Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Moving the Wood Burning Stove

Last year we went through 200 gallons of propane in less than 30 days.  So we got a second, larger tank.  We also decided to buy a wood burning stove for about the same price as one refill of the 2 tanks of propane.  We put the stove in the back of the house, in the utility room, because that is where the chimney for the old disconnected and removed wood burning furnace was.

Eric installed a fan that was left here by the previous owner.  When the temperature got hot enough, the sensor would kick the fan on and blow the warm air into the kitchen.

The method was better than nothing, but was not the best  I would often find myself and others sitting on empty joint compound buckets, huddled around the fire in the unfinished, uninsulated room.

Earlier this year, we had a new chimney installed in the front of the house, where we actually exist during the day.  The dilemma was what to do with the floor.  Eric and I have agonized over this.

This area is severely cracked, sounds hallow in some parts, has a patch of cement that bumps up, and also has some pretty rough gouges. 

I actually gave Eric an ultimatum. 
"I need the wood burning stove in the front of the house and in working order before your next travel for work trip!"

I was ok with the original floor (I could put a rug over most of it) or willing to cover it somehow.  Eric had to be the decision maker.  He decided to put brick down.  Yay. Decision made.

I found a brick store - the ACME brick company.  Thoughts of Wile E. Coyote cartoons with ACME everything abounded.

Acme Brick. The Best Thing To Have Around Your House.

Yeah...  Not made up.  It's real out here.

Eric and I walked into the store and found what we both liked - the same sample- in less than 5 minutes, maybe 2 or 3.  Then I proceeded to look at everything in the store to "be sure" I really did like the one I originally picked the best. 
Then we got to the sales guy.  The brick we picked is a concrete brick, not a clay brick.  Questions as to whether it will hold up to the weight of our wood burning stove were raised. 

Back to the drawing board.  I looked at ALL the clay brick options and didn't find a single one I thought I could remotely live with.  The sales guy went to the "expert" brick guy and came back to tell us the concrete brick should be fine. 
OK!  Ordered! 
I picked it up 2 weeks later the same day as our home school group in Springfield.  Taking the truck instead of the SUV was a logistical adventure with where the onions sat, but we got the brick safely home.

Eric and I have never laid tile or brick.  This process is completely new to us.  We decided to get cement backer board, mortar, and the suggested tools. 

The morning of the planned installation, Eric thought it would be better to do self leveling cement.  OK.

The floor transformed into a beautiful shiny marbled super smooth floor.  I would have been happy with it right there, but we feared cracking and we had the brick already......

We had to wait for that to set up and cure. 
Then to lay the backer board.

Another waiting period for that to cure.
Then to lay the brick.

Laying the brick was an involved process.  We streamlined with assigned duties and made the process as efficient as possible.

Elanor globbed the mortar down and cleaned up any extra.
Eric spread it and troweled it.
Amelia back buttered the bricks.
Scott and Naomi held the back buttered bricks to hand to Eric.

We ran out or mortar.....

Then we really got going. 
I back buttered.
Seth and Amelia cut some bricks.
Scott opened new boxes as we needed them.
Elanor took a break, with others attempting to fill in.
The onions held back buttered bricks so Eric could do a larger area and put several down at once.

Another waiting period.

The box suggested that you seal the TOPS of the bricks to help prevent the mortar from bonding to the brick.  But to be careful not to allow any spillage down the sides of the brick because it wouldn't bond where it needed to.  Well, I can say I tried really hard.

Then on to "grout."  But brick has mortar, not grout.  So on to mortaring, but with a lighter color.

Eric and Elanor came up with the idea to pipe in the mortar with cake frosting bags.  OK.
We had a little bit of a learning curve with what consistency worked best.
We had mixers, bag fillers, Eric pipes, I troweled. 
I used a half circle tool for a very short time.  It made the floor rather bumpy. 
I then tried the "wipe it with a sponge method."
Winner winner chicken dinner!

I was rushing to get done to go to a meeting at church... The first part was ok, but as time went on the cleaning job became increasingly sloppy.

I spent the better part of a day chiseling and wiping off the excess mortar.

The final step was to seal the whole thing.  I liked the wet look more than the dull look.  So we switched to glossy sealer.

Eric left on a Saturday.  I sealed the floor late Friday night after a fun filled date night.  Eric, Scott ,and I moved the stove to the front of the house Saturday morning.  I was personally very thankful for our 2 moving dollies.

I plan to have a small seating area on the left.  We will install the trim around the windows after they are replaced.  We used some baseboard trim to keep our little dog out of the area while we were working and while it was setting.

Location, location, location!
The stove has been in the front of the house for a couple of weeks now.  I absolutely love it!  Our whole house is warmer.  The heat goes up the stairs, into the living room, and even into the master bedroom without turning on the central heating and cooling fan.  We are cozier and we are one step closer to a completed home.  Win - win.

And..... We are back to hovering when it is cold.  But on actual stools rather than buckets this time.  Ha ha.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Canning Pears

There is an amazing man in our ward.  Brother Cox.  He is in his 90's and does not act his age!    He came to our home school group so the class I was mentoring could meet and interview someone who served in WWII.  He gardens, very successfully.  He brings his garden surplus to church every Sunday to share his bounty with others.  He has offered me specific items in bulk.  He even invited us over to pick AND can beans at his house, with the help of his lovely daughter.

About a month ago I received a call after 9 pm from brother Cox.  {He would give the energizer bunny a run for his money, for sure.}  Brother Cox invited me, along with a couple of other families, to pick pears. 

OK.  I've never loved pears.  I've never picked them.  And I have never canned them.  But OK.

The pear trees were supposed to be ornamental.  Nope.  The city planted several fruit bearing pear trees at the cemetery.   Brother Cox noticed all the fruit going to waste and asked the city if he could pick them.  He has been doing this for well over a decade.

We arrive on the agreed upon day.  There is Brother Cox, up a ladder, in a tree, picking pears!

The pears were delicious, but needed to sit to ripen.

I decided to can pear sauce.  I do not have a pressure caner and sauce seemed easiest.  My food strainer says no skinning or coring.  
My first attempt did NOT go well.
The strainer barely fits onto our very thick counter-top and slipped off easily, it leaked, it was very difficult to turn the handle to churn the pears, and NO sauce came out.  
I have canned a few things several times, so canning in and of itself is not new.  I have made applesauce only once and that was a few years ago and I did it as a family project with lots of helpers, including Eric.

So I inform Eric of my plight.  He asks if I have boiled the pears.  I responded rather indignantly and an emphatic "NO" escaped my lips.  Eric just stared.  Wait for it...... He thoroughly enjoyed watching my gears turn and the light bulb go off and then GASP!  I didn't cook the pears!  Maybe you can picture this hilarious akin to I love Lucy moment.  There was some laughter at my folly.

The second time was tedious at best.  It took a LONG time to boil the water, to quarter and add the pears, to empty the water set aside the pears, refill the water and beginning the boiling process again, and then, grind the pears into sauce.  (This is all wrong if you are unaware.)  I got sauce!  
I started with so many pears!  I piled as many as I could up on the counter and the pile looked the same after I filled the pots.  And there were still more pears waiting in bags and boxes.  The job proved to take much longer than I had anticipated.

The sauce was rather liquidy, and I didn't want to wait longer for it to simmer down, so I strained the sauce into two jars - 1 for the juice, and 2 for the sauce.  I thought I was so clever.....  Really it was just time consuming.  
Even my helpers doubted.

A friend told me that the sauce seems watery, but if you strain it the sauce could be too dry.  Argh.  So the latter batches were not strained.  If it is indeed dry, I have the liquid to add back to it.  If the sauce is fine, I have cider.

I learned the the difference between sauce, cider and juice; for me anyway.  Obviously I am NOT an expert.
Sauce - ground up COOKED fruit.
Cider - the juice of the ground up cooked fruit
Juice - is the water the fruit is cooked in.  I learned this on the very last batch.  Sigh.  It was very watered down.   But repeatedly using the same water cooking the pears would have yielded a flavorful drink.

cider, juice, sauce

I did not take as many pears as I could have that morning at the cemetery.  I did not want to overwhelm myself.  But I got a bit flustered anyway.  This project took an entire day, from shortly after breakfast until after bed time for the onions.  But at least I did it in one day.  One day of standing at the stove.  One day of everything I touched getting sticky.  One day of frustration and finding the way.  One day of disarray. 

 I seriously questioned whether it was worth canning or not.  

There were a couple of jars that did not seal properly.  I was SO sick of pears, I just put them in the frig.  

Well....  I learned a lot from this experience.

I learned:
that even when I think I know what I am doing, I might not.
that seemingly simple things can be complicated if you don't know what you are doing in the first place.
how to can pear sauce.  I am confident my next attempt will be much easier.
perseverance even when I'm not sure it is worth it.
that I LOVE pear sauce!  I will certainly be canning again next year!

I see the gospel and life in general in this experience for me.  
There are videos and blogs and other canning resources available.  I looked, but did not study or gain knowledge.
I jumped in without preparing myself.
I ask:
How often have I read the scriptures for the sake of obedience without ever gleaning anything from my reading?
How often have I acted impatiently without prayer or pondering or waiting for an answer.
And yet when I do this, how often has Christ been there to help me and show me a better way?  Every time! - if I am willing to follow Him.