Rick removed the chimney cap, swept the chimney flue, separated it from the stove and thoroughly cleaned the important bits of the stove. He was efficient and thorough and the entire process took about an hour.
I had noticed some discoloration of the chimney cap the last few weeks, but had no idea that the creosote had built up to the extent you see here. (click on the images to really gross yourselves out.)
Some of it looks feathery and some of it looks like tar, but it is all crystalline and shatters at the merest touch. A closer look at the chimney cap shows that the creosote buildup was getting fairly thick.
As he drove off, the image below shows how our stove is operating now. The fire burns cheerfully and the draft is visibly better then before. I was very pleased with the work and the price was quite reasonable.
If you live in this area of Virginia and need your chimney looked at, you might want to give Eanes Chimney Sweep a call. The phone number is 540-382-7760. He is located in Pilot, but covers quite a wide area. They are working on a web site and when it is complete, I will add the link here also.