The Homestead Wood Stove

“Whatever you lose, whatever you feel was taken from you, know that it will return. It will be given back.”

Farmgirl

I want you to remember that friends, because we may be speaking of wood stoves today, but this goes for everything in life.

One of our options is a steel stove.

Some four and a half years ago (a lifetime ago, folks), we were using our last bit of money to install a wood stove in a house on the prairie that we rented. It had been a very cold winter (36 degrees in the bathroom cold) and we were ready to be warm. We got lucky and a friend of ours in town offered to pick up an old stove that was on Craigslist for $250 and install it for $300 plus the pipes and such. Total cost was $1200. That was about the time that the landlords kicked us out (the whole story is in my memoir, The Making of a Medicine Woman) and since we had used every penny to set up the homestead, we had to give everything away and move into our friend’s guest room. It was the most devastating time of our lives. After living with friends, then in an apartment, we bought a little house in the city and it became our urban farm. It had the most beautiful wood stove. Everything returns.

The one I want. (Okay, mainly because it has a squirrel on it!) There is a steel one we are considering as well.

Five weeks ago we moved on to land with a beautiful house, and some money in the bank from selling our last urban homestead. No wood stove though. We do have a furnace that is original to the house. It doesn’t get below zero this far down south, but it does get pretty darn cold in the winter and spring. I sure like having a backup plan if the furnace breaks down or if the power goes out. I also enjoy the ambient heat of a wood stove so much more than forced air. I actually feel warm with the heat from a stove. I enjoy putting a Dutch oven on the top or a kettle of water. My pioneer spirit loves wood stoves. So, even though we are a little gun shy about spending, I would love a wood stove.

Emily and the girls came over and we headed to Canon City to a darling shop called “The Woodshed Stove Shop.” I must tell you that I never imagined that my child would ooh and ahh over the newest models of wood cookstoves, but there we were, running our hands over a perfect Amish oven, two farmgirls at heart.

I was immediately drawn to a smaller cast iron stove with a beautiful forest squirrel cast into the side. Maryjane preferred the camp style stove. We also looked at a steel stove.

When looking for a wood stove, here are things to remember:

There are three basic types of stoves.

Steel gets the hottest the fastest, therefore burns the wood faster, but heats quickly. It is the lowest priced of the stoves. The one we looked at had a larger top to cook on.

Soap Stone holds the heat in and lets it go slower and longer. It is the highest priced of the models.

Cast Iron is in between. It holds heat well and gets hot moderately fast. The model I looked at would require a smaller Dutch oven a small kettle.

Look at how many square feet they heat. Some heat 800 sq ft, some much more. My house is 1176 sq ft, but the heat will not get into the back bedrooms. One can utilize fans and such to distribute the heat, but the heat will not reach bedrooms well. The Quakers and the Amish still use this fact to bring the family together in the evenings. Just think, no kids lurking in their rooms with IPADS. Everyone is together working on projects and connecting!

The cast iron stove I want heats 1000 sq ft. The steel one heats 1400. Your living areas will be real toasty, so the cast iron one would probably be sufficient for us. We could face it so it looks down the hallway, so it may send heat down some to the far side of the house.

Look at how much space you have. Remember that the stove has to come out from the walls a certain amount depending on how big the stove is. A stove may seem small but once you set it away from the wall and place it on a fireproof floor pad, you will lose space. I have a small main area that makes up the open kitchen, dining room, and living room, so we should err on the smaller side so I can still use my dining room and have plenty of seating in the living room!

See how big the firebox is. The one I am looking at only takes 12 inch logs. That is tiny when you are chopping wood so I had to run that by my husband first! The average length is 16 inches. The stove that I want is more efficient than most stoves so it will burn longer and use less wood.

The stove is not the expensive part! The stove pipes are. The stoves we are looking at are right around $1400 and we were quoted for pipes and installation an additional $2700. Expect to spend $4500 and upwards depending on the price of the stove. (There are some real nice ones out there!)

You will pull a permit from your local county. You can install it yourself if you have the know-how. I don’t and I would rather make sure a wood stove is properly installed!

Wood is carbon neutral. When a tree is decomposing, it releases carbon dioxide. The same as if it is being burned in a wood stove. And trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen over their lifetime. We need to be responsible about where we get our wood though. I am driving into town to pick up a load of wood from downed trees in a neighborhood. It won’t cost anything but the gas to get there. Look on Craigslist and keep an eye out for free wood. You can also order a cord of wood. Research cords vs face cords to make sure you get a good deal.

It is nice to know that if the power goes out, I can just set a Dutch oven on the stove or a frying pan, a kettle of water, and light some candles or oil lamps and I will be all set for the evening. A wood stove is a homesteading necessity and a lovely one at that!

Bread Baking (So You Want to Be a Homesteader Series- Day 9)

For the past ten years or so we have purchased very little that is electronic, instead opting for hand cranked or self powered items.  Oil lamps, a hand cranked coffee grinder, food processor, and cast iron that can be used on a wood stove if necessary fill my cupboards.  After reading Jim Lahey’s great book, My Bread, I have baked many a loaf of good bread.  I don’t remember when I gave away my bread maker (when we became raw foodies for a short time?  When we were trying to go off grid?) but when I plugged in the one from Grandma’s house that Grandpa sent me home with, a big smile crossed my face.  All I had to do was layer the ingredients into the pan, slide it into the oven, press 7, and go about my chores.  It mixed, raised, kneaded, and baked a heavenly loaf of bread for supper while I got laundry, gardening, and housework done.  What have I been missing all these years?

Now that we are 100% solar powered, I tend to plug a few more things in (but not much!).  The bread from the breadmaker is delicious.  If I want a good boule, I will whip some up myself in mixing bowls and over hours, and bake it in my Dutch oven.  It’s nice to have options.  And nothing beats coming home to a house smelling of fresh bread.

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By making your own bread for sandwiches, toast, croutons, pizza crust, and bread crumbs, you really cut down on the food bill and can control what you are eating.  Flour, salt, yeast, and sugar do not cost much.  I recently read what is in “dough conditioner”…well folks, let me just tell you that we won’t be eating take out pizza or processed bread any longer.

I bought my daughter a breadmaker for her bridal shower.  I think it is the best of both worlds between convenience and homemade.  A little homemade butter and you have heaven on a plate.

Here are a few recipes of mine from over the years on this blog if you want to try your hand at a homemade loaf.  But do consider a breadmaker.  I bet there is one at a second hand store by you!

Grain Mills and Rye Bread

Maple Molasses Whole Wheat Bread

The Wide Hearth

20180206_073304As you head south from Colorado Springs and enter into the valley of Southern Colorado the weather changes sharply.  Pueblo gets far less snow than our northern brethren and the temperatures don’t hover at below zero like places we have lived.  This morning we woke to snow.  It is still too cold for us though and one day we shall live somewhere without snow.  Our dog did look rather shocked when he went outside this morning!  He, for one, does not mind snow a bit.  (Though he is currently sleeping on a giant pillow in the living room right now.)

Colonial Kitchen

It is this type of weather that makes me dream of one of my favorite architectural elements, the wide, walk-in fireplace.  The hearth that sustained generations over the years has seemingly disappeared in favor of furnaces.  There is just something so comforting about a fire in hearth, a cast iron pot hanging from a hook with supper cooking away ready for any visitor to pour a ladle of something hot and nourishing into a bowl to warm themselves.  There is something lovely and rustic about a family pulled up to the warmth on a snowy winter’s eve with knitting or books or fiddle.

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I love my little house with the cast iron wood stove.  It creates such beauty and warmth to our living space.  If I ever build my own house I shall make the counters four inches higher, remove the ceiling fans, make everything in the bathroom higher (houses weren’t made for tall people!), create an open living plan, and put in a walk-in, large fireplace to warm our home on…ahem…rainy days.  Enjoy the snow!

Crazy about Cast Iron

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There are several inches of beautiful laden snow already and the large flakes are still coming down.  I would like to put the Christmas tree back up, but Doug said no.  It is ethereal outdoors.  Here is a quick breakfast for you to throw together and put in the oven.  Then come back and finish reading my blog.
Crack 6 farm fresh eggs into a mixing bowl and add a splash of goat’s milk.

Then add any vegetables, cheeses, leftover anythings that would seem great in a fritatta and lots of herbs. 

Whisk together with 3 T of flour. 

Pour into a cast iron skillet and bake at 375 degrees until the top is lightly browned and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. 

Delicious with hot coffee and a jar of peaches you put up last summer.

Alright, it’s in the oven?  Sit, I must tell you the story of how a cheap housewife became an iron junkie.  I used to purchase pans in pretty colors.  I found a whole set of pans that were pink and I just adored them.  The problem is that they were teflon.  Controversies on health aside, flakes of teflon in my eggs isn’t my favorite addition.  I desired a cast iron skillet but we thought they were too pricey as a young couple with three small, very hungry mouths to feed.  Then we discovered, it’s where you look!  Doug bought me a set of cast iron pans for Christmas one year.  They were twenty dollars at JC Penny’s.  The nice thing is, I will still be cooking in them when I have great-grandchildren!  They just get better and better and the environmental aspect of it needs not even be spoken of as I never have to purchase a pan again!

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There is a gentleman around these parts called Wild BIll who peddles items.  (I need to get in touch with him because he is also a part of a bee keeping guild.)  He brings items that he thinks would be nice in my shop, or now that he knows my vice, cast iron.  I have purchased a fabulous large casserole pan (one I have never seen before) and a corn bread pan like my mother had.  The cornbread comes out looking like petite ears of corn.  I found my Dutch oven at an antique store.  I am still in the market for a larger one and a soup pan.  I presently use the enamel pans from Doug’s grandma’s old kitchen.

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The most peculiar cast iron item I have was given to me this Christmas.  Doug could barely contain his enthusiasm for the gift he had bought me.  It was from a local artisan, he said.  It was too large to wrap, he says.  I am thinking up all sorts of great gifts….carved wooden statues particularly.  So imagine my surprise as I sleepily stepped out on to the porch Christmas morning and saw…a giant cast iron cauldron.  Witch and dry ice not included.  Not being fully awake, I first thought, “What is he trying to tell me?!” (am I the witch?)  I had no idea what I was going to do with it.  Doug’s face fell as he saw my confusion at the missing wooden bear that I was sure would be there.  It was just certainly a surprise!  It has holes in the bottom and was used as a fire pit.  So, any large soap, laundry, or candle making ventures are out.  It is completely rusted but can be cleaned up.  Walk by’s at my store already worry about my religious denomination being an herbalist so a cauldron will just further frighten them (which might be fun).  It weighs two tons, or so, so wherever it goes, it stays.  I am between two things….making it into an herb planter for the porch or keeping it as a fire pit for starry, sweet nights.  I do love it.  It is a fun and creative gift sold to him by none other than Wild Bill.

Enough with my soap box on cast iron skillets.  I hope you have one.  Every farmgirl ought to.  I feel like I am in Little House on the Prairie with mine.  Your eggs are done.  Have a warm and cozy snow day!

 

Grain Mills and Rye Bread

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The aroma captures you as you enter the house.  It instantly makes a home cozy.  When you make the soup too spicy (oops) it calms it down and fills you up.  It is perfect with a glass of wine and bit of butter and jam.  A must for a picnic.  Not to mention full of protein, nutrients, and fiber.  Ahh, fresh bread, how I adore you.

One of the lovely things about moving to a small town, opening a small business in a small town, and living simply around other folks that live simply is the community mindset of barter.  So when a couple we know wanted to take some of my herbal classes, they offered me a near forgotten treasure…a grain mill.  One that actually grinds whole wheat into fine, delicious flour.  What a gift!

Living at 6500 feet above sea level has provided me with years of baking cement blocks.  A few of you are laughing, cause you know what I am talking about!  I have perfected the simple loaf of bread with the help of some books like “My Bread” by Jim Lahey and “Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” by Hertzberg ad Francois.  They didn’t touch on high altitude baking but they catapolted me to the next level in order to master the humble peasant loaf.

Easy Scrumptious Rye Bread

2 cups of unbleached, organic white flour

1 cup of rye flour

1 Tablespoon of yeast

1 teaspoon of sea salt

1Tablespoon of caraway seeds

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 1/2 cups of warm water (1 1/3 cup for lower altitudes)

Mix well in a mixing bowl and place plate over it (you could use a towel, but I have cats, since cat hair is not really a necessary ingredient in bread, I use a plate) Promptly forget for 2-6 hours.  Take off plate, sprinkle with flour and knead 20 times in bowl.  Re-cover. Promptly forget for 1-4 hours.  Place in preheated Dutch oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove lid and bake for 15 minutes more.

You could also grease two bread pans and bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes with a ramekin of hot water.

Enjoy with rich butter, homemade choke cherry jam, and glass of red wine, a meritage or California red blend would be lovely.

Have a beautiful Sunday.  (Go Broncos!)