Finding Magic in a Farm Furnace Installation

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One of the old furnace motors – so much larger than the new ones!

As a college-educated, academic-type person who has only recently discovered that, indeed, I do have skills with my hands, watching those who do have those skills is not only educational but also akin to watching a magic show. In this case, I was witness to a magic show based on removing an old furnace boiler and installation of a new one.

Day 1

I discovered several things during this multi-day process. First, farming is definitely not the only profession where people stand around looking at the project in front of them and conversing about how to best go about that project. That old furnace was a beast — I know it got down the stairs and around the corner to be installed, but I wasn’t here for the installation and have no idea how my dad brought it in. I’m pretty sure only two or three people were involved in this process, and I know gravity helps when things need to go downhill.

Getting that thing up the stairs? Completely different problem. So the installers stood around, bouncing ideas around, settling on demolition of the old furnace as not necessarily the easiest way, but the best way to get things moving. Getting the pipes cut and the furnace out took up the whole of day one.

Day 2

New furnace (at about the same footprint as the old furnace) to go down the stairs and around that corner. Four vehicles and five men arrived for this herculean task. The boiler was brought into the house and set near the steps to the basement.

And discussion began: How do we get this thing down the steps and around the corner? After presenting and rejecting several ideas, the plan was to screw 2-by-4s into the stairs and lay the boiler on its back. A rope was tied around it, and the men belayed that beast down the stairs. They had already taken a dolly to the bottom of the steps, and when the boiler arrived at the bottom, it was wiggled onto the dolly, and around the corner it went to be set on the concrete pad. Success!

Another piece of magic – those red motors are a fraction of the size of the old motors!

Day 3

More magic. Bags of parts, lengths of pipe, and tools appeared. Everything slowly reassembled around the new furnace boiler, since of course, none of the holes in the new furnace were in the same place as the holes in the old one. Another thing I discovered was that I understood just enough of what they were doing to know that I had no idea how I would ever have installed a furnace on my own, and that they were professionals in furnace installation.

Don’t get me wrong; I dislike spending large amounts of money on things, but this is one of those times where that money is getting me a job done right the first time, in a much shorter amount of time than I could ever do it on my own. There are times when it may not matter if the job is done perfectly, and there are times when it is crucial to be done correctly, even if it costs. This is one of the latter times. And I can’t overexpress my appreciation that there are people that still know how to install a fuel oil furnace boiler, put on roofs, redo a gravel driveway, and all of those other big jobs that need done.

I’ve certainly become more of a farm polymath than I ever expected to be — I can now do basic plumbing and carpentry, and have learned so many things on the fly, because I needed to fix something right away. But when big magic needs to happen, I call on someone who is an expert in that field — I don’t have the time or energy to learn everything! What “magic” skills do you have for projects on your farm/homestead?

Keba M. Hitzeman is an advocate, baseball fan, caregiver, chicken wrangler, daughter, farmer, fiber artist, gamer, gardener, herbalist, laborer, manager, musician, nature-lover, potter, shepherdess, and teacher. She owns and operates Innisfree on the Stillwater, a former beef cattle farm, where she currently raises sheep and goats. Read all of Keba’s posts in her GRIT series, Returning to Innisfree.

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