December 31, 2010 § 10 Comments
Heat from a woodstove is nothing like the ubiquitous warmth that purred out of the registers in the house where I grew up. A woodstove is a point source, its heat diminishing with distance from the stove.
When we first moved into our home on the southside of Tallahassee we had a U.S. Army barracks stove. Upright, it sat on its haunches like a trained bear. Huge and voracious its big belly had to be full to work well.
We fed the bear for several winters until we noticed that the metal below the cap had pin-holed and we could watch the fire without opening the lid. At about that time my husband, Ray, who cuts all our firewood, needed knee surgery which would make cutting enough wood to feed a huge stove hard.
If we had to buy wood the stove would be an expense, but we don’t. We own a piece of land with soil so sandy that at least one tree dies each year. Ray lets a dead tree stand a while so the wood seasons before he fells it.
This year’s tree is a Laurel Oak, last year’s was a White Oak, the year before another Laurel. He remembers, having spent many hours in the company of each tree, cutting and splitting and loading the wood. We empty the trunk of the car at home, stacking the wood on the porch. A full porch is like money in the bank.
The fire belongs to Ray. He cuts the wood. He builds the fire. I use the fire’s warmth to raise bread and dry towels and occasionally to cook soup. Throughout the day I wander into the stove room to heat up the back of my pants, then the front. I gather the heat in the folds of my clothes then return to my computer to work again. I consult the fire when I’m low on ideas. I visit it when I need an excuse to stand up and stretch.
In summer the stove sits neglected, unless a Chimney Swift announces its presence with a desperate rattling in the stove pipe. We now know to open the stove door with a towel in hand to wrap the bird. But in winter the stove is the heart of our home.
It is almost bedtime, the temperature outside dropping—and dropping almost as fast in our bedroom which, behind a closed door gets no heat from the stove. To go to bed in that icy room takes courage and pajamas heated unbearably hot by standing in front of the stove. Charged with heat I dive between the sheets and lie very still until the heat of the fire transfers to the bed and I can unclench and drift into sleep.
By tomorrow morning the fire that warmed the house all day will have burnt down to ash and cinders which Ray will shovel into a bucket. The heat that radiates from the bucket is a good companion beside my chair while Ray builds a new fire, and another day begins.