Cornstove Heating in Five Acts

The journey I take each year in an effort to keep our house warm is long and sprinkled with corn kernels. I start at point “A” then typically stumble to point C and D before finishing at B. This week I want to share with you burning corn for heat in five acts.

Act I: The Corn Barge

I have always had corn delivered to our farm. I finally acquired a gravity box so I could purchase corn directly from the bin as it is cheaper. The little hopper that holds the corn sat atop the chassis from a 1941 Buick automobile. I purchased this little corn hauler from Jerry Sorenson, a fellow corn burner, who told me to never haul more than 100 bushels at a time. I decided to test the reasoning behind the load limit when I filled that 1941 Buick gravity box to well past overfull then set sail for home. I never got past eight miles per hour without the top-heavy box swaying dangerously from port to starboard. Lana Bruggeman happened to be walking her dog at the same time I was hauling my corn home. Granted, Lana walks pretty fast, but my speed was such that I was able to hold an extended conversation with her through the pick-up window as I attempted to pass her and her pup. The corn load was so great that he wheel hub had tilted inward which almost sheared off the brake mount. I arrived home a full one and one-half hours after embarking on my overloaded trip; 100 bushels meant exactly that. I should have listened to Jerry.

Act II: The Push

I have always unloaded our corn bin directly into a wheelbarrow then hauled it up to our house. This is a simple act and but did not fulfill my need for automation. I recently set-up a vacuum system that uses a shopvac to pull the corn directly from our hopper bin through the garage wall and into a 55 gallon drum. I can then open a trap door that releases the corn into my wheelbarrow. I have effectively taken one simple action and turned it into three that are dependent upon an electric motor instead of simple, reliable labor. In my defense, this new system also cleans the corn and I get to stay indoors. The benefits balance the complications and so I would call this one a push.

Act III: Corn heating season

No animal loves warmth more than our cats; except maybe my wife Lisa. We have been heating with electricity as I have yet to find time to load corn. Lisa has started asking me, “is it cold in here or just me?’ with a great deal of regularity; she is so subtle. The cats have little need for subtlety and so have taken to simply placing themselves in front of either stove and giving me that stern, feline stare. All seek the comfort of direct heat, derived from burning corn which has yet to come into season. I need to find time. I need to start the season; else I will become an outsider.

Act IV: Jerry’s Gravity box, the auger and me

I did arrive home with my load of corn. I set the auger up to load into the hopper bin and began dumping the load. It was so sunny that day. I was filled with endorphins at the release of tension from my drive home and felt great. I ran the auger slowly and quietly while I watched the corn drain from the gravity wagon. All that weight which had been such a liability to the wagon was becoming an asset as it loaded into storage for winter heating. I looked around and wondered how many times harvest had been brought in by someone like me who didn’t follow load limits, tried things that were a mixed blessing but really just wanted to keep his family comfortable. I could almost see it, but not quite.

Act V: Heat, blessed heat

I plan to start the corn burning season this Saturday. I will vacuum corn from the hopper to the barrel to the wheelbarrow to the stove. The cats will have warmth and Lisa no longer will need to quilt herself from nose to toe. We have invited guests for Saturday night and they will hopefully arrive to warm fires and happy occupants. They will believe that it has always been so; only we will know the truth.

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