Tag: roca jacks

Launch day! Again!

Yesterday, 19th May 2014, saw the launch of my 3rd coffee business, Wheelie Good Coffee. You’d think with all this experience, starting up would be a breeze by now. Fat chance!! For nostalgia purposes, I read back over my post from September 2009 on here, when we launched Doctor Coffee’s Cafe Ape Van. Five long years ago, I was equally exhausted and apparently nearly fainted at my friends’ wedding and developed a mysteriously swollen ankle. In hindsight, it is easy to see these were signs of early pregnancy! This time, I am aching all over and knackered, but no other Big News to report I’m afraid.

Wheelie Good Coffee has already taken on a life of its own online. I’m at http://www.wheeliegoodcoffee.biz, and most significantly, @wheeliegdcoffee on Twitter. Twitter has been invaluable, both for inspiration and for the support to actually get this idea off the ground. I’ve received so many positive comments already that I feel more confident about this venture than ever before. Part of me attributes this to living in Regina, and particularly in Cathedral village, which is the first neighbourhood where I’ve encountered genuine community spirit. So to all my local Tweeps, THANK YOU, and I love you all!

The business is relatively simple and small scale. My wonderful, talented and handy husband built me a coffee cart – essentially a huge wooden box on wheels, housing an enormous kettle. This cart is pulled by my tricycle, Twyla, and I can pedal my way to events and trade outside downtown during the summer, at festivals, on markets, and so on. What’s that you say? How do I trade when it’s -40C outside? Well, that’s easy. I have a website where I sell my home-roasted coffee beans online, (teaching myself to roast requires a blog post in it’s own right!), along with mugs, tee shirts, my books and various accessories. The weird looking, very conspicuous coffee cart attracts people, and those who say “I like your coffee, how do I make it at home?” get directed to the online shop. At least, that is the plan.

Here’s the cart:

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All the coffees are Pour Over:

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and here it is all set up for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival:

ImageSadly, I didn’t get a photo of me in action. I didn’t have enough hands! I got utterly swamped, unable to make coffee fast enough! I was sponsoring an Arts Festival event, a mass singalong of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi outside Connaught school (read between the lines here!). If you turned up and sang, you got free coffee. In return, I got priceless exposure and publicity from it, a lot of tips (!) and a great opportunity to test out the coffee process with an appreciative and sympathetic audience. It worked – I got home to find online orders for coffee beans and despite exhaustion, I sat up til gone 11pm roasting coffee fresh for my new customers!

The weather could have been better, but it was not as bad as I’d feared. Horrendous rain was forecast, and 70kmph winds! It was windy, but we managed to miss the rain, fortunately. However, circumstances were far from ideal, because my coffee cups kept blowing away! I couldn’t serve the coffees fast enough because I didn’t have enough hands to simultaneously grind coffee, pour boiling hot water, dose up my coffee fllters, AND hold the cups down and out of the wind at the same time! Doh. But, the coffee filters do work, and people loved it – I quote “you can’t get fresher than that!”

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This all happened on Monday, Victoria day and the first day of the Arts Festival. The weekend prior to that was just mentally busy for both of us. Eternal gratitude to Carl for building the thing, but getting it out of our basement proved nearly impossible. As Carl maintained, the cart did fit neatly through the door to the basement. However, what he’d neglected to account for, was getting it off the stairs, and round the side of the kitchen cupboards. ALMIGHTY amounts of swearing ensued, and all his neat edging got pinged off to spare half a centimetre. BUT, we got there. And it didn’t fall apart, nor explode, nor collapse under its own weight. We had to hire a generator because there was nowhere to plug in outside on the street, and that required a lot of inquiry. The Roca Jacks coffee beans were eventually hand delivered late Sunday morning, after I had got myself into a state of low-level panic over their absense. Cycling it was a whole new experience. In a terrible bit of bad luck, one pedal just sheared off my trike last week, leaving me with an annoyingly long walk home one night, and now, no engine for the cart. So I had to make do with Yoshi, the two wheeler. Suddenly, balance became an issue again. I didn’t have any time to practice, but fortunately the whole thing relied on momentum. Starting was agonising, and stopping required about ten feet and excellent brakes (not something Yoshi is renowned for!). But once I was going, it wasn’t too heavy at all, even with 50litres of water on board. However, I now have sore muscles in places I didn’t even know I had muscles. Toning your glutes really is a pain in the arse.

BUT. I can pedal it. It does work. I make a GREAT fresh coffee. Bill’s Roca Jacks beans are just as good as they always were. Cathedral people are awesome, friendly and supportive, and the Cathedral Arts Festival got off to a great start despite the weather. I am achey, exhausted, happy and excited about Wheelie Good things to come!!

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Because Coffee is important…

In my last post, I mentioned that my favourite coffee shop in Cathedral is closing down at the end of this month. That coffee shop is of course, Roca Jacks. This makes me very sad indeed.

The coffee is the best in town in my humble opinion, but more than that, the place was my first Regina landmark – we hung around in there constantly in that painful two weeks back in 2011 where Emigration Plan 1 (Kave Haz) fell apart in front of me, and where Plan 2 (13th Ave Coffee House) eventually became an option.  It was where I met Tamara, my first real friend in Canada, and through her, and the coffee shop itself, I’ve met so many others. I slept on her futon for 6 months, that used to live in Roca Jacks’ basement and it now adorns our spare room. When getting to grips with Regina’s layout, I looked the place up on Google street map, only to discover that the group of regulars who sit outside it, actually feature on the map!!  I persuaded Bill at Roca Jacks to roast a special blend of coffee for 13th Ave Coffee that was unique to their business, and they are still using it now, even though I left a year ago. Bill was also one of the first people to employ my coffee consultancy services. I’ve chained both Yoshi the bike and Twyla the trike up outside it, and sat in there for hours with a laptop, a friend or three, or a sleeping Miranda. Miri has danced, shouted into a fan, climbed into the coffee roaster, petted Lorena’s Daschund (another “Mr Pickles”), drunk copious amounts of hot chocolate and even mastered the toilet in there.

The regulars outside Roca Jacks, as they appear on Google Street View
The regulars outside Roca Jacks, as they appear on Google Street View

And that is just me.

When they first announced their closure, I immediately dreamed up wild over-ambitious plans of buying the place via crowdfunding and keeping it going as a straight-forward coffee shop (and Bill would keep the roasting side of it). I was gonna do out the basement and make more seating and even sell books in there since the book shop is also closing. I rallied the troops – my friends, the loyal Twitterers of YQR, and friend’s girlfriend’s random acquaintances on Farcebook.

The response was unbelievable – I was not the only one wanting to save it, in fact there were a group already meeting and looking into setting up a cooperative. So many people wanting to keep an unhelpfully small, fairly scruffy coffee shop open, right on the edge of this neighbourhood with all its chipped mugs, sarcastic humour on the tip jar, its chain-smoking-tattooed-bearded-occasionally-unicycling clientele, the unfinished renovations and its secret hidden toilet that made up its “charms”. The place did have a few real difficulties – namely lack of parking (I never really saw that as an issue personally, because everyone I met in there was on foot or on a bike anyway), lack of seating space, no wifi and to my mind, lack of Big Windows through which to people watch. But it was loved by a great many people. It always made me smile to see people sitting outside it in the minus-ridiculous temperatures, while the posh new $tarbucks inside Safeway remains completely empty. My driving instructor actually summed it up rather nicely: “I’m usually in Roca Jacks. I know it’s the scuzziest place but it’s my local and the coffee is great!”

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Sadly, my plans never materialised; although the business could have been available, the lease on the building was not, and a coffee shop without an actual shop isn’t much use. I am truly and utterly gutted by this, and I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling.

But, having set my heart on coffee-ing again, I’m going to set a little something up that is not quite so financially insane. Fittingly for Cathedral, it’s going to be a rather hipster-ish coffee cart towed by my tricycle, called Wheelie Good Coffee – that link will take you to more details over on my coffee blog. I’m hoping to get it ready in time to bring coffee to the street fair at the Cathedral Arts Festival.

I’ll be serving beans from Roca Jacks, of course. Because Coffee is important. In this case though, it is not just about the coffee; it’s about community. But it’s coffee that brings my bizarre little community together, and I will always love that.

The Best Neighbourhood

I may have said this before: I love Regina, and Cathedral Village is definitely the best bit of it!
I have definitely said this before: It is frigging FREEZING. Eyelash-freezingly, thigh-numbingly, frost-bite-inducingly, Thermos-coffee-mug-thwartingly painfully, dangerously cold!! Sunday had a high -31 celcius.(-24 fahrenheit for American imperialists) and that was without the windchill. With the wind, it was -48, which is -54F. Yep, you guessed it, colder than the surface of Mars. Again.

I am not going to do another post about coldness though, I promise.

My parents came out here for Christmas again, and they now expect a white one – well, they certainly aren’t going to get it at home, are they? We had a lovely holiday, (as always) but it definitely wasn’t long enough. We did have some excursions, including a fantastic trip to Moose Jaw to Temple Gardens Spa, where it’s possible to bathe in hot, natural spring waters, (on the third floor, I might add), but then swim outside and steam in the sudden rush of the minus-ridiculous temperatures of the snowy roof patio. Amazing experience!! Dad’s hair froze, so we spiked it up for him….

Water: 43C Air - 25C
Water: 43C
Air – 25C

We also spent a while SKATING. I LOVE skating!!! Miranda loves it too! I was a bit wobbly at first -I didn’t actually get very good at it last year, but at least i can remain upright and propel myself along. Miri is getting very proficient on her little bobskates. We found there’s a rink at the park on McTavish st in Cathedral so we went there until we were joined by a junior hockey crowd and were humiliatingly overtaken by 6 year olds…. never mind, the Victoria Park rink, ten minutes walk in the other direction, is now open and is relatively hockey-free. Best of all, they hire out skates (for free) and even Mum was (almost) brave enough to have a go!

Not sure if we're holding Miri up or whether she's pulling us along...
Not sure if we’re holding Miri up or whether she’s pulling us along…

The rest of the time, we went for Cold Walks around the neighbourhood, being Beer Elves and making deliveries to Amy, or bringing the Christmas Octonauts magazine to Jeff and Bryony all the way from the UK. Miranda got a SLEIGH from Granny and Grandad for Christmas, which is absolutely brilliant – so much easier than negotiating the pushchair through the snow. Of course, we had to test it, so we bundled her up and went out to admire everyone else’s Christmas lights , most of which were considerably more impressive than our own!

Not our house
Not our house
Madam's carriage
Madam’s carriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, on our last weekend together, we went to the 13th Ave Records Rendevous at the Artesian. Loads of local bands, several with interchangeable band members, and seemingly trying to play “how many musicians can we fit on stage at once?” It was an excellent night (possibly not as good as the previous year’s – too much of one band, not enough tubas involved?!), and so good to see so much live music all from one small area. There was an after party at the German Club afterwards, which is a long way from Cathedral. The solution? Get the host, a hipster-with-a-megaphone to usher people on to a (free) bus, along with half a brassband and a country singer who stole the aforementioned megaphone, and get the Music Bus all the way across town. Wonderful!!

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13th Ave Records operates out of a shop called Buy the Book, two blocks from here. Very sadly, the owner of both, Chris, announced at new year that Buy the Book is closing down soon. Next came the news that my very favourite coffee shop is also closing. What is happening to 13th avenue?? This is Cathedral! If small businesses and community-minded,sightly hippy folk can thrive anywhere, it is HERE. I have a feeling I will be writing more about Cathedral coffee shops soon though, and I refuse to get sad about this. I am staying positive. Cathedral is a beautiful, fantastic neighbourhood and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

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Generally glorious!

Where to start??

Well, the highly depressing news is that Carl has to fly back to the UK on Friday.  I am not looking forward to this one little bit. Miranda has started to form basic sentences now, and even when Carl disappears for a few minutes (running to the late-opening Safeway across the street for instance,) she asks “Where Daddy gone?” plaintively. This is going to be heartbreaking when she does this after he’s actually left the country!

Playing "Tombliboo Music"

! This is our home now, Carl ought to be here too. It’s Not Right otherwise.

I am also feeling a little bereft of Miranda. On the positive side, she is thoroughly enjoying her new Daycare. This Reggio Emilio daycare place (still sounds like a type of hard, grated cheese to me) is run by a lovely woman called Carolina, and Miri has taken to her, and the daycare environment very happily indeed. Carolina adopts a kind of ‘structured play’ where there is always some educational motive behind the activities they get up, and Miri seems to be getting on very well with it, even in just two days! No problems whatsoever with strange people, other children she doesn’t recognise, strange house, toys that aren’t hers, an unfamilar cot for naptime or neither Mummy nor Daddy being there in the afternoons. She is the eldest there at the moment (if only by a few months) and didn’t want to go home at all tonight!! She did yell “MAMEEE!” when she saw me, but she doesn’t seem at all bothered  when we leave her there in the mornings. Maybe unsurprisingly, it has been far harder on me than her. Carl had to pack her up her little lunchbox and everything… My beautiful baby is getting Big and Independent and goes off for the day without me!! This is HARD. Although I am very relieved that she’s settling in so well, and I am incredibly proud of my Moomin. “Her world is getting bigger.” says Carl.

Daycare is now a necessity though, because I have more-or-less started work. Sensibly, Emma has got me doing a little bit of everything. So on Monday I was cleaning the place (with a lot of expert help!) so at least now I know where everything lives – including the elusive blank for the coffee machine! Then today I got sent on another food safety course (remarkably similar to the ones I did in the UK, which, of course, aren’t recognised here,) and now my head is full of “hot holding temperatures” and the difference between pathogens, parasites and protozoa in food. For the rest of the week I am being a temporary line-cook, doing a bit of prep and assembling some of the dishes since they are short staffed at the moment. I hope I am actually some use – it’s been a looooong while since I was cooking to order! But it does allow me to get to know the other staff (there are a lot of them and I’ve only had the briefest of conversations with most!) and hopefully even familiarise myself with the menu, tofu and all!

Tamara at her first ever coffee cupping evening - ahem.

We also had a Big Chat the other day – about practical things to start off with, like sorting my hours around picking Miri up from daycare whilst keeping as near 40 hours a week as I can, and then more worrying things like paying the rent! And then we got on to the fun stuff – the coffee. They really want to develop the coffee side of the business since the place is called 13th Avenue Coffee House, but at the moment, they make the vast majority of their money from the excellent food they serve here. There is the added threat of Starschmucks opening up across the street too (aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh), but fortunately they like the idea of teaming up with Roca Jacks and with me designing a coffee blend unique to 13th Avenue, but having Roca Jacks roast it for us. Tamara is also happy with all this, and she and I decided (admittedly after quite a bit of champagne) that we were single-handedly going to create the Cafe Culture Revolution in Regina. We got talking about doing Coffee Classes in the evenings, tasting events, and so on, Carl dropped me in it by telling them about the coffee festival I organised, and then we mentioned getting my Ugly Cake Company going as well… and basically I got carried away and my inner Geek got loose in public again and had to be restrained forcibly with talk of “long term plans, right Bel?”

So it’s all exciting!!! And I’ve been meeting so many friendly people. I treated myself to a quick trip to the Wonderful Designer Stationery Shop this afternoon and the woman who runs it, Theresa, first liked my bag, then my accent, then my tales of my Pretty Notebook fetish, then my coffee obsession and then suggested I do a public talk about coffee at the Artesian arts venue opposite…. possibly because I must have come across as a complete freak, admittedly.  There is always entertainment value to be found when Inner Geeks are allowed off the leash, right?

Lots of plans afoot. I’ve just got to pace it all, start slowly, prioritise and settle myself in properly first. But I am quite ridiculously happy at the moment. WEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Infamy! Infamy!

Here’s the radio clip from Craig Lederhouse at CBC

CBC Radio: “A coffee expert” (?!)

 

This fortnight (that means: TWO WEEKS, peoples! Tamara asked me about the word last night, didn’t realise it wasn’t in common use over here) – anyway, the last two weeks have been utterly insane. But, I think I can finally breathe out again, I *think* I have got myself sorted. 13th Avenue Coffee House are posting lovely things on the internet about Doctor Coffee joining their team and welcoming Ugly Cakes to their menu. Roca Jacks have a sign outside with their weekly special: “The Dragon – 24 shots of espresso served in a bucket”. Just wondering if that had anything to do with my somewhat sarcastic comments about the Canadian drink sizes….ahem! And, fingers crossed and again thanks to the amazing kindness of strangers, I may even have somewhere to live after the Big Move in January.

Of course there are still massive decisions to agonize over, like whether I’ll have to come over on my own in January with Carl and Miri following me later – which makes financial sense but no emotional sense whatsoever. I can’t leave my baby!!! Waaaaaa! Let alone what we’ll do with our house, the ferrets and so on.

But for now, I may just let myself relax. Yesterday I did a huge amount of nothing, just writing, ranting, and eating!! I met up with Tamara again to go watch the game (well, we were supposed to be going coffee cupping, but it got cancelled cos The Game takes over everything!). We went to her friend’s house, met some others, and all the men were growing moustaches for Movember, some serious 70s porn taches happening there, very surreal! Our host was a chef and owns a fish shop, so the snacks he’d made us to watch football with were in a different league (geddit?) to ‘potayto chips n dips’! Deep fried oysters anyone?

I didn’t understand Canadian football. When they said “the game” I thought it would be hockey. But no, it’s big blokes in lycra and shoulder pads and helmets, kinda wrestling and falling over, and very rarely kicking the ball. Meh. I still don’t get football, even the British version, but I’ve come to view this experience as some sort of initiation ritual…..

And today, I am going to visit 13th Avenue Coffee House again this afternoon, but for now, I am going for a Stomp in the snow. Weeee!

MOOOOOOOOOOOSE!!!!

A few days No Bloggage, sorry dearest reader(s).

 

It’s been two days and two showers now and I STILL can’t get the stamp from ‘The Exchange’ off my wrist. It took over 24 hours to get the flourescent wristband off. These are the signs of a good night.

This good night was down to New Bestest Buddy and Coffee Geek Tamara of Roca Jacks. She has been introducing me to everyone she meets (and she seems to know EVERYONE in town) as “this is Annabel, she’s from Ingland and she’s got a phd in coffee!” She met me to discuss coffee projects stemming out of her cafe, all of which sounds utterly wonderful and exactly the sort of thing I want to do. She bought me beer and some amazing ginger and lime flavoured ribs, and then took me to the exchange where Austra were playing. Phenomenally good gig, the singer has an amazing voice, and Tamara even got me dancing!!

Unsurprisingly I got back to the hostel late, and then forced myself to get up at some ungodly time in the morning, because I had already booked my ticket to Moose Jaw on the bus. Much as there is ‘only one road in Canada’ there is also Only One Bus to Moose Jaw, and it left at 8am – from the other side of town. So off I toddled feeling like death, but got on the bus, met a chatty bloke called Shane who was braving the bus trip all the way to Calgary (11 hours!) then watched Lots Of Flatness go past for an hour. I saw the giant plastic moose outside the town, and was so shocked when I saw a hill, I had to take a photo of it!!

Moose Jaw is a weird place. I’ll admit, it was quite difficult to kill 6 hours in between The Only Buses there. It is the place of smugglers tunnels and Al Capone and all sorts of fictional tall tales. But nowadays it is sleepy, slightly seedy and has proper, dimly lit, shabby pubs and beer in tankards. Good shopping too – I bought Miri a cuddly moose from a shop exclusively devoted to soft toys, and found places doing gadgets and gothy stuff and FUDGE.No big brand stores either, which can only be a good thing!

I sniffed out two coffee shops there too. One did good coffee and had large squidgy sofas and roasted coffee on the premises, but sadly when I went in it was almost entirely empty. The next did fabulous Saskatooooooon pie (Saskatoon, the town, was named after Saskatoon, the berry, apparently. Saskatoon berries are a lot like loganberries, that kinda thing!), and espresso based coffees out of a bean to cup machine. It also doubles as a funky little boutique selling jewellery and hats and cute little bags and suchlike.They even have live music on there at times.  I really liked the atmosphere there – very fun, relaxed and accepting, like pretty much everywhere I’ve been so far. I sat there for nearly 2 hours writing my Nanowrimo novel (I am still failing miserably though)

Houses in Moose Jaw are considerably cheaper to rent, and to buy than in Regina, so depending on the job situation, it may be worth considering. It’s just under an hour’s drive, which by Canadian standards is practically on your doorstep, though I can’t imagine that commute is too fun when there is loads and loads of snow.

On the topic of the job situation though, I still haven’t heard a squeak out of Ken at Kave Haz, and without wanting to go into too much detail, more information has come to light that makes alarm bells go off in my head. So, I will try once more to get a straight answer, and then give up on the idea entirely. Other opportunities are presenting themselves and this is making me far more excited and helping me stay positive in the light of quite a frightening situation.

Tamara is very keen on learning everything she can about coffee, which is great to hear – I think she can make Roca Jacks really stand out here. She would like to do “coffee education evenings” where I’d use the facilities there to teach barista skills or do cupping sessions or just general coffee chat and stuff. I could make a bit of money from this, it would give me a chance to actually use all the otherwise useless trivia I learnt from the Phd, and in return it would be great publicity for Roca Jacks!! This sounds brilliant!!!

It would only be a part time thing, however, and we couldn’t all survive off just that. However, Tamara’s other wonderfully useful trait is that she used to work in HR and recruitment, and has loads of contacts from her previous job. When  I explained what Carl actually does for a living and showed her his CV, she couldn’t believe he hadn’t found work yet. Apparently there should be loads of jobs for him, and she’s gonna to have a look for us! If Carl got a full time job here then it would mean I can carry on looking after Miri and do coffee stuff on a part time basis. If Carl got a geomatics job, the chances are it’d pay far better than coffee shop stuff anyway.

WEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!1 So lots of opportunities and lovely positive people. I reckon wandering in to Roca Jacks on the off-chance last week was the best thing we could have done! I owe Tamara numerous drinkies now. SO EXCITED!!!!!!

 

 

Of Loonies and Toonies and Bear Brok

Things I am enjoying about Regina and Canada in general:

Dollar coins are called Loonies, because they have a bird on them, which is also called a Loonie. But you now get a two-dollar coin too, so they call it a Toonie. Logical, no? It did lead to the bizarre request this morning from a fellow hostel inhabitant wanting coffee out the vending machine: “Have you got 2 loonies for a toonie?” But then two dollar coins are of course, double- loonies, and so therefore, dub-loonies surely?

There is quite a lot of beer from Round Here, mainly because there is a lot of grain and wheat and so on. Tonight we tried both Cracked Canoe and a very local one called Bear Brok. Bear Brok was incredibly good! Cracked Canoe though, claimed to be a “light beer”. Only 3.5% alcohol, but presumably as a unique selling point, they’d bothered to do a full nutritional breakdown on the label. Cracked Canoe is only 90 calories a bottle! Wow! And there is 0g of fat! Therefore it must be really healthy and good for you and we should drink loads.

the national dish is macaroni and cheese, and comes in cardboard packets for 84 cents.

There are no roundabouts anywhere in the city.

The city centre has its own Globe Theatre and some Twin Towers. (not very big ones).

Traffic lights appear to work on actual clockwork and tick ominously when you press the button to cross.

On that note, I cannot get used to 2 lanes of traffic actually stopping for us (without lights) if we stand at the side of the road and look hopeful.

“Christianmingle.com” – toe curlingly, cringe-makingly excrutiatingly awful dating site, advertised every 15 minutes on TV, because God is telling single people to make the move today!

Family Guy has explicit-content warnings before, after and during the show, and apparantly is not suitable for under-14s.

beer

Cool places include:

  • Roca Jacks coffee roasters,
  • Atlantis coffee for doing baby hot chocolates and having baristas who look about 12 yrs old,
  • The Cathedral Free House for nice beers (but its closed on Sundays??? WTF?)
  • Royal Saskatchewan museum for being free and very kid friendly, with robotic dinosaurs and a Paleo Pit
  • DOLLARAMA!
  • Turgeon Hostel with the most interesting approximation to “working stove” ever encountered.