Village Stoves

We live in a Turkish village so we are not connected to a town gas supply. In Turkish villages, the most common source of heating for a home, is the Wood Stove, or Soba, in Turkish. On a side note, and while I remember, quite a few Turkish friends watch these videos and ask why they are all in English, when I live in Turkey, so I am just going to quickly explain the reason to my Turkish friends before I continue in English. Merhaba arkadaslar, bu vidiyolari, Ingilizce olarak bir tanitim yapiyorum. Neden? Cunku, Turkce benim ana dilim degildir ve bir suru benziyen videolari var zaten, Turkce olarak anlatiyorlar ve cok daha guzel, nazik bir seklinde, duzgun Turkce ile yapilmistir. Ozelikle, bu video, yabancilar icin yaptim. Ingilizce devam ediyorum.

We have tried using the air conditioning units in heat mode. We also have a couple of electric radiators, and whilst it is possible to heat the whole house using electric, it is certainly not the most economic method of doing this.

Most people I have spoken to have a love hate relationship with their wood burnings stoves. There is definitely an acquired skill when it comes to lighting one and keeping it going. When the wind blows on certain days it can result in smoke coming back down the chimney and puffing out of your wood stove. Having said that, the atmosphere and efficiency of a good wood burning stove is hard to beat. When food is cooked on a wood burning stove it definitely tastes much better too. If you are not living in an apartment building and have access to a chimney then I would strongly recommend that you take a look at these simple, run of the mill, Turkish stoves.

There are many different kinds of stoves in Turkey. There are also some good imported versions from Bulgaria and the United Kingdom. If you are after pure quality and finish then the British ones are hard to beat but they are expensive. They are now freely available in Turkey through a company called PUS Ltd who advertise the fact that they have sole distributor rights throughout Turkey for British made Arada stoves including – Villager – Aarrow wood and multifuel stoves like the Stratford & Eco-Boiler stoves for central heating & hot water.

However, for the purposes of this video we are going to take a look at the classic Turkish soba. We have three of these. The one we use in the kitchen is called a Kuzine, or locally referred to as a Mashinga. This not only heats the room but it also works as a cooker. It gives us little trouble and chugs quietly along in the background, burning wood throughout the day and providing us with cooking facilities and hot water. The Second is an old wood stove that is just used for heating. This has a long pipe which radiates a lot of heat, and with both of our wood burning stoves on the go, our house is nice and warm whatever the weather, and our two chimneys merrily puff out smoke throughout the winter.

So, living in a village,we don’t have a lot of options, but we would not swap this traditional system of heating and cooking for anything else. We have got used to it. We love it. Yes, they do need regular attention and we cannot last the entire winter without having to clean them properly. We have to make sure that we have enough wood, and we regularly need to top up our wood buckets and lug them back and forth to the house when we need more wood. And then we have to empty our buckets which consists of taking the ash out into the garden and emptying the internal bucket that sits inside each stove.

We do not chop our own wood. Our village is surrounded by pine trees, olive groves, and an abundance of farms that sell wood by the tractor load. Buying wood this way is cost effective. A full tractor trailer load of wood costs us around £65, that is 77 Euros or 85 US dollars. This fills both of our wood storage racks up and depending on the weather it can last us most of the cold winter months.  If we get an exceptionally cold winter then we might top it up with a half load or another full load. Pine burns quite quickly but produces a good heat. We also use olive tree wood because there is an abundance of it due to seasonal pruning of the olive groves. There is also some oak available in our region. A mixture of these provides the best results for us.

During this video you will see the types of stoves we use. You will also see us cleaning the stoves and the pipes and also making up the buckets of wood for each burner. Depending on what type of burner you have, the air flow is either located at the base of the stove or at the side. Our kitchen stove has a bucket with the air vent in the bottom and our living room stove has the air vent in the side.

We have a set system of preparation for each week. The metal inner buckets that contain the logs, or occasionally the coal that we are burning, are prepared in advance, with a small amount of cardboard or paper at the bottom, then a few pine cones and finally kindling, which we get from the pruning of trees in our garden. Every autumn people from our village will go out collecting a few sacks fulls of pine cones. We do the same thing. The local forests are full of pine trees so their is an abundance of these natural fire lighters. We use a garden cutter to quickly break down the branches that we have cut from our trees into kindling. The video shows you the results of a tree we pruned during the making of this video. An hour or so later and the bulk of it is bagged up in kindling in 2 and a half sacks. The rest of it has provided us with a few more logs.

Every week we make up around 14 buckets and then store them in our bunker. Our bunker contains all the kindling, around 20 bags of coal weighing 25kg each, and the pine cones. Making up the buckets once a week rather than every single day makes life so much easier. In the morning we just take out the old buckets, pick up the full ones, put them in the stoves and light them. Even though we have dry wood, paper and pine cones in the buckets we still throw in a little square of fire lighter to get it started.

Once the soba is burning strongly it is simply a matter of adjusting the air flow and the air cover on the top of the stoves. You get used to the setting that is best for your burner. You can boil your water on it, cook with it, or put chestnuts on it for roasting. These cheap, simple, and yet highly effective Turkish Agas are a delight for those long winter nights. So, what are the downsides? OK, lets be honest. They look ugly. They can smell if the smoke blows back through them as it sometimes will. Your your walls are going to need painting more often due to you having a wood stove. Your curtains and covers will retain the smell, although we actually like that National Trust like smell. The wood stoves do not have the full feel good factor of a traditional fire place but it is still cosy. Anything will burn in them. You will end up throwing a lot less in the bin if you use a wood stove.

One word of caution. Every year during the winter we here about some unfortunate soul or family who has perished as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is not very sensible to fill your wood stoves up before you retire to bed. What can go wrong is often due to the combination of a blocked chimney, stove pipes that have not been cleaned regularly, and the lack of a carbon monoxide fire alarm. A recipe for disaster.

So, once the stoves have been thoroughly out they can be cleaned with Flaxseed Oil. After it has been applied the stove looks like it has been oiled but once your stove is lit and the Flaxseed oil starts to burn off it will restore the top of the stove to its original condition and even clean off any rust that might have been present. It does smell quite a bit whilst the oil is being burned off.

This is an example of a cast iron Turkish wood burning stove. These are very well made and have the advantage of a glass door so that you can see the logs burning just like a real fireplace. The downside is that they do not have a bucket in the same way as the traditional stoves and the tray provided to catch the ash is a poor substitute for the ease and effectiveness of a bucket.

The wood burning stove or log burner has been around for a long time. The first wood burning stove was patented in Strabourg in 1557, two centuries before the Industrial Revolution when iron would become less expensive. In around 1740 a certain Benjamin Franklin invented a wood burning stove called the Pennsylvania fireplace. The stove burned wood on a grate and had sliding doors to control the draft. There are many examples around the world of wood burning stoves, from simple railway cabin log burners to cast iron ranges.

And, finally, after a hard days work it’s time to enjoy our evening meal, courtesy of the kitchen range. Tonight’s cuisine is roast leg of goat, along with vegetables and herbs, which of course, we will wash down with a nice bottle of wine.

In Antalya there is a Wood Stove Museum. Turkey’s one and only museum of its kind. The museum takes you through the history of wood stoves and shows you have they have changed over they years. So, in conclusion, we can highly recommend that you turn off your electric heaters, treat yourself to a little nostalgia and invest in a wood stove.

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