by Gina Hamilton
Coastal Journal editor
Down at Turning Tide Cottage, we are getting a pellet stove this month. Now, we have already turned an older woodstove in the Coffee Room into a pellet burner by means of a wonderful contraption called a pellet basket - you can read more about the things on the energy and sustainability page this week - but in the Library-cum-Conservatory we had an old woodstove attached to an ancient chimney that is literally falling down around our ears, and it needed cleaning and lining and probably rebuilding before we could use it safely, so we haven’t used it at all in several years. And because we like the convenience of pellets, we thought we would get a pellet stove and put it in there, but it’s like one of those 15 number puzzles. For every step you take there are several other tiles that have to be moved first, and what with one thing and another and with financial concerns and all, we haven’t done anything except shiver through the winters with the paucity of oil I am willing to use in a wildly inefficient furnace down in the scary basement.
(You get used to 55 degrees, honestly, you do. You wear a couple of sweatshirts and some fuzzy socks and drape a nice blankey over yourself while you are watching the NewsHour. And the cats and Rudie the Dog help, by draping themselves over you.
But when friends or relatives come round, they’re clearly NOT used to it, so we crank up the oil furnace, and then it reaches a roasting 70 degrees, and it smells like, well, oil, and it’s just awful.)
The first thing we had to give up was the idea of venting the pellet stove through the chimney. It would have added something over a thousand dollars to the cost, and we didn’t have a thousand dollars to spare. One day, I suppose, when we do, we can eventually do that. But there was an easier solution, we were told, because pellet stoves can be vented right out any external wall. Glory Hallelujah, we said.
So then the issue became, where the heck do we have any external wall? Now, in a typical cottage, there are at least four external walls, of course, and Turning Tide cottage, because of its sweet eccentricities, has more than the average number, but most of them are taken up with bulky iron radiators, which we didn’t want to pay to get rid of (and then have to repaint the walls behind them and probably the whole room), so the choices were somewhat limited. The best choice ended up being the Library/Conservatory, as planned, but on the opposite corner from where the woodstove is, since that was vented through a central chimney.
So anyway, this weekend I placed an ad in Freecycle to get rid of the old woodstove, and you’d have thought I was offering free gold bars. No fewer than ten people called or emailed in the first few minutes, and in freecycle spirit, I gave the woodstove to the first person who called, then put another ad in saying that it was taken and I wished I had more woodstoves to distribute.
The guy was intrepid, for sure, and he managed, with my son and heir’s help, to wheel the woodstove right out of the front door and into his pickup truck within minutes. And then it was gone, but we had to clean up the spot where it had been, put something over the stovepipe hole, and then move Paco the Parrot onto the surround, because the pellet stove will be going where Paco used to live.
I had not realized what a mess the Library/Conservatory was until then, I think. I knew Paco’s corner was a real mess ... I mean, he’s just a messy bird and you can spend all day cleaning him up and less than two days later he’ll manage to throw his expensive bird cubes all over the place and chew up bits of newspaper and spit them out, and eject feathers to be annoying, and do other even less savory things, and he will look like the Oliver Twist of the parrot world, which he most certainly is not.
Another mess contributor is poor little Toffee the Quail, who lives on the piano in an inappropriate parakeet cage and likely will until spring, when he can be moved to the larger outdoor quarters we have for him. There was orchard grass all over the carpet from his bedding, and game bird food everywhere.
And I don’t want to cast aspersions or anything, but I did pick up numerous tools and dirty tee-shirts and guitar picks and other junk, and they were not mine. Rudie the Dog’s toybox is also in that room, and she routinely empties it all over the floor.
So it took hours ... HOURS ... to clean that room, including the surround where there were chunks of creosote and more than a little bit of soot, and then Rudie and I toddled over to Rogers to get a tarp ... I can be taught, you see ... and lay it down on the surround. Then it was time to clean the parrot cage and move Paco, who was singing some kind of protest song from the 60’s. The only way to really clean his cage - a major clean, mind you, not just replacing his newspapers and cleaning his bowls - is to move him with a dowel perch to his play perch and getting busy. But Paco was having none of it. The perch used to have a coconut half to protect one’s hand, but it broke off, so now we just have the perch, and Paco tried to bite several times. He flew to the floor and walked around, gamely stepping back up on the perch, but then trying to bite again. Eventually, I got the traumatized bird onto his play perch, cleaned the cage up, and moved it to the new spot, leaving a trail of detritus that I had to vacuum up again.
He moved perhaps ten feet, all told. He was angry with me, but he let our son and heir pet him afterward, which he always does if he thinks we are packing him up to move somewhere else. He’s a very insecure little bird.
We then moved a couple of bookshelves that would be too close to the fire to the edge of the rug, kind of closing it in, and made quite a cozy little room there. Chris will have to find another home for his exercycle that he doesn’t use, but other than that, it looks just great.
Several of our rooms are cozy if we just keep them looking nice. For some reason, however, that doesn’t seem possible most of the time. Now we have an open space where the pellet stove will need to go, and soon enough, we will have a merry, eco-friendly fire just in time for the holidays.