Grunge Jobs

jotul.jpgThis morning I started my first fire of the year in our big Jotul stove in the livingroom. Instead of my normal habit of starting the kitchen stove first thing, my plan was to start the Jotul so I could clean the kitchen stove which needs to be done every few weeks during the heating season. I know it is time when it gets cranky and smokes when I engage the damper that routes the smoke around the oven.

I packed newspaper, criss-crossed kindling, and some hardwood in the Jotul, lit the match, and then went about my other business. A bit later my eyes were itchy, and when I looked up, there was a layer of smoke all across the downstairs. The Jotul looked like a snoozing dragon with smoke puffing out his cheeks. I quickly stuffed some papers into the cleanout of the chimney and lit them. If the stove is smoking because the chimney is cold, this usually remedies that situation. Well, now I had smoke coming from the Jotul AND the chimney cleanout.

In order to look at the stovepipe for the Jotul, I have to slide it away from the chimney, and the thing is heavy. Slide it I did, and surprisingly, I still had smoke coming from only two places. The Jotul was now smoking out the back (it seemed to be burning better now) and the chimney cleanout was still puffing too. I stuck my hand up the thimble hole in the chimney that I recently uncovered by sliding the stove out of the way (you learn how to slide your arm into lots of weird places when you heat with wood) and found a LOT of clinkers up there.

Things are getting serious now. I ran out to the garage in my pajamas and slippers and grabbed 3 metal buckets (plastic buckets don’t work well for this.) I then opened the chimney cleanout and started shoveling out clinkers. I also dumped out the pile of them that had accumulated in the Jotul stovepipe. Then I lined the stovepipe back up and slid the stove back into place. By now the fire had gone out. So I opened the door and blew on it to get it going again. I had long ago opened windows and doors downstairs to let the smoke out. My plan to warm the house up with the Jotul stove decreased the temperature by about 10 degrees so far. Some mornings just go like this.

Next on my list was the actual cleaning out of the kitchen stove. It involves disassembling a bunch of parts, cleaning out soot, and reassembling. This chore is so familiar that I didn’t have to think about it too much. It is just time consuming and messy. In the end, I had 3 full buckets of either ashes or clinkers to dump in my pile outside. The result is I have two pretty darn clean stoves, one of whose heat the dog is appreciating right now.

My other grungy job today was to plug the vents in the crawlspace under the main part of our house with insulation. I unplug them in the spring, and plug them in the fall. This is not a job I look forward to. There is only a few feet of clearance under there and it is dusty and cramped in there. It only takes 5 minutes to get it done, but so far I’ve put it off for weeks. As I walk around the homestead, I see more and more winter projects that are getting checked off the list. They’re never really done until the snow makes it impossible to do any more.

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