What's the very first thing I did when I got the the farm house for our Saturday workday? I broke the light we just put in. I went straight to the newly painted bedroom to admire our progress and turn on the brand new ceiling fan light fixture, and when I pulled on the chain to adjust the fan speed, the glass globe in the light came crashing to the floor to shatter in a zillion pieces. Of course. sigh... But other than that, the downstairs bedroom is looking pretty snazzy even with a retina burning light bulb exposed in the room. Thankfully, we still liked the sunflower colored floor after being away from it for a week, so we will proceed with a few more coats of paint on the floor at a later date. We put up some trim around the top of the walls and painted the baseboards, window frames, and doors. Finally, we have a room that feels clean. With the change in the weather, the unheated house also feels cold.
Working in the cold at the farm house has focused my house renovation planning on how to heat our house once we live there. By "planning" I mostly mean half formed day dreams about alternative energy and quirky handmade stoves promoted by strange looking people on the interweb. The house has a propane tank and a small gas wall heater and an old brick chimney with a tiny hearth that was probably meant for burning oil or coal. At some point a hole was made in the chimney above the mantel so a wood burning stove could be used in front of the fireplace. When the wood burning stove was removed someone thoughtfully stuffed an old pair of pants in the hole to block the draft. Bonus pants!
Since we have an abundance of trees at the bus, we are considering using wood as a source of heat, and maybe keeping the propane tank as a back up. If we sprinkle in some electric heaters and our emergency kerosene heater and we should have all our bases covered. With all this in mind, it seemed like a good idea for me to get some wood chopping practice by helping Jamie and Leigh cut and bust up some logs for mom and dad's wood stove.
No big surprise, I guess, but it didn't take me long to realize that chopping wood is hard work! Jamie made it look pretty easy, and Leigh managed to bust up a log on her first swing. Not me. I quickly figured out that I was most effectively utilized by picking up the pieces that someone else busted and stacking them in the cart. But only if I wore gloves because you know what logs are made of? Splinters! Despite my inefficiency with an ax, and my fear of the chainsaw, the overall experience is very pleasant. I love the forest when the leaves are thick on the ground. The wood smells lovely, and the exercise kept us toasty warm. I could get in to having a yearly chore that required time spent in the autumn forest. Especially if Brandon does the hard part!
Jamie and I even managed to figure out how to sharpen the chainsaw blade using a dremel tool. This photo is supposed to remind me of the hours (yes, hours) spent reading the instructions trying to put this thing together and actually make the blade sharper. Now that I have acquired this skill, I feel I have a responsibility to use it. We need a wood stove for sure.
I've become enamored with the idea of a rocket mass heater, which is a type of wood stove that involves a combustion chamber made from a metal drum over some brick architecture and a mass of clay and stone to absorb and radiate heat. I'm attracted to the claims of it's super efficiency and the do it your self nature of the stove. On Sunday, Brandon and I spent quite a bit of our day discussing the stove and trying to understand the hand drawn blue prints we found online. Eventually I had to break out the wooden Jenga blocks from the toy box so we could create a mock up. I know it doesn't look like much in the photo, especially since I used the plastic cup from my juicer as the combustion chamber, but this exercise really helped us understand. At least we think it did. Either way, it was fun to play with blocks.