The Happy Stove
Yes, we will be needing a new roof! We have filed the papers!
Yes sir. We signed on the house in the Alps on Friday morning. The signing was long and protracted, with every detail of everyone's life getting dragged through the proceeding, and our hands ached from initialing about 300 pages of documents. We learned a lot of history, mostly involving the fascinating tapestry of a family in a small Savoyard town, but never the exact date of construction of the house, which is thought to be between 250 and 300 years old. We discovered that there are 3 fruit trees on the property: an apple, a pear, and a cherry tree, in addition to a fig tree, chestnuts, and a plum tree in the open grove next to the house.
The previous owner also told us there were black trumpets, chanterelles, and cepes hidden in the hills nearby, and I rubbed my hands together in anticipation while he also gave Loic all of the documents pertaining to maintenance on the house since they owned it. We were encouraged to go and contact the old lady who was the owner of the property before them and ask for more stories. They told us what they knew, and that was that. Three big clunky sets of keys were placed in my hand and I tucked them into my bag. Loic and I shook hands with everyone, and headed up into the hills.
When we got there, we made our way to the door through nettles and brambles. No chance of vitamin deficiency here with all of the nettles, I thought to myself! All of the delays meant that the house had been closed up for three months. The grass was very tall and everything overgrown. We decided to take a peek in the garden before we went in. I was almost afraid to look but a feeling of joy swept me up when I looked up into the branches at the towering tree next to the house - laden with fruit. We rushed to the tree, each picked one, bit into it, and shared a nice long hug. They are nice tart cooking apples.
My first mission was to get the fire started. I removed the covering that the previous owners had left on the stove. A very rusty stove, but sound. The rust didn't come as a surprise to me, I'd been doing some research about how to restore it. Mother Earth News had a great article that I studied with interest before the date to sign came. We were to do as the chimney sweep had instructed, to light it up, see how things went. This was a bit scary to me, with all of the warnings out there to have your chimney carefully swept before lighting any fire. It didn't take long to figure out which chamber to light the fire in, what the knobs and thingies did. There was a note written on the wall that said we had to fill up the reservoir with water before using the stove, which I am thankful for.
Our first mealLoic went to get things from the car. I filled the reservoir with a couple of buckets of water and got some wood, kindling, and paper. I remembered the day a baby owl flopped into our neighbors' house when they lit the first fire of the season one day when I was a kid. In Alsace, it looked like the storks made their nests over peoples' chimneys! Although our chimney had a little roof built over it, you might not know it if there was something living in there.
Heating the potatoes for the raclette
It was quite important to me to get the chimney swept, but not so urgent for the chimney sweep. He didn't seem concerned about our chimney exploding or our house burning down whatsoever. He said "light a fire, and see what kind of draw you get". This means what kind of passage of air up into the chimney when the fire is lit. If the house fills with smoke, put it out, and call the chimney sweep. If not, maybe he'll get around to sweeping it in December. I lit a fire with some paper and kindling, and watched as the smoke didn't come up into the house, but was mysteriously drawn in an efficient stream into the center of the stove. I sent Loic out to look. Do we have smoke? Yes, we have smoke! I threw on a log and soon we had a nice fire burning very well. The stove warmed up the room in an instant. I had thought the wok might fit nicely on the hole left when you remove the burner, and I was right. It was the perfect way to cook. There are two temperatures, one for each sized hole, and then a million different possibilities, depending on how you get the fire going.
That's me with the power tool. Mother Earth News gave me courage. I will not be starting a business.We warmed ourselves with the rusty old stove until Sunday morning. I set up my hammock near the stove Saturday night and listened to her breathe like a sleeping baby. We decided to let the fire die completely once the sun was up and then I put in some elbow grease to get her gleaming and proud again. My love for power tools is something that Loic will never understand, just as I do not understand his aversion to them. We divy the tasks accordingly. I got to have the fun of finding the right brush for the drill beforehand, and all the fun of finding the right stove polish. I don't want to bore you will all the stuff we were doing around the house. But I do want to show you how the stove turned out. That's one happy stove, isn't it? Now in addition to finding a name for the house, we have to find a name for the stove.
Before and after refurbishing the stove myself.