Jessie Raymond: New stove destined to stay cold

I recently went public with my intense desire to own a working wood cook stove. A few friends — having long ago accepted my quirks without question — started hunting on my behalf.
Their work paid off. Last Wednesday, I got a lead on a nice stove in Tunbridge for sale at a good price. By the time I contacted the seller, however, two other people had already made plans to look at it. My hopes were dashed. (On the bright side, apparently I’m not the only weirdo in Vermont.)
Devastated, I moped all morning, until a coworker showed up with a bag of cider donuts and made everything OK. Then on Friday I got an email from the seller saying the stove was still available; the two other interested parties had been no-shows. Maybe they weren’t such weirdoes after all.
At any rate, it meant the stove was fated to be mine.
I went home and talked to Mark about driving to Tunbridge Saturday to maybe buy a hulking, outmoded and entirely unnecessary conversation piece/appliance. We had a lot of work to do at home — mainly continuing to slog through a few more barrels of apples as part of the Neverending Cider Making Season of 2013 — but nothing this exciting.
What to do?
Mark, giddy with the prospect of owning a wood cook stove, said, “I don’t care.”
So early Saturday morning we headed over the Middlebury Gap and Bethel Mountain Road, enjoying boundless views of spectacular fall foliage along the way. It really is a lovely ride when the roads are clear. Had it been January, Mark would have had to shoot me with a tranquilizer dart to get me in the truck.
We passed through Greater Metropolitan Tunbridge and followed a series of remote dirt roads, ending up at an old farmstead. There it was: Six hundred pounds of cast iron and country charm. My knees buckled when I saw it.
Without haggling, I handed over a wad of cash to the sellers, jumping up and down like a “Price Is Right” contestant. Mark and two other guys set about dismantling the stove and hoisting it into the truck bed, and I helped by running my finger over the stove’s nickel-plated trim and whispering, “Mine,” over and over. My dream had come true.
Once home, with the help of a couple of heavy lifters, we were able to get the stove into the house and reassembled in the kitchen close to where it may someday be installed.
That’s another dream altogether.
First, there’s the matter of the chimney. Most experts agree you should have one when you burn wood inside the house. And since we don’t have a spare chimney lying around, one will have to be built.
Then there’s the question of placement. There is nowhere to put the thing. After several hours Sunday morning during which Mark measured walls and muttered to himself while I smiled and cooed at the stove, we finally settled on the least impractical spot we could find.
And even that means moving a wall back a couple of feet. For Mark, who remodels houses for a living, it’s no big deal. But it involves relocating the toilet in the adjacent bathroom, which means moving the vanity. Some heating pipes and wires will need to be re-routed. An outside propane tank will have to be moved.
And the new wall is going to divide a window in half vertically, which, according to my 1989 Time-Life home decorating book, is poor design. (However, the book’s cover features a colonial blue kitchen with a ducks-and-bows wallpaper border, so maybe the rules have changed since then.)
Mark has the skills to do the work. And he even has the inclination — not so much because he longs for the smell of bread baking in a wood-fired oven, but more because he wants me to stop talking about it. The real issues are time and money.
He sat down with a calculator the other night and determined the simplest, cheapest solution: Stick the wood cook stove out in the back field and build a new house around it.
No matter which way we end up going, I won’t be pulling a loaf of fresh-baked bread out of that oven for a while. In the meantime I’m quite content just caressing the stove every time I walk by.
We’ve already established that I’m a weirdo. I’m fine with it.

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