In a day when the topic of sustainability is moving towards the forefront of our concerns, many are looking to technology for solutions. There is no question in my mind that we must discover better and more efficient ways of doing things. We need better ways of capturing the sun’s energy, the wind’s power and efficient new uses of renewable fuels so that they will pollute less and last longer. All these new technologies are absolutely essential if life on our planet is to become sustainable.
One new technology that Nancy and I have recently invested in and have learned to highly value is our soapstone wood burning stove. I think we may value it more than many would simply because of our history using every kind of wood stove as a primary source of heat.
Nancy and I have used wood as fuel for most of our married life. Initially, we used it because it was the only means of heating our home we could afford and because we lived in places were firewood was readily available. Living on the old ranch it not only provided heat in the winter but a means of cooking as well. In those days we most often depended on an open fireplace that burned huge oak logs twenty four hours a day. In addition to that we relied on a wood burning cook stove in the kitchen, a parlor stove in the dining room and a pot belly stove in our back bedroom. All of these sources of heat were highly inefficient by today’s standards, but were necessities during that season of our life. Cutting, splitting and stacking wood was an annual ritual for our family. Every fall we headed up the mountain in the old ranch pickup and worked together in anticipation of the coming cold winter months.
Because the fire was our only source of warmth, it naturally drew us together on cold winter nights. I fondly remember our kids spending evenings with toys and games in front of the rock hearth while Nancy hung cooking kettles on a hook that swung into the fireplace. Other times she would use covered Dutch ovens with hot coals on the hearth while I sat in my chair reading under a propane light preparing lessons for my junior high classes the following day. Our experience illuminated the fact that an open fire is magnetic for relationship, drawing people together. It established in us a conviction that it’s better to have a centralized family than a more modernized centralized heating system that allows families to gravitate towards back bedrooms and dens.
Because our experience has shown us the rich virtues of living with wood heat we’ve never wanted to give up on wood burning stoves. We realized that our old methods were archaic, inefficient and caused a huge negative footprint. The open fireplace and old model stoves consumed many cords of wood each year, and the emissions they expelled were unacceptable in today’s world. With all this in mind, we have fallen in love with our new soapstone stove seeing it as the means of connecting the richness of the past and the efficiency of the future. It is amazingly efficient – using far less fuel, producing very little emission and effectively heating our entire home single handedly. Yet, like the old open fireplace, it continues to warm our hearts as well as air space.
As the conversation on sustainability intensifies we need to consider more than just innovative technologies when we seek answers and solutions to the problems we face. As much as possible we must also improve on the simple things from the past that have enriched lives for generations.