Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Month: February 2016

Installing an environmentally friendly wood stove insert

Everyone likes curling up by a crackling fire, whether camping in summer or on a winter’s eve. When I purchased my home in late 2005, I had a list of wishes and needs, and having a fireplace was up there in the “needs” section. In fact, most homes have fireplaces or stoves because this need, or wish, is one of the most common requirements, right up there with having a full-sized kitchen, or a second bathroom.

So this photo, taken directly from the MLS listing I first saw, was what my fireplace first looked like:

The first night we came over to see the house after getting the keys, we lit this fire:

After that, though, the room had to be painted something other than that horrid colour of crud. The next incarnation:

…which later, I painted the terracotta tile surround of the fireplace white as well. This didn’t need to be removed when I replaced the stove, so as you scroll through this post, you’ll see it.

A 2013-dated picture of a  fire, simply because FIRE!

And a picture of fire in the burn pot of the pellet stove!

Pellet stoves: an ecologically sound replacement

Given that fireplaces are a huge loss of heat in a home, I rarely used the fireplace. In fact, I still have some of the firewood that I had when I first moved in! So, I decided to replace my cold and drafty fireplace with a wood burning insert. Before Montreal enacted the 2013 anti-fireplace law (controversial, for good reason),  I wanted to install an EPA-certified stove insert. But at the time, the city disallowed  solid fuel stoves and masonry heaters (now revised, so that fuel type is not important if  the emissions certification protects air quality), so I went for a pellet insert.

I prefer solid wood as fuel, because to value and have local private forests, we need to have woodlots. Firewood comes from dropped deadwood and selective logging, and cutting a small percentage of a forest every year is sustainable and not harmful for an ecosystem. If we don’t value firewood, we will lose our forests as landowners transform them into something more “profitable.”

Decision made, I went about doing my research and acquiring the permit, and bought the Harmon P35i pellet stove insert. It heats up to 900 square feet, which is enough to make my TV den / home office nice and toasty. Foyers Lambert did the job in late fall, 2014, and we installed the tile surround on the floor in the spring of 2015.

This is how I enjoyed my new fireplace in the winter of 2015:

This is how it looked with the new floor installed (the floor is important; insurance policies require 18 inches of tile or fireproof flooring in front of the hearth):

And this post’s cover photo is how I enjoy the pellet stove in the winter, as of 2016 (in 2017, I added a beanbag to meditate and lounge in front of the fire).

I buy my pellets at Reno Depot, and a bag lasts me about a week, lounging in the TV den/office space for about 2-3 hours per night. At often less than $5 a bag, this is an economical way to be warm, comfortable, and happy (the Danes have one word for all three: hyggelige) on a cold night.

How to give wildlife fresh, unfrozen water in winter

Happy February, folks! Today I’m going to show you just how easy it is to help your backyard wildlife friends get the water they need, at a time where it’s pretty much everywhere, but in solid or powdered form.

About a half-dozen years ago, when I came back to Canada with a new interest in birding (because the birds in Denmark were so different, I had to notice them), I joined Bird Protection Quebec to learn as much as a novice birder can. (Good on me! Good on you, if you join too!) It was here that I learned that in winter, birds can suffer even more from lack of water than from lack of food.

And yet, despite providing them wonderful backyard habitat – the likes of which Rewilding can help you provide and certify (for free) –  it took me years to finally get around to providing my flock of house sparrows and their wild friends with this basic need. Until one day, I had the brilliant idea of how to do so with things I had on hand, in under 5 minutes (once all objects were located). And when you read to the bottom of this post, you’ll know why this is very timely, indeed! 

All it requires is: Continue reading