Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Wood Stove . . . In The Back Yard!!!

There are several blog entry ideas from our training site, which we did not have time to complete during pre-service training. But they represent an interesting facet of life here in Bulgaria. Therefore, from time to time, you will see Blogs which do not represent our lives here in Plovdiv, but things that have happened to us during training. This is one of those entries.

The kitchen of my host family is on the lower “half basement” floor. This is also the level where all of the canned foods, wine, and rakia (a kind of “white lighting”) are stored. The kitchen is small compact, and functional. It is also where the old wood cook stove is located. The newer electric stove which they use is located in the small hall just outside of the kitchen. In the winter, the wood stove provides heat, as well as a surface to cook on. This wood stove looks just like pictures I have seen of the wood stoves used in the US more than 100 years ago. I had never seen one of these working, but I had certainly used many of our wood heating stoves to heat (or simmer) foods on when we lived in New Hampshire.

Early during our training, I came home to find Yancho putting a new wood cook stove in the back yard. This new one looked just like the one in the kitchen, so I assumed (incorrectly) that the old one in the kitchen was moved into the back yard, and that here would be a new stove in the basement. But…. that was not the case. The one in the kitchen was still there. And I was left puzzling about why we had this nice wood cook stove out next to the chicken coop.

While I was trying to figure this out, Yancho was busy putting the finishing touches on the stove installation. He made sure that it was level, checked all the door hinges to make sure they opened and closed easily, and decided we need to have a “test” fire in the stove. We needed to do some work on the door hinge where we put the wood, but otherwise, the smoke went up the short 6 foot makeshift metal flue, and the top of the stove got hot very quickly.

But I was still confused about why we had a wood cook stove (and a nice one) in the back yard. All my experience with wood stoves involved heating the house, moving hot air, and making sure we had enough wood to take us through the winter. There was never any reason to heat “the back yard”. Within a week, I would understand.

In the villages in Bulgaria, everyone has gardens, and everyone one puts up (cans) all the food they have. And they have lots. We had more than 120 tomato plants, plus two apple trees, and a pear tree. That did not include all the pepper plants, potatoes, etc. Nor did it include what was gathered (harvested) from the hillsides (things like black berries, raspberries, mushrooms, and what ever else could be eaten).

A few days after the “back yard” wood stove was installed, we had some guests. The guests brought about 20 pounds of strawberries for us. They had been picking in their garden, and had too many berries for themselves . So… we got the extra. The next day when I got home, the mystery of the wood stove was solved. All of the canning is done on this stove. It is efficient. It can be done in summer, and not heat up the house. It does not use any electricity, so it saves money. And the heating surface is large so you are able to can lots of jars at the same time. At my host families home, that would be important.

Now about those axes, and hatchets that appear at the top of the blog. They look old! And I think they are old - - maybe even from medieval days. But… do they ever work well. Yancho would sharpen them by hand, and I think I could shave with them when he was done. I have had a chance to use them, and they split wood as easily as anything I have ever used. It’s just another one of those lessons about “judging a book by it’s cover”. Things don’t always look as they appear here in Bulgaria. But it is always “interesting”.


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