Monday, September 29, 2008

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 meal

Loic 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.

The happy stove.

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Blogger Don McNulty said...

Well now I am hooked on your blog for sure. The stove is alive with the sound of music. Enjoy this immensely.

6:39 PM, September 29, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful future you and Loic have at that lovely country house, and very lucky are we that you will share it with us. Thank you very much.

10:09 PM, September 29, 2008  
Blogger Karen Baking Soda said...

Settled! What about next weekend? I'll help picking apples, bake a pie and settle with a nice glass of wine near the stove. I'm in love!

10:21 PM, September 29, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made a similar but permanent move 7 years ago, and the rewards have been intense. Owning your own fruit trees is high on the list of rewards.
Have fun.
Dunno why but that stove looks like an Albert to me.


1:09 AM, September 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Lucy! What a fantastic job you did! I remember my auntie cooking and BAKING on a wooden stove. It was magic! Congratulations on the house!!!

3:14 AM, September 30, 2008  
Blogger TeaLady said...

Lucky for you to have purchased such a great house in such a beautiful place. LOVE the stove.

4:32 AM, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Tace said...

Ok, this was such a fun post. Your happiness just bursts from the page.....Sour apples made my mouth water in jealousy. Wild mushrooms, wild berries...swwoooooooon! Actually it sounds a lot like where my mom lives in Nova Scotia.
The stove looks amazing, I named my new fridge Clara Belle...since I can't have a cow...yet...and that's where I store my milk...perhaps your stove should be called a nice dragon name since he's got a fire in his belly.....

4:41 AM, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Kitt said...

Congratulations! What a happy welcome home, and I'm sure the stove is delighted you're there to love her and make her beautiful.

The trees, too. Here's to many fruitful days ahead.

8:05 AM, September 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucy, this is just wondeful! Looking at the pics, it must be a dream come true. Enjoy it and hope to read much about your life and experiences there!

9:19 AM, September 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

congratulations! it's absolutely idyllic! i'm going to have to live vicariously through you until i am lucky enough to have my own country home to fix up and enjoy.

12:05 PM, September 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations to you! I'm sure that the stove and the apple tree are only the beginnings of the immense happiness this new place is going to bring you!

3:01 PM, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Tracey said...

The stove looks very happy. I can't believe how much you got done! I like the butter color you painted the kitchen, it makes the room look really warm and inviting. Congratulations again, Lucy!

3:43 PM, September 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's beautiful and everything about your new home sounds so wonderful. I can't believe how much fruit is on that tree!

3:53 PM, September 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Felicitations! Tous mes voeux pour une vie harmonieuse la-bas! J'y ai voyage pendant l'ete dernier. C'etait absolument parfait!

4:44 PM, September 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I will never live in France (unfortunately); I will likely never have a country home. But I love living that life vicariously through you, especially since your descriptions are so vivid and your photographs are just wonderful.

Think about writing a book, Lucy!

8:43 PM, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Michele B said...

I am just so excited for you two!! Congratulations! And your stove turned out very nice. It looks very happy :)

9:30 PM, September 30, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Lucy, his name is Rusty. You can't change that just because you cleaned him up.

10:51 PM, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Gorgeous restoration job. I'm thrilled that you have this little house and look forward to watching it come to life under your capable hands.

8:34 AM, October 01, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this! I'm infinitely jealous, but at the same time, smitten with your reports on that beautiful place. Thank you for sharing it with us all - it's like a little virtual vacation. You are lucky indeed. And so is that stove...

2:53 PM, October 01, 2008  
Blogger Slippery Rock said...

Lucy - Wow! I didn't get a call from you on my birthday, now I know why! Thinking of you both. You are blessed! Love you, Clare

3:19 PM, October 01, 2008  
Blogger Eileen said...

I am SO enjoying reading about your new home (and your stove, which looks fantastic, by the way!).

4:36 PM, October 01, 2008  
Blogger Helene said...

I bet that stove is screaming "Thank You Miss Lucy!"
Congrats on the house!! My parents have a chalet in the Hautes Alpes and I have not been there in 10 years. I miss it badly!!

7:14 PM, October 01, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thanks so much for your comments, friends. I am keeping in mind all the suggestions for names. Also interesting to note that some consider this stove a he and some consider it a she...

9:13 PM, October 01, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I propose that the one who names Lucy's stove is entitled to a meal cooked on that stove. Would you agree, Lucy?

10:23 PM, October 01, 2008  
Blogger Pink of Perfection said...

oh, lucy. you and your stove and your house and your picture and those berries make me so happy.

11:12 PM, October 01, 2008  
Blogger Sarah said...

Bernadette. The stove should be called Bernadette, it's the name that came to me the moment I read that sentence!


2:36 AM, October 02, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Well, this is taking it to a whole new level. OK. I agree. But I'm not paying for transport!

8:20 AM, October 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful new stove, and an inspiring post. Congratulations!

9:47 PM, October 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That house looks beautiful and rustic. Good job on the stove!

9:25 PM, October 03, 2008  
Blogger Cliff said...

You have the best food blog ever. Congratulations on the new house. Jealous.

Since design and food are related (right), you may want to look at my new blog--

Please leave a comment, if you are so inclined.

11:27 PM, October 04, 2008  
Blogger christine said...

Oh wow! I'm in love with your little place already. And that stove has me drooling with envy!

3:17 PM, October 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Lucy, how perfect! I love, love, love that stove - I can just imagine how many wonderful things you're going to cook on it. And that apple tree... sigh. I'm so happy for you!

4:44 AM, October 07, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

How Lucy. I am so happy for you and a little envious, too.

I look forward to getting to know your stove and your new home.

Mimi, happy to be home, too...

2:05 AM, October 08, 2008  
Blogger Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Your stove is to die for...too cute to be just decoraative - I've always believed dreams do come true; profitez-en bien..:)

10:12 AM, October 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How Lucy or how Lucky. It fits.

11:13 AM, October 10, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the house. I look forward to reading about your future adventures there.
I love the stove. I bought an old Chambers(Buttercup is her name)two years ago and she is sitting in my garage waiting to be installed in my new kitchen. I look forward to cooking in her.
All the best to you and Loic.

12:01 AM, October 11, 2008  
Blogger Laura in Paris said...

Good luck!!! Enjoy, create, share, build, and have fun!

8:19 AM, October 11, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats! I am brimming with envy! There is nothing better than a good vigorous fixing-up of something, especially if power tools are involved. (and especially if you get to relax with a bowlful of fresh fruit afterward!) The stove looks so beautiful, and so cozy.

I was going to suggest a name, but Sarah's suggestion of Bernadette is far better than any that came to mind.

4:03 AM, October 14, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

This is going to be difficult indeed...

10:35 AM, October 14, 2008  
Blogger Yank said...

Congratulations Lucy! A great job on the stove.

My name suggestion is: "La migonette" Probably not correct French, but it really is a cute stove.

Any sove would love to have you cook on it!

4:11 PM, October 14, 2008  
Blogger Farmgirl Susan said...

Bernadette is marvelous! What a beautiful job you did. And that apple tree - to die for. A belated congratulations on your wonderful new home. May you live happily ever after.

7:54 PM, November 08, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is wonderful! I found a beautiful old wood cook stove and was looking for inspiration on how to restore it myself and you provided that insipiration! What a wonderful life you have chosen. Enjoy every minute of it and thank you again!

11:22 PM, December 15, 2008  

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