January 29, 2003

Hope Runs Eternal ~ Part Four

Or, Blood from a Stone


As winter overtook them and the woodburning season began in earnest, our MotherEarthy couple were pleased to experience the efficiency of the woodstove compared to the fireplace. Each armload of wood would produce hours of steady heat with very little ash left over. A kettle of water stayed steaming and hissing cheerily on the stove with little more than a handful of dry kindling.

Even so, the small dry wood they acquired through Fred's efforts with his new chainsaw and the little Datsun-turned-woodwagon was soon depleted as the temperatures fell and more and more fuel was needed to keep them warm and the pipes unfrozen through long November nights. Once again neighbor Euell took pity on them, and Fred and Euell would drive the flatbed truck out into the cove and bring back a half cord of wood on a good Saturday.

The first sign of trouble in paradise took the form of a black tarry fluid Fred spotted one morning. It seemed to be oozing from under the sheetmetal fireplace covering, out onto the hearth. He thought at first it was something spilled perhaps, since they occasionally used the stove for slow cooking stews and such. But no, it was definitely coming from inside the fireplace and it smelled strongly like Liquid Smoke. It was not an unpleasant smell exactly, but bitter and burnt, like the inside of a barbeque grill.

Must have rained down the chimney last night, he thought, wondering if they did need a chimney cap of some sort, after all. The locals mostly didn't have them and told him it shouldn't be a problem, rain coming down the chimney. So he cleaned up the small puddle and dismissed the matter, even though the faint odor of smoke remained to remind him of it.

So things got bad, and things got worse. And it wasn't long before that same thickish brown-black goo started showing up in the mortar between fireplace blocks of dark limestone. The smell became more of an issue, and within another week or two, there were small trickles of glistening tarry sludge slowly oozing down the face of the exterior of the massive fireplace. And soon the beautiful old centerpiece of the front room was drizzled with rivulets of syrupy black blood that Fred soon learned was called creosote. Horror of horrors, before long, it was running down in thick clinging stalagtites in a grotesque mockery across the word-in-stone: ESPERANZA. Hope, indeed.


Posted by fred1st at January 29, 2003 05:15 AM | TrackBack

Ah, nostalgia indeed. And the joys of cleaning the flue which went up our two storey chimney. But the even spread of warmth made it worthwhile. Gum tree wood burns fairly cleanly, fortunately, unless very green.

Posted by: Jan at January 29, 2003 02:30 PM

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