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Speaking of cold weather, here is a wood stove review

Eleven years ago we purchased a new wood burning insert for the big fireplace in the living room. It replaced a small wood burning stove with a blower I had temporarily put there to finally project some real heat into the big space around it. Here is the review of the replacement wood burning insert.

This is an old stone house with beautiful fireplaces upstairs and down, begging to be put to use. Because the 16-inch-thick stone walls have zero insulation, wintertime becomes a simple question of how much energy can you dump into the first floor. The more you dump in, the only marginally more comfortable a person feels. The attic is fully insulated, and there are 1960s storm windows, but these are only part of the efficiency challenge. Basically the place is a big sieve, leaking energy out of every seam, nook, crevice, and old window, so it’s a battle we just won’t win. But with certain types of energy, like wood and coal, we can really keep shoveling it in and enjoy the relatively cheap rewards of abundant heat in one location.

Think of it as a family campfire in the living room.

As I grew up in a rough-sided home that heated only with wood (and where I would see my own breath vapor on winter mornings in my bedroom, because it was the farthest from a heat source), and I grew up splitting tons of wood all summer and fall as one of my chores, running a wood burning stove today is first nature to me. And I like it. Pictures over the years of the entire family snuggled together, asleep on top of and under wild game skins, in front of the fire, makes a dad’s heart grow fond for those early years, before the kids grew up and had their hands out all the time.

Somewhere in the 1970s a gas-burning log insert had been put in this living room fireplace, and we removed it in 2007. It was gaudy, silly looking, and highly vented, which meant it was a show horse and not a work horse. Its heat all went right up the chimney! Ambience? Barely. Heat? Zero.

Though I had my eye set on a QuadraFire 5100 insert, I was sweet talked out of that choice by a stove salesman in Mechanicsburg. He had worked with and for my dad for many years, many years ago, and because of that long relationship I figured he would not lead me astray. Well, that transaction ended up another lesson in “assume nothing,” because the Pacific Energy Summit insert we bought from him just absolutely sucks crap all damned day long. It is nearly trash, and at $5,000 installed, you don’t want or expect trash. It is nowhere near the performance of the QuadraFire, hell it is probably not even the performance of an open campfire.

The primary deficiency with the Pacific Energy Summit is it has a single rudimentary air intake, up front and center. Theoretically this location draws in fresh air across the fire and out the back as the gases are vented around the baffle and up the chimney, theoretically resulting in an even burn that consumes all the wood and produces a lot of heat.

Well, the Summit is a lesson in failed theory, because this one single source of air results in an oxygen-starved fire where 3/4 to 2/3 of the fire box is a mass of half-live half-dead coals and baked wood mixed with heavy ash, and the actual fire and source of heat is just up front by the door. It produces very little heat for all the massive amount of wood that is put in it. And do we ever shovel in the wood here, because the Summit just chews through it. Apparently the baffle is poorly designed, too, because you’d think the steel jacket surrounding the fire box would get hot, but it doesn’t. Most of whatever heat is produced just goes up the chimney, which is a waste of energy.

Our hunting cabin has a small QuadraFire wood stove, and it requires very little wood to turn the house into a hot sauna, even in the dead of  frigid winter. Like our wood stove at the cabin, the QuadraFire 5100 insert I was talked out of also has four points of air entry into the fire box. Air entering from all these angles, front and back, results in an even burn that pulls maximum heat from the wood consumed in the fire box, and it also allows for a fine tuning of each fire. The ash from the QuadraFire is very light, very thin, which means all of the wood is being burned up and converted into fire.

Conversely, the wood ash from the Summit is heavy, meaning a lot of biotic material remains in it, which means it has not completely burned. It is no surprise, because the insert’s design is so bad. Had I not been sold a bill of goods by the Pacific Energy salesman, and had my natural skepticism that guides me so well in all other matters overcome my sense of loyalty to an old acquaintance, I would have purchased the QuadraFire 5100 and I would have been a much happier person for it.

A once-young logger I have worked with for the past twenty years has a QuadraFire 5100 insert at his cabin, and he really likes it. He told me it is “one of my few possessions that actually works correctly and which I would not sell, ever.”

On the other hand, I am about to give away this junky Pacific Energy Summit insert, which has eaten up so much of my hard-won firewood over the years. I would never buy another one.

Lame morning wood in the Pacific Energy Summit. A big bank of hot and cold coals raked forward to the front, the single source of air. This is its usual incomplete burn.

Pacific Energy Summit after a full burn and coals raked forward. An efficient wood stove will burn wood down into ash quickly. The Summit is so grossly inefficient that wood turns to a thick bed of coals that smothers the one single air intake and produces very little heat.

A poker end buried in a heap of coals. Even with the air flue all the way open, the Summit still doesn’t burn efficiently. It wastes firewood.

Who, Me? No, You!

America has been in the grip of moral relativism since the 1960s, and nowhere is this corrosive belief system more evident than among Politicians-Gone-Wild who get caught.

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane was just found guilty on all counts, including perjury, and her answer (she has been consistent on this from the beginning of her investigation) is something like “it is not my fault, I am the victim, everyone is out to get me, it’s not fair, and everyone does bad things so my bad actions are no worse than anyone else’s so I am therefore not guilty.”

This “Everybody does it, so I am not guilty” mindset has now filtered down from guilty politicians to nearly everyone in America. Seems to be almost a lifestyle, where people take whatever they want or think they can get away with, and then cry foul when they are caught and held accountable in even small ways.

Basic examples found daily in the news include shoplifters who then destructively run amok in the store they are caught in, decrying their “unfair” treatment by causing thousands of dollars in damage to prove their aggrieved status.

The most egregious example of this is the Black Lives Matter movement, where mostly hardened crooks are elevated to innocent hero status in the effort to attack civilization and the citizens who undergird it, our wonderful police officers.

More common is the trespassing for firewood theft and recreation that I frequently experience on properties we own or manage.

One guy had his teenaged children riding their ATVs on our property, and when I finally begged him to make them stop, his response was “I can’t control them.” Never mind that he had put up so many No Trespassing signs on our common boundary, and quite a few were way over that boundary deep into our land, that you could not look through the woods without seeing a sea of yellow marring the scenic beauty. In other words, he zealously guards against anyone trespassing on his land, but he casually lets his people trespass on our land, and makes no real effort to stop it.

Recently I received a brutal call from an angry local man I do not know, who really chewed me out, calling me every bad name imaginable. He ended his tirade with “A lot of people out here in the valley hate you.”

Despite efforts to have a lucid conversation with the man and inject actual facts to rebut his wild accusations, he denounced me one more time and then hung up the phone. Sitting there contemplating this strange call, I began recounting the run-ins we have had with his trespassing and thieving neighbors. Indeed, a great many of his neighbors had attempted to steal some of our land, or were serial trespassers after recreation and deer, or were thieves stealing commercial quantities of firewood and mountain stone.

Yes, we have had run-ins with people around him, and when I investigated with one of the confessed trespassers, he informed me that the caller was one of the people we had inadvertently netted in our anti-trespassing efforts.

Ah hah! went my brain. Here we have a man who has been trespassing on our land for years, stealing from us firewood and mountain stone for business purposes, and he is mad as hell that his free gravy train has come to an end.

And in fact, this guy was not alone in his angry denunciation of his imaginary oppressor.

One of the other trespassing locals we caught stealing red-handed two and a half years ago was so mad, he began denouncing me to anyone he met. I guess this is a customary defense mechanism, where guilty people try to pre-empt any negative information about themselves, but it is remarkably brazen nonetheless. We declined to press charges against him, because he probably would have lost his job as a result. And his partner in crime, a local attorney, could have lost his law license.

None of our largesse was appreciated or rewarded by these criminals. In fact, they took it as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve, and they went on the offensive, personally maligning the person who they blamed for their misfortune. That being “caught.” No taking responsibility, no admitting guilt, no owning up to doing something wrong, but instead blaming others for their moral failures.

One of the things I dislike about one of the presidential candidates is that she has zero morals, no ethics, no moral compass. She refuses to take responsibility for her many failed policies and legal failures as a senior American official.

One of the things I like about her opponent is that he stands for basic decency, defined by weak 2016 standards, mind you, not the 1940s Norman Rockwell ways by which we used to run this country, and which I grew up with and miss very, very much.

Americans must elect political leaders who set a basic standard for good behavior, who represent a return to basic good values, and who help us get away from corrosive moral relativism, a culture eating away the foundations of human relationships.

Warmer weather can’t come too soon

What began as a happy trip to the wood shed for a load of seasoned oak in the Fall is now a crabby trudge through deep snow and ice, a drudgery opposite the cheerfulness felt with the first flames to beat back Winter’s early chill.

Spring warmth cannot come too soon.  Naturally, it will arrive, melt the Arctic snow cap occupying my lawn, and probably result in some Biblical flood carrying my home down river to the Chesapeake Bay.

Speaking of floods, and flood insurance, I am hopeful that the insane congresswoman Maxcine Waters will have her bizarre legislation permanently overturned, so that people can either afford to own their homes (something she is not familiar with or supportive of) or the Federal government will buy out the landowners so the societal costs and benefits are not concentrated on just the private property owners.  Government cannot change the social contract in one week.  Well, under liberals it can, of course.  Let’s rephrase that: Government should not restructure the social contract in such a short time that private property owners see their investments destroyed overnight.  That would be good government, something unknown to Maxcine Waters and her fellow liberals.

OK, belay that last “let it snow”

Like you and most everyone I know around Pennsylvania, I feel done with the snow. Yes, did I say “let it snow” a bunch yesterday?  Well, that was then and this is now.  Now, we are expecting another eight to twelve inches of snow in the next day.  On top of the six to eight inches of hardened crust, ice, and snow already on the ground, another foot is going to keep spring from arriving for a long time.

This much snow puts a stranglehold on our business operations.  Shuts down machinery.  Trucks cannot pick up, guys cannot cut, or even drive their trucks, let alone get their machines moving.

What really is telling about this cold is that at home, we have burned a solid three-plus cords of seasoned oak firewood.  We may be closing in on four burned to date.  We have enough to take us into the end of the longest cold winter, but that just means more work felling, cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking. You know the old saw — “Firewood warms ya twice.”  You work hard making it, and then it warms you as a fire.  Indeed.

Hold on there, fellow Pennsylvanians.  Spring must be just around the corner.  Just a few weeks from now, the air should be in the mid-forties, smelling slightly earthy and damp, and a robin here and there will join the cardinal in the back yard.  Then you know relief is upon us.  Hold on.  You are in good company.

Winter, I’ve just had it with you…

Normally I look forward to winter every year. Cooler temperatures, various hunting seasons, trapping, fall fly fishing to hungry trout that were laying low just weeks before….it’s probably my favorite time of year.

That said, I have just had it with winter this year. We have burned five cords of split oak firewood, which says something about how cold it was, and I am just tired of hauling wood.

Wearing wool keeps me warm and wool clothing usually comes in colors and tartans that you won’t find in other fabrics. Even when I am not out hunting, wool clothing reminds me of the season and is just so doggone warm. And now, I don’t want to see another wool shirt for a long, long time…

Snow in late March? OK, I recall casting a fly on the mid-April opening day of trout season about 28 years ago in Centre County, amid a snow squall that impeded view of the Royal Coachman that was so visible to the trout below. And my own wedding in March of 1993 happened on “the storm of the century,” which kept many of our guests and family from reaching the proceedings.

Those two events aside, I cannot think of another drawn out winter like this. Old Man Winter, I will not miss you.

What a Fall Day for Middle America

What a Fall day to remember.

Flag football with Son and his team, including a Kids vs. Parents game that the parents lost, to the kids’ supreme pleasure.

Bought and then replaced the battery in my daughter’s car.

Split the last of the oak and stacked most of it.

Gathered the loose oak bark and piled it around the magnolia tree, where Viv wants good bark mulch.

Viv clipped long grass around the stone wall out front and put away lots of lawn stuff that’s been around for a few weeks, with Nina’s help, including piles and piles of brown oak leaves.

This is the typical, pleasant life of Middle Americans all over the country on a beautiful Fall day. It’s a way of life that most Americans take for granted. It’s a way of life fully in Obama’s cross hairs, as he seeks an America where “everyone gets their fair share.” That forced redistribution of wealth is now and will continue to end the Middle American lifestyle.

How pleasing it is to see both Gallup and Rasmussen polls showing Romney pulling ahead of Obama nationally and in the swing states. Obama is claiming just seven states now, and that’s not many. This election is looking like it might be a blow-out, as Middle Americans realize just how much everything they take for granted is under assault and at risk with the Obama administration.