Journal

Heating It Up with a Wood Stove

Here at the cabin my wife and I built we installed a wood burning stove. It’s a high efficiency unit, rated to heat our whole house. The plain black unit stands on legs with an airtight glass door on the front, the steel unit being very heavy. It is simple but attractive in design and is a beautiful addition to the decor of the room Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

When I was a teenager my girlfriend’s father installed a wood stove in the lake house where they lived. I watched him as he tiled a space on the wall behind where the wood stove was to be placed and built a brick pad where it was to sit. I don’t recall actually watching him install the stove, but I do recall seeing a fire burning in it later. He called it a Franklin stove.

I’ve always been intrigued by the wood burning stove. It seemed to me a much more efficient way to heat than with a fireplace. As the stove gets hot it radiates heat completely around it instead of just to the front as with a fireplace. I imagine during the pioneer days of old wood burning stoves, used for cooking as well as heat, were more common than fireplaces. I don’t know this to be the case, but I imagine it. There is a strange nostalgia I feel for a wood stove even though I’ve never had one until now.

Last weekend I built a fire in my new wood stove for the first time. It is recommended you keep the windows open the first time it’s lit, that the paint needs to cure and may emit from unpleasant smells the first time it is used. I kept the windows open but I did not notice any unpleasant fumes.

The first time I tried to build a fire in the wood stove it didn’t turn out really well. The next day I got the proper kindling and remembered a couple of things they told me. I also read the instructions. The second time I tried I was rewarded with a handsome fire. It’s amazing what following directions can do for you.

The wood stove is an amazing piece of engineering. It burns the wood very efficiently and leaves very little ash. It’s suppose to have a secondary level of burn above the first where it finishes up the fuel left in the smoke. It burns with a beautiful flame and puts out a lot of heat. Even with all of the windows and doors open it heated up the house. It’s rated to heat our whole house and now I believe it. It has a lever on the front to control the rate of burn. I left it on high because I wanted to get the thing real hot and because I wanted to burn the wood up.

In a recent discussion of the wood stove I was reminded of the heaters commonly used for heat in rural East Texas when I was a child. They typically burned LP gas although there were still come kerosene heaters in use. As a centralized source of heat you could move up next to them when you came in from the cold for an intense session of warming up. Usually you backed up to it to warm the back of your clothes and spare your face. Coming in from a brutal cold it was a wonderful feeling to soak up the intense heat next to the heater. It was handy and nice to have a source of heat you could back up to.

I’ve had several fireplaces over the years. With a fireplace you have a central source of radiant heat as with a stove, but most fireplaces are not very efficient. Ii is especially true of open air fireplaces. It is possible for open air fireplaces to send all of their heat up the chimney and actually cool a room. The efficiency can make a big difference in the heat output and therefore how pleasant it is standing next to it when you are chilled. Still, one of the advantages of having a fireplace is having that radiant hot heat when you need to warm up quick.

I burned a couple of logs at a high rate of burn to bake the new paint on to the new wood stove and within a few hours the first fire was over. But I wasn’t sad, I was excited. I can’t wait to get some practice this winter keeping the house warm with the wood stove. For the first time in my life I’m looking forward to the cold damp dreary days of winter. It’s going to be a lot of fun getting to know my wood stove. And I’m looking forward to having a heater I can back up to.

The Other Thing about The Other One

One subject I like to pretend I know something about is law. I don’t really know much at all, but that doesn’t stop me from expressing all sorts of legal opinions. Another subject I know next to nothing about is marriage. Despite decades of practice I am probably too ignorant about the subject to even know how little I know. Still, since as of now my current wife seems to regard me favorably I can puff out my chest and act like an expert… for now at least.

One blog I like to take a look at occasionally is Zen Habits. A recent guest post there by Dr. Corey Allan of The Simple Marriage Project caught my eye. In it he expresses something I’d always suspected myself:

When you get right down to it, communication in marriage is not about being understood by each other, communication is about handling what another person thinks and feels. You see, married couples don’t have trouble communicating. They communicate all too well. […]

Communication problems happen because you don’t like what the other person has to say.

He goes on to give simple but sound advice on honest communication with your spouse and perhaps more importantly, with yourself.

Another thing I’ve learned about marriage: It’s worth the effort to try to get it right.

The Woodpecker

Remember Woody Woodpecker? Remember his laugh? Ha-Ha-Ha-Hah-Ha!

We have a woodpecker nearby. I have been calling him a red-headed woodpecker, but he is not. He does have a red head, but a red-headed woodpecker is robin sized. This is a piliated woodpecker, a very large bird, bigger than a crow.

In addition to the brilliant red on his head the pileated woodpecker has stricking white marks on a deep black body. The contrast of colors is startling.

Winding through the sounds coming into my sleepy brain this morning was that call, that silly laugh of the woodpecker. The first several times I heard the bird I didn’t recognize it. I had seen the bird and I had heard the laugh, but I didn’t connect the two. As I was pondering the sound I was hearing I suddenly remembered the cartoon Woody Woodpecker and immediately connected the sound with the bird. Now I can’t hear the bird or see it without getting a smile on my face.

Ha-Ha-Ha-Hah-Ha!

How to Succeed

There are many ways to measure success in our lives. Many keep score with money or toys, while some have a secret dream job or place to live they think about. They hope one day events will rescue them from where they are.

Whatever your hopes and dreams are for your future, now is the time to start moving toward those goals.

  1. Imagine yourself as what you want to be

  2. Determine the activities involved in being what you want to be.

  3. Do those things

This is not to suggest the process will be easy. It may requite study and hard work. It will probably involve diligence and patience. That does not mean your goals in life are impossible. Many dreams do come true.

The most important thing is to begin to move toward the things you want for your life. Without beginning you will never reach the places you want be. You Can Do It. Start Now.

Poverty is a Big Word

Today, 15 October 2008, is Blog Action Day. The subject this year is poverty.

There is an axiom asserting the following premiss: If you collect everyone’s wealth and redistribute it equally within three years most of the ones who were rich will be rich again, and most of those who were impoverished will be broke.

This is not to imply the rich are smarter or better or that poor people are stupid or lazy. It does imply the rich will continue to do those things making them rich, and the poor will continue not to do those things making the rich richer.

I saw this demonstrated as a child. My father was owner of a small rural store. In the summer many local agricultural workers would stop by the store to purchase something for lunch. Many with ragged shoes on their feet would purchase a soft drink and a bag of chips. Most of those wearing better shoes would spend the same amount of money on summer sausage, cheese, and crackers. The first group, usually a younger crowd, would be hungry an hour later. The others had a meal to carry them through the afternoon. One group burned through their lunch money in an hour. The others made the same amount of money last for half of the day.

It would be easy to use this description as an excuse not to help those less fortunate. It would be easy to justify not helping by blaming the poor for their plight and asserting they did this to themselves. It would be easy, but would it be right? Not knowing how to shop for lunch need not condemn you to a life of dilapidated shoes.

There are also those who need help because they are in fact unfortunate. Natural calamities, illness, and other circumstances beyond their control send many capable and talented people in need of a helping hand.

Poverty can be a big word. It is usually taken to mean having little or nothing to eat. But the same word can describe needing clothes, tools or shelter. There is a poverty that comes from being without friends around you. There is a poverty of the spirit that comes from lacking purpose or direction.

No matter what your current situation, there are those who are in worse shape. It can be a part of your life to help those around you, whether the help comes in the form of money, help getting to the doctor, or teaching someone something which gives them marketable skills. There are many ways you can make someone’s life better, and in the process make your life richer.

Charities have an important role in such activities, and I have my favorites as I’ve mentioned elsewhere. There is an organization that fights poverty with food, caring and training every day. I’d like to encourage you to consider The Salvation Army and the good they do.

Country Freedom

The following is a revision of something I wrote for “Living the Country Life” magazine which resulted in my being interviewed for their radio program. A copy of the radio broadcast can be accessed here.

I grew up in a rural community of East Texas. Our place on an acre lot was surrounded by a few other homes. Our lives away from the city were full of many surroundings and activities completely different from city dwellers. We kept cattle on a plot of land half of a mile from the house. Much of my youth was spent hauling hay or running a tractor.

My adult life has taken me to the city, and I’m still bound to it by work and friends. My life includes things from the city I’m not eager to leave behind. But recently my wife and I have moved to the outskirts of the city, on 1.5 acres full of wildlife and tall trees. We designed and built our new cabin to reclaim a little of the simple joys coming from being closer to the nature around us. Many of our neighbors keep horses, and there are cattle and goats nearby. The differences may seem subtle to many, but to me those little differences are huge, and they mean freedom.

I am free to burn a cardboard box in the front yard if I want to get rid of the box or if I just want to watch the fire. I can cut down a tree without applying for a permit from the city planning commission. I can keep a horse or fatten a steer. I may not do these things (except burn an occasional box), but the point is I can do them. Having the freedom to chose from these activities makes a difference my attitude about my life, and the attitudes of my neighbors.

I am not completely free of city trappings. If I put up a billboard next to the street I will hear from the local property owners association. But I don’t mind their existence as they perform functions I’m happy to allow. They will keep a salvage yard from moving in next to my house. Also, I’ve met those guys on the association board, and they aren’t likely to object to much of what I might want to do on my land. They choose to live out here partly for the same reason I do, for the freedom. Cherishing that freedom, they are slow to impose restrictions on their neighbors.

I may startle a deer when I carry the box out of the front door to burn it. My dog can run free and chase the deer, though my wife discourages him from discouraging the deer, and he is getting old enough to be happy with a cool spot on the porch. Lately I’ve been hearing the cackle of a red-headed woodpecker along with the hoot hooting of an owl in the morning. These are more benefits of living in our rural setting, but they are just bonuses. They real reason we love it out here is having the feeling we are free to choose more of the life we want for ourselves. Having the choice may be more important than what choice we make.

The Big One

I love fishing. I love all aspects of it. Fresh water and salt water, I don’t care. There is the shopping for fishing stuff, worrying over which lures might be the best to bring in the big ones. Carrying my purchases home I’m filled with the expectation of all the fish they will catch. I love preparing my tackle the night before for a day at the lake or beach. I may purchase live bait with the same expectations. Finally I am out there, usually alone, with nature. There is a feeling you get from being next to the water and the wildlife surrounding it. I love watching the sun go down, or if I’ve been fishing all night, come up. And nothing compares to cooking and eating the fish you have caught.

There’s not a lot of fish catching involved in my trips. Years of practice has not improved the supply of fish to my table. Plenty of books and magazines on the subject have been read and studied. I really don’t understand why I still don’t catch many fish.

As the sun goes down the lake becomes like glass, and it’s so quiet I can hear my own heartbeat. The stillness is broken only when I notice a red tail hawk circling high overhead. The orange and red colors of the leaves and their reflections around the lake stand in stark contrast to the blues of the sky above, and the lake below. I half expect to hear the rustle of leaves, perhaps by a squirrel or rabbit. Instead I’m startled when an old bass interrupts by thumping the surface across the lake from me. It grows calm again. I watch the other end of the lake. Flop, he goes again! He repeats his exercise every two or three minutes, slowly making his way around the perimeter. I may catch him yet, but either way I’ll be out here again. Some things remind me life is not a destination, it’s a journey.

Financial Panic

In 1988 I had a conversation with my father about the possibility of a credit collapse. I had just finished reading several books on financial instruments, and one thing I took from it was our financial system was a house of cards. Business runs on trust. If a panic occurs it can wreck havoc.

During the years of the Great Depression many people grew their own food. Many lived without indoor plumbing. Now many wouldn’t know how to react if they can’t get soy milk from the market and their toilet will not flush.

When I expressed my concerns about a complete collapse of civilization to my father he was reassuring. He was confident, not in the system, but in me. He reminded me I was resourceful and I had skills. He told me he hoped I would never see things get that bad, but if I did he was sure I would “figure something out”.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike people worked together to get by without electricity or water or gasoline. As this area starts to rebuild it has been made stronger by the relationships created among neighbors as they helped each other deal with the storms destruction.

As our credit and financial markets suffer this credit crunch, it is worth remembering as a people we are resourceful and we have skills. Whatever happens we will “figure something out”. And we will probably emerge from the other side made stronger by the relationships we form.