Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The story behind our O'Keefe & Merritt stove

Our new old O'Keefe & Merritt stove, circa 1956
When we first bought our 1905-era home, I remember seeing pictures of renovated kitchens that featured vintage stoves. I had checked out the cost of newly-built vintage stoves and knew that was well out of reach budget-wise. But a couple of years ago, as we began to talk about renovating our small kitchen, I came across a listing on Craigslist for an O’Keefe & Merritt gas stove, and it was less than the cost of a new stove. It was in-use and worked well, albeit crusted with old grease. And for $200, it seemed doable, compared to a fully refurbished O’Keefe & Merritt stove which can run more than $1,000.

To make a long story short, we brought it home with plans to restore it. I began to look up parts on eBay, read old-stove-repair sites online, Googled pictures of O’Keefe & Merritt stoves (for reassurance and inspiration) and daydreamed about how it would look in our old house.

It sat there in the garage for two summers, waiting for its makeover. As we started to renovate our kitchen, I became more serious about trying to find parts for it. Prices had, I discovered, gone up a bit. At one point the original knobs had been taken off our old stove and replaced with '70s era black and stainless knobs. One vintage knob on eBay ran about $40. That meant an investment of $200 just for knobs.

Discouraged, I looked on Craigslist again, thinking maybe someone had one I could use for parts. There was a photo of an old stove that was behind stacks of boxes. I knew it was an O’Keefe & Merritt with all its knobs intact, but it appeared to be incomplete and dismantled. It was listed for $75.

By the end of the day, we were the proud owners of our second O’Keefe & Merritt stove. This one was circa 1956. What surprised us was that it was in better shape than our first one. All the porcelain was beautiful. It sported a chrome top that lifted like the hood of a muscle car, and the griddle-in-the-middle was in beautiful shape. On top of all that, we found that the box of parts that came with it contained extra parts—which, we reasoned, we’d sell on eBay to recoup our expenses.

It was placed in the garage next to stove #1. Then, a few weeks later, as if sensing its impending retirement, our 13-year-old electric range burned out the oven element on Thanksgiving day. That hurried the process along a bit. I began to clean stove #2, removing the glaze of years from burners and grills, degreasing, scraping, gently separating hardened burned-on grunge. When I finished, most of the stove looked pristine. Two of the burners will eventually need new porcelain.

K hooked it up and texted me a photo at work. “It works!” We were smitten. It beamed stoutly. We beamed. We took our photos next to the two quiches we made with it.  It's gratifying to think that it escaped the landfill, and we marveled at how solidly it was built and crafted.

On Christmas Day, we put it to the test, using the warming oven to let the rolls rise while the ham baked. The kitchen heated up. I could not help wondering how many Christmas dinners it had made, and imagined it was pleased to be back at work on a holiday meal. I look forward to using it for bread baking, canning, and yogurt making.

I am still smiling every time I clean it up, polish it, start the teakettle or fire up the griddle. It is worth every bit of elbow grease it took to burnish it back to its mid-century beauty.

Meanwhile, stove #1 awaits. Do we restore and sell it whole? Or sell it piece by piece? It needs more work than stove #2 did, and will require a greater investment to re-porcelain parts and get it to the level of restoration it needs. We know its story is not yet complete, and whether pieced out to bring its kin back to life, or refinished as a whole, we are confident that someday it will also be cooking with gas.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Seed Sources to Consider

If you're like me, you may be starting to think about seeds -- what you'll plant, where and when you'll plant it and where you'll buy your seed, if you aren't using seeds you've saved. I've always been concerned with organic seed, but having a hive of honeybees tunes your awareness to good seed.

I've made a list (with links) of some of the seed and plant sources that have signed the "Safe Seed Pledge," and plan to support these companies with my orders. Those in italics are companies I've ordered from in the past. I'm hoping to try a few more this year

Adaptive Seeds* - Northwest

Amishland Seeds - Pennsylvania

The Ark Institute* - Pennsylvania

Baker Creek Seed Co. - Missouri

Bountiful Gardens - California

Crispy Farms – Florida

Gourmet Seed - California

Grow Organic - California

Heirloom Seeds* - Pennsylvania

Heirloom Solutions - Illinois

High Mowing Seeds – Vermont

Horizon Herbs* - Oregon

Humbleseeds – Michigan

Growing Crazy Acres – Florida

Ed Hume Seeds – Northwest

J.L Hudson – California

Kitchen Garden Seeds - Connecticut

Lake Valley Seeds – Colorado

Landreth Seeds* - New York

New Hope Seed Company – Tennessee

Organica Seed* -- Massachusetts

Prairie Road Garden – North Dakota

Renee’s Garden – California

Restoration Seeds – Oregon

Sand Hill Preservation Center (heritage breed poultry, too) – Iowa

Seeds Trust – Idaho

Siskiyou Seeds (NW) – Oregon

Southern Exposure* - Virginia

Sow True (SE)* - North Carolina

Sustainable Seed Co* - California

Tomato Fest – California

Trees of Antiquity – Heirloom Fruit trees – California

Turtle Tree Seed – New York

Underwood Garden Seeds* (Terroir Seeds) - Arizona

Uprising Seeds* -- Washington

Victory Seeds* - Oregon

White Harvest Seed – Missouri

Wild Garden Seeds* - Oregon

Wildseed Farms – Texas – Wildflowers