Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Yesterday, my husband started a fire in the fireplace.

We haven't burned wood in the house since we painted and installed new carpeting in 2005. The fireplace will heat practically the whole house but it makes a huge mess.

It is also very labor intensive.

First, there is that whole chopping wood thing. That falls on my husband's shoulders, and while those shoulders are broad and his arms strong, he is no longer a young man. While 50 might be the new 40, he's still 50.

Second, I am allergic to woodsmoke. I am also allergic to a lot of the wood itself. When we have a fire, a sinus infection is generally not far behind. I downed a 24-hour allergy med in hopes of keeping said sinus infection at bay.

Third, the mess. The fireplace insert lets a good deal of smoke back into the house, which stains the walls and ceiling. Wood chips get into the carpeting. Bugs crawl out of the logs. If you're a clean freak, a wood-burning heating device is not necessarily the best heat source.

But cold is cold, and 10 degree F with 40 mph winds is frigid indeed. Besides, the light bill for December was very high.

Fortunately the wood pile, stacked with pre-cut logs, has been sitting behind the outbuilding for many years. So there was no need to trudge through the fields and the woods and the remaining snow and ice, except for what is left in the yard, for fuel. Instead he was able to fire up the tractor, hook a trailer to it, and haul a big load from the woodpile to the house, a distance of about 50 yards, without breaking into much of a sweat.

Building a fire on a cold hearth is no easy task, but with some old newspapers and relatively dry kindling, soon there was a blaze. The blowers on the wood stove insert cut on after about an hour, and the house slowly began to warm.

Today I have lifted my bottom from my chair every hour or so to go and stoke the fire. I throw in a log, hit it with the poker, and watch it flare. The thermostat in the hall has hit a toasty 70 degrees and best of all the furnace isn't cutting on.

My office and the bedroom, both in the front part of the house, are not as warm as the living room but they are comfortable enough. Wood heat feels warmer than what the heat pump and furnace sends out, so the chill has lessened considerably. My old bones aren't feeling the cold like they were this past weekend, anyway.

Fireplaces have heated humanity for thousands of years. I have done nothing new. Watching the flames dance makes me feel a part of something greater than myself. The hearth calls. I answer.


  1. We hav a gas fireplace and turn it on each morning to take the chill off the house and also in the evening when the sun sets. My office is upstairs and heat rises so I can only stand having the fireplace on for a half hour and when I break a sweat.. LOL , I turn it off. BUT, it sure makes a difference in the heating bill.

    Stay warm!


  2. I'm coming over. Can I bring a blanket and lay by the fire? I promise not to snore too loud! I just want warm feet.

  3. I love woodstoves. Every house I've lived in, I put one in. I don't particularly like the one I have now. It's steel and is not airtight and so doesn't hold good heat and is a mess. You're right, not good for us clean freaks. But it's still great. Toasty warm.

    Do you keep water around when you're burning wood? That can help with allergies. Maybe you'd be surprised about how much water they will "evaporate." I keep two kettles on my woodstove and refill both completely at least once a day. I also keep a humidifier in Kelly's room. She used to get "colds" before we started doing that.

  4. Deb, we have a whole-house humidifier and several smaller humidifying units that we use. It does help.

  5. Very nice post. I like your comment, "The hearth calls, I answer."

  6. You are fortunate to have a fireplace that heats the whole house. We had a big woodstove in our last place, and I really missed it when our power went out for five days before Christmas. We're trying now to figure out where we could put a woodstove in our little doublewide.

    A belated Happy New Year to you and your husband!


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