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How to Start a Fire

| 11/29/2013 8:13:00 AM

Country at HeartThe title may sound trivial, but if you're in a cold house and in desperate need of warmth, these tips may help. Now, when I mention starting a fire, I'm not referring to the wild fires our eccentric neighbor started that burned up half the world, neither am I referring to those destructive ones that destroy peoples' property, houses or lives or those that simply fill the house with smoke ... and that's all. So, don't smoke in the wilderness lest you burn up our much needed trees and forest's wood.

Fires were most important to us the year around. In winter as well as summer, the old-fashioned wood stove was used for cooking and boiling water for washing or bathing. In the winter, the heater (or fireplace) was used to warm the house or dry our socks (for school the next day) that had frozen on the clothes lines. So, a fire isn't something to take casually.

There are different kinds of fires, but I'll start with the one my dad built in the pecan orchard. This one was comprised of sticks, wood, paper, or any useless items that would burn, make a good blaze and give us a brief reprieve from the outside cold.

The second fire is the trash-burning one. This one had to be burned in a large 100-gallon barrel or if on the ground in a space that had been cleared away of any grass or other items that might spread beyond where it should be contained. This kind of burning also consisted of autumn leaves and any other debris from the yard that could be burned. There wasn't anything really methodical about this fire. Once we piled everything together, we stuck a match underneath the pile ... and up and away it went.

We also built fires that kept mosquitoes away. In an old bucket or large metal dish pan, we'd place some old, raggedy clothing. Once the fire was started (from underneath) and had burned the clothing just a little bit, we'd smother it out. We didn't need the flames so we dispensed with them. The smoke was what we wanted, because the smell became a "poison" that suffocated the mosquitoes and kept them at bay. Never heard of that one? Well, it's an old home remedy for those pesky, little blood suckers.

Now, the final fires are the most important ones, because these are the ones that were built everyday ... rain or shine ... sleet or snow. The fire built in the living or front room could consist of any kind of wood, including pine that gives off a piney aroma and a light, fluffy, white residue. This kind of wood is believed to stick to the stove and chimney and is not preferred for heating houses today. Back then, we used what we could get, and usually that was pine.

12/8/2013 3:28:02 PM

AG, fire has been a fascination to humans since it was discovered. Even today the mesmerizing effect of the campfire can be viewed. I too have been privileged to be a part of the era of backyard burn barrels and leaf burning at the curb of the street. It was simpler time things came in glass returnable bottles and plastic throw away containers were virtually unknown. Of course my Dad being from a farm heritage knew that the best thing for the garden was compost leaves so that's where all ours ended their life cycle. Much of what I hated the most back then, I am now thankful for learning. ***** Fire still heat houses with gas furnaces, cook food on the grill, or toast smores over the portable fire pit. I expect fire will be a part of our culture until the end of time. ***** Have a great controlled fire day.

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