Saturday, November 12, 2011

Local Energy

Whenever we wanted to cook something before, the local coal fired powerplant threw a few extra nuggets on the fire for us.   Out their stack came a few more wisps of mercury to end up in the next fish we eat.  A few more pounds of CO2 wafted in to the atmosphere to keep the polar icecaps melting and the subtropical deserts moving northward into the US.  Or perhaps the Palisades nuclear power plant threw another fuel rod into the reactor for us, and vented a little extra radioactive tritium like they did a few weeks back. (that's how they do their part to encourage mutations and foster evolution)   Our son's chance for a viable future dimmed, just a little. 

We haven't reached cooking perfection, but we're a little closer now.   The 1918 Kalamazoo ("A Kalamazoo, direct to you!") woodstove we rebuilt last winter is now installed and in regular use, with our electric stove soon to go on the craigslist free ads, or perhaps to the local metal recycling bin. 

Our kitchen is now a little warmer in the winter (let's not think about summer temps just yet).  We're also trying to catch up on some hastily prepared cookstove wood, which must be shorter and of lesser diameter than the wood for our regular heating stove.  The stuff we're burning now is a little green yet, as we still haven't quite worked up enough of a reserve.  We're also using corn husks from our field to light most of the fires.

Impressions so far?    Woodstove cooking tends towards the "medium" heat range.   You really have to work to get something hot.  But, on the plus side, things do tend to taste better when cooked at lower temperatures for longer times.  It takes a little more lead time, particularly if I've been negligent in cutting some dry kindling out of scrap wood from the barn.  Starting the fire with green kindling is possible, but takes a few applications of paper or corn husks.  We've been using it for about 6 weeks, so it's starting to feel normal now.   I usually get a fire going first thing in the morning.

Eventually I plan to plumb a water heater into the stove, which has a water jacket on one side of the firebox (essentially a hollow cast iron box for water to circulate through).   That'll give us another way to wean ourselves ever so slightly from the grid.  It also happens that our electric dryer was haphazardly wired through the old electric stove outlet, so getting rid of the electric stove gave us an excuse to stop using the dryer.   It wouldn't take me more than an hour to rewire it, but the default path for now is to leave it be.   We used it very rarely anyway, and find that the clothesline and wood drying rack both work great.

Fall is about over now.   The leaves are off the trees, which now shriek when the wind blows like it's doing this evening.   I miss the colors, but they'll be back again next year.  Just had our first snow this week, which lasted less than a day.  Snow is beautiful too, especially outside at night under a full moon. 

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