Country Lore: How to Achieve a Clean, Top-Down Burn and More

Learn tips from Mother Earth News readers for deterring voles, burning clean fires, freezing berries, and more.

| April/May 2019

Changing the direction that each layer of splits faces creates pockets that allow air to travel through.
Photo by Richard Ehrenberg

Burn Clean

Burning wood often releases a lot of toxic chemicals and dangerous gases into the atmosphere in the form of smoke. The majority of that smoke release occurs when starting and adding wood to a fire. Typically, people start fires by burning the bottom of stacked wood, so the heat warms and ignites the wood above as it rises. However, this method causes more smoke to escape and pollutes the atmosphere. There’s a much cleaner way to ignite a full fire.

Smoke is the result of a process called “pyrolysis,” whereby heat – not flame – chemically alters molecules in the wood, turning them from a solid into a gas filled with burnable substances. If the flames of the fire don’t ignite these gases and substances, they go up the chimney in smoke.

To reduce smoke pollution when starting a fire, light the fire at the top of the stacked wood, and allow the flame to travel downward. This reverse burning process initiates pyrolysis in the wood within and below the flames of the fire. As the smoke below rises, it passes through the flames, which ignites the burnable substances in the smoke. The substances that remain to flow up the chimney are CO2, water vapor, and heat. Not only does this reduce the smoke from a fire, but it also releases additional heat in the fire.

To achieve a good top-down burn, carefully place each layer of wood splits at a 90-degree angle to the layer beneath. Place the largest splits on the bottom layer, and use smaller splits for each succeeding upper layer. When stacking these layers, leave small spaces between each split; this creates pockets that allow air to freely flow upward. Build the top two layers out of kindling, leaving adequate air space between each piece. Finally, place two to three crumpled pieces of paper on the top, and light the papers. Too much paper will leave behind sheets of carbon that block airflow.


Fermentation Frenzy!

September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pa

Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me