Friday, December 13, 2013

*Put Another Log on the Fire

"Put another log on the fire!
Cook me up some bacon and some beans,
And go out to the car, and change the tire.
Wash my socks, and sew my old blue jeans."

Those are some great lyrics right there. A Waylon Jennings classic. If you like classic country. And Waylon. Which I don't, particularly.

I am having a love-hate relationship with my wood stove. I know; it saves money. I know; it is a bone-permeating heat. I know; the fire puts out a lovely glow. Yada yada yada.

My house swings from one temperature extreme to the other. Each morning,  I wake around four, aware that the furnace is working overtime, trying to warm the house up after cooling drastically once the embers begin to fade. I drag myself out of bed, grateful if there is a stick of wood left to add to the coals.

Oh, but first I have to use the special shovel to remove the mountains of ash left by the burned-up logs. That shovel was built for a much larger opening than the one on our small wood stove. Invariably, while it is heaped with ashes, I bump it against the side door, and soot goes everywhere. I'm pretty sure I better find a fire-retardant protective rug to put over our wood floor. The occasional red-hot coal could leave a nasty mark, or worse, start a fire where we don't want one. 

We have a lovely old, rusty Texaco bucket for the task of ash removal.  I am so grateful for its decorative presence in our living room. NOT. I know; I know. I should take it to the basement during the day to hide it. Yes, please, there's not enough walking up and down those steps in a day. Let me add four more trips for when I decide I need the bucket, and when I have had enough of it. 

The earliest part of the morning is actually my favorite part of day. I should just be grateful I'm getting more of it than usual lately.

When I complained about my current battle to regulate the heat in our home, a girlfriend from high school reminded me that when we use a wood fire for our heat source, we warm ourselves several ways:  when we gather the wood supply, when we make the fire, and of course, when we finally have the fire going. Yeah, well, I'm really only interested in that last step, so if anyone else wants to take over the other tasks, that'd be great.

The woodpile is outside, under the deck, and is accessed by going down a long flight of stairs outside. That is all fine and good; the arthritis progressing in my knees isn't painful yet, and honestly, I can use the exercise. 

It's the ice outside that makes me nervous. My shoulder is still recuperating from a bad fall down the steps from several years ago. Once I'm finally down there, I get to load up my arms as much as I can, which isn't much because of childhood back injuries.

(Excuse me; it's getting cold in here. I need to put another log on the fire.)

I'm back. That wasn't so bad, really. It's just so messy. I'm not a great housekeeper. When you make multiple trips outside and in, drop an occasional piece of wood, sprinkle ashes on your floor, and allow the dust to settle on every horizontal surface, the house suffers. Seriously suffers. I hate walking on a dirty floor, especially in bare feet, but I refuse to clean it every day, so I walk on a dirty floor most of the time.

You'd be proud of me. Yesterday I decided to take matters into my own hands, and tidy up the area around the stove. It did not go as planned.

Guess what a Swiffer sweeper does when it sweeps up ashes? Go ahead; guess. You could try it,  but only on a day you have time to dust the whole house, and mop the floors. Yesterday was not a good day.

No one loves the wood stove like Marley. He thinks we started using it this year for his personal pleasure. He takes advantage of the rug under the dining room table, and sets himself up to get warm. And it does get warm.

The house fluctuates between arctic cold when the fire dies down to equatorial hot when the fire is blazing. I am a fair weather soul when I'm inside, and I find either extreme quite unpleasant.  

Last night, Bridger and his friend closed all of the doors to the office to play a video game. I peeked in on them, letting them know they could open the doors if it got too cold in there.  

"It is so friggin' hot in the house!" Bridger complained.  Oh, really? I hadn't noticed.

That's how it is, though, every single time. I'm like the frog in the pot of water heating on the stove. I don't realize the subtle changes in temperature until just before I'm nearly cooked to death. Then I'm sweating profusely, fearing heatstroke.

Several friends suggested opening doors and windows to regulate the heat. Seriously? It's been like 10 degrees outside until noon. When I do that, again, the temperature changes inside are not obvious, until they are, and then I'm back to freezing, and stoking up the fire, and the cycle repeats. Viciously. All day long, into the night.

Pam lives up the canyon from me. She has all sorts of advice about regulating the temperature. When she told me she turns on the central air to circulate the heat throughout the house, I was incredulous.  

"Let me get this straight. You turn on the air conditioning to make it warmer?" She clarified that she doesn't have it set to COOL, she just uses the FAN to move the air around. Hm. Hadn't thought of that.

I'd rather just use the HEAT function of our central air, if it's all the same to everyone else. But here I am, battling the elements, stoking the fire, fetching the wood, and griping about it all. Complaining is just so fun, once I get on a roll; I don't want to stop.

I would've been the most despised pioneer woman on the frontier. The other pioneers would've shunned me, and sent me out into the wilderness to fend for myself after they'd had enough of my whining. 

I hate to be too hot or  too cold. My shoes must fit "just right" or I am miserable. I don't want to feel hunger, ever, and I hate having a bad hair day. I imagine the shoes back then had horrible insulating qualities, and lacked proper arch support. And can you imagine the endless string of bad hair days the women back then had to suffer through? I just am not made of pioneer stock.  I don't look it, but I'm really quite a delicate flower.

On the bright side, I'm saving money on the electric bill. I'm getting exercise, which really is a good thing. Once I figure out how to regulate our stove better, I'm sure the house will remain a more pleasant temperature. It is warm, when it's working well, and adds to the ambience of home. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to put another log on the fire.

P.S.  Ha ha ha...

After this post went up, I received a note from one of my friends that contained the last verse of "Put Another Log on the Fire." 

Come on, baby, you can fill my pipe,
And then go fetch my slippers.
And boil me up another pot of tea.
Then put another log on the fire, babe,
And come and tell me why you're leaving me.

P.P.S. As the winter of 2016 approaches, I am most grateful for our furnace, immediate heat, and relatively clean floors. Life without a wood stove is just easier.


  1. I hate ours too. Mostly because I forget to put wood on until I am frozen :) But after using the heat in our house for less than a month and getting an electric bill that was over $500 after Christmas, we have never touched it again. Wood heat or no heat. I also have to trek out into the mud out to the woodshed. So I generally fail :)

    1. have my deepest sympathy, and complete admiration. I should be using mine more, but I will only be here another month, and I am so, so grateful our days have been in the sixties, so the nights are not so cold.


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