The magic of AGA

18 Comments

Because it’s winter… because we only lit her this week… because my porridge is busy bubbling on the stove… and because I love her SO much I simply must document the history of our AGA stove.

Kettle on the boil for the first cup of tea!

Since October last year the house at Vastrap has undergone a complete transformation. The biggest change has been the kitchen living area and one of the best additions has been our beautiful anthracite fired AGA stove. There is something about an AGA that conjures the romanticism of farm life. One simply has to have one. Especially in an area like ours that gets extremely cold in winter. The reality, however, is that most farm houses do not have AGA’s anymore. The traditional old ones were hard to manage, made a big mess and were slowly displaced when electric stoves became fashionable. So imagine my disappointment when I arrived at the farm to no AGA….

When we started discussing the kitchen renovation I pleaded with Quentin to find me one. Fortunately his sister Lesley had an old one standing in her garage on her farm, which is about 20 kilometers away from us. Lesley and her husband Gary moved to Mauritz about 5 years ago but before that the house had been empty for decades while Bill farmed on the lands. Quentin can never remember anyone living there so they must have left in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The AGA had been standing abandoned and unused in the garage since then… can you imagine such a beautiful thing treated so badly!

Lesley and Gary very kindly gave us the stove as they had decided not to use it in their house. We were very excited to go and fetch it, but when it got to Vastrap we realised with shock that it was in a very bad state of repair. Full of rats nests, all rusted and the paint peeling off. Stupidly I didn’t take a photo of what she looked like then. I think I was too stressed about the mad rush to get the kitchen finished before our Christmas visitors arrived!

I quickly went to work to find someone who could help us. The AGA was an integral part of our kitchen design so I was determined to fix it. I got in touch with a woman from Pietermaritzburg  called Emmie who travels around the country with her husband Morris servicing anthracite stoves. Given my general experience with building I thought it would take months to get this done, but to my surprise Emmie and Morris arrived a few days later, loaded the AGA onto a trailer and delivered it back fully restored within 10 days. It was the best service I’ve ever experienced… but as Quentin likes to remind me it did come at a price! It was worth it though and we were thrilled with her new look.

The problem is that these stoves weigh tonnes… the following photos show how we used the strength of 9 men to get her into the house and into position.

Morris undoing the straps on the trailer. The bags of sand are poured in afterwards for extra insulation.

Heave ho there we go!

Negotiating a tricky corner.

She isn’t going anywhere now!

In her place with the chimney section kept open so that we can access it for her once a year service.

Of course this was done in December and we didn’t need to light her until winter in June. So we just admired her instead and finished the renovation around her.

Finishing touches… the chimney is covered with panels of old metal pressed ceiling that we sanded down and painted.

On Sunday when Quentin and I returned from being away we decided to take the plunge and light her. Everyone had said it would be difficult, but Quentin made it look like a breeze. The next day she was warm and cosy and gorgeous. I just had to put a kettle on to boil to see her in action. And then yesterday I simply had to boil some eggs for lunch and then just to make sure she was working okay I left a pot of lamb stock simmering the whole day… imagine that heavenly aroma. And again this morning I simply  had to make some porridge. So I can happily confirm that she is indeed working, but I haven’t made bread or cooked anything in the oven yet… it’s only a matter of time though!

Hot coals burning bright.

Farm eggs on the boil for lunch and lamb stock on the boil just because.

Poepsie cat definitely approves of this big new heater in the house. I bet she would even climb into the oven if I let her!

Poepsie cat approves of the new spot.

Inspecting the ovens… the top one is the hot oven and the bottom one is more like a warmer drawer.