This was written several years ago a year or two after we began burning wood. Now, in 2013, John says we may not burn wood this year. The woodshed is full and ready. But it has become more and more difficult for either of us to get around. But a cozy fire is still nice to think about!
The furniture is rearranged for winter. That is because we must now prepare for FIREWOOD! The copper kettles have been taken off the hearth and hidden behind the couch. The long strip of plastic that protects the rug from the big yellow wheelbarrow is close to hand and just the sight of that wood piled to the mantle on the hearth makes me feel winter curling around my toes.
When we first built our house back in 1974 we thought the big fireplace would be a cozy wintertime treat to light once in a while when the snow blew. We would bring in a wheelbarrow load or two and stack it prettily on the hearth. Then, winter really set in. The electric furnace ran continuously to keep the house warm. We lit a fire. The living room grew cozy. We kept putting on logs and the furnace quit running. John was out and around helping Mac farm, so he didn’t notice how little the furnace purred. But I did. I kept piling on wood and the furnace kept not coming on. I kept doing this for a few days and the temperature remained pretty much constant at 70 to 75 degrees.
I finally asked John if he had been warm enough the last few days. When he said yes I told him we had been heating entirely with wood. Now. Whatever possessed me to tell him that! From then on it was logs all day, bank the fire at night, and rebuild it from the embers come daylight. The previous January our light bill had been $365. This January it was less than $50. We have a five-bedroom house and it was totally heated by that big old fireplace.
In the years Mac and Shelby lived here, Mac added a Buck stove insert to the fireplace, making it more efficient. But it still requires wood. That means the hearth is filled to capacity on either side of the fireplace and replenished a couple of times a week. John takes the utility tractor to the wood shed, fills the scoop with wood and brings it to the front door. Then I bring over the big yellow wheelbarrow (which had been proudly ensconced in the living room) and fill it with before mentioned wood. Two or three trips loading and unloading fills us up again.
At first, John would get up in the middle of the night to put more wood on the fire. But as it got harder for him to get around, his wonderful wife would fumble out of the warm flannel sheets and grumble her way to the living room, pull on a pair of ugly brown gloves and throw on wood, hoping the sparks did not fall on her bare feet.
One day while John was gone, I had a hard time getting the fire to start. So, I thought about the oil for the lamps we used for power outages. “I bet THAT would burn!” I said to myself. So, I found the kerosene, poured it over the wood and lit a match. Had anyone told me how hot kerosene burned? Or what a fierce fire it would make? First thing I knew, John Layton pounded on the door and told me there was fire spouting out of the chimney. John was right behind him and they used garden hoses to put out the fire on the roof. Moral of the story, don’t use kerosene to start a fire in the fireplace.
You would think that incident would have gotten me fired. Nope. I’m still the keeper of the flame. Only a bit more careful. The only thing that has changed is that now a grandson or neighbor brings the wood to the front door and stacks it for us. But the rest is up to us.
The wood awaits. The firebox is cleaned and ready. The leaves have turned gold and red and soon the smell of wood smoke will waft across the Big Pine valley. Where are those gloves?