January 27, 2003

Hope Runs Eternal ~ Part Two

Or, Ignorance is Bliss

Read Part One of "Hope Runs Eternal"

Our plucky if vastly ignorant back-to-the-land immigrant had lived the entirety of his young life exclusively in sultry, urban Alabama, and could can say with certainty that he had never even laid eyes ona woodstove before. So altough his neighbor had made the stove himself and it was rather crude, the boxy heat source seemed like a miraculously simple answer to their problem.

Rather than the yawning chasm of a fireplace, a woodstove took its air only through a few easily regulated draft openings into the body of the stove. Rather than sending most of the heat up the chimney to heat the neighborhood, the woodstove that sat out a bit in the room on a metal hearthpad radiated heat into the neighbor's entire downstairs. The thing weighed over 400 pounds and held heat for hours in its mass of iron and fire brick, putting out heat even after the fire inside had gone out. Yes! A woodstove was going to be their ticket to warm winter mornings for years to come.

With a little research they soon decided that a Fisher Stove was a well made unit that they could afford and buy locally. Soon, a Momma Bear Fisher sat on their hearth, in front of the massive stone chimney. Soon it would be radiating the warmth of wood they had cut themselves. Oh the joy of energy independence, knowing that the precious body heat that they largely did without that first winter in the old house would be there for them the second time a Virginia winter rolled around.

It was a thing of beauty, the new two-tiered 'step stove', as it sat regally on the hearthpad before the stately chimney. The chimney had long been the focal point of the room. Constructed in the 1870's from local limestone, it was of a very dark gray color, almost black as the stove, and ten feet wide at the base. The mantle was of the same rough-hewn stone, and in the center over the mantle was a chiseled frame that created a smoother light gray surface on the rock. In the center of the frame was the word "ESPERANZA" etched in the stone in an elaborate script of raised and polished letters. They learned that the original builder of the house had been a merchant sailor, captain of a masted ship called the Esperanza. How wonderful. The Spanish word for HOPE. With the advent of this woodburner, the Firsts' new life in the country was finally coming together. The new stove; free firewood; and a grand old house filled with character and old memories, rich with expectation, and soon to be warm and cheery all winter long!

So, there the stove sat, just exactly where the four beefy delivery men had sat it, no set-up installation included. No problem. How hard could it be to hook it up, thought the independent homeowner, taking matters into his own naive hands? It was a simple matter of guiding the smoke into the fireplace opening; the chimney would do the rest. All that was needed was a 4 x 5 foot panel of sheetmetal with a 6" hole in it, then a piece of stovepipe stuck out the back of the stove and through that hole, and voila! Ready to burn, no fuss, no muss, no bother! This whole enterprise seemed entirely too easy. Foolproof!

Well, not quite. The fool had much to learn, in the very hardest way, about the chemistry of wood, the physics of fire and the engineering requirements of venting hot gases... with especially important lessons about the distilled essence of smoldering wet wood that is called creosote, and that phenomenon of creosote combustion benignly called a 'flue fire'.

Here our happy story of City Mice in the Country takes an unpleasant turn; but lest you worry for our hapless homesteaders, the tale will move ultimately towards a warm and happy ending.

To be continued... READ PART THREE

Posted by fred1st at January 27, 2003 05:56 AM | TrackBack

Oh good - glad there is a happy ending - I was starting to cringe just imagining what comes next. Hopefully that doesn't include the -39C we are experiencing at the moment...

Posted by: Sherm at January 27, 2003 07:40 AM

lol good luck with the woodstove! We had an Ashley model, and I know all about those flue fires, omyy you're bringing back some memories :)

Posted by: deb at January 27, 2003 10:16 AM

Oh dear. Out of respect, i refrain from bandying phrases like "Holy Smoke!" and shall watch, worried in spite of advice, for the happy ending of which you speak.

Posted by: anne at January 27, 2003 11:28 AM

Oh dear, oh dear! It sounds like a somewhat combustible situation. Will eagerly look forward to the denouement.

Posted by: Artichoke Heart at January 27, 2003 02:15 PM

I hope he didn't get too close one night putting on his pyjamas and brand himself with a fox and a pine tree. One son did this on our Norwegian Jotul which had wintry scenes raised on the metal of the side.

Posted by: Jan at January 27, 2003 04:04 PM

The really scary part is how many of us out here in cyberspace know exactly where this is heading and lived to tell the tale.

Nothing is more foolish than a new homeowner on a budget.


Posted by: feste at January 27, 2003 05:27 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?