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December 6, 2012 / Rae Spencer

How We Stayed Warm

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I grew up in a house with a wood burning stove, so all of my winter memories are tinged with the scent of smoke.

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Mother ordered the first load of wood mid-summer, which gave it time to cure. She ordered a cord at a time, requesting a mixture of kindling and longer burning logs. It arrived as a tumbled pile at the end of the driveway, and we hauled it off by armfuls and wheelbarrow loads, stacking neat rows under the tin roof of our open-sided pole shed.

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Starting in my teens, I claimed the wood as my own domain because I enjoyed the physical activity of hauling and stacking. Plus, it gave me an excuse to be outside with the animals, who followed me back and forth as I worked.

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Mother disliked storing firewood on the porch, so she rarely wanted more than one day’s supply brought down each afternoon. However, she relented when we had snow or ice storms. Then I would carry wood until my shoulders and back ached.

(This photo is from Mother's archive, not mine.)

Or until I got bored and wandered off to explore the pasture and woods.

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The stove was undeniably harder to maintain than central heat, but it was also undeniably warmer.

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Except it didn’t heat the entire house. Our den was a smoky, sleepy haven, but my bedroom, in the opposite end of the house, stayed so chilly that blankets were not sufficient for a comfortable night’s sleep. Even so, I didn’t suffer. I had plenty of furry companions to keep me warm.

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5 Comments

  1. Angela / Dec 6 2012 5:12 PM

    I love to be warm…..when I was young, I used to park myself in front of the heater or fireplace with whatever trusty book I was reading and just BAKE. Your post reminds me of those days. I also like seeing all your kitties. My cat died last month after helping to keep me warm for many years. Thanks for such a cozy post, Rae.

    • Rae Spencer / Dec 6 2012 8:05 PM

      I’m so sorry about your cat. It’s hard to say goodbye to them. All of the cats and dogs in these photos are gone, years ago, but I still miss them.

  2. lynnwyvill / Dec 6 2012 5:32 PM

    Thanks for sharing your memories and the photos!

  3. jean / Dec 7 2012 5:18 AM

    Ohhhhhh! What a beautiful way to express a memory of a time which you might have portrayed as spartan and deprived. The picture you leave presents sensory memories that are almost tactile. Thank you so much for this treasure, Rae. Jean

  4. bardessdmdenton / Dec 12 2012 4:03 PM

    I could so relate, Rae, having done my share of wood hauling and stacking (and learning that it is good to keep some wood close at hand and as dry as possible when the ice makes it impossible to get at). But I still love doing it, especially on a cold dry evening – it really is invigorating. We have a wood burning stove in our open plan living and dining room and kitchen (we live in a log cabin) and it can really heat things up, sometimes too much! Love the photos of the cats – do they ever enjoy warmth and comfort!

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