Coming out of my comfort zone and into a new one, quite literally!
Despite my years in Boy Scouts and living in homes with hearths and stoves, I was never comfortable around fire. The feeling could have been kindled by the experience of accidentally setting fire to my parents fireplace, but that’s strictly conjectural.
My grandfather loved to make campfires and my dad always had a fire going in his wood stove, but I never felt part of the breed. I slept in rooms with electric baseboards, then moved into apartments with gas heat, and my first home had an oil furnace. My second house, an 1805 colonial, has oil heat via forced hot air. The former owners had also installed a Vermont Castings Defiant wood stove.
We always knew the Defiant would come in handy for supplemental heat and ordered plenty of firewood for fuel, but I was nervous about its operation. Unlike a furnace, you’re part of the heating process. You have to be confident about managing the fire, adding fuel when needed, and adjusting temperature at a comfortable level. Operating the stove required some trial and error, but after cleaning out the interior with an ash vacuum, replacing the fire bricks, and adding sealant, the Defiant returned to life.
I must admit, the stove has changed me. There’s something rewarding about maintaining a good fire and enjoying the heat in winter. On some nights, the family spends more time around the stove than in any other room of the house, and the cat now prefers to soak up the heat from the closest piece of furniture. As an added bonus, chopping firewood is terrific exercise. I’m not exactly a lumberjack, but I’m enjoying the core workout!
If you’re a new homeowner interested in using a wood stove, I would be happy to conclude this post with some advice:
- Buy firewood early in the year. It will dry over the spring and summer and be in good shape for winter. I made the mistake of buying firewood in autumn, and most of it was damp and moist and took time to dry out.
- Keep your supply stacked under a tarp or in a shed.
- Maintain a good stock of little, medium-sized, and large pieces within reach to build and maintain your fire. After moving into our new home, I made use of all our empty plastic bins to hold my firewood.
- Empty your ashes from the stove on a regular basis. (I’ve been told ash makes good compost. Perhaps I’ll try it out in gardening season!)