What's Tony Thinking

Keep the Home Fires Burning


This past summer we put in a small wood-burning stove, a Vermont Castings “Aspen,” in order to “extend the season.” Meaning, we could hang around into the fall because our great little stove would, when fired up, keep us warm and entertained (the 10 x 12 window affords a nice glowing view). We do have an ancient, beautiful fireplace. But for purposes of heating it was not much good. So a wood-burning stove — “extend the season.”

That was the theory. 

The only problem is that “the season,” that is, autumn, decided not to extend itself. True, it was sunny and 60 the day I came over last week, with nighttimes around 30 degrees. 

But now temperatures have dropped to single digits at night, with the prediction for tonight of one. That is, “1” degree farenheit. The high today is predicted to be cheery 26. Yesterday evening, a short, furious snowfall made everything outside beautiful and wintry. 

Did I mention that despite our terrific new stove the cabin, built by my maternal grandparents in circa 1926, is not “winterized”? For the non-cabin speak types, that means neither the walls nor the pipes are insulated. The heat seeps out and the cold seeps in. And the pipes could freeze solid one of these nights, which is a possibility I don’t even want to think about, but do, especially at 3:00 in the morning.

Our plumber, Lance, is off elk hunting. His wife tells me he will get here tomorrow to shut off the water and drain the system. If I were a handier guy, which I’m not, I would do all that myself. I did do it myself for a couple years, long enough to know that my peace-of-mind about getting it done right justifies paying the nice people at Miller Plumbing.  

So, what the heck am I doing here? Well, I’m having a great time. The stove works as well or better than predicted. The sunny, cold days are still great for hiking. Yesterday, we hiked to a frozen Slick Rock Falls on the Hurricane Creek Trail (see photo above). The snow-clad trees are gorgeous, and so far the water is still running, the shower still hot. 

Our daughter, Laura, and her new dog, Georgie, came over after her church services on Sunday. Turns out Georgie loves the snow. 

Another benefit of being here so late in the season is seeing all the Tamarack (a.k.a. Larch) trees turn golden before losing their needles (see photo). The green forests are laced with the golden threads of Tamarack stands, while the mountains above are freshly covered in snow. Beautiful. 

That’s the thing about being in the mountains (we are at 4,500’ feet). You never know when winter might show up. It might even be officially summer, like late August, and you are higher up, say camping at 7,500 feet, and — surprise — it’s snowing. 

Overall, when you are closer and more vulnerable to nature, it has a way of reminding us that we’re not in charge. In city life, it is easier to maintain the illusion that we are, in charge, that is. Lights burn all night. The heat comes on at the press of a dial. Etc.

A lot of my recent reading has been about Indians. While it is easy to romanticize Indians of earlier times, they did know how to live in relationship with nature, whereas moderns tend to believe they can dominate and control nature. There’s something to be said for both orientations, but now we need to recover the wisdom of living in relationship with the natural world . . . time to feed the fire.

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