The morning fire

I’ve been living in houses heated solely with wood since I was 16 and left home. You’d think I’d be good at starting fires… and the truth is, I actually can be if I have the right things and take my time. I know how. But in the house I often like to rush in the mornings to get the fire going and that rarely, if ever, works. Especially if it’s gone completely out and I’m cold, the dogs are cold, and we just want warmth.

In this house, we heat with wood. When I was on my own at an old 1800’s farm house with 50 dogs and no insolation, and only a wood furnace that actually broke one winter at -40 C… and stayed broken…we only heated with wood too. It was a big, two story, old, farm house. It could have been a lovely house re-done, and with proper wood stoves and heat. When I arrived there was a wood stove in the kitchen. It didn’t do much good other than warming the kitchen because there were a lot of walls in the house, which made it impossible to heat even the entire downstairs.

I believe now that I think about it, they had oil back up, but it was expensive, so if we had any at all, it was used very sparingly.

I used to sleep in multiple layers of clothes – not even PJ’s during winter, like 5 or 6 (not exaggerating) sweaters, several pairs of pants layered on, about 6 pairs of socks, a heated blanket, multiple blankets and dogs – AND a winter hat, and gloves. Yes I slept with my winter hat and gloves on because it was that cold for me.

That winter several times the inside of the house froze as I fought with a broken, not heating properly, wood furnace I knew nothing about. I was 18. I spent a lot of nights sleeping in the bathroom – in the tub. There was an electric space heater in the bathroom to keep the pipes from freezing so it was slightly warmer than anywhere else.

It’s hard to believe when I look back on it.

Here, in this house, nothing has ever frozen. Of course the house and fire and never left untended for more than a few hours at a time in winter. This house is a bungalow, and the wood stove heats the entire upstairs when driven right. We have a huge stove, a stove that heats more space than we need. We also have a wood stove in the walk out basement but since it’s not finished down there and basically a work shop/storage area still, we just don’t use it.

When you heat with wood, or spend a lot of time in the woods, or live there, you quickly remember (because some of forget in this day in age) that fire is life. Without fire, without that heat, it’s all over. I think few things are left in this world that are more basic and primal than that.

While I’m fighting to get my morning fire going without proper kindling, with a bunch of wet Elm I don’t want to be using (but got mixed with my split and dry ash and maple) I’m also remembering that inside, I don’t like the idea of a thermostat. I mean sure, pressing a button to increase the heat in the house saves a ton of work. No marking trees, felling them, cutting them into rounds, splitting them into pieces, counting to make sure and worrying/wondering if we’ll have enough fire wood for the winter. Our entire year during each season really has something to do with firewood – we are either thinking about it, planning, or working for it.

But then, when that wood ignites, and the flames come to life, and the first heat starts to hit us, I am reminded how grateful I am for the security of wood heat. I have wood – lots of it. It takes work to get, but we can’t really run out (unless we start cutting green trees) and it costs no money. I could not afford any other kind of heat right now anyway.

But I don’t need to.

I carry matches in all my coat pockets. I learned early if you ever get stuck or loss, fire will be the first thing to save you – either by keeping you warm, or by alerting people you help, or both.

We had our first real snowfall of the season the other day. It wasn’t terrible, but it’s the most snow we’ve had this winter so far. The night before, Ed put the plow on the tractor and he plowed early this morning at 5 AM or so, so that he could get out for work. This is not an easy place to live if you need to leave for work every day in the winter- over a mile of lane is always stopping you from getting to the side road, which also won’t be plowed until late afternoon or tomorrow, so that has to always be taken into account.

I’m grateful I don’t often have to leave. Aside from going to the barn, and working at the house, my main goal is to keep us alive, and warm.

We do need the moisture from the snow for spring, we need a good winter, I know that. But part of is also really annoyed. I was getting so spoiled not having any snow to fight with, to shovel, to get me all wet – I was actually enjoying just the frosty mornings when the ground was hard and easy to walk on, but not covered in snow you needed to trudge through.

This entire week has been a haze for me really. Days and days I’ve lost. I’ve been completely down for several full days (complete rest) meaning yesterday for example, I couldn’t even get up and move from the bed to the couch. I could barely get a glass of water. I was in a tremendous amount of pain but mostly the fatigue has been completely overwhelming & took me down.

It’s really weird loosing whole days, let alone like whole weeks. Loosing them doesn’t mean I forget every single thing, but it means I forget most things I was doing, or should have done, and I can barely remember getting through them at all. This flare has been a long haul and much worse than usual.

I’ve had some updates on my health and we made the 6 hour round trip to see my Rheumatologist on Wed this week. It wasn’t an amazing appointment but it also wasn’t bad. I’ll vlog about that this weekend.

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Yesterday morning it was -30 C. It got really cold, really fast on us. The animals usually do fine in the cold but not when it drops so much so quickly so I was pretty worried. The sun came out yesterday thankfully. Nymeria and Ghost were nicely snuggled up to Max… they all quickly got up as soon as they saw me, but I got one picture of Nymeria and Max before they moved. Max is snuggling with and playing with the puppies when he thinks we are not looking, and when we are he pretends he’s still terribly annoyed by them. Its quite funny.

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Earlier in the week we had some really pretty fluffy flakes falling and it was still much warmer. The pretty magical kind of snow I always look forward to each year. Before the -30 shows up and ruins everything.

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The deer are hanging closer to the house now that there is snow. A couple of the does just spend all day bedding down in or near the yard, just relaxing in the security and calm. They can see for predators, maybe get snacks, and they are not even remotely worried about our dogs, which they know are no threat to them.

It’s very cold again today, so our main goal is going to be continuing rest, and and keeping the fire going. I don’t think there is anything Chihuahua’s hate more than even the idea of cold, so if for no other reason, we need to keep the fire roaring to keep them happy!

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