Starting with taking the whole thing apart, piece by piece. A reminder for next year though: take photos of the fire and ash box cheeks - they're tricky to remember how to get back together again!
After a friend of ours welded together a small crack on the front we also welded on some flat steel to repair a silly mistake we made in year 1. Welding steel is easy enough, but we left welding cast iron to someone who knows what they're doing. :)
Then we replaced a bolt that we didn't bother putting in in year 1. Turns out it helps hold the bottom up and keeps the flu gasses from taking any shortcuts. I then used air set fire cement to seal up the joins.
Back together again (you need skinny long arms to get to everything, we both were bruised the next day!) after some frustration, lit her up, and used some stove polish to tidy her up. We achieved almost double the oven temperature! Last year it managed to get to 60°C (140°F) and this year we got it to 110°C (230°F) -ish. Ok, still not quite high enough for baked potatoes, but getting closer. We're thinking that she'll need another lot of air set fire cement EVERYWHERE. Every single place where sections meet. We're feeling pretty confident we can get her working, even having an oven rack made to size. Old wood stoves need lots of maintenance, lots of wood, and this one offers very little in return for the effort, I'm sorry to say! Although, it did give a gentle warmth to the kitchen after being on all day. I sadly admit to looking forward to someday replacing her with something more modern and efficient.
My family came for a visit recently which was nice! Mike left behind his metal detector for us to play with, and it's absolutely amazing just how much metal and junk is lying around this property! Sadly, I still havn't found Marty's lost wedding ring, but I have found bucketfuls of junk! Nails and bits of old barbed wire fence (and chicken wire too) - they're the worst. Melted metal (often under areas of no vegetation or where plants have died like in the photo above), tin can lids and window parts, railway ties and rusty metal of every size and shape. Not just in one location either, but strewn around the property everywhere.
I borrowed a book by Alanna Moore called Sensitive Permaculture from the library last year, and if she is right about fairies in the garden being sensitive to metal, then the fairies must be avoiding this place like the plague. Bummer, I need all the help in the garden I can get!
Speaking of the garden, things are pretty slow growing here. I would assume it's because of the winter, but the days have been surprisingly nice. The silverbeet that was attacked by red legged earth mites has recovered mostly and we're able to harvest some for the kitchen. I'm using chilli powder on the ground where I've put new seeds of spinach, carrot, peas etc. I know the mice love digging them up and eating them, and hopefully this powder will discourage that activity. The frost wiped out the potatoes (which goes to show that there wasn't enough time between summer and winter to get a crop of potatoes out, at least in that position), but I'm not giving up. We've got hedges started, more trees being planted, and more aromatic understory companion plants going in too.
So, we're plugging along slowly. The way I see it, it's not a fail if we havn't given up. :)