Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Indoor Fire

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
We heat our small two-bedroom home with a wood stove in the living room. Wood heat in a climate where night-time temperatures are below freezing at least five months out of the year means having a way to keep plenty of wood available inside. I know people with wood stoves that do just fine with a big open plywood box alongside the stove. But just because I heat with wood doesn't mean I want my living room to look like a backwoods hunting cabin. Besides, five months out of the year we don't even need a fire. I wanted my indoor woodbox to look like a piece of furniture.

So I drew what I envisioned, showed Aries where I wanted it, and then he figured out how to build it for me. He made a beautiful woodbox - just what I wanted. During the summer, with the lid in place, most visitors don't even realize what it is - thinking maybe it's a blanket chest. All the stoveside tools - the whisk broom and ash shovel, stovetop steamer and cast-iron trivets, the little hand-vacuum - get packed into the kindling box, and the whole lot set inside the woodbox. If, by chance, we get an abnormally cold night, it's easy to start a fire long enough to take the chill off the house the next morning.

In the winter, nights are always below freezing, and we often get snow. By October, the whole setup will be rearranged into daily heating mode. The lid comes off and leans against the wall alongside. Everything comes out - the vacuum plugged in, easy to grab to keep dirt, sawdust, and splinters off the carpet; the newspaper awaiting recycling is now used for fire-starting; the kindling box filled with small boards; and the woodbox now kept quite full.

The woodbox is about 3 ft high. Despite taking up only a 2 ft x 3 ft spot of floor space, packed full it will hold enough wood to keep a fire going for three days. We don't have a woodshed outside - our exposed woodpile is covered with scrap plywood that gets moved around as needed. When we get a prolonged spell of wet weather, it's nice to have an extra day or two's worth of dry wood inside. There's room on the brick hearth on the other side of the stove where we can prop up wet wood to dry a bit when necessary.

All our wood we get free - paid for only by the sweat equity to get it and the gasoline to haul it. Aries grew up with wood heat, going out to cut wood with his father and grandfather since he was a little boy. By the time he was twelve, he was big enough to hold the chainsaw, by sixteen he was felling the tree. We'll often get calls to come take down a tree in exchange for the wood (one gave us a bit of excitement a year ago). We also know where we can get wooden pallets, free for the hauling. Chefs may shudder to see it, but an old Henckles cleaver makes the perfect tool to split pallet pieces into kindling. A couple crumpled pieces of paper, and I can have a fire going in minutes. Tonight, I can hear sleet hitting the skylight above me as I type. By morning, they're saying we'll have four inches of snow. But we're all warm and cozy in here.