Friday, March 2, 2012


Fire is a thing to be revered and feared. As many of my friends from camp can attest to, I can build a great camp fire and from the fire produce great food and perfectly golden roasted marshmallows. My grandfather devoted a weekend to teach me the secret behind the perfect marshmallow. I also have some pretty specific ideas about fire etiquette. These are things I may have been taught or might just come from the golden rule, ie, things that others do that drive me crazy, and I would never do to another person. The biggest of these rules is that the fire is one person's responsibility. When that person leaves, they check in with some one else so that at all times, one person is responsible for the fire. Safety wise, this means that the fire is never left unattended and that the last one makes sure to put the fire out all the way. The other thing this means is that the fire is built by one person. Just as too many cooks spoil the soup, too many pyromaniacs can't create a sustainable fire. When I build a fire, I can't stand other people coming in and messing with it without my go-ahead. It is my baby, mine until I let it go to someone I trust to help it grow, or it grows up enough to survive anyone messing with it. Anyway, the point of all this is that I do not have a debilitating fear of fire. In fact I have a healthy respect for fire and a bit of a pyromaniac in me. But it turns out, I do have a more than small fear of a contained fire. Camp fires are limited to the rock circle and the sand within, but everything else is free. Not so with a wood stove. It is a box about 2 feet by 1 foot with a hatch on one side. I have never seen them start a fire without the use of lighter fluid, but then, even scarier is opening that hatch after the fire has been going for a bit. Heat and smoke spill out which instills in me a panic to get another log in quickly. In the little box it is easy to smother the fire, since the hatch's holes are the only source of air. There is apparently a science to building the fire in the wood stove, one that I have not quite mastered but understand. You basically pile the logs in an X shape. Sounds simple enough, right? wrong. The first step is lifting the latch, and with the fire running continuously all day, the metal gets extremely hot. But I once I get the thing open, I have to check to see how much wood is in the fire and where any logs I throw in would go. This means putting my head in line of the heat and smoke. I made a choice and then get the pieces of wood that look like they would fit. I have seen Leqso and Goneri cutting the wood down with a chainsaw, and after years of practice, they know exactly how big the pieces need to be to fit in the stove, which is nice. Now comes the moment I hate: Putting my hand in the box itself. I have gotten many burns in my lifetime of wood-burning and ironing and generally being klutzy. Burns are a painful business, and one that I just don't want to deal with here. I have no aloe plants to break off a leaf to soothe my hurts with. Just cold water, which we do have in abundance. This healthy fear of fire has had my family laughing at (more with) me again. Most recently, I decided I would help everybody out by collecting the orange peels and throwing them in the fire, as someone else usually does for me. I collected all the peels and slipped the sleeve of my shirt down and to use it to open the hatch. I use the sleeve of my shirt for many tasks around the house, mostly removing pans and the tea kettle from the stove. I opened the hatch without incident, but when it came time to through the peels into the fire, I hit a snag, I let them go too soon and not a single piece landed in the fire. It was impressive. Most got caught on the guard, but mostly it was amazing skill and luck working together to keep those peels out of the fire. The big test will come this summer when I try to build another camp fire. Have I been scared off fire for the rest of my life or am I destined to never own a wood stove? I believe it is the latter.


  1. Oh, Pauli,

    I do so LOVE reading your blog! So many interesting snapshots into life as led by people of a different culture! I am sure that more people in the world live with wood stoves than central heating. But until I read your post, I never thought about it!

    I also love your sense of humor. As I have been reading A Generation that Lost Its Fear, I have come to appreciate both Zaide Moishe's sense of humor and Zaide Lyber's. I see that you have inherited the humor gene. I hope you keep writing past the end of your time in Georgia.

    Aunt Mira

  2. I have only one question,
    A lifetime of ironing?
    Your Ever Loving Father

  3. ok, I knew someone would question that line... The only major burns I have ever received have been from wood burners and irons. But it didn't go with the flow of the paragraph to say that.

  4. I have burned myself several times from wood burning stoves by throwing in logs. Even with the accidental burns I still love a good fire in them. Thank you for the orange peel usage, I will have to try that one.