Thursday, November 5, 2009

Learning Curve

There is a learning curve to a wood stove. Just like each person is unique, so is each wood stove. I seriously think they all have their own little personalities, and they interact with the house and each operator on an individual basis.
We've been on a bit of a learning curve with our stove. The previous owner/builder was incredibly proud of his "airtight" design. And "airtight" is great, if you happen to be a Ziploc bag. If you happen to be a wood stove, or a family trying to operate one, a little air-tight would be nice.
There's a lot of science behind a wood stove. Kind of makes me wish I had payed attention to the boring droning of Mr. Wooten instead of making goo-goo eyes at Aaron Whats-His-Name in high school. But seriously, I never thought I would REALLY need to know things like "combustion" and "draft", or REALLY need to know what happens when you create a vacuum.
For the record, when you create a vacuum, bad things happen. And when you live air-tight, you create vacuums every time you turn on a "mechanical draft" (another term I should have payed attention to in school).
Mechanical draft happens when you turn on things like your clothes dryer. Or an electric fan. Or a vent fan in the bathroom. And when you create a vacuum with this mechanical draft, FIRE (and smoke) tend to follow the path of oxygen, which, unfortunately, is NOT up the chimney. Nope, it's right in the direction of that mechanical draft, which happens to be IN our house.

Not to worry. We haven't burnt to the ground. A frantic call to the wood stove dealer -and a few chuckles from his end of the phone as he listened to me tell poor little Beans, "NOT NOW BEANS! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY AND YOU MUST GO PLAY WITH BARBIES IN THE OTHER ROOM UNTIL I'M DONE!"- solved the issue temporarily. Turns out that you can counter a mechanical draft by simply opening a window near the wood stove. Another detail I should have payed attention to in science class.
The long term solution is to have a guy come put some holes in our house. Specifically, some kind of venting system that allows outside air in the house. He's coming Tuesday.

Meanwhile... we have been busy learning other lessons in fire. Like how to build up a good coal bed, or just how far to damper down the stove so you don't have to get up in the middle of the night to build another one.
Or, how to communicate with your spouse about the plans for the day so that he doesn't stoke up a hot, hot fire right before he leaves for work when you were planning on canning some applesauce and baking bread this morning.
Phew! That was one HOT, HOT house. A thermometer in the house claims it was 84F. I made applesauce and pear compote and cranberry sauce as fast as I could, got it canned, and decided that the bread would have to wait one more day. I'll let that coal bed burn down a bit, and get my bread started in the morning, and let the oven knock the chill off a bit.

Speaking of chill... today was warmer than the last few, but we've already dipped below zero here! The days have been hovering in the teens, though today, we did see 30F again.

Otherwise, the news is uneventful. We have a few finishing touches on the inside of the cabin to make it homey and maximize some storage space. Since much of that requires a trip to Fairbanks (which is on the books for next week anyway), and the cabin takes little time to clean, my week was free to pursue home school projects with abandon and begin working on J's grandmother's crazy quilt. I've almost finished up the patch work from where she left off. Hoping to be able to get to the handwork next week, then all that will be left is to quilt it up.

The cabin has a lovely peacefulness to it. I thought I would certainly have TV withdrawal, but I haven't. My evening was spent doing some journalling. I could hear Beans quietly playing with legos under the dining room table (a favorite hiding spot these days). Little Nugget fell asleep at the breast, and as I looked up from my journal to stretch my neck, I noticed that the only other sound was the quiet hiss of the tea pot on the wood stove, promising me a nice cup of something hot after I tuck the kids into bed.

We've had visitors in the yard! Hare trails are all over the property. Another set of fox tracks have followed one of the bunny trails into the trees. Beans and I suited up on one of the warmer days last week and followed the bunny trails around the property, wondering where they disappear to. Grouse and other birds chatter in the woods all day long. I wonder where they are and if I'd be a decent shot with an air rifle. (Hey, grouse and rabbit make good dinner!)
This is my new TV sitcom... Animal Track TV and Wood Stove TV. I could watch those two channels all day.

Well, little feet are pitter-pattering the back of my seat, signalling that my time in the library parking lot using the wi-fi is over. Time to get my brood back to cabin and get the chores done. Dishes to wash, wood to bring in for the night, and laundry to fold... not to mention bathing and sending two little ones off to bed so I can have that cup of tea.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!


Anonymous said...

Please remain aware of carbon monoxide gas when you are sitting in your car near the library. Keep the engine turned off, or keep the car windows well open so fresh air makes it into where the kids are. Too many kids have died when the adults thought they were only sleeping.

Alaska can be harsh if you are not prepared.

Karla said...

Happy to hear that you are enjoying your Tundra Home! Happy roasting, baking, and stove getting-used-to! :)