Wood stoves are the topic of the day. I spent all day yesterday, well, not ALL day, but enough to count as a major portion, researching wood stoves. I even drove to Milford and spent over an hour looking at them, and learning what it is I think I want/need.
Cast iron, enameled, soapstone, Jotul (sorry, I don’t know how to make that “o” with the line through it), Vermont Castings, Hampton, Morso (again with the “o”??) and finally Hearthstone. There are too many choices and specs, for a person of a small mind such as myself, to comprehend. It’s all so contradictory.
What I have learned is that if I’m going to stay in this house this many hours a day, I can heat it efficiently with propane and/or wood in the fireplace. The wind was howling last night and the fireplace will only burn so long without attention. I awoke to a fine dusting of ash on everything. The wind had blown down the chimney when it cooled and the ashes from the fireplace spewed out.
If I have to give up my hearth, it better be to something that looks decent in my setting. Let me just say there are some highly functional stoves out there that are just plain UGLY! The classic Vermont Castings-types are lovely and come in great colors but I’m not looking for another piece of furniture.
Then I hit upon the soapstone option. Looks good, understated but refined, proportions will work, price is in my imaginary budget.
The biggest question of all? Can I cook on it? Yes, I mean really cook. At least 3 nights a week I put together my” Rube Goldberg” version of a grill in my fireplace. Rube, for those not familiar, was a cartoonist and inventor who drew complex gadgets that performed simple asks in indirect, convoluted ways. My Dad was fond of referring to Mr. Goldberg…
Back to cooking. I have two bricks that need to be positioned just so on either side of the wood grate in the fireplace. I balance one of the grates from my outdoor grill across these bricks, positioned over the flames at optimum height. My prized purchase is one of those wire baskets with two parts and a handle for cooking burgers over a grill. That sits on top of the Bar B Que grate, above the flames. I must say I have gotten very good at timing. Most steaks turn out juicy and pink in the middle. Lamb chops are divine over the smoky wood and the fish I’ve tried have turned out quite acceptable.
It takes some fancy foot and knee-work to flip the basket or unload it without getting grease everywhere but the hearth is raised and large enough for me to maneuver around on. Which brings me to the number two “con” for getting a stove. (The number one is that my budget is imaginary.) Without the hearth, even if the stove opening were large enough and I managed to rig up a grill, there is no “counter space” so to speak. Guess I will just dream of soapstone elegance a while longer.
6 comments on “Where there’s fire…”
Martha – Chris Fitzgerald asked if I might read and comment. i tried off my iPhone but that did not seem to work. I have never heard of anyone wanting to cook hamburgers or steaks either inside or outside a wood stove. The best I have ever done is cooking a soup or reheating something, so I have no recommendation regarding a stove which might do that. I can give a high recommendation on that soapstone stove. My brother and father-in-law each have one. They burn quite nicely and the stone works to moderate the up and downs of the heating much better than a steel plate or cast iron stove. They are quite attractive also. At our home we run an ugly old steel plate stove called a Tempwood. I don't believe they are even sold currently. We have ours in the basement which nicely keeps all the mess downstairs and warms the basement for clothes drying in the winter. In the past we ran a small Jotul stove which is a very nice quality stove but ours was just too small for the space we were heating. I can say that heating with wood is not for the lazy between the stacking, resplitting to our needed size, hauling to the basement and the daily stove feeding it requires one to be vigilant and always aware.Nice blog. I'll read through some others. I like you idea of writing down your life. While I have often had the same idea usually all the other things that fill my day take the time and energy which I would require to do this consistently. Jon Tapplyjtapply@yahoo.com
Hi Jon, thanks for all you advice and input on the stoves. Just got a cord delivered this morning and I stacked for 4 hours until my back and knees were screaming. As to the blog and my "book", it is all stream-of-consciousness that plays out in my mind like a movie reel. I started writing it all down years ago thinking it would help me keep my sanity. Still don't know if that works but the need to get it out never lets up :)I love the soapstone stoves and will definitely purchase one with my first advance or royalty check – provided I haven't gone broke and lost my house by then…By the way, are you familiar with/related to Bill Tapply or his dad Tap Tapply? Great authors, both and Bill lived just over the hill from me in Hancock, NH.Thanks for taking the time to read my posts. Really appreciate the feedback.M.-
A bit of advise regarding wood is to purchase it in the spring for next winter. Maple, Beech, Ash and birch will need about 4-6 months to dry for good burning and high heat output. Oak could need up to a year to really dry as it doesn't easily give up the water, this also depends where you stack it. We do our stacking along the driveway where the afternoon summer sun will "bake" the pile. This works really well and the oak mixed with the other varieties of wood seems to be adequately dry for getting good heat. This approach also allows us to buy green wood at a bit cheaper price than "seasoned". Of course that definition of seasoned is quite variable. Cutters can bring down the trees, leave them at log length from which they will never dry, cut to stove length at a latter time and then sell as seasoned. It won't be seasoned at all this way and will be most green. Anyway we try to control the process by purchasing early and then seasoning the wood ourselves.Take the stacking in short bursts it seems that now in my 50s also the healing process take much longer than when I was a younger guy.Interesting that you mention Bill and Tap Tapply. The short answer is yes there is a familial connection. if you go back into the family tree to my great-grandfather he had a brother and through that branch we are connected. Chris actually has done a great deal of this work through the Ancestry web site and legal document searches. I have never met anyone in that branch of the family but do maintain correspondence with some Tapplys over in England. Hopefully one day we'll get to meet in person.Jon
Jon,Thanks so much for all the input on wood. I did find a really good guy this last time. It's mostly oak and well seasoned. Sure makes like easier – except for the stacking…
We heat exclusively with wood. When we bought our house, the first thing I did was rip out all the elctric baseboard heaters. I've never tried to grill in it, but I have made some awesome soups and stews and warmed bread on it. We have a Lopi (purchased from Treehugger Farms in Westmoreland (Donna & Jon are great!!) The best part is when we lose power, we still have heat.