A wood stove newbie
When I bought this 155-year-old house in 1998 there was a wood stove in the back corner of the keeping room (old time all-purpose room). I was thrilled just imagining the cozy warmth during our long, cold winters.
Never having had a wood stove before, I had an ‘expert’ look at the stove. He told me that it should be replaced immediately. “It’s one of those cheap [name of store] stoves.” As I got to know some people in the village, I asked their opinions. The consensus was, “looks fine to me!” I liked that opinion the best and went with it. The stove wasn’t that old — from the 1980s. It certainly wasn’t an expensive, fancy stove, but it was airtight. (I also took into account the fact that the ‘expert’ sold stoves.)
The old stove is still working fine. I had a new section of stove pipe installed and put down a new pad, and this year I had to replace a few of the fire bricks.
Feeding the warmth
The biggest concern of somebody like me who lives very frugally, is feeding the stove. My house is on a village lot (only 1/4 acre), so no woodlot. Over the years, I’ve purchased many cords of cut and split wood from different people. The only problem is that most pieces must be split again to fit in the old stove, and cords of good firewood don’t come cheap.
The best source of firewood, and it’s free, is to find it throughout the year — fallen trees or branches, prunings, etc. Sometimes it’s worth following the township people when they’re trimming branches. They usually chip the branches, which is a sin in my mind. I was lucky, in a way, this winter. Some of us were very disturbed to discover the workers cutting more than necessary from a beautiful local roadway that had an overhead bower of touching branches. Many of us let our concerns be known and managed to convince them to at least minimize the damage. The next time I saw them cutting, I stopped and politely asked, “if I begged you, would you please not chip the wood and let us have it for firewood?” “You don’t need to beg; we’re happy for you to take it as long as you promise you won’t leave any behind.” They even cut the branches to a size that would fit in my small car and helped me load them! Some of my neighbours picked up some, too.
The moral of the story: It’s always worth communicating and sometimes there really is a golden lining to the cloud. I now have about 1/4 cord to begin next winter’s stash for the stove and friendly relations with more people in my community.