Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cook Stoves, Wood Stoves and Cam & Michelle Mather

DH and I had an amazing weekend away together.  A break from our every day lives and something educational, brain cell stretching and totally different from our regular routine. (for now!) 

I follow many different blogs but one of my favorites is Cam Mather's.  Cam and his wife Michelle have a blog at which is a sometimes humorous blog about some very serious topics like peak oil, organic gardening and sustainability.  They share the happenings of life on their totally off-grid farm in Ontario and the how and why of what they do.  Well - some blogs are really cool with lots of good information but Cam's is really cool with lots of great information and they live WITHIN-DRIVING-DISTANCE!  When the opportunity came up to be a part of a whole day seminar on site DH and I signed up immediately.

So Saturday morning we got up early and headed out.  The scenery along the drive reminded me of our many years of vacations up in northern Ontario.  There was a hard frost covering the ground so it was  barely above zero at 9am.  Cam met us on the porch and opened the door as he welcomed us into his warm and toasty home - ahh - the wonderfully embracing heat of a woodstove.  We quickly got acquainted with his wife Michelle and the others who were arriving.

As I entered the kitchen my eyes went straight to the latest-object-of-my-desire - drool!  It was ALMOST the most beautiful stove in the world - a six burner gas Heartland Oval cook stove - but perfection as-you-know only comes in red.  I nearly had to sit on my hands to keep from touching it but when someone else opened one of the doors I jumped right up to have a look - (OK -that may have sounded crazy but let me remind the male species that this is how YOU sound talking about a stupid car!)  It was a thing of beauty.  Sigh. I had stove envy really-really bad.

I always thought I wanted a wood cook stove up until this weekend.  The romantic beauty of a wood fire, dinner bubbling away in a cast iron pot on the top and bread baking in the oven...but I learned a few things.  Michelle pointed out that although a wood fired cook stove seems like a great idea it has a few drawbacks.  One - it makes the whole house really hot - a good thing in the winter but not so great on a weekend like our last (30 degree) Thanksgiving weekend or during the summer - way too hot.  Two - it's difficult to cook on a wood fired cook stove - apparently burnt cookies, bread and dinner are common place for a very long time till you get the hang of it.  Hmmm… 

I was also reading last week that wood cook stoves have to be installed a minimum of 24 inches from the wall - that was going to make it a rather tight squeeze where I had planned to put it.  Gas however could be installed right up against the wall - double hmmm…

Leaving that subject for a moment…

We moved into the living room for the presentation where I laid eyes on the wood stove.  It wasn't quite as pretty but it was pouring out the heat and it didn't take me long to warm up.  Cam mentioned it was a Pacific Energy Woodstove and it was so efficient that it could be stoked on the coldest winter morning and the house would still be warm and it would still have glowing embers 12 hours later - a very handy feature when you need to leave home for the day and you can't leave the furnace on because you don't have one!  He recommended the brand highly.  I wrote it on "The List".

Ah but back to the cook stove.  What to do!  After some thinking on the way home we decided that the Pacific Energy woodstove made much more sense in every way.  It provided heat in case of a power outage and could be used in lieu of running our oil furnace in the winter, it could be stacked with kettles and pots to provide "free" hot water and we could still cook on it - slow cooker style on the top and with some messing around inside the firebox too.  Oh why does life need to be so practical!

We learned so much this weekend that I still feel a little overwhelmed.  Solar panels, thermal solar for hot water - the proper way to say photovoltaic (ahem - had that one wrong!) wind turbines, generators - most of these technical details were a little over my head.  Thankfully I bought The Renewable Energy Handbook by William H. Kemp - it will be my textbook for the next few weeks. I am determined to understand it better.  It's available directly from Cam & Michelle by visitng their website  They have many other interesting books available there too - check it out!

More blogging to come about the rest of our day.
Oh and by the way - I haven't completely given up on my gas cook stove - I'm just going to wait till we renovate and maybe I can squeeze one into the design...of course mine will be the red one.


  1. Thanks Anita! We loved meeting you and Herman and I'm so glad that you enjoyed your day here. Now I am wishing that I had taken the time to give my Heartland Oval cookstove a good scrubbing before you all arrived. I had no idea it would be such a topic of conversation (or of envy!) And just to make you feel better, that is one of my other criticisms of my cookstove.... it sure wasn't designed with easy cleaning in mind!

  2. I love reading (and re-reading) your blogs sista! I can hear you in my head when I read your words. Love you to bits. ;). Xoxoxox.

  3. I had to laugh when I read this! Hubby was watching Top Gear last night and drooling over some red Ferrari they were spinning around in the snow - I just rolled my eyes. But you are right; I would be in fits of ecstacy if I could see a wood cookstove in the flesh. Or a manual grain mill like yours; or how about that cider press at Lehman's?!! Why are there no TV shows about cookstoves, that's what I want to know!! Loving reading your blog.

  4. Great post! I have a Heartland 'Sweetheart' wood cookstove and wouldn't trade it for anything! We bought the optional 'heat shield' which makes it able to be closer to the can see a picture of it in my blog @ .
    I join your blog as I find your writings are very interesting. Thanks


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