon waxed large in November, we were building larger and larger fires to cook meals that were no more involved than they had previously been – and putting an extra log in before climbing the wooden rungs of the ladder to our bed in the loft.
It was getting cold.
And so, it became time for The Switch. That is, disconnecting the cookstove from the flue and moving our Resolute woodstove into place. It is a mildly daunting task, partly for the inherent mess, partially for the sheer weight of these stoves. They don’t move easily. Nonetheless, we could put it off no longer.
The process begins by sweeping the chimney. Ryan deftly scrambles to the peak of the cabin’s roof via our hodgepodge collection of ladders. He passes down the cap, which I scrub with a wire brush. Meanwhile, he runs the long-handled chimney brush up and down the pipe.
There’s not much resistance, which means not too much creosote: a good sign. Out here, a fire would mean total devastation. Buckets of water would have a better chance of success against a blaze than a fire engine making it within a quarter-mile of our cabin. So we’re careful.
With the chimney swept and the cap back on, we return inside. We disconnect the cookstove pipe and take it outside for one more scrubbing, this time from the bottom end. A small pile of black creosote powder outside our front stoop gives us peace of mind.
The heavy work is now ahead of us. Straining, we inch the cookstove towards the west wall, removing the fire board beneath it and placing blocks under each leg.
We then turn to the northeast corner, in which our woodstove has been stored since last March. This moves just a bit easier – multiple inches at a go. Out comes the level and we place the Resolute beneath the flue, reconnecting the pipe so that it’s close enough to straight.
We hold off on a fire for a few more hours, as we move on to other tasks. Yet come dusk, we relish the crackle of dry wood as we light the first fire of the season and set our cast iron skillet to warm on the stovetop. The heat is pervasive, steady, lingering. In a matter of moments we are reminded just how pleasant woodstove heat is this time of year. Once dinner is cooked, we throw in another log and bank the fire for the evening. We’ll be toasty warm through the long night.
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