The Woodstove

Spring is not really a time of joy and rebirth on the Wet Coast.  It is a time of endless rain and wintery temperatures.  As April and May roll on, the rains come down, fiercely at times, and we keep the woodstove burning whenever we are home.


Springtime on the wet coast is cleansing indeed!

Go away

Sheets and sheets of rain

Although our new home is equipped with a heat pump, we have decided to use the woodstove as our source of heat.   I keep hearing people say that they prefer the heat from a woodstove. (?) Is there really any difference?  Anyway, firewood is plentiful with all the clearing that previous owner Mike did so we have enough wood to keep us sweating for 5 or more years.  (Honestly, we have cords and cords of the stuff, although it is not yet cut) (Blog to follow on that topic)

I have lots of experience with building fires.  My childhood days of camping allowed for a good dose of pyromania lessons from my brothers and both of our families had ski cabins that were furnished with regularly-used fireplaces.  More recently, while car-camping and backpacking,  FM and I have enjoyed many nights staring into the flames before sleeping under the stars.  Despite all of this preparation, I have been unsuccessful at getting a solid fire burning in our new woodstove.

Our Woodstove

Please, oh please, flicker, sizzle and crackle.

Within the first month of our move, FM was sent away on a week-long training course for work and I was suddenly made aware of my inability to keep the house warm on my own.  I would return from work, finding the house chilly, and begin the efforts of  lighting the fire.  On some occasions, I spent upwards of 30 solid  minutes trying to get the damn thing burning, building and lighting and blowing and cursing.  Could it be that all my fire experience was only second hand?  Was there always someone else there to step in when my flames fizzled out?  I guess that I am more of a princess than I originally thought.  Regardless of the history, it is time that I learned some self-sufficiency for my survival.

I discovered three key factors to starting a fire in a woodstove – lightly scrunched paper, tiny kindling and time/patience.

Lightly Scrunched Paper – Where did I learn to tightly wind newspaper into long snakes for fire building?  Well, it was wrong.  Newspaper is always plentiful and it does the trick, but only if it is gently balled up.  If it is wound too tightly, it will smoke and smolder but never ignite the wood.  Line the bottom of your woodstove with a few scrunched sheets.

Tiny Kindling – I had been taking small pieces of wood, about the width of a taper candle, and using that to build my base.  But I have since learned that the kindling needs to be cut matchstick thin.  With a leather glove on your left hand, take a hatchet and shave the kindling into pieces about the width of a bic pen.  Once you have cut an amount similar in size to 4 servings of raw spaghetti, you have enough.  Keep some larger pieces of kindling (taper candle width) and some smaller pieces of split wood nearby.  Build a teepee around your paper or lay your log cabin right on top of it.

tiny kindling

It hasn’t helped that our wood stores are still damp …

Time/Patience – Patience is not my virtue.  I am forever poking and prodding a fire, adding to it and trying to rearrange the wood into some fancy architecture.  Don’t do any of these things.  Light your paper in a number of places (starting at the back!) and close the woodstove door, leaving it open a crack of about 1 centimeter. You should be able to hear the whoosh of wind.  Then walk away, pour yourself a cup of tea, and read the leftover newspaper.  Let the fire develop.  After the paper has burned away, the wood will ignite and it needs time to get hot.  Once that heat is achieved, you can start feeding it small bits of kindling, with pauses inbetween.  Soon enough, perhaps when your tea cup is empty, you will have a roaring fire that can handle a couple of larger pieces of wood and will survive even with the door closed.

Although I have not yet mastered the one-match fire, I have passed the test.  Let the cold winds howl and the rains pour down in May, June and perhaps July, for I have learned the art of fire.  Hopefully I will remember some of this when October rolls around or perhaps I will have to start again from scratch.

2 thoughts on “The Woodstove

  1. I’m surprised you didn’t remember the tinder and kindling lessons from Girl Guides! But the pyromanic brothers would definitely have lent some experience to your fire lighting.

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