LIGHT A FIRE!
Yeah, I know. You're a city person and you don't have a woodstove. Or a fireplace. You have no need for lighting a good fire. Well, to that I say: yes, you do. You just don't know it yet. Someday, you'll be vacationing somewhere and the power will go out. There will be a fireplace and you will be sitting there, shivering in your pathetic dress socks (we'll talk about knitting wool socks in another installment), wondering how in dog's name you are going to get the darn thing lit. And no, you can not use BBQ lighter fluid. Don't even think about it.
I have a foolproof method that has never failed me, not even once (this is where the Universe steps in and proves me wrong, you just watch). I am the FIRE-MASTER around these parts!
So, this is it:
- Paper. Newsprint, preferably. Glossy-ish flyers will work in a pinch, but they smoke and smell and don't burn evenly.
- A big bundle of twigs. The more twigs, the better the chances of this sucker catching. Twigs are the secret. Get a whole bunch in different sizes.
- Some smallish-sized pieces of DRY wood.
- Some biggish pieces of whatever wood you can get your hands on. Dead tree limbs are great when you're in the wild and you've got nothing to chop a tree down with. This is Canada; there's a lot of wild, out there.
1. Crumple up a bunch of paper. If you have a lot, use a lot. If you don't, be frugal. You might need more a little later. Either way, crumple it into tight little balls. They'll sproing open a bit, that's ok.
2. Place the paper in a nice little pile in the stove/fireplace/pit/whatever. Compress it with your hands so it stays more or less in place.
3. Take your bundle of twigs and sort them. You can use bark and leaves, too (though they both produce lots of smoke, so beware). Ignore that log back there - he was just drying out.
4. Ok, this picture ain't so good, but you want to form a teepee around your pile of paper, using first the eensy weensy twigs, then placing the slightly bigger ones on, then the slightly even BIGGER ones on, and so on, until all your twigs are sitting there, waiting to see some action. Take your time with this - you don't want to make a mess. It's important that the whole thing doesn't just cave in when you light the paper.
5. Then (no, I don't have a photo of this next step, 'cause I was DOING it, duh, and it takes your undivided attention), you want to carefully light a match (or use a butane lighter) and carefully light the paper on fire. It really helps to use long matches, but if you only have the small, paper kind, light a small twig on fire, or a tightly twisted piece of paper, and slide it into the "heart" of your pile. Even if it only catches in one spot, that's ok.
6. Wood stove instruction: before you close the door, make sure the draft is WIDE open (you can't really see mine - it's a small lever under that little ledge there). If you don't, and the door is closed, there won't be enough oxygen to feed the fire.
7. The more twigs you have placed in your teepee, the better the pile will catch. If it seems to be burning itself out too quickly, simply add a few more small twigs, and work your way up to the bigger ones, slowly. The idea here, is PATIENCE, my pet. A fire needs to "grow", not be shocked into existence.
8. Start to pull out your smaller pieces of wood. These can include some chopped pieces, but larger branches (you see that sweet little birch one, in there?) are great for this, especially if they have some loose bark on them. Once you get roaring, you can start gently placing them on your teepee. Don't squish the teepee! Just add your wood to it, layering the new pieces on as the others get consumed.
Yeah, I know my door is still open - the glass in it is so dirty, I couldn't get a good shot of the fire through it. You would want to shut the door, so as not to get hurt/burn the house down.
9. Now that you've got some substantial pieces on there, let it be for a bit. You want the fire to get good and hot before you start heaping on full-fledged logs. If you do it too soon, you will choke the fire. It needs to have room to breathe. Leave the draft all the way open for a bit (my husband's mistake, every time) and if you have pieces of wood that are a bit humid, place them closer to the fire (be careful they don't catch, from a spark!) to dry out a bit before you add them on.
10. Once the fire is really going and the pieces in there have turned bright orange/red, you can start adding the bigger pieces and starting edging your draft closed. You have to babysit it for a little while until it gains momentum. After a while, it gets going so well that you'd have to douse it with a sink-full of water to put it out. If you need this sucker for the heat (not just looks), you want a fire that won't die on you, the minute you turn your back. That said, if you're working a camp fire, don't turn your back on it. If you know what's good for you.
So, that's it! Now you're a Boy Scout. Next lesson: How to skin a squirrel. Ha! Just kidding. You hope.
This message was brought to you by DW's uncles, who taught her this trick when she was 11.