Saturday, December 8, 2007

Time To Check The Fire... Again

Shiver me timbers it is cold in here. This year we are keeping the furnace off and the wood stove hot. Let me just say that I really feel for the women and men of old. We were lucky to have a big ol' pile of free wood dropped at our door this summer. All we had to do was spend an eternity piling it and cleaning it up. Back in the old days men had to go on day long trips all year long to fall trees, hitch them to cattle, drag them home, chop, stack, chop, stack, and chop some more. Women weren't able to turn up the heater anytime their little pinky toes got cold. Nope, they were up getting the fire going so as to be able to heat up the stove for breakfast. I just can't believe how much time fire tending takes. Not only must you bring in wood throughout the day, but the fire must be lit, it must be continually fed so it won't die, you have to clean up the ashes, you have to plan when best to light it for your schedule that day, and you must constantly make sure that there is a clean perimeter around the stove at all times, etc. I am used to checking things throughout the day, like the time, my email, the kids, the phone messages, but it is hard for me to remember the fire and I often forget it until my toes start freezing and the fire is already out. I'm just so glad that I live in the rather temperate Pacific Northwest. I can't imagine trying to survive the windy coldness of Idaho right now (though maybe it is easier to keep a house warm in dry cold rather than the wet cold we have here). So, even though I know of no one that would need this and it will probably sound more like whining, here is a list of what I've learned from using my wood stove:

1. Construction not only uses a lot of wood, but wastes a lot of wood. The neighbor that gave us the huge pile of construction scraps said that if people don't take it to burn it goes in the landfill (Why don't they chip it and give it to landscape companies?)

2. Don't forget to bring in a pile of wood before you go to bed because the last thing you want to do in the very early morning is run out in your bathrobe and coat to get a load of wood while praying that the neighbors don't see you.

3. The first 1 1/2 stove fulls of wood don't heat your home, they heat the stove so that the stove can eventually start heating your home.

4. Kids love to sit by the fire and then roll on the floor pretending they are actually on fire.

5. If you are OCD about checking your doors, windows, lights, and kids before going to bed you shouldn't use a wood stove to heat the house. My bedtime checking routine is ridiculous. I have even turned back home, halfway to the library, because, even though I new I had checked it, I couldn't remember what I saw or did when I had checked the fire before leaving. (I'm not clinically OCD but I annoy myself many times with my "tendencies")

6. Kids may logically know not to play near the fire but it won't stop them from melting plastic toys against the stove just to see what will happen (Surprisingly it was NOT Monster Man who did this... and did it repeatedly. But I will protect the identity of the heavily-lectured-to child)
7. Don't carry superwoman sized loads of wood into the house when you are pregnant. Having sciatic nerve spasms are not fun for anyone when mom is shrieking in pain every now and then. Don't worry, I've learned my lesson.

8. Using a wood stove to heat your house can suddenly change your whole outlook on the usual post Christmas pile of cardboard boxes. Cardboard is great for starting fires.

9. PRIME YOUR FLU. If the fire has been out long enough for the chimney to get cold it causes air to come from the outside in. So, when you light a fire the initial smoke will just pour into your house, giving everything that lovely just-came-home-from-camping smell. To prevent this you have to light a bunch of newspaper right up close to the chimney opening. This also means that I end up with soot on my arms and hands and must wash before I touch anything.

10. Don't get competitive with your husband over who lights the better fire because one day you will be in a rush and will light the kind of fire you are always preaching against and you will have to eat your own crow.

11. The trick to good wood stove usage is to maintain a constant, steady heat. If you pile the wood stove super full to try and reduce the amount of feedings you have to give it all you will do is waste wood, over heat the house for a small amount of time, and it will also burn up fast without leaving coals so you will most likely have to start the fire again.

12. If you smell smoke, don't wait till your hubby smells it too, run and check it out. We had a smoldering coal in a cold stove and it was filling our entire basement with nasty smelling smoke.

13. Keep baby blankets piled in the same room as the wood stove. These will be needed for performing the smoke detector dance whenever someone doesn't properly heat up the flu (or for situations like the one above). My kids know their stations and their jobs. It makes me glad I have so many of them (kids) because we have a lot of smoke detectors.

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