Art of Proprietation

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I like having a cook stove in the kitchen. We have an antique glenwood, maybe an A model. It's pretty basic, fire box on the left, draft goes over the oven, down the right side, under the oven and up the back of the stove to the damper. With decent wood, it's easy to get 500 degrees F in the oven. The surface of the stove is hot enough that we use firebricks with an 2" air gap to have a warming area. I usually keep a baking stone in the oven. It's convenient, with that kind of heat sitting around in the kitchen it's easy to warm up leftovers in a skillet, make a toasted sandwich on the baking stone, etc. All that hot cast iron holds a lot of energy at the ready.

The Glennwood keeps our part of the house warm all winter. We do have a radiant floor in the bathroom, but that comes off the trap room, so it has no air flow from the kitchen. The stove doesn't run for much more than an hour untended, so things cool off by morning. But the house is comfortable for us.

It takes some doing to orchestrate it, though. Last spring, I was collecting trees and cutting wood. The tree crew for the power lines came through. Because I was available, they were more aggressive about the size trees they cut. One of the guys said he dropped his largest diameter tree yet that day. Me being there with the tractor meant they only had to get the tree down and they could drop it in the road. They would normally have to cut up the down wood. For me, they left it in the largest pieces I could take away. That made it easier for me, less handwork than picking up a lot of small pieces. It also means it's cut up the way I like it for my stove. One of my neighbors also had several trees come down. It's their second home, so they don't have much want or need for the wood and were happy to have it disappear. Between those two sources, I have at least two years worth of wood.

I like to minimally split my wood for seasoning and wait until later to split it down to kitchen wood. I am will have to handle it a couple of times to get it into the house wood shed, so keeping it in large pieces means I don't have to handle so many. In the fall I brought down this years wood to the house and stacked it in a stock panel wood shed. Now, I go out to woodshed daily and split a bunch of big chunks into kitchen wood.

We use five gallon buckets to manage wood from the shed into the kitchen. There is a rack near the stove for four buckets. The buckets catch the falling wood detritus and melting snow, etc. They are also a handy measure. Depending on the wood quality and how it's split, five to eight buckets of wood feed the stove all day.

The Glenwood has a satisfying number of controls. It loads through the eyes on top. There are two draft controls on the fire box, a lever for the diverter to send the flu gasses around the oven, a slider damper on the back of the stove and a damper in the round stovepipe above the stove. Each has it's own particular metal clank, thud, scrape or squeal. They are often uncomfortably hot to touch and I use the stove iron to hook or push them. There is an oven door temperature indicator and a flu thermometer. I can hear the draft and the tone of the fire. Standing near the stove I can feel if the fire is ebbing and the stove is cooling off. It is not unlike running an old engine that is adjusted with nudges, done by feel and confirmed by listening.

I have a routine in the morning. Up and start the fire while I make the boy something to eat. Bring in the milk cooler that skimmed over with ice overnight. Fill water buckets for the animals while the coffee steeps. Keep an eye on the stove. As the kindling warms to flu, watch for the flu to come up to temp and shift the diverter around the oven when it is drawing sufficient. Put in some small square wood that will catch easialy edge the fire up. Take empty wood buckets out to the shed on the way to the animals. Feed and water the goats. Loose the chickens and put out their grain. Bring the water buckets back to the trap room and check the fire. Put in some larger wood and set the draft for heat. Out to the woodshed, split and fill the buckets until the rack in the kitchen is full. Wash up and head out to milk. Don't forget a black coffee to make a goat latte with milk straight from the teat. Measure out the grain. Bring out Sparque who is always in a rush. Milk Heddar. Drink coffee. Relax a minute, watch the goats. Deal with any animal issues that show themselves. Put out more hay. The milk has been air chilling at these temps just hanging in the milking shed any way. Back in with the milk. Check the fire. Filter the milk into quart bottles and on into the ice bath to chill. Refill the kitchen wood buckets that got used and cut kindling for tomorrow's fire. Stop lallygagging and get to the days work.

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