A Surprise Inside the Wood Stove

One day I arrived home from work to a surprise inside the wood cook stove.  My wife was cooking dinner on our propane stove, and left a note for me on the wood cook stove.  It was a late fall day, and the chill in the air beckoned for a fire in the wood cook stove each evening, but first a look inside.

Inside the stove, a small noise could be heard as something moved slightly about in the firebox.  Not knowing what it could be and hoping it wasn’t a maimed mouse brought in stealthily by the cats, I grabbed a flashlight and approached the situation from a bird’s eye view through the firebox cook lid opening. I peered down into the darkness hoping the flashlight expose what was inside.  The rest can be seen in the video as I change my work clothes into an old sweatshirt and use an old pillow case for the task of removing our stole away bird.

As can be seen, the removal of the bird was incredibly easy, but making the video was not.  I recently applied for a grant to improve my journalism class at school.  I was blessed to receive three Mac computers with the highly coveted Final Cut Pro program.  What I have discovered in the process is the painful superiority complex Macintosh has created in the PC world to over complicate simple computer use functions.   Where I can find simple help tutorials with Blender, Movie, Maker and Even Adobe Premier, however, not with Final Cut Pro.  A user must pay for a class to get what a simple user manual should provide.  I have never been a Mac user and I understand why. Last night I spent 45 minutes trying to get the Mac to recognize my flash drive and it still doesn’t.  I have to go online today and research more on how to get a normal plug and play device to play nice with Mac.  Video editing has been an adventure, and I am unsure if it is skill or pure stubbornness in forcing my will upon the program.  I hope to get better with practice, but it’s definitely a challenge to me.

“Bird.” The World Book Encyclopedia. Field Enterprises Inc, 1952. I find many uses for my mom’s World Book Encyclopedia Books to this day.

After much frustration with technology these past few months, I reverted back to a classic way to identify the bird who had inadvertently trapped itself in our wood cook stove.  Instead of turning to the vast amounts of overwhelming information on the World Wide Web, I turned to my mother’s encyclopedias she gifted to me.  My mom where given these encyclopedias by her parents when she was a child.  I have always loved my mom’s encyclopedia collection.  When I was younger, I would read them for fun, and as I got into high school, the Internet was still not invented yet, so I used them for reports I had to do for class.  Under the section devoted to birds, I found a variety of pictures and matched the bird’s features that impressed upon me, the narrow curved beak, the oval marks on the bird’s cheeks, the spots on the bird’s chest, the gray color of feathers.  Soon it became apparent that it was Flicker.  Now taking that new substantiated info, I was able to do a concise search online which gave me the characteristics of the bird, and how it ended up in our chimney.  The Northwest Flicker, one of over a hundred names, likes to nest in hollow trees and also use their beak to drum territorial signals to others of its kind on metal objects.  The chimney served both purposes, it made a load sound in which to drum its beak upon to broadcast the bird’s message. And, once the bird found its way into the chimney cap, it felt like a nice hollow tree to explore and make a home, until it ended up in the firebox.

Sixty-six years later and still useful. I find that many things our society has discarded as obsolete are still very useful and relevant to this day.

The rest is history.


Breakfast a labor of love

Our wood cook stove is truly the heart of the home during the winter.  It heats the home, cooks our food, and heats the home’s domestic hot water.  Thanks for joining us on this quick video on us cooking breakfast on the wood cook stove, a true labor of love.

If you have never cooked on a wood cook stove before there really is nothing to it. The firebox is on the left side of the stove under the bacon pan. The egg pan is in the middle of the stove, but cozied up to the area in which the stove pipe leaves the stove for more heat.  The french press coffee is keeping warm on the right side of stove over the oven box.  The surface of the wood cook stove top is like an electrical stove burner for a conventional electric stove, except for the entire surface is hot to some degree.  The electric burner has a high, medium, and low temp setting.  The wood cook stove also has these settings. The difference with a wood stove is the high setting is over the firebox. The medium setting is in the middle of the stove and the low or simmer setting is above the oven on the far right side of the stove.

If you have a wood stove and not a wood cook stove, you could easily cook on the top of it during a power outage.  The only differences between a wood cook stove and a regular wood stove for heating the home is the top surface does not have a medium and low setting for heat.  Ways to adjust cooking heat on a wood cook stove is to damper the wood stove down or you could place fire bricks on top or use a medal trivet with legs to remove pans or pots from the surface to create a lower or warmer setting for cooking.  Wood stoves are great during a power outage because it could be used for heat as well as cooking and boiling water for tea, coffee, or sterilization.

When we lived on the Oregon coast, we had many power outages.  During these days of no electricity, we would cook on the top of our wood stove often.  Anything you cook on the top of an electric burner can be done on a regular wood stove with just a little more effort and planning.

Wood Stove is Free Hot Water

The heat is on... The water registered 127 degrees Fahrenheit. The T and P valve should open at 150 degrees F and release the overly hot water. The CDC would like hot water heaters to be at 140 degrees F.

The heat is on… The hot tap  water registers at 127 degrees Fahrenheit. The T and P valve should open at 150 degrees F and release the overly hot water. The CDC would like hot water heaters to be at 140 degrees F, but this will do nicely without scalding us.

Free hot showers for the past three weeks.  The weather outside is cold enough to keep the wood cook stove fired up almost twenty-four seven to heat our home.  With the wood cook stove heating the home, cooking much of our food, and heating our hot water, we have been able to wash dishes, do laundry, and take showers without using propane.

My favorite part of our off grid home is our wood cook stove during the winter.  It is the heart of our home keeping us warm, supplying our cooked food, and heating our domestic hot water throughout the home.  The wood cook stove does not have a reservoir instead it is plumbed into the domestic hot water supplied to each faucet in the house.  When we turn on the hot water faucet at each sink or even the laundry machine, the hot water is derived from the wood cook stove.

No pressure... but if this is not hooked up correctly it could be explosive. The T&P valve is after the pressure gauge that helps monitor the system. The temperature/pressure valve will open if water heats up to 150 degrees and release about 2 gallons of hot water out the drain pipe to a lidded 5 gallon bucket below. In the 2 years we have heated our water with this system our T&P valve has never opened because the water temperature has never risen above 123 degrees.

Like clockwork… The Temperature and Pressure (T & P) valve is directly above the pressure gauge on the left.  The copper pipe running out from the T & P valve leads to a 5 gallon lidded bucket below.  The extra shut-off valves on the right are for a possibly a future solar water heater.

Even though the wood cook stove’s setup is one of my most successful ventures on our off grid home, I cannot explain how much in trepidation I had when hooking it up. I was on a few websites that warned profusely that I was creating a potential bomb that could blow my family up.  The scary thing was that if I did not hook the system up correctly, I could very well have endangered my family and our home.  I kept researching and one person warned me that whatever I do, I must include a T & P valve (Temperature and Pressure Valve) correctly.  I bought one that would open once the temperature of the water rose to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once it reaches that temperature, the valve opens and releases very hot water into a 5 gallon lidded bucket.  I drilled a hole into the bucket’s lid to snugly fit a 1/2″ copper tubing, so the hot water would be safely contained.   Currently, our T & P valve has only opened once without us even realizing it.  When I was cleaning the stove, I discovered the bucket that contains the blow off had about a gallon of water in it.  Some of this I already stated in a previous post “Domestic hot water from a wood cook stove, now that’s a hot idea,” but repetition on safety never hurt any one, frustrate them yes, but never hurt them.

Fired up... The water tank that holds the hot water from the stove is a converted electric water heater (Yellow) to the left. The copper pipe seen next to the stove pipe is the emergency pressure relief system. The orange french press on the stove is my morning coffee.

Fired up… The water tank that holds the hot water from the stove is a converted electric water heater (Yellow) to the left. The copper pipe seen next to the stove pipe is the emergency pressure relief system. The orange french press on the stove is my morning coffee.

Why is a T & P valve important?  Well, without it, the pressure in the water tank or pipes will continue to build pressure from heated water and steam.  If the hot water is not used on a regular basis the tank or pipes could explode under the force of the steam.  Boom!  The other reason is we decided to use PEX piping throughout our house.  PEX does not seem to like temperatures above 175 degrees.  The PEX pipe could be heated to a point that could cause it to fail, weaken, or even melt.  I, therefore, put the T & P valve right before the water system converts to the home’s PEX plumbing line.  The T & P valve keeps the system an open system, not a closed system.  A closed system is very bad when heating water, very bad unless it’s Archimedes steam cannon.

Our hot water system has worked perfectly for the past three years.  I remember testing the newly installed system on August 17, 2013.  We are now successfully running 3 years on the system without a Boom!, but with an “ah” for hot water.


Wrapping up the Fall Harvest

Looking for the Great Pumpkin... Spending time at the local pumpkin patch enjoying the craft fair, bouncy houses, maze, and fun.

Looking for the Great Pumpkin… Spending time at the local pumpkin patch enjoying the craft fair, bouncy houses, maze, and fun.

These past few weeks we have wrapped up the fall harvest. We salvaged what we could from the garden and took the hoop houses down.  Our back room has the tomatoes strewn about, so they can ripen.  Our garden did not produce much this year.  We planted late, the heat wave shocked the plants, and smoke from the wildfires blocked much of the sun needed to ripen the vegetables the last month. Krista has spent the last few weeks canning what our garden did produce, and thankfully the cupboards  are full with the canned goods of the harvest.

Today, we finished cutting up our lamb into chops, racks, burger, and roasts.  It is now all safely stowed in the freezer.  Last week, I slaughtered my lamb and helped our friends slaughter theirs.  They were kind enough to raise the lamb for us since our property is not yet ready for livestock, except for the chickens we have.  A few more projects are needed first, such as a barn/garage/shop, which we could call a garnop or a sharnage.  I’ll keep working on the name.

Breakfast is served... Our first breakfast this season on the Kitchen Queen wood cook stove. Crisp bacon, eggs, and moist biscuits add a little cheese and mustard and a perfect little breakfast sandwich is quickly devoured.

Breakfast is served… Our first breakfast this season on the Kitchen Queen wood cook stove. Crisp bacon, eggs, and moist biscuits just add a little Tillamook cheddar cheese and some mustard. A perfect little breakfast sandwich is quickly devoured.

The weather is beginning to turn as the colder temps are more dominant during the day and nights.  Frost is starting to form overnight and into the early mornings. A morning fire in the wood stove is becoming more common with another fire in the evening.  Tea and coffee can be left on the wood stove, our most economical warm plate.  The clouds have socked in around us bringing the necessary rain, and the forestry service has finally lowered the fire risk warning to “moderate” just this weekend.

The generator was started for the first time today to charge the batteries, which over the past few cloudy days have been drained to thirty-four percent capacity.  The generator was prepared back in July for this moment and started up on the third pull.   The last time we used the generator to charge the house batteries was 271 days ago, last February 2nd.

The snow plow has been fixed and is placed by the house; plow facing out like a sentinel waiting for the first substantial snowfall of the year.  We are warm and toasty this Hollow’s Eve, happy for the time change tomorrow and an extra hour of rest.  Grades are due tomorrow evening as well, so it is another working weekend, and I can’t wait for the Thanksgiving Holiday to actually a take a break from the race of life we are all running, even if it is for a few days.  I am ready for the change; I think we all are and what we have prepared for this summer is now almost upon us, winter.  The cold wind blows the rain sideways, yet we find our warmth inside while enjoying each others company.