Cider Press Hill

Stinking up the neighborhood

Wednesday, 2:51 pm

I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. Last night, around 9:30, as I sat in my comfy chair reading a scary story*, a knock came on my front door. I jumped about a mile. Peering out the front window, I saw a neighbor standing at the door.

When I opened the door, she seemed a little uncomfortable. “Are you burning wood tonight?” she asked.

I opened the door a little wider and gestured toward the stove. “No, see? The stove is cold.” She peeked around the corner at the stove and seemed relieved.

Meanwhile, smoky smelling air poured through the front door. Thick, pungent smoky smelling air. Stinky smoky air.

My neighbor admitted that I’m the only one she knows, for sure, who burns wood and the smoky air was bothering her a lot. It aggravates her asthma, makes her sick. But she was glad it wasn’t me.

I asked her to come in. It seemed like the ideal time to tell her about my stove and how it works and to listen to her concerns. Good neighbor relations required it. It was the first time she’s ever been in my house.

She came in and we shut the smoky air out. She told me that she doesn’t know that much about wood stoves, but was a little surprised that my house didn’t smell like woodsmoke. No, I told her, the newer woodstoves are air tight and are designed to burn the wood gasses and smoke so that it doesn’t go up the chimney or into the house. It’s better for the environment and the air quality and, actually, allows me to burn less wood. I told her that if she looks at other people’s chimneys (who use gas furnaces), she will see much more steam coming out of them than she’ll see coming out of mine. Most of the time she will only see heat waves emerging from the top of my chimney, but on really cold days, she would see some white wisps of steam. But the one thing she won’t see coming out of mine is smoke, which is gray and dingy looking. And I make sure of it because I don’t want my neighbors to hate me and my woodstove.

She reached out and touched the stove. Icy cold. I opened the stove’s door and gave her a tour of what’s inside and how it works. She actually was pretty interested. In fact, she remarked that aside from some ash sitting in the bottom of the stove, it didn’t look as if anything had burned in it. “It’s so clean in there,” she said. “There’s no black soot.” She asked a lot of questions and we also had a discussion about the wood I burn. I explained that my wood is seasoned for two years before I burn it and it’s pretty dry stuff. It catches flame quickly and burns cleanly. If my stove was black inside, that would mean I was burning wood improperly or using unseasoned wet wood. I make every effort to make sure that my stove and chimney are maintained and that I only burn well seasoned and dry wood so that I don’t send a blanket of smoke all over the neighborhood. That’s important to me because I don’t want to antagonize the neighbors and cause anyone to complain.

Of course, the conversation turned to the question, “Who is stinking up the neighborhood?”

Yes, I know who it is and it’s driving me nuts, too. But I’m not sure it’s my place to rat out a neighbor. On the other hand...it’s bad business for people who depend on wood heat and burn responsibly. I told her that I was pretty sure it was someone living up on the hill behind us. Could be any one of a number of houses—although I know which one. The guy who lives directly behind me. He chopped down another few hardwood trees in July and had them cut and split and stacked right on-property. It’s good wood—or will be in another year—but it’s unseasoned green wood and the smoke from it stinks terribly. Smoke from well-seasoned wood tends to be sweet smelling. This is is sour and really pungent smoke. It’s hard to burn green wood and it will smoulder more than burn. He’s not doing himself any favors either. His chimney is going to get thoroughly gunked up and increase his risks of a chimney fire. But for the rest of us...did I mention that it really stinks? And I am sure that half the neighborhood thinks that it’s me?

Well, the good thing is that this neighbor is the neighborhood telegraph. By the weekend everyone on the street will know that It’s Not Me. Which doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s nice to be off the hook anyway. When she left, she was confident that I am a good neighbor. She did remark that she thought it odd because she’s never noticed a smoky smell before and I’ve been burning my stove for a few years now. And I told her that if she ever has any questions or concerns, to come over. I’d be glad to show her how my stove burns when it’s actually burning and take a look at what’s coming out of the chimney. I’m sure she’ll be watching it for a while. And that’s fine.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t solve the problem of the guy up on the hill. That kind of smoke and stink is what makes people complain to the town and ends up getting laws enacted that prohibit wood burning within village limits. As more people turn to wood, it’s probably going to be more of a problem. There is a little learning curve to burning wood. But there are excellent resources available that teach people how to do it properly and responsibly. I highly recommend Woodheat.org for anyone thinking of buying a woodstove or, for that matter, anyone who has one. I’ve learned a ton from that site. Some really instructive videos, too.

* (riveting scary story) The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen. Not necessarily recommended for reading while alone in the house.

Posted by Kate on 10/2208 at 02:51 PM

Maybe you could anonymously drop some of that info off at the house. Maybe they will get the hint. Just a thought. Or maybe a friend could do it for you so that no one would spot you doing it lol.  grin

Posted by justme on 10/22  at  04:28 PM

Darn! I thought for sure you were going to say that the funky smell came from some McCain/Palin canvassers in your neighborhood.

Posted by Pablo on 10/23  at  05:51 AM

J, that might not be such a bad idea. Were you volunteering? smile

Pablo, we haven’t seen any such beings in this neighborhood yet. Good luck to them if they do show up. The most vociferously Republicany of Republicans in the neighborhood have an Obama sign stuck in the ground in front of their house. When I saw that, I nearly dropped from the shock. No McCain/Palin signs up here, though. smile

Posted by Kate on 10/23  at  02:26 PM

Yup, I was. cheese
and I am guessing that the name I emailed you didn’t go over well?
and I thought I was being so smart for that early!

Posted by jsutme on 10/23  at  03:43 PM

Huh. You ended up in my spam box. Yes, I like the name. Perfect. Only you… LOL

Posted by Kate on 10/23  at  03:58 PM

LOL, wonder how that happened? We need to plan a day, the weeks are going by again. I have looked up a bunch of movies. I will have to do a search for them. Oh and I seem to have some birdseed in my freezer! Are there hungry birds someplace? LOL, and a crock pot that has seen some good use!

Posted by justme on 10/25  at  07:57 AM

Some time in the next week I have to come over to reregister the car. You’ll have to put the coffee pot on for me after that delightful experience. Birds aren’t hungry yet, but will need the seed soon. And it will be Indian Moth free. Yay! You might as well keep using the crock pot. I have a smaller one if I need one, but will probably do most of my slow cooking on the woodstove.  I might need it when the lad comes home...or not. What movies are we going to watch next??

Posted by Kate on 10/25  at  12:51 PM

Oh goodie, let me know what day. I have nothing going on really. Thanks for the use of the CP. Not something I want to be replaced as a B’day present but, dang I need one. I didn’t realize just how many fall Sunday dinners get cooked in one! And on Hot days too LOL. If you pick a day before I go to the market to morrow, you could get a free home cooked dinner out of it too!
Cant think of the movies I had in mind at the moment. Have any suggestions?

Posted by justme on 10/26  at  07:20 AM

Let’s see. I think you should see Babette’s Feast. It’s the ultimate foody movie and it’s a delightful and touching story besides. And if you’ve never seen The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, well that’s a 5 hanky movie and I could watch it 500 times and never tire of it. Also...I think you should see Goodnight Mister Tom. Oh...also...Chocolat.

Oh...going to the DMV is such a wretched chore. I suppose I should do it earlier in the week just to get it over with—Tuesday or Wednesday. Ugh. At least a dinner on the other end of it helps. I’m sorry. I just hate going there. It doesn’t matter what of time of day I go, there is always, always, always a LONG wait. On the bright side...at least I have my Kindle. That’ll help.

Posted by Kate on 10/26  at  12:10 PM

I really don’t blame you. I loath going there too!
I have had Babette’s feast in my hand at least twice and swapped it for something else. I will get that for sure. I have seen Ghost and Mrs Muir, a very long, long time ago. So that is a good one too. I haven’t seen the other two. Never heard of Chocolat, before I don’t believe??? I will look those up too!
Just let me know which day you decide on when you know. Either is fine. Wednesday is E’s early night. But that doesn’t really matter either way. We just eat later usually on that night.

Posted by justme on 10/27  at  07:00 AM

Great story about the woodstove!  When i lived in tahoe I had an insert in my fireplace and burned wood, so did many of my neighbors.  I don’t remember anyone having the stinky problem, but we were a bunch of environmentalists and there were some type of regulations on stoves etc.

Posted by canyoncottage on 10/27  at  11:37 AM