A Year in the Round: Of Hearth and Home

| 10/10/2011 11:26:00 AM


A few days ago, I installed my very first wood stove in the tipi. I was hoping I could prolong the warmth-by-firepit-alone for a bit longer, but after spending several nights in a row at 39 degrees and inside a sub-par sleeping bag, I caved. The stove itself is nothing impressive, an $80 find from the lengthy online list of my good buddy Craig. She's a little rusty, but with plenty of miles ahead of her. Her firebox is wide and open, ready and willing to heat my little rent-free oasis in the wilds.  

Last night I got the fire started in the wood stove on the first try, with just a couple pieces of paper (as opposed to a million, like usual). Never in my life have I been a person who obsesses over combustion, until recently. I've never needed to! In my experience, a man has always adopted the fire, caring for it, feeding it, and lovingly stoking it. A hearth is never homeless. Not to mention, I've never had a wood stove before. My family used gas. Warmth, to me, has always been just a thermostat dial away. 

When I make a fire in the tipi, it's not just for a good time; it's for survival purposes. This is not a recreational, backyard marshmallow roasting soiree. I must tend to it, make it thrive, in order to be warm and eat. No one else is going to do it for me. For the past couple nights, I have spent a large portion of my evenings sitting in front of the stove, perfecting the burn and acquiring knowledge. Trial by fire? I try to understand how each individual piece of wood will burn and compliment the current combustion situation, where it would fit best, and at what angle. I can't get it too hot, and don't want it to burn down too low. I check the thermometer obsessively. I may or may not have fallen in love with a designated fire-poking stick. What happens if I prod this log, move it over onto that log, turn it over? How does poplar burn in comparison with cherry? Red oak vs. white oak?  

Study hard, I will. Like my freshman year history final, there is no curve on this exam. 

anna larson
12/25/2011 5:45:05 AM

Like Emily, I clicked right over to read the article just to see a better photo of that Basenji. I lost my three Basenji's to old age a few years back. My little Lady looked quite a bit like that one but Iceman and George each had more face white. I now have a couple stray mutts gracing my hearth, but one day soon another Basenji is going to come into my life.

12/24/2011 4:52:51 AM

I am concerned about your set up. Your tipi should have a liner inside the outer cover, an ozan inside that to give a double wall insulation and to retain more heat from the stove; the tipi cover should have fire retardant; ideally your bed would be on the "floor" with thick padding for insulation; you should use at least one wool blanket, but ideally several (wool, like buffalo pelts does not burn when sparks land on it); your stove chimney should be either only 3-4 feet high and the tipi smoke flaps properly adjusted, or pass to the outside using insulated stove pipe to keep from harming the tipi cover. I see from the picture that you have nicely done the floor with tiles and fine gravel. The natives often put a thick (like 6") layer of straw for insulation and padding, covered by buffalo hides. You could do part of yours like that with wool blankets over the straw. Anyway, sounds like a neat adventure; keep safe and enjoy your stay in the woods...:)

Emily Karpinski
12/23/2011 10:29:16 PM

Is that a Basenji Mix I see, soaking up the heat? The only reason I read your article is because of this picture that was the size of a quarter in an email from Mother Earth News. I recognized that dog from that size picture. You may wonder why... Well, we have a Basenji and a woodstove and that is exactly what ours looks like except she's usually right behind it with her head placed under it between the two legs :) We heat primarily with our wood stove and it is a great way to heat provided it doesn't get too hot (which it does a lot), but then no worries, just open the windows. We have been burning Osage Orange the past two years and it burns SUPER HOT and lasts longer than other hardwoods. I think it's kind of nice to put a big piece of the O.Orange in with other hardwoods for the differing burning times. Only bad thing about it is it snaps and pops a ton. Anyway, thanks for your story and the picture of your puppy. She/he is sweet!

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