Our family had a wood burning stove when I was a child. I learned early, especially because I was the oldest, the best way to build a fire.
A tight crumpled pile of newspapers are banked by two stout pieces of wood. Twigs are laid in perpendicular layers over the paper. The layer of ash from previous fires held just a hint of smoke already gone. The touch of the quick flaming match....just one match, no more....and the flame is quickly caught by the paper and the fire grows. The twigs are slower to accept the flame but once they take it on they burn stronger and longer.
The smoke is sucked through the open damper and out the chimney but there's enough of its hot acrid warmth to fill my nose.
Wood is added in increasingly bigger pieces, carefully so as not to smother the tiny flames. Until the iron box of a wood stove is full of roaring hot flames! Shut the door! Close the damper....but not too tight. Smoke that flies up the chimney is good. If the damper is too tight, smoke fills the house like a ghost which results in shrieks.....from Dad.
"Who checked the stove last??? The damper is too tight!" Numerous pairs of feet gallop to the basement....open the damper.....let out the smoke.
At times, I recall, my clothes would be saturated with the aroma of wood smoke. The smell was soothing and comforting; a smell that filled my childhood winters.
It's been fifteen years since my winters have been filled with checking a fire day and night. Ages ago since I had to trudge through the January snow to help load a trailer full of wood and haul it to the house only to unload onto the frozen ground. Splitting wood in the barnyard, while being whipped by the winter wind, is no longer a mandatory weekend chore.
But this morning I stepped outside. My breath hung white in the air. I inhaled the neighbor's wood smoke until it filled me up and I was twelve years old again and slowly, patiently building a wood stove fire.
It's been many years since the jobs of filling and maintaining a wood stove were mine. I'd give almost anything, for just one day, to go back and have all those responsibilities again. What I'd give to have the wood smoke wrap around me like a wool winter scarf.
This post was written as part of SITS November Content is King Challenge.