Tending The Fire

My husband and I recently purchased a home in the country, a log cabin originally built in the 1860s with an addition off the back. It’s a great place, and we love it. And there’s been a learning curve associated with some of the equipment in the house. For about two months we had no idea where the well was…it’s hidden by a giant clump of pampas grass. There’s a water softening system that I still don’t know how to operate but it works for now!


And then there’s the coal stove. The coal stove is how we heat our house. It’s located in the kitchen, on the main level of the log cabin. The heat from it spreads to the living room, master bedroom, and the upstairs. One would think that a heat source with few moving parts would be easy to operate. But like any piece of equipment, our coal stove has some specific idiosyncrasies with which we work. The damper that controls air flow is wonky. On a scale of one to eight, the damper is open between four and eight, with levels one to three essentially closed. We learned this the hard way when we woke up one morning to a cool coal stove.


Another lesson we learned is that as the weather gets colder and more coal is burned, the way we tend the fire needs to be adjusted. Shaking the grate twice a day isn’t enough to get the ash buildup removed. We must use a riddler stick, a flat piece of metal with a slight crook at the end to poke and prod the ashes, from both above and below the grate. This allows air to circulate more efficiently through the stove and creates an even burning of the coal.


This increased tending and ash removal seems to be a good metaphor for life. When activity is heightened, whether projects at work, additional family responsibilities, or new ideas rolling around in our heads, we expend more energy. With this additional energy output, we can be focused on the fire and not at the residual ash left behind. Sometimes that ash piles up and chokes the fire, limiting the oxygen that is required for the fire to burn. We need to get rid of the ashes so that we can be at our most creative and productive.


Here are some questions to ponder as you go about your week:

  • What am I focused on right now? Is this truly how I want to be using my energy?

  • Where do I have ash buildup? What do I need to clear out to make space for new or increased fire (creativity, organization, productivity, etc.)?

  • How am I consistently tending my fire to be the most authentic expression of who I am?

Stay curious friends!

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