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Grouse Hollow Journal: Burning wood warms you multiple times
Grouse Hollow Journal

Grouse Hollow Journal: Burning wood warms you multiple times

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There is something about a crackling fire. I have started with some version of that line more than a few times over the more than over 30 years I have been sharing this journal. I am tapping this out in front of a roaring fire in our fireplace in the family room. OK, truth be told, the fire is fueled by LP and the roar is from the forced air fan in the basement. I don’t, but I guess one might miss the crackling and popping of burning pine in the house. I suppose one could turn on a Netflix or YouTube video or even ask Alexa for some sound effects like a crackling fireplace and achieve much the same effect. Of course there is no smokey, sweet scent of smoldering birch or cherry—but wait, of course there are a variety of oils and candles and incense to help with this. Just Google it.

An old saying goes something like burning wood warms you three times. I think, no, I know burning wood warms one many times more than that.

Let me count the ways, there is exercise to be had in sharpening and mixing fuel for a chainsaw, lugging the saw, fuel, ropes, splitting maul, bucket full of tools out in the woods, getting the saw to run can be a challenge, getting firewood cut, loaded, hauled, split, unloaded and stacked to dry, loaded again and unloaded into the basement, carrying wood chunks and stacking them near the stove, splitting kindling, building a fire, loading up the wood stove, and feeling the rising heat envelope a room. But wait, there’s more: sometimes there’s a work out to be had by getting a ladder and brushes around, climbing up a snowy roof, and cleaning the chimney several times a winter, cleaning up the wood room and carrying out buckets full of bark and dirt, and regular ashes dumps outside. There is the heat of anger and the blue smoke that goes along with smashing a toe or finger or some such other accident, getting the bill after taking the truck for a new back window at the auto glass repair shop, not to mention making a run to the emergency room for something in someone’s eye or to get a smashed finger or foot looked at.

Since the ‘70s, we cut a lot of our own firewood (30 pickup loads or more each year before we swapped out the windows and insulated our old farmhouse) and we also used to buy cords of cut up slab wood, so I don’t know that LP is much more expensive. The LP fireplace throws a great deal of heat though, and that heat can be turned down or off with just the flick of a switch. LP has almost all the ambience of a wood fire without any of the mess and smoke or angst.

I do miss coming home from work at dusk and seeing smoke rising out of our chimney, knowing that Ellen or perhaps one of the boys had a fire built. (That chimney was sacrificed to installation of the mechanical in the attic after we got geothermal a decade ago.)

In other matters, I hear that the movement to do away with or at least change the railroad trespassing law to allow for over and back crossing of the tracks has new momentum and could get signed into law by Gov. Evers. If you agree that the law that prevents people who would be users of public lands from accessing that land and the many miles of the Mississippi river backwaters by crossing railroad tracks should be changed, let your state legislators and the governor know. Call them, email them, send them a letter, write letters to the editor, and make known your feelings on changing the access rule.

Until next time, get out—I still love the scent of burning elm coming out of the chimney—drifting over from the neighbor’s. Enjoy.

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