Posted by: A Part of the Solution | February 21, 2010

The Wood Stove

I grew up during the energy crisis of the 70’s. Like most homes built around the time, ours was not well insulated. It was a town house. The one wall we shared with the neighbors acted as an insulator. But we had the end unit, which increased the quiet on that side of our home–though not the ‘R’ value.

My mother grew up in the country. She had a number of ideas which seemed old fashioned to her kids at the time. One of those ideas was that we could keep the heating bills down by installing a wood stove.

She asked around and purchased a Jøtul–the smallest model they made then. The company is Norwegian, and who should know better about efficient heating with wood through long, cold winters? The wood stove itself was cute, being both small and enameled in dark green.

The stove wouldn’t take a log one whisker longer than 16″. We cut our own ‘logs’ from dead-fall branches in the narrow strip of woods out back. I was the chief woodcutter, being determined and enjoying  a little warmth in the evening alike. This came in handy when I joined a construction crew after college. I knew exactly where to find sixteen-on-center when we were framing without having to use a tape measure (it drove my co-workers a little crazy).

I became skilled at firing up the wood stove. A small bed of newspaper, balled up to make it last longer was the first layer. Then some splinters and twigs and a few leaves near the front–all too small even to count as kindling. After that, several bits of actual kindling went down. And then, a couple of our custom-cut logs on top.

One match touched to the right, left and center of the stove would get the the paper going. The paper flared up, crackling and catching the little bits of tinder. The tinder took flame and set the splintery kindling going.

At this point, wisdom and experience decreed shutting the stove door nearly all the way to create a chimney-type flow as the fire sucked oxygen from the living room into the wood stove. In ten minutes, if the flame had caught properly and the logs were taking flame, the door could be latched shut and the flue control left wide open for the next thirty-ish minutes.

After that, it was a matter of limiting the air flow into the stove so the wood didn’t burn too quickly. Since I cut it all by hand and hauled it all on foot–my tool was a rusty, eighteen inch bow saw; I was careful to keep the fire as low as it would go for as long as possible to allow every log go the distance.

We have a wood stove on my farm. It’s my first since my childhood. It’s big enough to take real logs. We run it all the time to heat the house and save on the electric bills. I’m delighted to have an old friend back in my life. But I miss the DIY by hand of what are now my olden days.


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