Saturday, October 2, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow...

Well, maybe not really, but at least if it does, we're ready! It may seem a little farfetched to be writing about being ready for winter on October 1, but remember just a year ago? The great October Blizzard of the Nebraska Outback. It's not too early to be prepared.

So, for now, we have two large stacks of wood, plus a nice dry supply stacked in the garage. We'll still need to get some more, but we're comfortable we're ready for the first few months of winter. You may remember earlier this spring I mentioned about some problems we had with our chimney. When we first installed our fireplace insert, the manufacturers rep told us that at night, we should build the fire up, then pull out the damper to restrict the oxygen flow so it would smolder all night long. After nearly burning the house down because of the creosote buildup in the chimney, the chimney cleaner said that no, you shouldn't let the fire smolder all night long. Build it up big and let it burn down to decrease the smoke output.

Very good advice which we are now following. However, it means burning more wood and building more fires from scratch rather than hot coals. Firestarters from the store are expensive, but our son gave us a recipe for homemade firestarters, which I will now share with you.

The first thing you're going to need is wood shavings or sawdust. Here you can see The Mister using his chainsaw while we catch the shavings on a tarp.
Next, you'll need some wax. We collect old candle stumps at garage sales. You can often buy a very large amount of wax for only a few pennies. Here I am melting the candles in a double boiler. After my first batch, I have learned it is much quicker and not any more messy to melt the wax in the microwave oven.
You'll be placing your wax and sawdust mixture in paper cupcake cups, so make sure they are ready to go in your muffin tins.
Add the sawdust/wood shavings to the melted wax.
As soon as our son saw my first efforts, he let me know that I was using way too much wax, or way too little sawdust, depending on your point of view. Fortunately, that problem is easy to remedy - just melt down your first firestarters and add more sawdust. Below is the correct consistency. Rather than a mixture that resembles soup, it should look more like a well tossed salad.
Just to make sure, I fired up a test sample in the fireplace (I can't believe we haven't cleaned it out since last spring!). It burned for about ten minutes, which should be sufficient to light a fire with some nice kindling and dry wood.
After your wood and wax is well mixed, press the mixture firmly into muffin tins. Let cool completely before removing the paper cups from the tins. The paper will serve as your wick to light the firestarters, and it should remain adhered to the hardened mixture within.
Here you have it, the finished product. The beginnings of our first 100 fires of the year! So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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