Wood-burning stoves require more attention

By Ryn Gargulinski: Freedom Newspapers

Now that cooler temperatures are creeping in like mice beneath a breadbox, I had to do something I’ve never done before. Use a wood stove.

The only heating elements I’ve ever known include hissing radiators, steam from the rice pot that inevitably boils over and a portable heat fan I once took to work where my coworker blasted it so hard it nearly melted the letters off our computer keyboards.

Even though the wood stove is commonly found in older homes — like my 1909 Oregon farmhouse and others that dapple Eastern New Mexico — I know folks who get the thing installed just because they like it.

Sure, they claim it’s economical and toasty, but I know the truth. They’ve been sucked in to the wood stove way of life.

One of my New York friends actually gets into marital spats about his wood stove.

His wife claims he pays way too much attention to it, kind of like the other woman. While I initially thought it was because he became obsessed, I found out the real reason the other night. It takes about four hours just to start a fire in the thing.

Well, starting a fire in the stove isn’t really the hard part. A couple of balled-up TV guides from the Clovis News Journal sparks up pretty fast.

It’s keeping the flame alive that’s the kicker.

The other evening I came home around 5 p.m., sparked up the TV guide by 5:07 p.m., arranged and rearranged the wood until about 6:22 p.m., rummaged around for more TV guides until 7:57 p.m., added more wood at precisely 8:44 p.m., spent 15 minutes running my arm under cold water where a lit log that didn’t look lit touched it, and finally shut the door on the thing at 9:19 p.m. and 54 seconds.

I was exhausted. But the fire was lit.

By this point, however, it was already time for bed.

Of course, the bedroom is across the house, far from the wood stove heat zone.

Sleeping on the couch was an option — if one can stand the noise.

Yes, the wood stove fan action is probably louder than the din from the motor plant that made my grandpa lose some of his hearing. Other wood stove hazards include burning things that shouldn’t be burned.

Like milk jugs, feature sections from the Clovis News Journal or anything with hair on it. Although these things may seem fairly obvious, one would be surprised by the stupidity that comes up when obsessed with lighting a fire that just doesn’t want to burn. It’s also best not to stick bare arms into the fire pit to rearrange the logs — as
I found out at 8:44 p.m. — or stick one’s head in the stove to see if the flue is open. What may be most surprising of all, however, is cavemen lit fires all the time, probably without so much hassle. And they didn’t even have any TV guides.