Crofting – Managing the Woodstove

Suppers on the stove

I just want to note here that people wax nostalgic about woodstoves. I’ve never heard anyone go on and on about the old cast iron woodburning furnace in the basement (had one) or about the black Weber charcoal grill Dad had back in 1971, when every burger cooked on it tasted of lighter fluid. But show a picture of a woodburning cookstove, and people reminisce as if they took one to the high school prom, back when Buddy Holly was still touring county fairs and gymnasiums.

Go here to see what I mean:

The woodstove in the photo is the bigger version of my Suppertime Baker’s Choice Stove. (The Pioneer Maid.) I have cooked on half a dozen different old woodstoves, and none has been as easy to manage as this modern version. Nor do the old ones look much like my new one. Most have legs, rather than a plinth, and the few that have a plinth are fairly inexpensive versions from that manufacturer. Old stoves are nowhere near as airtight as this one. Usually there are gaps around the covers (the round plates on the top) and on the joints of the top seams. Old stoves won’t hold a fire overnight; if someone intends to heat with them, someone (and preferably not me) will have to get up in the night to add more wood.

I can shut down this stove so that the wood burns low and steady, or I can open up the vents and the flue so that I get a good hot fire in little time, necessary for baking. The top is polished steel, and while it is gradually darkening with heat and pots sitting on it, it is a good smooth surface, much better than the old cast iron tops or even the enamelled tops which chipped so easily.

It takes a fairly good sized piece of unsplit wood, while most older stoves need quartered rounds. Starting a fire in this stove is easy; it has such good airflow that even cold it takes just a page or two of newsprint, a little kindling, some light stovewood, and one match to get it going. Some mornings with the old stoves, I would feed tinder and kindling, blow on a spark, and spend a good hour getting enough of a flame to take a piece of wood.

It is still work to use it. While it draws well ands we have never had smoke come back through it, we do get a bit of ash floating out if we drop a large piece of wood in and the wood itself always has a tendency to shed a little bark. I do sweep up every day. I have to remember to get up and check the fire, add wood, adjust the airflow, and make sure that the pots of water on the back haven’t gone dry. (The large blue stockpot and the copper kettle sit full on the stove for tea water and washwater. I ladle water out as needed, but I have to remember to replace it.) We keep dry wood out in the shed off the kitchen, rather than stacking it in the kitchen. Wood in the kitchen is a hazard – sparks might jump from the stove; stovewood really must not be stored between stove and the next wall surface; and stacked wood in the house can encourage insect and rodent pests. I keep a small box of kindling at a safe distance from the firebox for the morning.

This is not the fancy old chrome and enamel stove that was once the heart’s desire of the farmwife; it is the hardworking, efficient version of what our grandparents used to have.



8 thoughts on “Crofting – Managing the Woodstove

  1. Is it very hard to regulate the temperature in the stove? I think the most daunting fact to me about a wood burning stove would be trying to ascertain the cooking time, temperature, and thoroughness. Is this really a problem for you? Sorry if these questions have been asked before! 🙂


    • It is a learning curve – but this one isn’t as hard as older stoves, because of the well-regulated drafts; give the fire more air, it burns hotter. Softwood (pine) will burn hotter and faster, too.

  2. I did have a wood stove that was to supplement the primary source of heating in the house, but it was not big enough to totally heat a 2200 sg ft house. 95% of the time this wood stove was used. You just wore you woollies if you were still cold. It was a new one, with the technology to burn all the gases emitted from the wood as it burned. But it didn’t have a big enough firebox. Heated the 1st floor well but had to use a small fan and place at the top of the stairs to circulate it to the 2nd floor.

    I do remember having to get up in the middle of the night to throw a few logs on, otherwise you’d wake up to a dead fire on a really cold morning to start from scratch. Also have many scars on my hands from burns from that stove.

    Next house had a smaller stove but it was a coal burning parlor stove made in France and that could really put out the heat: easy to start in the morning and a LOT less dusty, even though coal isn’t a renewable fuel supply like wood is.

    • Ooo, I got a nasty burn from one of those side-loading woodstoves, right down through all the layers of skin, on a finger joint. And too poor to go to emerg, so I just doctored it as best I could and bought a bottle of whiskey. This stove is rated for up to 2000 square feet – we are about half of that – it is cold only in the far end of the living room.

  3. So glad to hear that you like your stove! We will be getting one from the same company when we can afford our farm.

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