Friday, January 16, 2015

Milady's Pantry ~ Hearth and Home

“I woke just past dawn to the scratching of the rose brier against the window, and the muffled thump and clang of breakfast fixing in the kitchen below. Peering over Jamie’s sleeping form, I saw that the fire was dead out. I slid out of bed, quietly so as not to wake him. The floorboards were icy under my feet and I reached, shivering, for the first available garment.
Swathed in the folds of Jamie’s shirt, I knelt on the hearth and went about the laborious business of rekindling the fire, thinking rather wistfully that I might have included a box of safety matches in the short list of items I had thought worthwhile to bring. Striking sparks from a flint to catch kindling does work, but not usually on the first try. Or the second. Or …
Somewhere around the dozenth attempt, I was rewarded by a tiny black spot on the twist of tow I was using for kindling. It grew at once and blossomed into a tiny flame. I thrust it hastily but carefully beneath the little tent of twigs I had prepared, to shelter the blooming flame from the cold breeze.”

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Voyager.”  

As I've said many a time before, my favorite scenes from Outlander always seem to be in a kitchen, around a cooking fire, in a bedroom with a peat fire and stone hearth or in a parlor replete with brandy, tea or oatcakes! The act of breaking bread together in and of itself is an act of bonding and creating community; add a fire and you've added a generous measure of warmth and safety. 

Over the years many have asked me about Emily, my old wood fired stove. Here she is in all of her glory! She's a good old fashioned Dutch West cast iron workhorse capable of going up past 1000 degrees really quickly once you fire up the catalytic converter!  When we left our farm in Burton, I couldn't bear to leave her there, so I uninstalled her and now she lives with good friends of ours who enjoy her warmth on a regular basis. 
At this point I've written about Emily  so many times that she's begun to really have a persona of her own. I loved sharing life with her,  she was the provider of many a fine breakfast, lunch and dinner at Windesphere when the power would go out. On evenings without heat, we'd curl up with our blankets and pillows,  lay down around her (cats and dogs too!), watch the flames dance and wake up in the morning safe and toasty warm.

Even when the power didn't go out, I'd still wake up on a cold morning and cook pancakes and bacon on top of her broad hot shoulders. The best oatmeal in the world is oatmeal that you've put on the night before in a cast iron pot, set on top of the warming stand on a woodstove and allowed to simmer gently though the night. Add cinnamon, raisins and whatever spices you want and you've not only got breakfast, you've got warm and spicy potpourri!

 These days, although I've moved into the city, I'm all about inspiring others to create as much self sufficiency  as possible and for me a woodstove is one of the most important things that you can ever install in your home. When the power goes out and you need drinking water you can boil it, when the power goes out and you need food and warmth guess what? Just fire up the stove and you're as cozy as can be. Everyone should have the experience of cooking with fire at least once, if not for any other reason than to just know that it can be done and besides...there's no better pot of chili , vegetable soup or chicken and dumplings in the world than when they are cooked slowly on a stove just like this! 

I hadn't seen her in over 8 years but we went out into the country a while back to have dinner with our old neighbors and there she was, logs a~blazing, standing stalwart in the corner and heating their home as capably as she'd ever done ours. It was so good to bask in her warmth again and furthered my resolve to have a smaller version of her placed in my home by next winter. 

If you're interested in a stove of your own grab a cup of tea and biscuit with jam and cozy up to Lehman Brothers and have a look around! You'll find all kinds of wonderful things to bring joy to your homesteading heart!

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