Wood Stoves 101

Wood stove

What did I know about wood stoves when I started?  Nothing.  Even though I have survived winter and have been making a fire twice a day, I am learning how much I still don’t know.  And, if I worry about anything regarding my new lifestyle . . . it is the wood stove.

I did some research before I bought my wood stove but I ended up buying a used one so I don’t really know what I got . . . well, in terms of emissions and burn time.  I looked into soap stone and cast iron stoves, which hold the heat longer but are really expensive.  My neighbor looked at the stove and said, “It is a pretty little stove.”  What he really meant was, “Dufus, why didn’t you get a real stove to do the job?”

Then there is how to get the fire started.  And, you might think, that is simple.  Not really, at least for me.  My dear friends bought me a box of fire starters.  What a life saver.  Seasoned wood stove friends have their paper, cardboard, kindling, and wood all ready for the winter season.  Me?  I am just scrambling one fire at a time.  I found a place that sells scrap kiln dried wood, which helps get the fire started, too.  There are places to get newspapers.  Next year I will be better prepared.

Creosote . . . now there is an issue.  It comes from wood that is not seasoned or dry enough.  And, if the stove pipe gets a buildup of creosote, you can get a chimney fire.  That’s nice.  And, each day when I come around the bend . . . and I can see my cabin . . . I think . . . ah, it is still there.

I bought a small stove.  All along I am thinking . . . it is a small cabin . . . 312 sq. ft and a loft . . . a small stove will be fine.  And, it is when it is 10 or 30 degrees.  I wasn’t thinking -17 and my cabin is on piers . . . ok . . . maybe I am a dufus.

Back to creosote.  I wasn’t thinking about that either until I had a small chimney fire one morning.  It was making crackling sounds when I started it.  That was alarming to me.  I tamped the fire down a bit and went outside to make sure flames weren’t shooting out of the chimney.  All clear there.  I texted my friends, and they came over in the afternoon.

They have taken me under their wings as the newbie trying to navigate the back-to-the-land lifestyle.  Having built their own house 30-40 years ago and heating with only wood, they know a thing or two about wood stoves.   But, while going to check the piping on the roof, my friend slipped on the snow and fell off my roof, which was a horrifying experience.  He is ok . . . thankfully . . . miraculously . . . with only a fractured hip at 75.

The fluctuations in temperature in the cabin at -17 when I get up or come home after working all day were a little wearing.  One morning it was 37 in the cabin, and it barely made it to 50 before I went off to work.  It takes a long time to get the temperature back up.  Investing in a slightly bigger stove that is cast iron or soap stone may be the best solution.  My stove is steel and doesn’t hold the heat long.

Keeping a bed of coals?  I try . . . then they are gone.  Hardwood versus soft . . . they all look the same to me.  Friends say get my wood for next year now.  I can do that.  Looking into the stove window and seeing the inside engulfed in flames . . . that is just plain scary to me.

Forget what size the stove is.  I want to wake up to a warmer cabin at -17 outside.  A little shopping around and some more researching . . . now that I know a little more about running a wood stove, will get me there.

I am so glad -17 is very . . . very . . . very far away.

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