Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To Build A Fire

I am not Jack London, nor am I the man in his famous short story To Build a Fire.
But, I always did love that story of the man, in 50 degrees below zero, trekking through the Yukon, with a firm belief that if you keep your wits about you, you will survive a journey in the harshest conditions of nature.

Bear Grylls might have made it through.

But this man in London's story was proud, not fully respecting nature's abilities to crush a man.
So, he journeyed, slipped in the ice, got wet and realized he must build a fire to survive. 
On his first attempt, he was able to get the fire going, but he had foolishly built it under a spruce heavy with snow. Snow dropped "like a death sentence" onto his fire and put it out. 

In London's story, the man dies, frozen in the wilderness.

Now that I am a Northern girl, the skill of building a fire has become a necessity. This has become particularly evident in the last few days because our gas heater stopped working so we have had to rely on wood heat. 

WOOD HEAT! Not a phrase I had even uttered before  I moved to Montana.

You may recall my unsuccessful attempts to build a fire when we first arrived. 

I fought the wood and it beat me. 
I doused it with massive amounts of lighter fluid and it still would not light.
I feared I would never become a mountain woman. 

The fire knew that I was a California girl.
It mocked me for my light switch fire- starting ways and my fake- logged hearth of the past.

But I have persevered. I have found the ingredients needed to build a fire.

First, you start with a mountain man.
You could learn to do this part on your own, but I recommend acting as if it is something you could never do or it could become one of your jobs and you already have too many!


and a good sharp ax
after all- you might cut off one of your fingers!


and a good, dry piece of wood.
Wet, heavy wood is a real stinker to try to burn- see how much I have learned.


Enjoy watching your mountain man be virile and strong as he


splits the wood.


You can also try this

or this


but I am pretty sure that it won't create an awesome pile of kindling like this.
Kindling is by far the most important thing you need to get a good fire going, but it takes a long time to chop.


A little mountain man helper is also a good idea so he can do this


and this


helping to get a nice storage cabinet of wood going.
And allowing you to avoid splinters and sap. 
By the way, the best way to get sap off of your skin is with hand sanitizer.
 I googled it and it works fabulously.


The nice thing about this cabinet is that there is a door on the inside of the house too. So you can access the fuel for your fire.
Such a mountain house I have now!

I know you are thinking-

Transparent Mama, you have not done a darn thing! All you have done is take pictures. 
I will, I will already. 
Geesh- I told you to go out and get your own mountain man, ax, wood and little mountain man helper- what more do you want from me????

So, here is where I know how to do some work.
First, start with some newspaper. 
You may need to pick up free newspapers wherever you go all around town and stash them in your car.

I wad it up and make sure there is a plastic surgery ad I can watch burn facing the outside.


Then, I add the kindling in a pyramid form.

Light the newspaper and watch it burn.

If it is stubborn and goes out, do not give up.
It is still trying to mock you for your fake log days, but you can prevail.
Just add more newspaper and light again.

You may need to use your Christmas Decoration that had never been used before thingy that blows air on the fire to fuel it.

Did you know that fanning the flames is an actual thing that works and not just a nifty saying?


When your kindling gets going,
add the bigger pieces of wood.


Rejoice in your fire-starting abilities


and warm your cold, half-painted toes by
the warmth of your country stove.


Or you can just flip your switch on, turn your gas logs on or sit out in the sun if you must!

But me, I am a mountain woman and I can build my own fire. 
I promise to keep shaving my legs though.
I am not that much of a mountain woman!


The Insatiable Host said...

i lived on a farm when i was a kid that had a working well. i had to draw water from a well in the winter, summer, sping and fall to feed our animals...the funny thing was, my dad hid our hose so we did it...when it was his day to do the chores, out came the hose...

i never had to build a fire though..i just turn that TV station on with the fire already there; however, it doesnt do much for heat...


2 Moms of a Feather...Stick Together said...

Very well said.
Wood IS the best, warmest heat!
We've been here for 23 years and have had mostly wood heat.
Very good tutorial and pictures!
Take care.
Mommy 2
We will have spring sometime in May.

Kathleen said...

Being a "foothill woman" (not quite up to mountain standards) myself, I have discovered that the firestarters you buy at a hearth store are great! They slowly burn and get all that kindling going real nice (supposed to be better for the chimmney than newspaper... something about the ink or some other such thing causing build up). Or, if you want to be a show off mountain woman and not walk your cute California blonde hair into a hearth store, you can make your own. Put dryer lint into the holes of an egg carton, pour some wax over it, cut them up individually, and, ta da!, your own fire starters.
Beat that, sister!

Elizabeth Patch said...

My family is from NH, and I can tell you that having a handsome man chop your wood for you is way better than doing it yourself! thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving comments on my SITS day!

Farmgirl Paints said...

HA! Cute post. I think it would be a necessity for you. Me not so much. The switch works just fine;)

JANET! said...

this is great!

Brigetta's Mom said...

Great story and pictures but, I say call the landlord and get the heater fixed immediatly!!!! I loved this story. I'm laughing so hard that the dogs are looking at me like Iv'e lost my mind....Love you.

Anonymous said...

Girl, you've got to give yourself more credit! So many of us would've said "Broken furnace? Call the Marriot!" but you perservered. And kept your sense of humor too!

Fun post, great pics! I'm a new reader but I know I will be back often. :)

- Lauren

A 2 Z said...


I'm from SITS! That's quite a lifestyle change from California to Montana. I love the fire you built with the whole family. I live in Qu├ębec so I know about cold weather. Take care!

jennifer Dennis said...

Glad you are going to shave your legs- you had me worried for a minute - JK :) XOXO

A 2 Z said...

Hi again,

Thanks for the message on my blog: 18 TO Life. I have 2 blogs at the moment but its a bit too much. I will be keeping "Anne-Marie with a Dash" and shutting down the other one. I will loose your comment unfortunately. So if you come back for a visit (and I hope you do) dont be ticked off at me. It was just a question of survival. Take care!
: D

Foursons said...

I am impressed? Where do I go to buy me a mountain man like that? I want a nice, fine lookin' one too!