Thursday, December 30, 2010

How To Build The Perfect Fire

I love my fireplace. It's a Tulikivi and just kicks the heat out into the room. Great draft. Simple mantle. I can make a fire in my fireplace in my house in one minute, light it, and it's roaring.

This Christmas holiday we rented a house in Roxbury to be close to skiing at Plattekill. It's called The Captains House and had the absolutely required fireplace for our holiday rental in the western Catskills. 4 bedrooms, big dining table to eat our holiday meal at, great field and logging road to hike around in all that fresh snow, easy access to the main (read, plowed) road, and a beautiful, wide fireplace with a gorgeous hearth with brass guard rail and plenty of firewood. Perfect.

I got out my usual items (I even remembered to bring some LLBean fatwood from my house - love that stuff to help start the fire), then started to realize just how different each fireplace can be. The grate in this one was higher, and there was no kindling or smaller logs to help get things going like I have at my house. So outside we send the 13 year old to gather sticks - which being a 13 year old from Brooklyn he only did moderately well. But I had this.

Well, you can guess… was an anemic fire at best for about 3 hours we tried to pretend it was better than it was. Next evening rolls around and more of our holiday party have joined us, including one firemaker extraordinaire. He went out and gathered lots of kindling, especially those bare, dead low pine branches and placed an entire armful on the grate and then piled logs, criss-crossed for airspace, a few pieces of newspaper underneath and we were off. Five hours of the most beautiful roaring fire, tended to by said 13 year old and newly minted first fire mate with the bellows. It entertained him better than South Park reruns. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of that fire.

Last year, friends introduced me to a wonderful New Years tradition. Take a piece of paper and on one side write your regrets for the year ending and on the other side write your wishes for the year you are starting. Then place it in the fire to burn and the smoke will exit your house and place those thoughts out in the universe.

Everyone walks through life a little differently and I'm sure there are many tried and true fire starting methods out there. A little humility and learning is always a good way to end the year. Here's to a 2011 filled with many memorable days and evenings in front of your fireplace, woodstove, or campfire.

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