A Vintage Wood-Burning Stove Helps Fuel The Modern Day Settler

Kate St.Cyr, known online as the Modern Day Settler, tells us about staying self-sufficient at her antique 1790s New England homestead.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Modern Day Settler

“I have always had a love for animals and have always had an interest in the self-sufficient lifestyle,” says Kate St.Cyr, who lives in an antique 1790s homestead in New England that houses a flock of eye-catching Icelandic sheep.

The goings-on at St.Cyr’s homestead are documented on her website and social media outlets, where she dubs herself the Modern Day Settler.

We spoke to St. Cyr about the charms of Icelandic sheep and the day-to-day challenges of living in a vintage home. We also got the story behind her magnificent wood-burning cast iron stove.

Getting Into Homesteading


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St. Cyr says that food was a “big motivator” in her decision to embrace the homesteading lifestyle.

“We raise all of our own animals for our own consumption or the by-products like dairy,” she explains. “Wanting the best quality food in terms of nutrition and the quality of life for the animals themselves was definitely the initial driving force behind it.”

Restoring a Neglected Home

After St.Cyr moved to New England from Pennsylvania, she told her husband that she insisted they live in an old house. But after securing an appropriate property, they had to set about correcting years of neglect.

“The land had completely grown up,” she recalls. “What used to be pastures were thick, overgrown unhealthy woods. We weren’t just able to move here and put up fence and plop down animals. We truly had to beat back the brush and do so much selective clearing to regain use of the property.

“We’ve had to work for every square foot of grass we have.”

Read more: You can extend your grazing time by planting seasonal pastures.

Adding Multi-Purpose Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic sheep play a key and varied role at St.Cyr’s homestead. She says that originally it was the breed’s “absolutely beautiful” look that caught her eye. But after carrying out some research, she discovered a host of benefits.

“They have fantastic natural instincts, and they are slightly aloof and on the wild side because they haven’t really been ‘domesticated’ and really bred any differently than they were 1,000 years ago,” she explains. “I saw the difference in the meat and what I could do with the wool, and I’ve gotten into tanning hides. They just seemed like a fantastic, multipurpose breed for us.”

The Homestead’s Heart

A 122-year-old wood-burning stove forms part of the heart of the Modern Day Settler homestead. It turns out, the stove was “sitting in the garage and covered in dust and rust and had boxes on top of it” when she and her husband went to view the property before buying it.

“I told the realtor that has to stay,” she recalls. “It took me a couple of years to save, but then I had it completely restored. And that’s how it looks today.”

Read more: Want to start heating with firewood? Here’s everything you need to know.

Mastering A Wood-Burning Stove

When it comes to cooking with a wood-burning stove, St.Cyr believes that it’s all about mastering the learning curve.

“It’s not like you turn up a dial and get instant temperature increase or decrease,” she says. “You really need to learn to read the coals and read the fires and learn how to properly open up a draft and close one damper. You get a feel for the stove and every stove is different.

“There’s definitely a learning curve and a relationship that you form with the stove.”

Follow Kate St.Cyr at Instagram.

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