Yesterday, my wood stove man (aka Tim from the little store in town), came to check out my wood stove situation.
A little background: I have access to free natural gas on my farm. This is fabulous! I have no particular reason to believe this well is going to run dry any time soon, though gas wells can and do go dry, leaving people in despair. This happened at the slanted little house, and my great-aunt Ruby had to install a propane tank. Nobody was happy about that after many decades of free gas. Total dependence on gas is not a good idea.
I have a generator, and I have my gas furnace set up to run the blower on the generator during a power outage, so I seem pretty set, short of the gas well running dry. However, 1) the gas well could actually run dry someday, and don’t you know that would happen in the middle of a blizzard, 2) what if I can’t start the generator for some reason (this has already happened), 3) what if I can’t get out to get gas for the generator, 4) what if the furnace breaks down (this has already happened twice since I moved in here), or 5) what if I just can’t afford the gasoline to run the generator in a long power outage?
Do I sound paranoid? I might be! Rightfully! In the past five years of farm living, I have experienced numerous power outages, some of which were quite lengthy, and I might be slightly traumatized. There is one thing and one thing only that could run me off my farm in a winter power outage–freezing to death. I have livestock, and I need to be on my farm and able to stay on my farm during extended outages.
And so, I have a gas furnace set up to run on a generator. I have a generator. I keep a gas supply, and gas stabilizer, and I pay attention to keeping things ready. But if all else fails, there is one fairly low-tech alternative that is unlikely to fail–a wood stove. Assuming the furnace was broken down but the generator was working, I could even run the wood stove’s blower on my generator. But if the generator wasn’t working (for whatever reason), even without the blower, if I was at least within the same room as the wood stove, I wouldn’t freeze to death. It might not put out enough heat to warm the whole house without the blower, but I could heat me, and not be run off my farm.
Thus my interest in this little Buck Stove insert in my fireplace. The fireplace opening is much larger than the stove, and Tim agreed I could certainly put a larger stove in there. Along with the little store, he keeps a “burning showroom” and he recommended a few he thinks will work for me. I’ll be going in to take a look at them as I consider changing out this stove for something that can put out more heat.
I’m also interested in alternative baking options, and have been researching wood cook stoves. Unfortunately, the news wasn’t so good on that. I had Tim to look around at my options. This is a cozy (aka small) house. The roof line is also a bit weird and angled everywhere. There are a lot of windows in the house, and any place there is actually a wall has one or another problematic issue regarding installing pipe. Sob. I decided this was a battle I’d better forfeit.
It’s not the end of my interest in alternative baking/cooking, and I’ve already started researching outdoor wood-fired ovens. (Right now, I’m liking this one.) Yes, this is a slightly weird obsession–I refer you back to the trauma I’ve experienced with power outages over the past several years. I’m very interested in off-the-grid alternatives for operating normal daily life and tasks–light, heat, water, food.
By the way, during my research on wood cook stoves, I came across a blog written by a guy named Jim who cooks on his wood stove named Marjorie. (Seriously. His stove has a name.) The posts on this blog are very well-written, thorough, and entertaining–and are all about cooking on a wood stove, so if you’re the slightest bit interested in the topic (or just want a good read), check it out: Wood Cook Stove Blog. I contacted Jim and talked to him a bit in my research on wood cook stoves, and he was very generous and helpful. Even though this didn’t work out for me in my situation, it was still fun to come upon a great site that I’ll continue to read.
FYI, Tim did tell me to take the grate out of the Buck Stove.
I’ve never used a wood stove without a grate before and it was here when I got here, so I waited for the expert to rule. I felt clumsy starting a fire last night without a grate, but I’ll get used to it. Who knew? Some of you, of course. Thank you for letting me know. I asked him about it and he reached right in, took it out himself, and said, “You don’t need that.”
And so, in conclusion, my wood stove heat and alternative baking quests are now diverging paths. I’ll let you know what happens next! It’s, like, a SAGA!!
Or obsession. Whatever you want to call it.