thinking about december mornings
There in my crouch, the match lit in my hand, I open the heavy iron and glass doors of the wood stove and light the tinder above last night’s still-warm coals. If I was wise, there is a pile of small twigs, birch and locust bark, and small hatchet-sliced stove wood ready to feed my ignition. If I wasn’t, then it is with a heavy sigh I light a pile of wadded up paper and coat it with some splinters and bark shards from the bottom of the metal wood caddy and hurry over to the cod mudroom behind the kitchen. There lies a dry, indoor stash of wood and so does a little Fiskar’s hatchet. I chop into a piece of cord wood fast, grateful for how sharp the blade it. I am thinking of how short the life of that starter is and so I work fast. I need this new fuel ready to add to the stove before the fire dies out. In no time I have a handful of slim, dry, slices of a pine or birch ready to kindle into a proper blaze.
It doesn’t take long. When the sticks are burning well I slowly add larger pieces, egged on with some more paper or quick-burning bark. I haul in a pile of dry logs small enough to start a proper fire, all softer woods that burn quick and hot so I can add maple, oak, or locust later on after morning chores. The farmhouse is still dark but with a fire started the house is lighter, both in mood and visibility. Since there is no overhead lighting in the farmhouse (save for the kitchen) I like welcoming a winter’s day like this.
I like knowing that the first light that enters my morning I know personally and worked to achieve. I sit there, and like the opening sequence of a favorite television show watch the fire roll through the credits of the endeavor. Kindling: brought to you by foresight! Early flames: staring birch bark and locust hulls! Also staring: Pine shards and stove wood from special guest Finnish Hatchet! Gibson has been by my side this whole time and he’ll lay down with me as I watch the firelight shine off his black coat. He’s so soft, softer than a working dog should ever be. I run my hands over his back and thump his ribs and his tail hits the old floor and we both know it is time to face the work outdoors.
Before I get dressed I walk over to the kitchen and fill the percolator with coffee from the crock and set it on the now churning stove. As a brace team we’ll take on the frozen water, feed bags, hay, and wind chill, but this is easier to do when you know you’ll return to a warm house, hot coffee, and the promise of comfort after deprivation.
This is the oldest song our people know.
Excerpt from Days of Grace, the book I am currently writing
Painting of winter by Grandma Moses, who's farm is 20 minutes south of CAF