|The Margin Gem cookstove busy baking Christmas cookies, boiling|
fudge, steaming pudding, and heating a bowl of soup while she is
heating our hot water and our home on a cold December night in 2012.
It has been over a year now since Marjorie the Margin Gem was installed in our kitchen, and I would like to use this post to document how the Margin Gem affected our household over the last year.
First, a little review:
Marjorie the Margin Gem Cookstove was installed on March 9, 2012. She was in daily use until the latter part of April when the weather got warm enough that we began only sporadic use until mid-June when we started firing her every Sunday afternoon and Monday while baking for the Monday Markets. Most of spring 2012 saw above average temperatures.
Once school started in August, use was again sporadic until the weather became cool enough for continual use. Autumn 2012 was plenty warm, but just a few days before Christmas, the weather became cold and stayed cold until the first part of May. I think it was late October when we turned off the electric water heater for the winter. The Margin Gem was then fired nearly continuously until the first week in May--when we actually had snow! It happened that we began to run very low on firewood at about that same time (I didn't have time to cut wood because I was so busy with research paper checking), so using the stove was sporadic in May.
We continue to work on the kitchen remodel little by little, so we purchased our new gas range in June. However, it was not hooked up in time for the first Monday Market (the farmers' market/misc. market in our local town), so all of the baking for the first Monday Market of 2013 was completed on the Margin Gem. Since then we have used the gas stove, but Marjorie has been fired occasionally when the weather is reasonable.
So, what major differences exist between life with the old Qualified Range and life with Marjorie the Margin Gem?
1. WE DIDN'T BURN A SINGLE DROP OF PROPANE FOR HOME HEATING ALL WINTER! Words cannot express how happy and proud this makes me. I can truthfully say that this feat has never happened since my grandparents installed the first propane furnace in this house in the late 1960s. The house has had auxiliary wood heat since they installed the first heating stove after enclosing the south porch in about 1977, but propane was the main source of heat for them and for my parents when they lived here. I switched to burning mostly wood when I moved in in 1998, but there were always a few cold snaps when the furnace had to be turned on--even after the Qualified Range was installed in the kitchen in 1999.
But that isn't all. Before Marjorie came to live with us, I had a very strict routine before going to bed at night. Besides banking the fires, I would be sure that the door to the pantry and the door to the utility room (both doors open to the north off the kitchen) were closed tightly to preserve as much heat in the main living area of the house overnight. Even with the two fires banked and the doors shut, the temperature on the main floor always dipped into the fifties overnight. It was also not uncommon to see temperatures in the forties! The upstairs was even worse. It was cold in our house in the winter.
The pantry door was removed during the remodel because it was neither original nor period, so it could not be shut this winter, and we never worried about shutting the utility room door. However, this year, even with seasonably cold winter temperatures, the temperatures only dropped into the upper fifties a couple of times! For a variety of reasons that I'll talk about in later posts but mainly because Marjorie is such a good heater, the upstairs of our house was also much warmer. We used to sleep under five quilts during the winter, but this year we were often too warm with just two.
2. I WAS ABLE TO SLEEP ALL THE WAY THROUGH MOST WINTER NIGHTS WITHOUT HAVING TO GET UP TO TEND FIRES. Because the Qualified Range was not airtight and our Jotul is so small, Nancy would always wake me in the middle of the night when she got up to go to the bathroom so that I could go down and fuel the fires. This only happened on the very coldest of nights this winter since the firebox is not only large but airtight on the Margin Gem.
3. NOT A SINGLE WATT OF ELECTRICITY WAS USED TO HEAT WATER FOR SIX MONTHS STRAIGHT! What a savings on our electricity bill! We enjoyed the abundant hot water from the cookstove. In fact, Nancy told me that even though she was ashamed to admit it, once we began using the electric hot water heater again in May, she missed having hot water from the cookstove. There were only a couple times that we had to schedule showers/loads of laundry carefully due to the availability of hot water, but we have to do this with our electric hot water heater too, so it was not out of the ordinary for us.
What we liked about the hot water from the wood cookstove was that it was quite a bit hotter than what we get from our electric heater. Clearly, we could adjust the temperature of our electric hot water heater to make it so that it has hotter water than it currently does, but this would result in significantly higher power bills when it is in use.
4. INSTEAD OF HAVING TO BUILD A NEW FIRE EVERY DAY AFTER WE RETURNED FROM WORK AND SCHOOL, WE JUST STIRRED UP THE COALS AND REKINDLED THE SAME FIRE. In fact, I think that one of our fires lasted for over a month. We used a lot less newspaper than we used to.
5. WE HAD TO CLEAN THE KITCHEN CHIMNEY MORE OFTEN THAN BEFORE. With the stove having a fire burning in it for more hours each day than before, and since it was airtight and we purposely had a long, slow burn during the night and while we were away during the day, more creosote accumulated in the chimney. Creosote accumulation inside the stove itself and inside the stovepipe was only a little greater than what we would have seen in the Qualified.
6. I'M ASHAMED TO ADMIT THAT I'M STILL LEARNING HOW TO CONTROL THE HEAT OF THE OVEN. I haven't ruined anything, but I've had my challenges. I've done a great deal of baking in the Margin Gem, and more and more it seems that the biggest key is to have plenty of small pieces of fuel available.
7. WE BURNED MORE WOOD THAN WE DID BEFORE. That said, the wood was doing more than it had ever done before, and since we didn't burn any propane at all, I'm fine with the increased wood consumption. We have so much firewood available to us here on the farm that increased consumption will not be a concern for several years--if ever.
Overall, we are very happy with the Margin Gem, and I feel that it was definitely the right model stove for us.