We needed to replace our trusty and rusty Franklin stove in the Music Room where we're living this winter, because the bottom metal plate burned out last week. James did a temporary fix -- great handyman that he is! -- by placing a piece of sheet metal on the bottom.
But it wouldn't be long before the old thing would become a fire hazard.
So we ordered a new stove online and picked it up on the last day of 2006. It arrived a week earlier than we expected.
Getting the new stove was rather a flashback to the 1800s. With a few "modern twists", of course!
Back then, many people lived in rural areas and bought stoves and other household goods through the Sears catalogue or something similar. The stove might be shipped by train and dropped off at the station, where the purchaser would bring their wagon to pick it up.
The distribution center for our stove was down in West Sacramento, about 80 miles away. They called us to say that they could meet us in Colfax, which has an exit at I-80. This is about a 45-minute drive from our place In the Woods.
When James asked the person on the phone why they couldn't deliver the stove to Grass Valley -- where they had JUST delivered a stove to our next door neighbor a few days before! -- the person said, "We won't go that high".
In elevation, he meant.
So we met the driver of the truck bearing our stove at the Colfax Starbucks. Ah, that ubiquitous purveyor of caffeine and sweets and mugs and CDs comes in handy yet again! We have a love-hate relationship with that chain.
The driver fork-lifted the stove, encased in cardboard and wooden slats and scrawled with the handwritten calligraphy "MADE IN CHINA" (isn't everything?), onto the bed of our pickup truck.
On our way home, we stopped at the hardware store in Nevada City to pick up various configurations of stovepipe, "Where every visit is at least $200" quips James to the sometimes-amused cashiers.
It was too late on New Year's Eve to install the stove, so we uncrated it in the truck-bed and then hoisted it down to the ground by the back door.
We attended a New Years Eve party at a friend's cabin a few miles up the Sierras and arranged to stay overnight, so we didn't get back to our place In the Woods until noon the following day.
We planned to put in the new stove then, but James suddenly realized that if something went wrong and we needed to go to town for more stovepipe or whatever, we'd be sh**-outta luck on New Years Day, and we'd be as cold as ice! So we decided to wait until today to install it.
We got up this morning and took out the trusty rusty Franklin stove, which served us well. It didn't put up too much of a fight.
We put the new stove on a dolly and wheeled it into the Music Room. No problem.
We hooked it up to the eight-inch stovepipe which was already in place, and fired 'er up.
Smoke, smoke, smoke!
We determined that we needed to get six-inch stovepipe which would match this particular model better. This meant a trip down to "Big Town" (what the locals call Nevada City) to our favorite hardware store.
And we must be one of their favorite customers, as we spend money at that store so frequently. This place is requiring quite a bit of materials and tools to bring it up to speed. We don't mind.
We returned home at 4:30 this afternoon with five 2-ft. sections of stovepipe, along with a rubber mallet to hammer down the sections, and two sexy Mag-Lite flashlights to illuminate our work on the outside stack. We've been wanting decent flashlights up here, in any case.
James wrestled with the recalcitrant stove pipes to put them together, with what seemed an interminable time. Then he hooked them up to the stove, and we fired 'er up again.
Smoke, smoke, smoke.
We let the pieces of wood die down and then we added more height to the outside stack.
Lit the stove again. More smoke. But with slightly more draw now.
We've spent the last four hours trying to keep the fire going in this stove! It is so very different from the Franklin stove. We believe that it will ultimately be more efficient. We think that we overloaded it at first, which caused a lot of smoke. So James took everything out and started all over again.
The new stove seems to prefer very small pieces of wood at first, certainly a lot smaller than the Franklin stove required. It took several days for James to learn how to deal with the Franklin stove, so we should expect nothing less with the new one.
We measured the total amount of stovepipe that we installed and it turns out that we are a couple of feet short of the required minimum of fifteen feet, so we need to go BACK to Big Town tomorrow to buy two additional sections of stovepipe. We hope that this will solve the problem. It seems essential to have the proper amount of "draw".
Hopefully this small crisis will have a simple solution. I keep reminding myself to keep the faith, as I am not by nature a handyman and don't know how things work, really. James has been rather stymied by this, although tonight he is steadily accumulating information on the Internet about how to deal with woodstoves.
At this moment at near midnight it is 61 degrees inside and 28 degrees outside. The fire is trying to stay alive, with James' constant nursing and encouragement. It's gone out repeatedly and James brings it back to life each time with the bellows that my Dad made many years ago. I treasure this memento, and it comes in so handy in our present situation!
I am wearing my hoodie and a jacket and am warm enough, although my feet are always a bit cold this time of year.
This room smells of smoke and we've put our cat Rupert into the trailer for the moment. I just asked James if we should sleep in the trailer tonight, and he says not. We will be plenty warm in our bed with several layers of blankets and quilts. There is only a small cloud of smoke hovering about the ceiling right now, with the attendant odor.
Live and learn, we remind ourselves. This is just a learning experience. We love living in the Woods, even with these little challenges.
I'll keep you informed.