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Building a Fire to Improve Heat Efficiency

Saturday, November 1, 2014
posted by Jenn


Sounds funny doesn’t it, learning how to build a fire. Can’t everyone build a fire? Probably. But, what most people don’t do is build a fire that can improve their heat efficiency.

Traditionally, a fire is built on a metal grate by stacking three or more logs with their sides facing the fireplace opening. Kindling or the gas line is ignited underneath the logs and near the back wall. What makes this an inefficient way to build a fire is the fact that the wood blocks the blaze and prevents the warmth from reaching the room you want to heat.

You can improve your heat efficiency by 100% without spending any extra money. All you have to do is stack the wood differently. It’s that simple.

The Lifecycle of Firewood

Friday, December 9, 2016
posted by jenn



It’s rare that on a cold winter’s day while sitting by a roaring fire we think about firewood…its life or its lifecycle. But, we should.

Whether we heat our homes with gas or electric or propane or heating oil, the cost is going up, not soon to come down again. For many, the rise in cost is pushing them toward less expensive, renewable ways to heat their homes. They are turning to firewood as an alternative to turning down the thermostat, they are rejecting being cold and uncomfortable.

Fire has been used for thousands of years as a way to ward off the cold, firewood was the mainstay of keeping hearth and home together by our ancestors. Not only did they use it for heat, but they also cooked by wood burning stoves well into the 1900’s. Even now, many have grown to appreciate the warmth and beauty (if not the economy) of a blazing wood fire.

It was during one such relaxing moment in front of the fire that I began thinking about the whole cycle of what brought that stack of firewood to my house and into my firebox. I thought about the saplings I had seen on a recent hiking trip and the newly planted orchards that are plentiful in my county. I thought about the young growing trees that made up the reforested mountain areas; their lanky spires reaching for the sun above while rain and undergrowth combined with animal droppings to nourish the young fledglings as they grew tall and strong. It made me think about the part that birds play in spreading seeds to places where trees can take root. I reflected on the massive wind storm that hit our farm years ago, sending hundreds of eucalyptus trees crashing to the ground, and of the lone pine tree that fell on my truck crushing it. I thought about the men who stopped by the side of the road to cut and steal the downed trees. And, I remembered the very kind man who drove hours each day to reach our farm so he could spend the next several months cutting up those trees to sell as firewood to city dwellers, campers and BBQ joints.

My memory wandered back to a time when my family gathered firewood from open spaces and private lands in our sparsely populated area to warm our own home; and to the times when DD and I would walk the farm, picking up small rounds and branches to be cut into smaller pieces. I thought about the day trips she and I have taken in recent years to pick up truckloads of firewood from a local rancher to bring home and stack for our own use.

Lying there, in front of my own fire, I couldn’t help but think about the life of those trees with appreciation for the time of nature; of sun and wind and manure and all the good things that help grow trees big and strong; of the sweat and hard work of men who cut and split and stack, of determination and appreciation for a renewable source of heat that has basically stayed the same price from year to year for a decade.  The lifecycle of trees is one of nature then nurture, as it brings warmth on a cold day.

After 15 years, I still enjoy my warm comfortable home with a blazing fire on a cold winter’s day, but I enjoy it even more now that I look upon trees with renewed awe, and think…wow, that would make some nice firewood, and in turn a nice blaze!

To learn about stacking firewood and building a heat producing fire check out these articles.

Making Mulled Spiced & Spiked Cider

Sunday, December 20, 2015
posted by Jenn

Spiced Cider

Today was firewood day. Long overdue due to the hollowing winds and searing temps we’ve had lately. Definitely, NOT in keeping with the Christmas season.

This weekend came just in time, as we had used the last remaining logs from last year’s firewood stack last night.

We are fortunately enough to have a local rancher who allows us to pick up firewood for free, as long as we load and haul it ourselves. Not a bad deal in my book (and the exercise ain’t bad either). Our truck will hold about 2 cords of wood, and hold us until we can get another 2 cords the beginning of January.

The weather was chilly, about 48-degrees. Not frigid by any stretch. Cool enough to work up a sweat filling the truck bed with seasoned, split eucalyptus and not feel overheated.

Before we left, though, I had a feeling that we’d be wanting a nice warm drink when we returned. Something soothing to take the chill off with just a slight kick to warm us down to our toes. So, I readied the crock pot!

My “go-to” recipe on these cold days is a crock pot version of a mulled spiced cider, with a bit of a kick. How hard you want that kick to be is entirely up to you!

Here ya go.

Pour 1 gallon of apple cider into a crock pot;

Add 3 small apples, cut in half and, 2 oranges, cut into quarters;

Now, toss in 1/2 cup fresh whole cranberries, 3 whole star anise, and 2 small cinnamon sticks, about 2-inches long;

Add to that a teaspoon of ground ginger and ground cloves.

Here comes the kick…pour in 1/2 to 1-1/2 cups of bourbon.

Set the crock pot on high and GO STACK FIREWOOD!

When you return, not only will you house smell amazing, but you have a piping hot seasonal drink that will warm you down to your toes.

I like to serve mine in clear glass coffee mugs or pint sized canning jars. To be extra festive, float a thin slice of apple or orange on top, or use a cinnamon stick as a stir if you like an extra cinnamony flavor.


To learn more about stacking firewood or making a more efficient fire check out these two articles.

The Science of Stacking Firewood

Building a Fire to Improve Heat Efficiency