To do list helps on chilly autumn nights
October 08, 2008
A few years back my dad told me about the famous guy—I think it was Ben Franklin or some other frugal you-know-what—who said "When you heat with wood it warms you twice."
Grinning from ear to ear with this wisdom, Dad was gently pointing out the irony about all the work involved with heating a home with wood.This was back in the day when Rod and I spent just about every spare moment chopping, splitting, stacking, or moving wood. It was not a hobby, it was a necessity more or less. And while it's not exactly what I'd call an intimate experience, we'd definitely generate a lot of heat the whole time. Perspiration. Sweat. The first "warming." Dad's humor wasn't lost on me.
Today, that wise old saying still holds true. Except I'm on the sixth or seventh warming right about now.
Actually I'm very fortunate that I've got the wood burning furnace. One might even say "blessed," though that's not the word that springs to my mind most evenings these days. Still, what with the cost of fuel oil and the vast amount of wood that literally fell at my feet courtesy of Mother Nature this summer, I'm one lucky lumberjack.
It goes something like this. Get off work but somehow dread going home. Crazy thought, since I love my little humble abode in the woods. Crank up the so-called heater in my thinly disguised Neon and toast up on the 15 minute ride.
Step out into the cool autumn air. Walk up the steps and into the even cooler damp confines of my little nest. Check the thermostat and see that it's not in my head, it really is rather cold—56 degrees.
Grab the super stylish blue and black plaid men's lined flannel "shirt" from the hook on the door and pull it on over the work clothes. Hustle out to the lean-to, fill a bucket with kindling. Fill a second bucket with bigger wood that I already stacked on the deck. (That wood made its way to the deck from a stack in the lean-to which was stacked there from random piles of cut and split wood around the property. This is "warming") number three by my count.
Grab the lighter, some newspapers and head down to the basement. Keep an eye out for huge spiders. Pull on the welder's gloves. Clean out last night's ashes. Empty the ash pan into the coal carrier. Ball up the papers, toss on the kindling. Add a few bigger pieces. Say a prayer, cast a spell, hum a mantra and generally hope with all my being that 1) smoke is exiting my chimney the way it should; 2) the chimney is not on fire; 3) the fan kicks on indicating that the fire is going and is indeed hot enough to engage the sensor thereby producing heat through my ductwork.
To accomplish things thus far meant one trip to the lean-to and three trips up and down the stairs. And here's where Dad's pearl of wisdom comes in: By now I am not cold. In fact, underneath the super-stylish flannel jacket thing I'm actually working up a little sweat. Opening the door to the furnace to add bigger wood kicks my body temp up to the roasting factor. For all of this I am very, very lucky.
I am. When I think of it, which I must do often these days. I am very fortunate that that crazy wood burning furnace came with the house. If not, I'd have had many cold, cold days and nights (and probably some major plumbing problems) over the past couple of years. I think this is the way my ancestors kept warm—I know it for a fact. I saw the huge hearth in the fieldstone home of my great-grandparents that overlooks vineyards on a mountainside in Pescosolido, Italy.
I'm also blessed with Mother Nature's gifts, which also "came with the house" and are all around me. The huge maple that fell at a most inopportune time now provides me with heat for this winter and then some.
I'm grateful for this less than perfect body which even with its flaws and unremarkability allows me to move wood, stack wood, make kindling, carry wood, run back and forth to the lean-to and up and down the stairs hauling wood and, well, you get the picture.
So when I heat with wood it does way more than simply warm me "twice"—I put the number at seven or eight. It gives me blessings to be grateful for that I'd otherwise not necessarily notice if heating the old homestead were as simple as flipping a switch...
...But don't get me wrong, I'm all for simplifying.
Email Catherine at