Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

December 8, 2013

Ed Hungness: Scooping the ashes

This fall we have been using our fireplace more than in years past. The season made its appearance and the first snow arrived before a final leaf raking. In the spring, when the daffodils poke their heads through the snow, the oak leaves will be waiting for me, right where Mother Nature left them.

Our fireplace has is a cast-iron grate on which to place logs. The grate allows the ashes from the burning logs to fall through it onto the floor of the fireplace. This promotes airflow and thus better combustion. Likewise it makes cleaning the fireplace somewhat easier.

With the abundance of firewood, we have not succumbed to the convenience of gas logs. Yes, gas logs are much cleaner. Yes, gas logs never need to be split and yes, when the thermometer dips to minus 10 degrees I wouldn’t need to put on my boots, coat, gloves, stocking cap and wool scarf just to haul in another load of wood from the garage.

So why don’t we pipe natural gas to the beloved fireplace? I could dispense with all of the chores and responsibilities associated with the wood burning beast. I could sell my chainsaw and ax in a garage sale next summer.

When a tree is taken down in the neighborhood, I wouldn’t volunteer to saw it up just to get free wood. No longer would I buy fatwood and butane lighters to start the fires. I could say goodbye to Carl, our chimney sweep, whose services would no longer be required to prevent chimney fires.

They will most likely carry me out of our cottage on a gurney before I give up the wood burning fireplace.

The reasoning behind such a hard-line position can be summed up in one word — memories. Recently, while cleaning the ashes from under the grate, I had one of those flashback moments. In my childhood home we had a wood burning fireplace.

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