Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Heart of the Home

Our new (to us) Waterford Stanley cookstove is the first tangible piece for our soon-to-be new home, and the very heart of that home- heat, food prep, hot water. Our dream is taking on a different shape and feeling... reality... we can feel it. I can't begin to describe the excitement!

The story behind the stove- Michel Froment purchased the stove 30 years ago for his small starter house. Since adding on and updating, the stove has been parked in his garage for the last 15 years or so. At long last, Michel decided it was time to part with his trusty stove, to pass it on to someone who would use and appreciate its versatility and beauty. Someone like us! Not two days after placing a for sale ad on a west coast B.C. internet site, we just happened to Google the "Waterford Stanley" looking for all information we could find about the make of cookstove we truly desired for our future home, and up pops his ad. You can't believe how incredulous this find really is, the chance of it! We immediately contacted Jean-Paul, made arrangements to send a deposit, and finally the trip to collect the stove. So, now it waits in our garage for it's new place in our straw bale home!

A little about Waterford Stanley:
For generations, European cookstoves have been renowned for solid construction and precision engineering. Stanley cookstoves are no exception. They're made in Waterford, Ireland, just a few hundred feet from the world-famous Waterford Crystal factory. Folks in Waterford take pride in their work. After all, nearly one out of every two households in Ireland uses a Waterford stove. Proven in over 100 years of continuous use!

Cast iron construction is symbolic of the best quality and durability with the added bonus of even heat. The Stanley is made completely of iron! Other manufacturers use iron only in the most heat-stressed areas of their stoves. Because of its solid cast iron walls and linings, Stanleys are a solid investment, lasting for generations. Even after almost 30 years of selling Stanley cookstoves, there are virtually no calls for parts. Our Stanley has a black porcelain front and powder coated sides and splashback which wipe clean and look new for years. When treated with care its the best finish there is. The splashback has a plate warming shelf and two towel bars. Although, Michel suggested these can be used to dry socks and such, too!

The roast-size oven easily holds a 25 pound turkey or large roast. There is even a convenient thermometer on the oven door to aid in monitoring oven temps. The firebox is the largest in its price class. All doors are securely gasketed for controlled combustion. Holds fire as long as 8 hours. Cast iron liners are easy to replace, although ours are still in good condition.

The side panels and back of the Stanley are packed with fireproof mineral wool. This allows for close clearance to combustible surfaces and the ability to use the cookstove in mild weather without overheating the kitchen. Our Stanley also has a stainless steel waterfront which connects to house plumbing for our hot water needs.

Needless to say, I can hardly wait to use our Stanley!!!

Road Trip One- Vancouver Island, B.C.

April 18, 2009 dawns clear and bright with the promise of a warm spring day as Tom and I begin what is the first of several road trips surrounding our Journey Into The Country. Traveling north on SR 101 towards Port Angeles to catch the 8:20 a.m. ferry to Victoria, B.C., the early morning sky gently comes to light while the forest walls give way to the blue water of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Our final destination this fine day? Tofino, B.C. on Vancouver Island to collect the Waterford Stanley solid fuel (wood) cookstove which will become the heart of our soon-to-be new home in NE Washington!

As we board the M.V. Coho, excitement mounts. Although, rising at 3:45 a.m., adrenaline and the rolling of the ferry combine to make two drowsy passengers. Slowly, the snow-covered Olympic Mountains shrink behind as the lovely downtown harbour of Victoria grows closer. Ninety minutes later we disembark and north on Hwy. 1, passing numerous wineries, dairy farms, garden nurseries and antique malls. We must come here for an actual holiday to visit all these places! The rented 1-ton cargo van makes easy driving- Cowichan Bay, Nanaimo, Parksville, Port Alberni- enjoying beautiful views every which way.

We had no idea what we were headed for other than a peninsula area known for its exquisite coastal beaches. Unbeknownst to us, in order to reach Tofino, roughly (pun intended) 85 km of narrow, winding, rough, steep, stunning highway twist before us like a ribbon. With every turn rivers, creeks, water falls, ravines, building-sized boulders, sheer rock overhangs, rain forest, snow- neither of us have seen such dramatic beauty! Those last 85 km are doosies, too- narrow 2-lane road blasted through the edge of solid rock mountains, sheer drop-offs, no shoulder, no guard rails, rough pavement, up and down, 8, 10 and 18% grades. Somewhere around the last 3 km we were desperate to get out of the van! Finally, the charming coastal town of Tofino.

First stop, check into Chelsea's Bed & Breakfast Inn. Jens Kalwa runs a lovely, home-like three-room Inn with gorgeous views of Clayoquot Bay. Jens makes a fabulous smoked salmon omelet breakfast, too! Did I mention he surfs and does fishing, whale-watching and bear-watching charters? Next trip, we will definitely stay at Chelsea's.

Still dizzy and very stiff, its back into the van (ugh!) to meet Michel Froment and his son, Jean-Paul, with whom we've been exchanging email, to collect the Waterford Stanley cookstove, the whole purpose of this trip. The Froments friend, Jamie, was also on hand to help load the 700 pound beauty. Thank you, guys, for everything!!! The Froments own Live To Surf, check it out when you are in the area.

Next, an incredible dinner at Schooner's followed by a brief walk on famous Chesterman Beach. Beware- the beauty will take your breath away! Finally, back to the Inn and bedtime for these two weary travelers.

Sunday morning dawns foggy with a light rain falling, contributing to our already drowsy state of mind. After the aforementioned breakfast feast, we were as ready to hit the winding road as we could be. I must admit, this stretch of highway was actually pleasant at the beginning of the travel day than at the end! The van handled its load very well; we all arrived home safe and sound later that evening.

Along the way, it was fun to see the reactions of various ferry personnel and customs staff upon hearing our reason for going to Canada. After asking to see the stove, one man said: "I've seen one of those in a museum." People were genuinely surprised we'd travel all that distance "just for an old stove." Another told us he'd follow right behind in living a sustainable off-grid life. One young man in Victoria kept asking questions and as we passed him to load onto the ferry called out "Enjoy the stove!" I like to think we gave them all an interesting story to tell at the end of their work day.

"Was it worth it?" we've been asked. We reply with an unhesitating "Yes!"

Want to see more photos? Go to our Tofino album.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Maui Time

Many of you know we were in Maui last week. It was fantastic!!! Our traveling party consisted of many in the Beers clan- Dad Frank, brother Gary with wife, Kristi, and their children- Daniel, Caleb and Tatiana. A truly memorable week for company, scenery and awesome fish dishes. Here is a link to some of the Maui Highlights by photograph. Enjoy!

We like to get off the beaten path, tap into the local culture and history of any place we visit. In Hawai'i this meant seeing an area on the slopes of Haleakala (a resting volcano) referred to as Upcountry. Here there are farms and ranches, lush, sloping, verdant green pastures with a backdrop of the West Maui mountains, palm trees, jacaranda trees in full lavender bloom and incredible blues of the Pacific ocean. Stunning! We toured a goat dairy and found out selling raw milk in the state is not allowed, period. Supposedly, there were several deaths among the hippies decades ago due to unclean dairy practices. However, this dairy produces cheese, so we participated in a goat cheese tasting. Yum!

Then there are the miles of sugarcane fields in the flat isthmus between the 'mirrors' of each end if the island. In all, there are 34,000 acres in sugarcane in Hawai'i. We toured the sugar museum, located directly across from the last sugar mill in the state. Quite interesting. The mill produces raw sugar that is then shipped to California for refining and sold under the "C & H" label. It still is "pure cane sugar, from Hawai'i, growing in the sun!" In fact, Maui is on the same latitude as the Sahara Desert making it ideally situated for growing sugarcane because of long days of intense sunshine. A couple tidbits I didn't know- sugarcane needs lots of water, then two weeks before harvest they stop watering it so the leaves can dry out, at which time they burn the field. But the cane is not harmed since it is 73% water!

It was also noteworthy that much of their produce is imported and much of the tropical fruit produced is exported. There are bananas from Chile in their stores, too, even though one can grow them in their own garden. Seems a little mixed up, doesn't it? And steady yourself for this, one dozen free-range eggs (not organic) is as much as $8.40. Ouch! Made me appreciate my 'girls' back home even more. ;)

And just when we got the hang of pronouncing Hawaiian words, it was time to leave. We will always have a special place in our hearts for Maui and now a new phrase to snap our minds back into Maui time- Hang Loose!