This is the first in a series of What Were We Thinking? (WWWT?) stories.
Imagine our brand new, ultra-modern, 4,000 square foot home in Idaho. There was a top-of-the line natural gas furnace, plus two natural gas fire places. The insulation exceeded all normal requirements and specifications. When those 29 degree below zero nights came in the middle of January, we were comfy, walking around the house in shorts or lightweight pajamas. – No problem.
When we came to inspect Serendipity Farmhouse for the first time, there it was sitting there in all its majestic glory – a magnificent, lovely wood stove. In our amazement, we said, “Oh, how lovely! Perhaps we’ll use it some time. It will be so romantic!”
December 2013 was cold. It was very, very cold outside. But it wasn’t much warmer inside. The old (circa 1987) propane furnace was laboring to keep up, but the wind outside and the lack of insulation was too much for it.
There she was! My beautiful, adorable spouse, sitting at the dinner table wearing earmuffs. This was not, I repeat, was not romantic.
We looked at the wood stove sitting there in all its majestic glory. We scratched our heads and ignorantly said, how do you use a wood stove? Then came the dreaded thought – even if we knew how, when was the last time the chimney had been cleaned, if ever. We shuddered in cold and in terror, what if we had a chimney fire? Oh, dear!
Ultimately, sanity prevailed. We called Josh, the former owner, who assured us that all was well and in working order.
I tramped out to the woodshed in the snowy and blustery dark Winter night. I got a bucket of wood (perhaps five logs – guess how long that lasts). Before the night was over there would be several more trips. – – Oh! How wonderful was the warmth from that wood stove. This was beyond romantic – this was true, true love!
No, that’s not the end to the story.
The very next day, I received a call from my boss in Idaho. “We need you out here, and we need you ASAP!”
I hope you never have to tell your spouse that you’re going to leave them in a cold house when they don’t know how to use a wood stove and are frightened at the prospect. She never forgot that moment and she never forgot that week I left her.
Barely five feet tall, petite, certainly not a weight lifter, there was my gal walking through two feet of snow out to the woodshed with a small bucket to haul the wood. She made that trip many times and I heard about it many times more.
The moral to this story is: Don’t be romantic – be practical and be prepared. If you move into an old farmhouse with a wood stove, make it your very first priority to learn how to use the darned thing and make sure your spouse learns too. Oh, and don’t forget to buy a cart and a sled for hauling more than four or five logs at a time.