Story from Caroline:
When my husband and I moved to this beautiful century farm in 2002, the last farmer from the Mather family, Lyall Mather, became our close friend. The Mather family had owned this farm since 1852 so there was a lot of family history on this land. Lyall and I sort of adopted each other and he became a wise “father” figure to me while I was the naive and enthusiastic “daughter” to him. He came over often just to chat and talk about his life as a farmer which was a priceless treasure for me. Lyall told me the history of everything here, from the forest trees (some of which have his childhood carvings) to individual barn boards, all stories that I will forever cherish.
One summer day in 2003, we were sitting at my kitchen table and he asked if I'd be interested in acquiring a wood cookstove, the same model that used to be in the farm house’s Summer Kitchen. He knew of someone in the area that was “getting rid” of theirs and thought it would be nice to have such a historical piece back in the farm house. Within a few hours, we were all packed in the pickup truck; my husband driving, Lyall giving us directions to the place and me just itching to see this bygone treasure.
As soon as we walked into the owners’ house and saw the old wood cookstove, we knew it was meant to come home with us. The previous owners had taken such good care of it, it looked practically brand new. The reason they needed to replace it was simple; since it was over 100 years old and was their one and only heating source, it didn't meet the modern safety codes determined by their insurance company and had to be replaced with a newer model. Well, we were going to renovate the Summer Kitchen to today’s code so in the back of our pickup truck it went.
When we got the cookstove home, we couldn't wait to use it but knew we had some renovations to do beforehand, such as installing tiles on the floor and building a protective barrier behind it. After a few long weeks of renovations, the old cookstove was finally moved in its place and we christened it by making our first meal on it that very night. Lyall was so pleased to see it back in the house, even though it wasn’t the original, he said “It’s close enough!” I think he took great pleasures in seeing us put such importance to his traditional ways, his old-fashion ways.
Even after all these years, I still think food tastes better when done on the old cookstove, from breakfast to jams/jellies. It just seems to add an “originality” to the taste. My husband absolutely loves using it, especially with the price of electricity going up! He's quite a pro with it and although Lyall first showed me how to use it, my husband taught me a few more things about cooking with it.
There's just something about cooking with this antique that keeps me connected to Lyall. Brings warmth to my heart and I find myself smiling when I think of all the pioneers before me who, for many generations, did what I do today. If you want to see a cute short video of Lyall, I encourage you to see this YouTube video:
I miss him dearly but know he's right here with me, smiling with pride, telling me it’s time to put another log on to keep the fire going.