It was very cold here the other night. Minus 20 Celsius to be exact (that would be -4 F for those living south of the border). Not quite the coldest temperatures we get here, but, after a balmy, early winter this minus 20 hit like a ton of bricks.
The whole family had been out in the barn for an hour or so (as our supper was cooking), building some straw bale walls in the chicken palace (coop) to insulate against the cold. Even though we were dressed for cold temperatures, when it’s that cold it doesn’t take long for the cold to seep right through your clothing. Imagine our relief to finally get the job done and be welcomed back into the house by the awesome wood heat our stove cranks out. There’s nothing quite like that warm, cozy feeling of walking into a wood heated home, it just warms you to the bones.
The wood stove we have has been a real workhorse for us. It was built by the Amish and this particular model is called a Flame View. We’ve had it for about 12 years now and while it may show signs of wear and tear, this in no way hampers its performance.
Let me share with you the many ways this stove is invaluable to our family.
It heats our entire house, it is in fact our only source of heat in winter. The stove is located fairly central in the house, which is 1600 square feet, the stove generates enough heat to keep the corners of the house warm even on the coldest of days.
The stove also heats all our hot water. A simple hot water jacket (basically a squiggly tube) is built into the stove right above the fire box. This device is attached to 2 water pipes which connect right to our hot water tank. As long as the stove is on we’ve got hot water for doing dishes and showering. You can just see the water pipes in the upper right hand corner leading from the stove to our hot water tank which is behind that wall.
The huge stove top is a dream for any cook. It’s huge and is able to hold many pots and pans at once. For frying and boiling simply place the skillet or pot right over the firebox where it is hottest. The firebox is where the wood is burned and is located underneath the kettle in the picture above, at the end of this post there’s a picture which will show the access point of the firebox. For simmering just pull the pot or skillet to the left, away from the fire. Things may take a little longer to come to a boil but there are different ways of dealing with that, first make sure you have a nice hot fire before you start cooking or baking, and if you always have a kettle or big pot of water on the stove you’ll have hot/boiling water on hand at all times, use this water when you need to boil anything.
The wood stove also bakes our daily bread. The oven is in the center of the stove and comes complete with oven racks and thermometer. The oven is a good size, almost as large as a regular oven. Have you ever had fresh bread baked in a wood stove oven? It’s simply divine. The stove makes baking (anything) a real pleasure because the results are usually so tasty.
The area on the far left of the stove actually contains a small water tank. There’s a tap to drain water from it but because we have this stove hooked up to our big hot water tank we’ve never used this small water tank for hot water. When it gets really dry in the house we fill this small tank and leave the lid open creating a small humidifier.
So, to sum up, the stove heats our house, it heats our hot water and it cooks and bakes our food. There are however many other jobs this stove will do or help us do. Here are some of the things I can think of that makes this stove even more valuable to us.
It provides ashes for our compost piles and gardens.
It helps dry our clothes. Because we’re off-grid we do not have a clothes dryer. Farmer Hick built a large, rectangular frame out of wood, strung it back and forth with laundry line and we hoist that up (or down) by way of a boat winch, (I may write about that contraption some other day). Anyhow, way up in the air, the clothes are quickly dried by the hot air from the stove. The same goes for towels and winter gear.
The stove keeps tea and food warm for hours without the need for a microwave (we don’t have/need or want one).
In spring time the heat of the stove helps germinate the garden seeds and helps some struggling seedlings along.
I always have a glass jar of coconut oil near the stove, which keeps the oil liquid and ready for quick use.
In fall, the stove helps dehydrate the latest greens from the garden, especially celery, parsley, stinging nettle or whatever herb still needs to be dehydrated for winter storage. Simply open the warming oven (that box above the stove), spread a towel on the shelving and cover that with the greens.
The stove also incubates our weekly batch of yogurt. Same thing, open the warming oven, place a thick towel down with the jars of cultured milk on top, six hours later the yogurt is ready.
When I make egg noodles in great quantities, I always lay the fresh noodles near the stove and they’ll be dry and ready for storage in a day or two, this drying process takes up to a week without the heat of the stove!
Our flooring is still concrete (maybe one day we’ll have a wood floor laid). You might think that it would be awfully cold on the feet. Actually, the whole floor feels nice and warm in winter, visitors always ask if we have in-floor heating.
And finally, the stove gives our home that wonderful cozy atmosphere.
It’s just a stove, but we love it!