When I made my way to the kitchen in the morning and saw that it was 37 degrees outside, I knew it was time. I also knew that as the day progressed, the temperature would rise. This was not the onset of true cold but it was sufficient to lead me to my double bitted ax and then to the woodshed. All good fires begin with kindling. I found a piece of oak that was split into quarters and went to work. Placing the oak on the splitting block I hit it with the ax just hard enough for the it to be stuck in the wood. The next blow caused the wood to split in two. I repeated this process until all of the pieces were too small to split again. I continued to work on the oak until I had an amount I considered about right. I collected up my kindling. I stored my ax out of the weather in the shed. I headed into the house.
In the kitchen, I tossed the splits in the kindling bin. I went to the drawer where I store newspaper. I sorted through my supply. I rejected the supplements. Coated in clay to make them more glossy, I find they do not burn as well as straight newsprint. I positioned my chair in front of our soapstone stove. I opened the door of the stove. I cleaned out the ashes from our fires last season. I filled the ash bucket. I took it outside. I dumped it in the ash pile behind the compost bin. Clouds of gray ask filled the air coating my boots and pants. Back in the kitchen I repositioned myself in front of the empty firebox.
I began to rip the newspaper into strips. I continued until I felt that I had a good base layer. I started laying in the kindling. I placed eight sticks parallel to each other with about two inches between the pieces. I laid another layer of kindling in the same manner perpendicular to the first layer. I added another layer of newspaper strips. I continued this process until I had used up all my kindling. I ripped up more newspaper and placed it to the left of the firebox where the door opens. This additional paper would ignite the layers of paper and then the wood. The time had come to strike the match.
I picked up my box of Strike Anywhere wooden matches. I struck the match on the rough side of the box and touched it to the paper by the door and then to several places in the firebox. I then closed the door but left it slightly ajar. A roaring sound reached my ears as the paper caught and the fire spread. I sat in my chair and watched the fire come alive. The glass in the door was dirty. I knew that once the fire was firmly established, the heat would clean the glass of the carbon stains. When the fire was in no danger of going out, I closed the door. I sat back. I enjoyed the fruits of my efforts.
Yellow flames danced behind the glass. I was soon once again mesmerized by this old friend so long gone from my kitchen. I knew that I would miss the warmth of summer when no fire was needed. I also knew that I would the ritual of keeping warm by the heat of the stove in the coming months. When my kindling was fully engulfed in flames, I added some larger pieces to the fire. I then went about the business of making coffee and getting my breakfast. I kept my eye on my first fire, glad that my stove had come alive once again.