Tuesday, April 05, 2005

How to start a fire (given a fireplace, etc)

My first post, hooray! Sorry it took a while ...

Down here, we're coming into winter, which can be particularly severe (for our US friends, 4.5 C = 40 F. Brrr!). And so, to see us through, we have an open fire. Now, our first fire of the season was going to be last weekend, but unfortunately the temperature got over 30 C (which becomes 86 F when you go to the US), so it's been postponed to this weekend. In anticipation, I'm remembering the rules of fire starting:

  1. Cheat. Use some fire starters, especially for the first few fires.
  2. Start small, with newspaper and twigs. Wait until that's burning nicely, and then put on larger pieces. Slowly progress up to the large logs. I'm always tempted to build an elaborate structure, carefully layered with the correct materials, like some reverse archeological dig. What should happen is that a small flame, deftly applied to a particular point, will grow into a blazing fire while I sit and watch. What actually happens is that the flame is smothered, and I have to start again. Putting logs on too early will also smother it, and I'm usually a bit impatient for the first few fires. This is why we have Step 1. Eventually, the large logs are burning nicely. This usually takes 30 minutes - this is an open fire, remember. And I have to give Amanda enough time to cook dinner :-).
  3. Now, step 3 is to tend the fire while it is still burning ok - don't wait until it starts to die! This is a little paradoxical; I've often got up to tend the fire, and "someone" has said "what are you doing? don't mess with it when it's looking so good!". But, of course, that's when you have to "mess with it", because when it stops being good, it's too late, and you're back to step 2.
  4. Enjoy. And if it's been more than 10 minutes since your partner has said how good the fire looks, say it yourself.

No doubt there are clever analogies that can be made each of these (eg. the I Ching : "The development must be allowed to take its proper course. Hasty action would not be wise. This is also true, finally, of any effort to exert influence on others"). But a nice fire is it's own reward. And no one appreciates Surviver being interrupted, so wait until the ad break for any long-winded philosophical insights (I could have made this Step 5). All being well, I'll post a photo next week.

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