Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stori~ we don't need no stinking electricity!

My Dad called me this morning to tell me he had supper covered tonight. That only meant one thing, chicken fried moose steak cooked on his old wood burning cook stove. He picked up this old stove about 6 years back in Fairbanks. The stove was manufactured probably early 1900's, maybe even late 1800's. It's a beautiful mint green and ivory 6 burner. There are no actual "burners", it's just a flat top with one side being very hot, over the wood box, the other side gradually getting cooler the farther from the hot box it gets. This stove is a miracle worker when it comes to cooking things hot and fast. Grease splatter is never a problem, messy grease actually benefits the cast iron surface of the stove. He has the stove positioned in his arctic entry way, which is a good thing since it can put off enough heat to flat run you out of the house. My Momma always joked around about baking sugar cookies on an old wood burner, she would say "Just hold the cookie sheet in front of the oven door for about 30 seconds, you'll get perfect cookies." In the summer, he sometimes moves the stove out onto the porch itself, since it makes so much heat, it's unnecessary inside the house. The stove has warming ovens above the range, and a hot water tank in the back (which we never use).

These old stoves were a way of life for me growing up. My parents built a cabin outside of Meeker Colorado, off of Strawberry Creek Road when I was about 4 years old. We lived on that farm till I was in 8th grade. Meeker is known for being a boom/bust town. When the last oil shale mine shut down, my Daddy being the head of security, it left him jobless. My Momma waited tables to make ends meet. My Daddy raised milk cows, beef, pigs, chickens, sheep, and of course our horses. We sold the wiener pigs to the local 4-h kids, and whatever was left went to the livestock auctions in Silt. Out of our milk cows, my Momma ran a milk, cream, and egg route in town. Every day of the week, she would go to work early just to deliver the orders for milk, sold in gallon size glass jars. Cream out of glass quart jars, and eggs. We still store our fresh milk from our little cow the same way (and hell hath no fury like if you turn in a dirty jar!!) Our customers were diligent on taking the goods on a certain day of the week, and having the cleaned glass jars and weekly money waiting for Momma when she got there. We heated our entire cabin (until we built the add-on when I was about 9, then we had a secondary wood stove in the other part of the cabin) with an antique Majestic wood burning cook stove (much like the picture here, but this was not our exact stove). I remember as a little girl, being woken in my loft by the "whoofing" of the chimney as Momma got the morning fire going. She would wake up to a frozen cold floor about an hour earlier than us to get that stove going and have the house heated up before she woke us kids. The stove sat at the end of the supper table, our house had few walls, just like my own cabin now, a very open floor plan. The old Majestic sat on a bed of laid lava rock. Natural volcanic lava rock does not retain heat which is perfect for a very hot stove and a wooden house. We would keep our winter hats, scarves, and mittens behind the stove where they staid hot. Our little dog, Smudgie, could usually be found snoozing on top of our winter gear behind that stove. She loved a warm bed. My Momma would have a percolating coffee pot on the far back right corner of the stove, the simmer side, and our morning breakfast in the middle of the range. From pancakes to hot oatmeal, our breakfast was cooked on that 200 year old stove every morning of every winter of my childhood.

Having these stoves, we never have had to worry about heat or food with a power outage. No electricity needed. A good stock of split firewood and some cast iron cookware was all my family needed to stay safe, warm, and well fed. Always with a pot of hot coffee. Always with a warm place to sit by and warm your hands. It was the heartbeat of our home growing up.

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