After noticing lazy fires the last few days, I got going on the stove maintenance project I had planned for the holiday vacation. Let the fire die out this morning, and tried to remove the baffle in the stove. In the process of removing the hated cotter pins, I cracked the baffle. Drats. Drove into town, picked up a baffle (they come with twist wires now, not cotter pins--bless the fine mind that figured that one out), an ash vac, a wire brush and threaded rods. It took a couple of hours to complete the job, as that telescoping double-wall pipe doesn't exactly telescope--more like a wrestling match--and the wire brush does not like sliding past the double-wall-telescope--but got the job done. When the brush was almost at the top of the chimney, the bag I had around the bottom suddenly whooshed up into the chimney, and then a clot of stuff landed in the bag. I must have knocked a quart of particulate out. After I got the brush out and the bag off, I had a stiff breeze blowing up the chimney. Got it put back together, and a fire started. Feeling thrashed, but accomplished. Flames are a lot perkier now, and the house should be warming up soon. That was a wake-up call. I know I shouldn't have put it off this long, but I lacked the tools and the experience, and had kind of dreaded the process. If anyone is considering whether or not to buy an ash vac, I picked this one up at Lowes for $80 (missed the sale last week, darn it), and I am tickled with the purchase. I think it was well worth it, and would do it again. It sure made the chimney sweeping job easier, even with the bottom bagged off. I will say that I wished I'd sprung for the stove cleaner that uses the drill motor--I found this to be pretty tough going, having to bend and push the rods up the chimney. My timing was impeccable--not only was the stove store closing early, to be shut for the next three days, but the thermometer dropped 20 degrees this evening, and word has it that it's headed lower--highs of 15 to 25 below for Christmas. Good to have all that behind me. Got the driveway plowed today as well--always best to do that while it's warm, as once the temp drops, that sets up solid as cement. My not-so-humble accomplishments for the day.