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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Soapstone Stove Wood Heat

When Dave and I moved to the farm, I wanted three things: a gas cook stove, a well and a wood burning stove for heat. I'm not sure Dave understood why those things were important to me, at least, he didn't understand until cold weather set in. That first winter of 1995-1996 was the coldest this old place, and we, had ever seen. One January night we took turns sleeping in shifts so we wouldn't freeze to death...literally! I went to bed around 11:00 (I was much younger then -smile-) and Dave stayed up and fed the fire for two hours then, I woke up so he could sleep, and I fed the fire for two hours. This continued until 7 a.m. when we both got up and, while I started breakfast, Dave went to the woodpile for more wood. He stopped by the thermometer and called me to COME! I went outside and looked at the thermometer; it read 35 degrees BELOW zero Fahrenheit! Thank God, there was no wind chill or we'd never have made it through the night. We didn't have walls, only R-19 insulation stapled between the studs and six mm plastic stapled over that. The plastic was to keep the insulation from being blown out of the walls when the wind blew and, yes, it did happen; that's why we decided to put up plastic walls. Oh lawz, we felt like we'd moved uptown when that happened! As it was, we had an electric blanket, topped with quilts, on the bed which was set up about three feet from the wood stove. We had two cats stuffed under the blankets and Dave and I were sleeping in layers of tee shirts, sweat pants and shirts and wool socks. Friends: it was C.O.L.D. Seriously cold.
(I need to blog about those early days; I look back on them now and think, "YEP! We were tough!" ...waaay good memories...)
Anyway, I thought we'd get a normal cast iron wood stove but Dave researched stoves and decided a soapstone stove was both beautiful, practical and would fetch its price again when, sometime in the future, we sold the farm. He was right; I'm sitting here looking at the invoice from 1995, when we bought the stove, and the price has increased dramatically. (Dave had the most vision of anyone, man or woman, I've ever met!)
~ fire starter material ~
Prior to actually using the stove, we had the chimney lined to make it safe. This house was built in 1900, finished in 1902, and all the brick is slave made on site. The only chimneys that aren't lined are the ones that are closed off or only used with gas logs. 
We stopped using the stove a number of years ago when Dave developed COPD. I didn't notice the difference in air quality but he did and the increased difficulty he had breathing didn't warrant using the wood stove.
That, has all changed. There's half a barn full of dry, cured hard wood and Donald, Mary's husband, delivered another load earlier this week. I'm burning with wood, baaabbeee, and it feels great! In the first photo, the stove is cleaned of all ashes, dust and readied for kindling. Donald gave me a great lesson on the easiest way to start a fire in the wood stove. Yes, both vents have to be open to make a draft...remember, oxygen feeds fire...and, in the second photo, on the left,  a paper, bag to you non-country/mountain filled with twigs, smallish branches and bark. This is stuffed into the stove and then lit; within minutes a beautiful blaze is lapping at the wood and the room is gathering warmth. It's a beautiful thing. In the same photo, a copper kettle holds more kindling because I let the fire go out on warm days but today, the weather is cold and rainy...perfect for a fire in the wood stove.
Once the fire is dancing merrily, I slow it down by closing both stove vents. This slows oxygen flow to the fire causing the fire to slow burn. Prior to going to bed later tonight, the vents will be shut entirely; in the morning, the coals will still be red hot and easy to begin again. On top of the stove, an iron kettle is filled with water to put moisture into  the air. The top of the stove may be raised and that's where I bake biscuits, scones, etc. when the power goes off. 
Some of the many good things about this Palladian soapstone stove include: the fire may be seen and that was important to Dave and I. We like sitting around the stove, being mesmerized by the crackling flames. The soapstone stores heat and continues to radiate heat long after the fire has died down which results in a long, steady flow of warmth. It can hold forty pounds of wood and will burn 8 to 10 hours on a single load and has a heat output range of up to 45,000 BTU. It has an internal catalytic combustor and meets the US Environmental Protection Agency's emission limits for wood heaters. Perhaps best of's a pretty stove and, like Gran used to say, "pretty is as pretty does" but in the case of this's pretty and useful...a winning combination. I think I'll have two fingers of Lagavulin to celebrate; join me?

Blessings ~ soapstone stoves ~ Donald ~ hard, dry wood ~ Lagavulin ~ Dave ~


  1. No alcohol for me, but I join you in praise of wood heat!

  2. No alcohol for me, but I join you in praise of wood heat!

  3. This is a wonderful Stove! I love the fire knittering in the burning wood, when it's cold outdoor....

  4. Is it just me, or do wood fires make one sleepy? I love wood stoves too but we opted for an all house generator. We will sit by the fire outside and roast weenies and make 'smores. And I'll definately join you for the Lagavulin! We have Bushmill Irish Honey. Yummmm ... Y'all stay warm up thar! :)

  5. what a gorgeous soapstone stove, and
    to think it has saved your life! i hope
    your winter isn't ever that cold again.

  6. pretty and useful indeed! I love the crackling sound burning wood makes your early days story of taking turns sleeping just so to keep warm...glad you made it through that very cold night...the hubby and I wouldn't have survived that...the other week we were inside an air-conditioned bus without jackets and felt as if our bones were freezing and we had to buy a blanket at a stopover....may the fire of love and happiness keep you safe and warm always...:)

  7. What a lovely post, Sandra -- oh, how I enjoy a fire in the evening. I'd love to site and sip with you :)

  8. You truly are a brave soul!

  9. Some day we will sit together by a stove here or there and drink something warming at the same time. Thanks for telling this story. I love my wood stove, too!

  10. The warmth from a wood stove is the best. And the cracklin' sound has its own special charm. I had a Vermont Stove many years ago . . . I hope you enjoyed the toddy warmth too . . .

  11. This is a beautiful post Sandra, and even though I'm sitting here in summery Sydney, I can still imagine what a comfort and joy it must be to you. I loved the story about that very cold night. I can't even begin to imagine that kind of cold. I'll join you in that drink, Sandra. To courageous women - and to Dave!

  12. A wood stove is a must for us for the same reasons it is for you. We have at least one power outage a year that lasts for a few days or even a couple of weeks and the wood stove heats our home and gives us a cooking place. Plus, wood heat just plain warms a person so right.

    I would have loved a soapstone stove, yours is a beauty.

  13. I love heating with wood. There is something so warm and comforting about it. My house has a fireplace and I just love it. Although living in Arizona I don't get to use it much.

  14. Sandra-- I love this story-- of course your Dave's insight would be far reaching. You are going to be snug and warm this winter!!

  15. That stove looks beautiful - lucky warm you! We rarely even use the fireplace because - well because we're in Gawga and it doesn't get that cold very often. I'd just not get out of bed period if it was 35 below! LOLOLOL

  16. Wow I thought it was cold here, but 35 degrees below zero Fahrenheit must be absolutely horrible! Your view is beautiful though, I love to see mountains :)

  17. I don't drink, but I do love me a real fire when it's cold. We live in a house built in 1887 which has very little insulation. Not wanting fireplaces, we added two nice castiron stoves with gas logs to heat this place when it's really cold or the power goes off.
    What a difference from just the high efficiency heat! It actually gets warm! So glad you have a good source of heat and that stove is a beautiful thing to behold! :D

  18. Really wanted a wood stove in our house here - never got done and now - won't. Yours is a real beauty and can imagine you and the dogs appreciating the warmth on cold days.

  19. Sandra, I would love to join you! A good fire, a good scotch and a good friend sounds like a lovely evening. Perhaps one day soon we can do it. Hugs to you - Prudence

  20. Sandra so good to see that your blog is still up and running. I have never forgot about your blog. Hope all is well. My blog is different now it's called endless gravel. God bless Tonya.

  21. Wish I could join you for some biscuits off the stove top. I love to sit by a fire but have seldom enjoyed one due to mother's asthma. The home we have now has gas logs. Thinking of you early this a.m. and wishing you a joyful weekend.

  22. Oh do write about those early things that you and Dave did. I love this story. I also love your stove. I have one but not a soapstone. I love mine for all of the same reasons you do. I can see the fire as well and cook on it if I had to so it is very precious to me.
    I am always amazed how those things that seemed so hard at the time, leave only the memory of the good things that were shared.

  23. Wonderful story and one I can somewhat relate to. We often dip down below zero -- even into the -30s. THAT'S cold! No walls in the house means REALLY cold!

    I have always been interested in the soapstone stoves, but we have the old iron stove which has served us well. Your stove is really beautiful and practical. My MIL always used the phrase you did, "Pretty is as pretty does."

    Enjoy that penetrating warm-up-beside-it heat that only comes from a fire.

  24. I love my wood burning slow combustion stove too. Winter time I also cook slow cook meals for myself on it. It fills the house with the best aromas and keeps me nice and toasty warm. Your stove is very pretty. Stay warm my friend. Maa

  25. We have an old Earth stove that works like a gem. No paper allowed per the hubby - we use pinecones for starters.

  26. Hello, new follower here and I’d like to invite you to join me at my weekly Clever Chicks Blog Hop:

    I hope you can make it!


    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick

  27. This is a lovely post and I enjoyed reading it partly because even though I'm on a tropical island right now, I can still relate because I lived in northern BC for a few years and did experience COLD. Your story of the stove reminded me of the time I spent at a friend's log cabin after her husband passed away. She had a big wood stove downstairs and this particular night she asked me to shut off the vents before going to bed. I wasn't familiar with stoves then and instead of shutting the vents I opened them even more! My poor friend came flying downstairs during the night because she was so HOT.Being used to tropical temperatures, I hadn't even noticed the difference. lol! We sure laughed about it the next day!

  28. Slow combustion heaters are so useful as you can take more hours of heating.However it is up to you what type of woods do you use for these heaters?Slow combustion heaters

  29. Michelle, none for me either, it was a passing thought -grin-.

    Dori, it is a wonderful stove and keeps me so warm; also cuts down on the oil and propane bill.

    Sparky, wood fires make me sleep, especially when I come in from the cold.

    Lea, we share that hope but weather is cyclical and it's sure to be that cold again...sometime.

    Kulasa, oh the sound of wood fires. I've gotten acclimated to the cold but it still chills me when it's extremely low temps.

    MK, the living room is my favorite and warmest place to be in the evenings.

    Deanna, brave or stupid...not sure which! -grin-

    Gretchen, wood heat is WARM heat! Looking forward to that visit.

    Lynne, I enjoy the thoughts of the toddy more than the toddy -grin-.

    Carol, bless you...toast indeed!

    Kathy, we have lots of brown outs and several black outs each year, all year 'round. Our power lines need replacing but electric co. doesn't want to do it because there are so few of us.

    Sandy, nothing beats wood heat.

    Vicki, Dave made some fabulous decisions, bless his memory!

    Jill, but when the animals are HUNGRY they don't much care how cold I I get and go -grin.

    Rhoda, yeah, that was pretty frigid.

    Debbie, I talk about drinking more than I drink. By the time I think about it, it's time to go to bed and why bother then?

    LindaSue, I'll never be with out a wood stove...I don't think. I love having heat when I want/need it.

    Prudence, come on over, you're always welcome here.

    Tonya, Headed to read your new blog and hope/pray you're doing well.

    Mildred, nothing beats good biscuits, butter and jam, preferably all home made.

    Farm Girl, I'll drag out the pictures, scan them and do an entry. Thank you for your interest.

    Jody, no walls meant we got acclimated to very cold so when we'd get the inside temps up to 50, we'd sit around in tee shirts and think it was a heat wave.

    Maa, you're often in my thoughts and prayers.

    Nancy, Dave didn't like using paper but since he's not here...

    Kathy, welcome and when time permits, I'll certainly join you. Unfortunately, what I'm really short on is time; since Dave died there's only me and not nearly enough of me to go 'round.

    Vilisi, thank you and those warm tropical breezes sound like heaven right now!

    Kev, I use hard woods to heat; they give better heat and burn more cleanly.


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