An Ode to the Magical Wood Burning Stove

Yesterday afternoon when I arrived at the El Paso Airport, I was heartened to see sunny skies and no snow on the ground.

“Ah,” I thought to myself, “it’s back to normal.” After reading reports of New Mexico’s state of emergency last week, I didn’t know what to expect.

Feeling happy to be home, I gathered my things and walked off the plane. Just outside the door I discovered that gap between the jetway and the plane’s door when a cold gust of wind whipped through and made my eyes water.


Once inside the airport, I checked the weather widget on my phone. It reported that at that very moment, it was thirty degrees in El Paso.

Thirty. A three followed by a zero. That’s all you get. Just 30 small degrees.

I’d just come from a connecting flight in San Diego where it was positively tropical.


Today I’m at my best friend’s place somewhere in the rural land outside of Las Cruces. It was a frosty night and this morning I, like all of the animals they posses, am lingering close to their beautifully old fashioned source of heat, a wonderful, magical wood burning stove.

As I sit here, I am reminded of the many ways that life is easy peasy where I live now. I want heat, I work my thermostat and the heater kicks in.

Simple. No effort.

Today I have a great warmth in my heart (pun intended) for the curative powers of fire and the simply beauty of a wood burning stove.

As the fan behind the stove kicks in to send toasty air to all corners of the room, let me take you on a journey.

It takes a lot of work to make enough fire to heat a good sized home.

To start with, just building a fire takes the use of tools.

My goddaughters are expert fire builders. They start with this small hatchet, on the ground by the stove.

They use this to ease slivers off a log for kindling. That along with some bits of newspaper help get the flames started.

Then small logs are added. The logs, of course, come from here, the ubiquitous woodpile.

I remember well (and not especially fondly) the call for “Karen! Go get a load of wood for the fireplace.” Yeah, it’s *cold* out there. I didn’t wanna brave the cold and the spiders and the rasty roadrunner living in the woodpile to bring dirty splintery wood into the house.

But I did it because the payoff was hot chocolate in front of a fire (and the consequences too hefty to ignore).

A woodpile takes work. A lot of work.

Now here’s something you don’t see in the backyard of Bay Area homes…

(not to worry, it was not left that way, I laid the axe on a stump for photographic purposes)

Off to the side is a sledgehammer and a wedge for splitting logs.

And oh hey! A bucket of pecans!

Whoops, I digress.

Back to the wood splitting. My brother did the hard work of swinging the axe and sledge. My job was to take the newly split pieces of wood and pile them up in the corner.

This work was usually done in the heat of August or September. Bleah, who wants to think about fire in the summer?

But come December I was always glad we thought about fire in the summer.

And right now, I’m very, very grateful that my best friend, her husband and kids thought about fire during the summer.

Because me, two dogs and one chatty orange cat are relying on the heat.

Baby it’s cooooold outside! C’moooon Spring!

All photos by Karen Fayeth, taken with an iPhone and subject to a Creative Commons license. Details in the far right column of this blog.

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  • Larisa

    What wonderful, warming thoughts! Wish we had a wood stove here. (And a magical, self-stocking woodpile :-D )

  • Karen Fayeth

    Larisa – Yeah, that self-replenishing wood pile would be a thing of beauty!!

    Not even sure we can use woodburning stoves in the Bay Area these days….. :(

  • Natalie

    Ahhhh… the hearthstone of the home: the ubiquitous wood burning stove.

    I lived in Bisbee, Arizona for two years and that’s all I had to warm the house. It was a LOT OF WORK.
    Now I have a chiminea and only use it in the summertime… outside.
    I much prefer a recreational fire.
    I’ve been *cold* for at least two weeks now. I seriously do NOT remember it ever being this cold in NM. Gimme snow. Anyday. Over this cold.
    I do hope you got your fill of green chile!

  • Dirty Butter

    We have a fireplace in our great room and used it for several years. But we were ignorant city folk and ended up with pine boring beetles in our floor beams. So, after paying through the nose to the pest control people, we settled for gas logs. LOL!

    I follow you on ExposeYourBlog.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Natalie – Yes, a LOT of hard work. And sometimes you just don’t wanna go outside and collect wood.

    It’s funny, after I wrote this post I was chatting with my best friend. I thought their wood burning stove was a primary but not the only source of heat in their home. Turns out their heater needs to be replaced and money is tight, so for now that wood burning stove is the ONLY heat source.

    She says some days after a long day at work, she yearns to just be able to slide the switch and have the heat come on.

    The wood burning stove looks a lot less romantic from that angle!! :)

  • Karen Fayeth

    Dirty Butter – Yes, I’ve heard similar stories to yours. Ugh! Gas logs are nice too! You get that slide the switch and it’s on effect too!

    Thanks for the comment!

  • Robert Scott Lawrence

    Great pics. That woodpile looks just like ours. Think mine’s a bit messier now that I just keep throwing half cords over the fence onto it though :-)

  • Karen Fayeth

    Robert – As the winter progresses, it’s definitely tough to keep the woodpile tidy. I’m with you on that!

    Thanks for the comment!

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