Paul bought the Tirolia wood and coal stove new, from a woodstove retailer in Owls Head, back when he first bought his house on Matinicus. Looking nothing like a “traditional” woodstove, the Austrian-made Tirolia was basically a white enameled cube. With no curves, no chrome-plated gingerbread, no romantic name like “Queen Atlantic” or any such on the oven door, it looked from a distance like a small deep freeze, or maybe something from Little House in the Ikea Store. One could, with a little practice, get from it whatever one wanted, from a gentle smudge to resist the chill of a damp spring morning to an intense furnace that could set the black cooktop glowing cherry-red (that, by the way, is not such a good idea). It would also produce an estimable loaf of bread.

In 1988, before children, I made a complete Thanksgiving dinner for two using only the Tirolia as we confirmed our mutual love for chocolate cream pie and our mutual rejection of squash. Alongside the stuffed turkey I baked the cranberry-orange-nut bread from my mom’s recipe, and yeast rolls, and the pie shell. I boiled potatoes and green beans and island applesauce, fussed over gravy, candied carrots over low heat in an iron skillet, and carefully stirred the chocolate pudding for the pie.

Later, when our children were little and the power dumped in a storm, as happened from time to time, and they’d see their dad drop everything to run for the power house and the bucket truck, we wanted to make sure they were not encouraged to fear. “We can make ourselves perfectly comfortable without electricity” was my calm assertion. I’d gather the kiddos and throw a couple of slices of homemade bread directly on top of the stove for some low-tech, non-electric fun. Twenty-some years later our grown children share a family one-liner, inexplicable to most, whenever the lights go out anywhere: “Time to make toast!”

Our friend Suzanne was babysitting the kids one time when she promised them her “power muffins” — some favorite recipe she baked all the time — in the woodstove. Suzanne also, as it happened, had a bad cold that day and could not smell a thing. The punch line comes from the detail that this stove, having been manufactured in Austria, had a metric thermometer mounted in the oven door, and our visiting baker was determined to get it up to the 400 degrees her muffin recipe called for. Oblivious to the smell of burning breakfast, the 400-degree-Celsius oven produced hard little black lumps that resembled rather closely the anthracite Paul sometimes shovels in when it’s ten degrees outside. No doubt she was cured of her head cold by the blistering sauna in the kitchen.

Yes, I confess, on the coldest nights we burned coal in the Tirolia. Its tiny firebox was unable to keep a wood fire going until morning. I do understand the questionable ethics of coal worldwide, and my take is that appropriate coal use is small-time coal use: blacksmith shops, tourist railroads, and Santa Claus — and the occasional kitchen fire when wood won’t handle the bitterest nights.

The iron heart of a woodstove may be indestructible (short of a fellow taking up a large sledge hammer) but over the years enough parts had broken to force some adaptation in use. We could not shake the grate anymore, so we scraped the residual ash through each day with a poker. We could not open the firebox door anymore, so we loaded wood only from the top. When the grate itself gave up Paul constructed a new one by cutting down a grate from another type of stove, and then had a new one fabricated at a New Hampshire foundry (and he ordered an extra). He’d repaired the firebrick multiple times because this stove had a custom-formed firebox interior rather than standard replaceable, rectangular firebrick. The bucket of refractory cement lived in the kitchen. The Tirolia company had been out of business long enough that neither parts nor another stove could be had, and believe me, we tried. The people who deal in woodstoves, for the most part, looked at us like we were mad and tried to interest us in something decorative and curvy.

A new woodstove that can serve as a primary heating plant but comes with an oven big enough to produce a respectable holiday turkey is not all that easy to find, in case you haven’t tried. Our new Heco stove was built in Lancaster, Penn., and sold to us by the Amish store over in Unity. It’s perfectly handsome, takes a bigger stick of wood, seems so far to be of agreeable temperament, and promises good cooking. I look forward to our first turkey.