Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pioneer Maid

Of course, I don't consider myself to be a pioneer by any stretch!  That's just the name of our kitchen stove.  It's made by the Amish and sold by Lehman's out of Kidron, Ohio.  Lehman's bills itself as "featuring self-reliance equipment and non-electric supplies." And believe me, if you are looking for self-sufficiency tools, you can easily spend a whole day in Lehman's store.  Barring that, their catalog (and website) goes a long way toward opening your eyes!  If you're interested in this sort of thing, don't fail to take a keyboard stroll over to their website.

I would think that--for the most part--MM and I are among the few nowadays who heat AND cook on a woodstove.  And yes, I am so lucky!--MM loves to make our own rustic (Italian-like) bread!  I used to make bread, but now it's his turn! In the past, we have even ground our own flour from wheatberries, but it's rather arduous and time-consuming.  So, that particular aspect of self-reliance we keep in the "could use if need be" category and go with "store-bought" whole wheat and unbleached white flour for all our current baking.  We have also used a white whole wheat flour which we learned about when we lived in Australia, but the U. S. version doesn't begin to have the richness of the Australian variety.

Now...back to the stove:  if you'll notice, (and to be honest about this) just to the right in the photo is the edge of a thoroughly modern stainless gas range.  That's where MM's four lovely loaves of bread were baked.  So, we cheat!  It's a bit dicey keeping an eye on the baking process using a wood cookstove.  Great care must be exercised in order not to have the loaves crisp-to-black on the outside...and raw on the inside!  So, while it can be done, for most baking chores such as the bread, we use the gas range.  (unless the power is off)

But in the fall and winter, we do use the wood heat, and the surface of the Pioneer Maid for all kinds of soups, beans, and all manner of "heat-ups."  And, it's a comfort to know that regardless of a power outage, we always have heating and cooking capabilities.

There is something special about radiant heat that a central heating system cannot match.  It's a different kind of warmth.  And, believe me, there's nothing to compare with quickly tunneling your way out of a warm, cozy bed, stepping out onto a cold bedroom floor, grabbing your clothes and making a dash for the Pioneer Maid's rescuing warmth in the kitchen as you don your warmer togs!

Wood heat is, of course, not "free."  As Henry David Thoreau said, "Heating with wood warms you twice, once when you cut it and once again when you burn it."  And well we know that maxim!  Yesterday we hauled in two loads of half-rounds of Ash, MM split them, I stacked them in the wheelbarrow and we carried them in.  This was from a downed Ash tree that we had saved for this time of year, when we don't need quite as much heat as we do in the middle of winter--supposedly.

Managing a wood cookstove is part art, part improvisation and part science.  Ideally, we would burn nothing but dry black locust, which in this region has the highest BTU rating.  Of course, availability plays into the mix as well.  To compare BTU ratings, here's a BTU Chart that shows each species for its overall burning quality.  Black locust is a very hard, yellow wood which leaves a lovely bed of coals from which to re-start the fire.  This is especially valuable during the night when MM must get up a couple of times to keep the "home fires burning."  Other varieties of choice include Oak and Hickory and then, as we head into spring, we will burn lesser BTU species such as Ash and even some cooler-burning, short-lived Poplar (which snaps and pops merrily when it burns but doesn't make a lasting fire.)

The most important thing with wood heat is keeping chimneys clean.  Chimney fires are dangerous, so maintaining a regular cleaning schedule during the burning season is paramount.  That means keeping the chimneys free of soot and creosote.  To that end, we periodically use a tablespoon of a chemical compound that reduces the formation of creosote to modest levels of a harmless powder that can be removed easily.

So, today is clean-the chimney/stovepipes day.  It's a messy job.  After it's done we both look like a couple of chimney sweeps!  Indeed...I guess that's what we are...

Chim, chiminey, chim chiminey, chim, chim, chireee.....


  1. I need you here to clean my chimney! I love the fact that you have a wood cook stove as well as your gas range - what a wonderful thing. blessings, marlene

  2. I own one of the Bakers Choice, made by the same company also bought at Lehmans, we have had the stove 3 years and also heat my whole home with it no other back up, we truly enjoy the stove and cooking with it. these stoves are made by a Amish family in Canada. just a lil info. I have been employed at Lehmans for 11 years. enjoyed your post. have a fine day!