From the Blogoshpere:

March 2, 2007

Many MHA members know heater mason and well
known bakeoven specialist John Fisher, who has been
living in Sweden for a number of years. He telephoned recently,
and we caught up and chatted. John mentioned that he has an
online persona in a discussion group on one of the blogs that
I follow on "peak oil".

Anyway, he sent along the following clip, which features an
interesting discussion on masonry heaters and their role in
the world.

John is "bestwishes" on this internet group.

Best ........ Norbert Senf


hi norbert,

  thanks for the links. all very interesting. i'm way
behind in my reading. funny thing now with the
internet, it is like being at university full time,
except that it doesn't cost a fortune and there are no
exams. maybe the big final exam is WTSHTF as they say
on CFN.

    did you read my original post on masonry heaters
with the mark twain quote ? here it is in an exchange
 (jan 14) with jerry johnsson and laura lauzader:

Cat connection to the spread of plague:

... The Great Plague of London started with a
devastating outbreak in Holland a couple years
earlier. In spring of 1665, it hit Britain with a
vengeance. ...

People were starting to slowly deduce the flea thing
[bubonic plague is spread by fleas], but it was a case
of trial and error. First they decided plague was
being spread by dogs and cats, so the mayor of London
ordered all dogs and cats executed.

Despite the extermination of millions of Fluffies,
Lassies, Snowballs and Spots, the plague not only
persisted but actually accelerated, since the
brilliant strategy of executing all the cats allowed
the rats (the actual culprits) to multiply freely in
the absence of their most dangerous predator. ...<

Posted by: donna | January 14, 2007 at 12:48 AM

laura lauzader said:
"This would apply in spades in the large city areas
such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and
other major metro areas. Most dwellings in these areas
have no working fireplaces, even. Installing wood
stoves is unfeasible. In any case, would we really
want to see a heavily forested city like Chicago
stripped of every growing,leafy thing to supply
firewood, which in any case would not keep us going
for more than one month of winter? "

in sweden the landscape is a lot like minnesota. the
main difference being that they have had many more
generations of forestry, so their forests are maybe
not as diverse.
but the point is, their emperial quest was based on a
lot of wood energy. they have had critical shortages
more than once. they coked it for melting iron ore at
the same time that they were exporting a lot of timber
to europe. in 1787(78?) the king commisioned an
engineer and a military captain to redesign their
domestic heating systems. in nine months they had
drawn wood fired heaters to do everything in the house
more efficiently (cooking,baking,heating water, and
space). of their fifteen different models, one became
a standard that is still built the same way today.
i know this because i build them.

it is called a "kakelugn" (swedish tile stove. about
one ton, composed of raw clay, sand, water, and glazed
structural tiles.
practically every apartment in stockholm had one. rich
people had fancy ones in every room.

here is what mark twain had to say about it:

"To the uninstructed stranger it promises nothing. It
has a little bit of a door which seems foolishly out
of proportion to the rest of the edifice. Small sized
fuel is used, and marvelously little of that. The
process of firing is quick and brings a small
basketful of slender pine sticks and puts half of
these in , lights them with a match,and closes the
door. They burn out in ten or twelve minutes. He then
puts in the rest and locks the door. The work is done.

All day long and until past midnight all parts of the
room will be delightfully warm and comfortable. Its
surface is not hot. You can put your hand on it
anywhere and not get burnt.

Consider these things. One firing is enough for the
day. The cost is next to nothing. The heat produced is
the same all day instead of too hot and too cold by

America could adopt this stove, but does america do it
? No, she sticks placidly to her own fearful and
wonderful inventions in the stove line. The american
woodstove, of whatever breed, is a terror. It requires
more attention than a baby. It has to be fed every
little while. It has to be watched all the time. and
for all your reward you are roasted half your time and
frozen the other half. And when your wood bill comes
in you think you have been supporting a volcano.

It is certainly strange that useful customs, and
devices do not spread from country to country with
more facility and promptness than they do."

my point with this longish post is that chicago is
likely to be denuded anyway, just as lovelock's
beloved devon will have windmills as far as the eye
can seeeven WITH the nuclear reactors that are likely
to be built in england. wood will be used a lot by
rich and poor alike, because it is so locally

the good thing is, it is close to carbon neutral even
if you burn it dirty. so we might as well burn it
properly. and manage our forests well.

for the north american version see
the masonry heater association.

Posted by: bestwishes | January 14, 2007 at 03:51 AM

Chicago denuded?

I'm beginning to hope I don't live too long.......

And that's the worst part, isn't it? Half the world
will die and the other half will wish it had?

Posted by: Laura Louzader | January 14, 2007 at 06:04

sorry. that was maybe a little extreme. but probably
people in evanston will have to do something to
protect their old oaks from the lads of north lawndale
and cicero.

i don't think bustin j's bitching and moaning period
will last very long. once people get it that their
leaders don't have solutions, they act for themselves.

i was watching a non-embedded journalist in iraq who
had filmed an american tank crew meting out its
justice on an iraqi taxi driver that had been caught
"looting". he was loading firewood into his car from
someone else's stash. the gi's were strident and
condescending. then they crushed the man's car with
their tank. the journalist stayed afterward to
interview the man. the taxi was his livlihood. he
didn't know what to do next.

in sweden there is a private property clause called
"allmans rätt" (everybody's access). anyone is allowed
to go into privately owned swedish woodland and walk
around, pick berries and mushrooms, and gather dead
branches. it was instituted by one of the kings who
saw that the nobles were killing the peasants by
charging them for everything. somehow it stuck, and,
if you like to walk in the woods,it makes life in
sweden very different from life in the states.
(the right to get shot in the ass)

but of course there is etiquet that comes with it.
swedes are constantly telling stories of germans who
don't get it and walk through peoples yards and camp
on their docks without asking.

i'm sure population density has something to do with
it. population density must be why vermont has the
highest per capita gun ownership with the lowest per
capita gun murders. poster child for the nra. (a gun
totin' society is a polite society)

one thing is for sure. firewood is a poor man's solar

weaseldog, what should we call the growing awareness
of the rich of their fiduciary responsibility to the
biosphere ?

i was thinking "the one-open-eye-of-the-needle"

Posted by: bestwishes | January 14, 2007 at 08:46 AM

I really liked your post Bestwishes. My uncle built
masonry stoves for sixty years. I have my own small
source of cordwood and a very efficient American wood
stove. It was a compromise because of the need to tear
out a great deal to build a Swedish masonry stove. As
a compromise, I built a large masonry mantle that also
stores and radiates the heat. The Stove I put in
relies on a fan but it could be run off a solar
battery system. I would use about a cord a month to
heat the entire house if I relied on just wood. The
furnace radiates stored heat for about eight hours
after the fire dies back. The house was built with a
very high efficiency propane furnace that does not do
anything during a winter power outage. I also have
cheaper electricity from a municipal power company.
There are two small nuke plants within 40 miles plus
three windfarms within the same distance. The grid
might go down but the power capacity here is local.

If I had built from scratch I would have built a
masonry stove.

The social idea of everyone's access was universal in
Scandanavian rural areas when I was a kid. We went all
over the place for berries and people loved our woods
for hunting grouse in particular. We also had lowlands
that were a froggers paradise. I first deduced
overpopulation by the frog hordes on our home place.
Millions of them in about 100 acres that suddenly
plunged to low numbers then the cycle repeated itself.
This same area provided endless wood for heat every
year from just thinning the birch and "popple" as
Poplar was known as locally. The Popple river ran
through our pastures and was the source of frog
paradise. The supporting insect population was very
diverse but grasshoppers truly abounded. A no trespass
sign was very rare and the poster was almost always a
social outcast.

Posted by: Jerry Johnson | January 14, 2007 at 12:46

Hey, I don't fear for our trees at the hands of the
lads of Lawndale and Cicero nearly so much as I fear
for them at the hands of the householders of the
treeless wastes of Schaumburg, Woodstock,
Harvard,Niles, Rosemont, and all the other dozens of
lower-middle class burbs surrounding the city where
people currently consider trees to be a source of air
pollution and where the local home-maintenance ethic
considers anything that isn't a box shrub or zoyzia
grass to be a weed.

I mean to tell you that if we ever become dependent on
wood for heat, this city will be stripped of every
tree and shrub so quickly in just one winter that
people will be ripping up their floors to keep warm by
the middle of December. You will have guard your trees
with a weopon.

Posted by: Laura Louzader | January 14, 2007 at 01:07

jerry johnson,

funny thing about your frog observations. when i was a
journeyman masonry heater builder, i had a spring
project just outside of lyme, CT. my customers were a
couple of stressed out independent thinkers who would
fret a lot whenever small problems arose, as if they
were crises. "oh my god !!!" they exclaimed a lot and
glanced nervously and lovingly at eachother. they were
cute and charming but sometimes i would just walk down
the driveway to clear my head.
they had a little wetlands (a swamp that white people
care about)
that became inhedged by the road and their newly
excavated driveway.
when i looked more closely at this little pond, i saw
that something was really out of whack.
frog egg sacks were everywhere in the shallows and
further out and down deep and as far as the eye could
see. and tadpoles were already swimming in all the
free space in between.
it freaked me out a little so i went back inside where
it was safe. i remember thinking that if i were a blue
heron i might be tempted hang out there and wait for
the party .

we should ask jim what he learned (regarding this
subject) on his trip to new zealand. i think of all
the western countries they might have the most
experience with introducing species to balance other
species populations. an endless challenge in a
fertile, diverse landscape.
i remember being sprayed by a lovely stewardess on the
plane back in '91 when i visited. i also remember
disturbing footage on tv from down south of
invercargill, where an ice storm had prevented rabbits
from reaching the grass. they had become, in their
great numbers, not only carnivorous, but canibalistic,
nibbliing at eachothers' ears and legs, alive or dead.

these questions about the nature of things is really
interesting. colbert recently had some advice for an
asian snake that had befriended a mouse inside an
enclosure (shape up! eat that mouse or lose your
endorsment! or something to that effect)

i also remember the story (footage included) of a
lioness in the savannah that had adopted an antelope
kid. the whole deal was accepted until one hungry
pride member killed it with a careless swat. the
lioness mourned it a little while, then went back to
being "normal".

this brings me to the question of w himself. what is
HIS nature?
i'm trying to figure it out. my psychology friends say
he is a dry drunk. donna posted a picture above of him
clearly moved (my guess is by the sound of taps or the
color of the flag or somebody telling him what a great
wartime president he is or some combination of these)
i got my best look at him with this film of the
whitehouse press banquet. i found the whole thing
instructive, down to the mob of lovelies glomming onto
george clooney while people slowly made their way out
of the hall after the cerimonies.
he allowed himself to be spoofed. even making fun of
his own gramatical issues. but watch him sweat under
the audacity of colbert
(the bruce lee of comedy)

anywayhere it is. who IS george bush?;

Posted by: bestwishes | January 14, 2007 at 02:04 PM


--- Norbert Senf <> wrote:

> Hi John:
> I was reading some of the discussion on
> Kunstler's site this morning while killing some
> time during a heater test. I noted your comments
> on masonry heaters, and the role of woodburning
> in the context of the ongoing topics there.
> New article out today by John Gulland, that is
> pretty good:
> Best ..... Norbert
> -------------------------------------------
> Norbert Senf---------- mheat(at)
> Masonry Stove Builders
> 25 Brouse Rd.
> RR 5, Shawville-------
> Québec J0X 2Y0-------- fax:-----819.647.6082
> ---------------------- voice:---819.647.5092
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