A pick-up load of firewood -- ash and box elder wood. The cows are in the background.
One of the things I love most to do in the fall is to cut firewood. I don't know why, but I always have. Even growing up at home, the whole family spent many Saturdays in the fall cutting pine and aspen in The Hills for our winter fuel. We had a furnace too, but we tried to heat as much as possible with wood to keep heating costs down. I remember packing a hearty lunch, a cooler of water, a thermos of coffee and always a dessert of cake, cookies or bars -- something sweet to boost our energy and our morale. That sweet treat went well with the coffee round about mid-morning. I think it was the togetherness that I cherished most about cutting wood when I was a girl. We always seemed happy working side-by-side even though it was a hard day's work.
Today, Hubs and I went wood-cutting alone and enjoyed being together, accomplishing several things -- clearing dead wood and slash from the bottoms, cutting some winter fuel, and taking in a beautiful fall day. We didn't bring a lunch nor a sweet treat with coffee, but instead, lots of water. We reached the 60's for a high temperature and so water was the drink du jour . We only spent a couple hours of the afternoon cutting so we were back home in short order. I had my afternoon coffee and a hunk of carrot cake after we unloaded the wood in the garage. By the way, the carrot cake recipe came from Food That Really Schmecks.
Here on the ranch, we have a good wood-burner, but we don't rely on it solely for our heat unless there is a power outage, and then it can become a primary source of heat -- at least until the generators are up and running. Still, is there anything better than sidling up next to a blazing wood fire? The heat penetrates to the bones and warms a body like nothing else. And then there is the beauty of a fire: the glow of tongues of yellow-orange flames, the incense of burning wood, the crackle and hiss as it burns through the wood and the immense pleasure it brings when everyone gathers around it.
A fire in the fall and winter provides us a "fast dryer" for our wet mittens and gloves or for cover-alls that have been soaked through while outdoors working. I made a little twine clothesline complete with clothespins that hangs from the barn wood mantle so we can hang our damp hats, mittens, gloves, or boot liners from it. There are pegs on the mantle where we hang the marshmallow forks, the ash shovel and a red tin candlestick holder. The oil lamps, a candle or two and matches are perched on the mantle so we can find them quickly when there is a power outage. Although most folks think fall and winter are the chilly months of the year, out here on the northern prairie, spring is also a wet, cold month, and since we spend more time outdoors in spring calving and lambing, we get chilled down easily. We often have the deepest snows of the year in spring, but thankfully, they melt off quickly. So you see, the wood stove is the hub of our home for the majority of the year from the fall through to spring.
Besides warming up and drying clothing, we like to be near the fire to roast marshmallows over slow, hot coals and occasionally we pair them with squares of Hershey bar and graham crackers for S'mores. You'll often find us playing cards at the dining table because it's located very near the stove. We especially like to play cribbage, canasta, 500, various forms of rummy, and a new-to-me game the kids like, Egyptian Rat Killer. I still don't get that game, but I like to watch the kids play it. It makes for lots of slapping, whooping, laughing and insults. We are a competitive bunch of card players!
Do you have fond memories gathering around a fire? Do tell!