“It Gets Cold Here”

So my folks were up in Zumbrota a few weekends ago taking care of inspections and such. While they were out checking out the town, they stopped by the hardware store on Main street and talked to the owner.  They mentioned that they would be moving to Zumbrota from Missouri.  The guys reaction: “You know it gets cold here, don’t ya?”

Safe to say the thought has crossed my mind before.  Probably about the time that I wrote a check for 1000 gallons of propane to heat a 1890’s farmhouse this coming winter…  I hope I don’t have to write that big of a check too many times this season.

So here’s the heating situation:

One 1000 gallon propane tank, a mid-ninties-vintage central air HVAC unit (non-condensing, likely only around 75% efficient) and a great-big fireplace in the room just off the kitchen.

The previous occupant of the house clearly made heavy use of the fireplace, as there is quite a pile of wood in the basement, and obvious signs of use in the fireplace itself.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like the fireplace, but there’s no way I’m using it to try to heat the house.  Fireplaces are notorious for sucking more warm air out of the house than they ever put back in.   But a nice used wood-burning fireplace insert would be just the ticket.

So I hit the old Rochester Craigslist and tried to dig up a deal on a used wood insert.


You pretty much have to go up to the cities to find a reasonably priced wood insert, and even then, you’re looking at a pretty old one without any of the modern efficiency improvements, like these old Fisher stoves.


Anyway, I was about to give up when I thought “hell, I’m still in Missouri, lets look around here.”

Mere moments later I was emailing a fella about a Lopi wood-burning insert.  It’s even new enough to have a blower and provisions for secondary-combustion (the little lever on the top-right in the picture).


I drove down after work yesterday and picked it up for about $300.  It needs a good cleaning and a few firebricks, but other than that it’s ready to go.  It probably helps that it’s built like a tank.  And it definitely helps that the seller coaxed four of his friends to help load the thing onto the trailer.  It probably weighs 500lbs.




  1. How insulated are those walls and attic? The windows look modern and non-leaky.

    1. No idea what insulation (if any) is in the walls. The attic has insulation, but because the house has had a number of additions over the years, the insulation varies a lot. It’s not great by modern home-construction standards, but it’s no windowless French farmhouse either!

  2. That looks like a nice living room with the fireplace. That fireplace insert should help out a lot. I was wondering are you going to keep the same breed of cattle that you raised there in Missouri up in Minesota? Or will you have to get a breed that is more cold tolerent now that you are much further north?

    1. Hey Gordon,
      We’re planning on bringing a few of our current cattle up to MN with us. The ones that are going to make the cut have smaller frame sizes (Hereford/Shorthorn). We’ve been finding out that the Charloais-cross cattle are far to big to fatten up on grass.

  3. Good thinking Andrew and I like the looks of the insert you purchased! Hopefully it will not be to hard to install.

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