The Essence

Living and growing a family in the North awards you with a real and tangible connection to the land. As a mother of 5 and as a home baker and wannabe chef, it is this connection that seeps into everything - motherhood, food, harvesting, and experiencing the very heartbeat of the bit of earth that sustains us.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TJ vs Fireplace

I have to take a wee break from the Blind Creek stories to tell the tale of yesterday's adventure. Well, not an adventure really, more like a battle. Between T.J and our propane fireplace. T.J has an obsession with heat. He constantly worries about our heat source crapping out during the winter, and has worked tirelessly to find solutions. He believes a woodstove would solve all his problems, but has yet to just go ahead and install one. He procrastinates because the woodstove really should go into our garage, which we eventually want to convert into a room. And the garage is a mess. T.J is not the most organized guy, and junk is constantly accumulating. I have no idea where it all comes from, because every year we clean it out, take a load to the dump and a load to the free store, and every year the piles mount until there are little paths woven through to get to the freezers. The organization of the garage is most definitely a blue job, and I refuse to touch it. Kind of like how T.J doesn't touch the laundry room. Anyway, because he hasn't cleaned and organized the garage to make room for a woodstove, T.J has invested in alternate heat sources for our home. Besides our forced air furnace, we have a oil monitor and a propane stove.
O.K, I have to admit that the propane stove was my idea, in my opinion the next best thing to a woodstove. It looks like a woodstove, it feels like a woodstove, but it creates no mess and no work collecting wood. The guy who sold it to me also proclaimed an additional bonus - low maintenance. Economical, too, about $400.00 for the whole winter. So it seemed like fate when I was scanning the Yukon News one day and in the classifieds I found a Napoleon Propane Stove - just what I was looking for! I called the guy and he explained that when he and his wife divorced, he had gone over to the house while she was out and stolen it out of her living room. He seemed quite satisfied with himself as he told me all about it, he said he was moving and needed to sell it ASAP. Of course there were a few other people calling about it - it wasn't going to last long. So I bought it. For $1100.00. Not a smart decision, T.J said, without even looking at it or knowing if it even worked. As these things usually work out, we brought the stove home, T.J hooked it all up, and it has been nothing but trouble since. And T.J has no problem rubbing it in, either. After calling around in Whitehorse to all the propane dealers, there apparently are no people who fix these things. Except Superior Propane who will come to Faro for $150.00 an hour plus gas plus hotel plus food.
One unfortunate day I returned home from somewhere and found T.J ripping the stove away from the wall, swearing and sweating as he threw it outside in the snowbank. I got on the phone and arranged to bring the stove in to Griffiths, where someone would take a look at it for us. The repair guy called me one day while TJ was gone and explained that he suspected it was a venting issue, and that he couldn't know for sure without testing it in our home. Which wasn't going to happen, at $150 an hour. So a few days ago, T.J picked it up in Whitehorse and returned home, determined to try again. Yesterday he brought it in and hooked it up once more. He purchased a new thermocouple, and successfully installed it. Things were looking up. It lit up perfectly.
Then we noticed a smell. Thinking it was just because it had been turned off for awhile, we opted to give it an hour to see if it needed to warm up. But the smell persisted. Then our eyes started to water, we started to cough. We felt sleepy. Well the guy said it was a venting issue. T.J climbed up on the roof. I guess the chimney cap was plugged up with ice and snow, so he cleared it and came back in. The house was still filling with fumes. Thinking there was possibly ice build up down the chimney, T.J tied a rope around a broom handle, climbed back up on the roof and lowered the handle down. All clear. T.J started losing it again, kicking and swearing and stomping around. He came in and turned the "stupid" stove off. We opened all the windows. He was getting ready to throw it back in the snow bank. In one last ditch effort, we thought that maybe the problem was the stovepipe wasn't sealed to the stove - T.J broke the seal when he had ripped it off the wall. So I held the stove pipe up while T.J squirted silicone around the base. Just before he gave me the go ahead to lower the pipe back down, he spotted a little corner of red poking out of the bottom of the pipe. He reached up and pulled out a balled up dish towel. One of the new ones, of course, that I had purchased during our last trip to Whitehorse and then lost. Which was now pitch black with soot. He sheepishly grinned at me and said, "Oops, I forgot that I had shoved that up there". Well. HA.
The air started to clear right away and the stove has been running perfectly since. June had an especially good nap, also. I'm sure this is not the end of the propane stove saga, but our house is toasty and my husband is happy he conquered for now. We (T.J) are so fortunate that he saw that towel before we sealed the pipe. That small thing could have easily burned our house down, or poisoned us all in our sleep. A word of advice for everyone out there - DON'T buy a second hand propane stove - no matter what a good deal you found!

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