Gettin’ ready for winter

Did our favourite annual chore today – cleaning the chimney. It’s a treat! First, you get all the tools and plastic bags (forgetting one, of course, until you need it right in the middle of the chore), then you take the chimney pipe apart being careful to sprinkle the soot in all the places you can’t get to afterward. Then you carry the pipe outside and clean it with a ‘pipe cleaner’ and put all the soot gathered in the plastic bag with the unseen hole in it. Then the fun begins…….

We burn ‘gift’ wood, the stuff that floats in or close by to our shore. We retrieve it, haul it, buck it, split it and stack it – just as you would expect. But, because we get salt-water-laden logs, we have to dry the wood for some time. Still, not a difficult task and one we have set our mind to. We have the system down pat. Almost. Our wood dries for about a year before we burn it. So far, so good.

But the salt doesn’t go anywhere just because you dry out the wet. The salt stays. And salted wood ‘eats’ out your wood stove when it burns. No way ’round it. Goes like hot water on a cube of sugar, just a bit slower. So, I have a bunch o’crap in the stove that used to ‘be’ part of the stove that also needs cleaning out.

There’s a baffle in the stove so that the heat is not lost up the chimney too quickly. That baffle is like the sacrificial zinc anode on a boat. It is the piece that goes first. And this baffle has been in for two full winters now. Maybe three. It is ‘cheese’. Just a bunch o’crap metal that is flaking apart like cooked filo pastry. Literally.

So, we clean everything (like crude surgeons) in preparation of the baffle-cum-organ removal. Get the firebox all ‘tiddly’ and then shuffle and pry the old baffle out while the shards and flakes fall onto your face (you have to lie on the floor to gain access to it). Then, if you have the foresight, you take it outside and get the ‘new one’ to put in it’s stead. If you don’t have the foresight, you get a trip to town as the booby prize.

Mind you, you have not lost out on the booby prize entirely. In town, they charge you $185.00 (plus tax) for a piece of metal that looks like a flat, square cake. An inch thick and about 15 inches square, it is a hollow box of steel with some strategic holes drilled into it to make you think that you are getting something.

We must be getting something because the damn thing works like a charm. The stove keeps the house warm on the coldest winter nights and we go through less wood than anyone we know. A wheelbarrow full will last us three days and some of our neighbours use two barrows per day! So it is a good stove. Pacific Energy. The small one.

The problem is the salt wood. If we burned unsalted wood, the baffle might last five years. As it is, it lasts two, maybe three. We rationalize this poor habit by saying, “Well, we don’t have to fall a tree. We don’t have to limb it and get it here. Our wood comes a’knockin’ and we just have to let it in.”

But baffles ain’t cheap and there’s no such thing as a free log/lunch, I guess.

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