Foggy, frosty morning on the farm

On the way back in from the barn, I was just trying to capture the sunrise, the fog, and the fact that there is smoke coming from the chimney after I cleaned ashes out of the stove and revived the fire. The resulting picture turned out prettier than the sum of the elements combined.

Here on the Keesling farm, we burn wood to keep warm. The house has a modern propane furnace, but nothing beats a toasty fire on a cold day.

Our 1880’a farm house was originally outfitted with three chimneys, strategically placed so that there was a wood (or coal) burning stove in every single room; kitchen, living room, dining room and three bedrooms upstairs. Then, about 50 years ago, most of the chimneys were capped, a behemoth oil furnace installed in the basement, and the chimney/fireplace that you see here was added. Even with these improvements, we marveled that the inhabitants still did not freeze in winter. There was not a stitch of insulation in any wall and only a scant bit of vermiculite crumbs scattered on the attic floor. An amount so small that we later found it laughable. In not a humorous way. There are some pictures of the original red brick fireplace and our subsequent revamping of that here, here and here.

It took over 20 years of hard work; and Rob has gotten the place buttoned up tightly enough that the propane bills are tolerable, and I don’t have to go around on cold nights turning a trickle on in all the faucets to keep the pipes from freezing.

Back to the firewood. Somewhere in between the time where a fire in the stove was a necessity to keep from freezing and now, we became somewhat addicted to that supplemental warmth. As with any addiction, it comes with a cost. In our case that cost is backbreaking labor and a big mess. There are people out there who sell firewood – cut, delivered and stacked. But we are from the DIY crowd – so we do all that ourselves. Occasionally on a rather epic scale. Full story here. And once the wood makes it’s way to the porch, waiting to be burned – it creates a whole ‘nother mess. Bark falls off. Remnants of sawdust fall off. Everywhere. No matter how careful you are getting it into the house and then into the stove, there are still crumbs of firewood detritus. Everywhere.

Then, once we’ve enjoyed an evening of dancing flames and bone-warming BTUs, there comes the problem of the ash that’s left behind. Traditional fireplaces often have provisions for cleanout that route the ash outside. But our insert does not. The only way to make room for a new, productive fire is to take out the ashes from the old one. With a shovel. Into a special bucket that’s made to not set the floor on fire. During this process, the still-hot ash produces clouds of tiny ash particles that fill the air. All the air. Eventually they settle – on every surface in the room. In the whole house, actually. It’s enough to drive a neat freak crazy. Good thing I am not a neat freak.

Wanna read more?

For more fun on the farm, go here

Adventures in remodeling are here

Is the house haunted? There are some stories about that here

Laughable housekeeping advice is here

Is this all I do? Post pictures and stories about life here on the farm? Nope! is my “real” job.


  1. Ah yes, the joys of a wood fire – and all the prep that goes into & out of it!! I can identify. Years ago, we lived in a trailer (yes a TRAILER) when I bought it & the 4 acres around it – it had a little franklin stove in the living room. The former owners had a chimney built – it of course kept the liv.rm & kitchen warm enough to cause the thermostat for the gas furnace to not come on when it should – therefore the bedrooms were less than cozy. Yup, remember clearly – the buying of wood, also the chopping up of wood and all the other joys involved. Have to say I dont miss it – at all.


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