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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Keep the Home Fires Burning

The weather people tell me that it might get cold  tonight. I'm not sure I believe it after all the wonderful warm days we've had this November.  Maybe I should think seriously about getting the firewood today.  Lately the wood stove has been fed just enough to keep the fire from going out and to keep the chill off out of the mornings.  Our log home has no "real" source of heat, meaning electric or gas, except for space-heaters in the bathrooms. We need those for true winter mornings when bare toes and legs meet a potentially cold room.  Much of our time here at Mountaintop Acres is centered around firewood. A wheelbarrow load each day will keep the fires stoked. It can be interesting trip in the snow.  Jeff spends many hours finding trees that are dead and close enough to the fields or road so that he can get to them with his tractor and chain saw.  All other projects go on hold in the spring while he makes sure the wood shed is filled with both long pieces for the wonderful Warm Morning stove and short pieces for the horrible, disgusting, evil insert near the kitchen. Evil is the proper word for this stove inserted into our fireplace.  The cast iron stove results in the formation of bad thoughts and even more bad words. The air draw is directly under the fire hole so as you open the doors to feed the fire, chunks of burning wood and ash fall onto the floor, are drawn into the blower then blown in your face, eventually coating the room in a thin layer of ash.  There is no ash pan, so we must let the fire go out each time the ashes need emptied, which is every couple weeks.  Besides the two heating stoves in the main house, we have a wood stove to heat The Cabin, another log building built for entertaining.  The Cabin is also home to the wood-fired bread oven.  All of these stoves and ovens need wood, wood and more wood. 
My grandmother said that you can judge a man by the way he stacks his firewood.  She lived in a time and when that stack of wood could determine how a family lived and prospered.  Wood was needed to keep the family not only warm, but well fed as wood stoves were the main means of cooking.  A well-stacked pile meant dry wood, easily attainable and not likely to fall on the child responsible for bringing the wood into the house.  It meant a man who was careful, responsible and planned well for the future.

In our family, Jesse and Mary took turns getting the firewood. If it was your week to get the firewood, it was also your week to choose where you sat in the car.  Sticking to a whole week meant that we didn't forget whose turn it was, and you also had a special privilege that week. No matter how great it was to choose your seat in the car, getting the firewood was a hated chore in our home.  When the children were very young I would get it with them, but as they grew older, they had the full responsibility, using a wagon with red wooden sides until they were big enough to use the wheelbarrow.  If we didn't have that wood, then we were cold. We were teaching responsibility.  They were learning that they would never own a wood stove.

While this blog was being written, the house shook with the blast of a hunters weapon.  As it sounded much too close, I grabbed the camera and went out back to check the area. My reward was to see the rising sun tagging the east side of all trees. This viewing was interrupted with the loud drum of a pileated woodpecker. I love it that these flamboyant birds have reappeared. They seem to be pretty quiet during the summer but once the leaves are off the trees, their undulating cry is a welcome sound.  One of my earliest memories is watching out the kitchen window in Charleston as a pileated woodpecker destroyed a tree stump in the small back yard. 

My mother and I spent much of the day enjoying the scene as chips flew around the energetic bird.  At the time I thought its purpose was merely to remove the stump. Mother explained that the stump was full of bugs eating the wood and that the bird was removing the wood to get at the bugs. I have no doubt where my love of nature comes from.  Both my parents loved being outdoors.  A bird identification book was always on the kitchen table or on the window sill.  My dad even had a book to identify animal scat.  Yes, that's right, poo. I'll come back to that sometime in the future.  Right now it is time to brew cup of chai green tee and visit the rocking chair in front of the sliding door to see who will have breakfast in the front yard.

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