Sunday, August 2, 2009

fireplace fiasco

My wee adventure in the Blue Ridge only had one serious snafu -
the fireplace in my half-cabin.
  Right outside of the door there was a woodpile,so i brought in several logs and piled them on the irons in the fireplace.
Unfortunately there didn't seem to be any kindling or tinder.
But I blow things up for a living, right?
I use fire every day of my life.
 Plus i am resourceful.
So i took my spare Shenandoah newsletter (i had 2 for some reason), tore it up and bunched part of it in between the logs so that as it burned down it would be touching 2 different surfaces, doubling the chance of catching
I located the matches on the mantle.
 Lovely matchbook but hardly what you use in a fireplace.
But i was determined to read by the fire in my half-cabin, dagnabit. Do you see the multiple burnt matches all over the paper? They would burn for a moment and then go out.
Are you kidding me?
 Smokey the Bear has me convinced that a single match can burn down Wyoming.
Okay, think.
Obviously the heavy, printed paper was not working. I went outside to find some kindling. Of course it was summer, not autumn and the grounds around the cabins are immaculate and it was pitch dark at nearly 11:30pm.
Whoa - watch out for the deer standing right there next to my cabin.
Don't look at me like that, doe;
i'm just looking for some leaves and sticks here.
  Pathetic, i know.
But i was determined.
 In fact, i even got some of the mulch from around the walk. The fireplace took up one whole wall of the half-cabin and by jiminy i was gonna have a fire. The kindling was piled atop a single log. There was only 1 match left so I lit a strip of paper as a torch and used it to touch off the kindling.
 It caught!
I gently added some dried grass, a few leaves and a few tiny sticks.
We definitely had some fire.
The smoke alarm went off.
No joke.
I fanned it and it stopped.
Only to start screeching 20 seconds later. My kindling was almost burned up, the log hadn't caught yet, the smoke alarm was blaring and i didn't know if there was anyone in the other half of the cabin. I did the only thing that made sense - i dragged a chair over, hopped up and -in violation of local, state and probably federal law- disabled the smoke alarm.
The kindling sputtered out.
This wasn't going well, but i was not to be deterred.
I am resourceful.
I am smarter than a cavemen.
I could certainly go find more kindling even if i had to drive out of the cabin area and hike for it. But i was out of matches. So i walked down to the office. The night attendant, Lisa, was eating her dinner in the back, but i tracked her down. As i related the hi-jinks (deleting the part about the smoke alarm) she said Didn't you have a fire starter in your room?
Excuse me?
A what?
Apparently there was supposed to be this little stick-like thing that is saturated with some fuel. Hmmmmmmm... that might help. Lisa gave me a fire starter and 2 more matchbooks. Look at it blaze away catching the sticks instantly on fire. I gently angled a log over the wee fire with a lead edge directly in the flames, leaving enough room for air to circulate.
 I watched.
I waited.
Neither the upper or lower log caught. Now i was mad.
 I BLOW THINGS UP, people.
Last year i made a lovely roaring fire while camping. Why should a fireplace be so different? I was gonna have a fire, people. If it took all night i was going to have a nice, relaxing fire; even if it killed me.
I carried my slightly charred, non-burning log back to the office. Lisa just shook her head at me. We discussed fire placement, log placement and log selection. The logs felt dry. Neither of us could figure out what was wrong. She gave me 2 more fire starters and i was a the door when she called out Wait; take some newspaper.
Now we're talking.
Nothing burns like brittle, high-lignin-content newspaper. Tucking a bunch of newspaper into my arms with the sad log and fire starters I left the lodge to hike back up the hill to my cabin.
It started to rain.
I ran up the hill trying to keep the newspaper dry.
 I was beyond determined.
I was on the brink of obsessed.
I had a fireplace and for the love of Pete i was going to use it.
I abandoned the whole neat-logs-on-the-irons thing. I decided to build the fire just like it was in a fire ring. I built a tripod of logs resting on end against the irons. I put newspaper under the logs, behind the logs, next to the logs and between the logs. I broke the fire starters into multiple pieces and placed them in several key locations.
Thank God there wasn't a kerosene lamp in the cabin; i would have considered using it. I used more matches then was really necessary. And i made fire. So lovely. So warm.
So firey.
now for my pajamas and a book.
What is that popping sound? What is sizzling?
The outside of the logs had caught beautifully, but as the heat reached the inside i could hear steam being released. The logs were wet on the inside. It had rained the day before so they felt dry to the touch, but couldn't burn at their centers.
deep, deep sigh
There's my mighty fire.
I put on the screen and read in bed instead.
I'd done my best, but i couldn't dry the logs internally and the rest of the logs in the pile outside were the same except now they were wet on the outside, too. At least it smelled like a campfire all night. sigh

1 comment:

Melanie said...

That's a great story. :)