23 February 2013

New Stove, New Tiles: Sustainable Farmhouse

Ben laying tiles

Ben laying tiles

In the Kabbalah, the writings of the ancient Hebrew mystics, God warns the prophets that he expects human beings to care for Mother Earth, to nurture and sustain her. If not, he will lay waste to the planet. I think of Mother Earth often and increasingly, Maria and I look for ways to take care of her, to use our resources. Our farmhouse is farm from sustainable  Рwe have friends in Vermont who take that seriously Рbut we are also more conscious than ever of using our resources well and in a way that is respectful to the environment. This is hard to do in our world, but we are taking small steps. Thinking about what we buy, what we throw away, what we use.

The farmhouse is smaller than the first Bedlam Farm, and this is our first winter in it. It is heated with oil heat/baseboards. There are four rooms downstairs, including the kitchen, and two upstairs. We have a wood stove in the dining room, a fireplace in the living room. Like many fireplaces built in the 1940's or 50's, it is mostly decorate, pretty to look at but not really useful in warming the house. Most of the heat – about 90 per cent, we are told – goes right up the chimney. So two weeks ago, we installed a woodstove insert in the fireplace. We believe that when the insert and wood stove are going, we will need little or no oil-based heat. To meet the local fire code, we need to build the tile porch in front of the fireplace out another eight inches, so Ben came to do the carpentry work, Maria and I looked online for the tiles.

Maria designed the plan, adding these colorful tiles from Mexico to the heavier red tiles that Florence and Harold Walrath installed. It was good to see Ben back in the farmhouse, he is so easy to work with and so competent. And once the inspectors come and approve the work, we will take a substantial step towards a more sustainable home in the winter. We expect our heating bills to drop by more than half, if not more. I am not a political person, but in recent years, I have awakened to the notion of using resources more efficiently and economically. The stove is the first, I think, of many steps we will be taking on the new farm. It is such a gift to have a spouse who knows so much about construction and design and restoration. I could never have figured out so creative and efficient way to change the fireplace from a wasteful decoration into a valuable new way of heating our home. We've ordered four cords of firewood for next year.

Both of us love handling the wood – chopping it, stacking it (we stacked wood for much of the afternoon), sitting by a warm fire.

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