The Trouble With Fire

Revised July 3, 2019.

The trouble with fire is that it never stands still long enough to be seen. It’s like water falling, or snowflakes drifting down, or dry leaves blown by a gale.  But the camera loves to make them stand still.

These pictures were extracted from photos of a tiny fire I built at Kieferhaven (here at Balsamea) on November 4, 2018.  It was just a little pile of sticks and scraps of birch bark, something to enjoy for a little while.  That little fire has lasted a long, long while.

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Thrice-Warming Wood

I love a campfire.  I like to say that having one is to “enjoy the thrice-warming wood.”

D-sit-facing-fire-2006Thrice-warming because:

First, you warm up from the physical labor of collecting the wood.  Then, you warm up from the labor of breaking and/or sawing it.  Finally, of course, the wood gives its life to entertain, console, amuse, mesmerize and warm you, in mind and body, with fire.


December 2005 – Balsamea’s First Winter

The wood gives its life for the fire?  Isn’t it already dead?  Not as I see it.  The tree is dead, but good firewood is still loaded with stored energy.  I think of that energy as the last of the wood’s life as wood, before it decomposes, becoming something else.  When that “something else” is ash in my fireplace, and pleasure for me, I am the last beneficiary of the wood’s life as wood.


Balsamea’s First Fireplace
I built it as a perpendicular extension of the rock wall, using rocks removed from the wall to make a four-foot wide passage through it (just off the picture right edge). The fireplace is about three feet wide inside. This is at “Camp Balsamea,” the fireplace closest to the house, near the camper and shed. I lived at Camp Balsamea (in the camper and at this fireplace) from May 2008 to June 2010. My Thoreauvian Experiment. It worked.

When I find a nice four-inch thick dead-fallen maple that dried suspended in the air (which happens in various ways) instead of soddened with the leaf mold and moss on the ground, it is a joy, and I am grateful to find the treasure.  I have several long pieces of maple set aside at my campsites, enough campfire wood for a long time, and good sawing exercise, because maple does not surrender easily.


When folded, the blade slides into the long back section.

I prefer four inches or less wood diameter (five to six for softwoods) because my backpacking saw handles it nicely.  I love that saw.  I’ve had it many years and used it many times, still on the original blade.  If you want a good backpack saw, look for the Sawvivor brand.

I’ve seen people embarrass themselves with inferior saws when they break or fall apart within the first ninety seconds of use.  (Always test your gear at home before heading out to the woods.)  My Sawvivor is tough, rust-proof, and a good size for serious work, but it fits nicely in a day-pack (15″).  It has a padded handle, too.  It is standard equipment in my backpack, even when I have no intention of making a fire.  It is a survival tool.

Below, find your favorite irreverent self-amused blogging Balsamean on a chilly, windy and sunny afternoon, Saturday, September 16, 2012, enjoying the thrice-warming wood (shown here in two of the three warming activities) at our Turkeyfoot Campsite.

All summer I look forward to mid-September, when Balsamea starts to seriously chill.  It is also the onset of the bulk of the autumn leaf color changes.  On average, our first frost comes around September 15.  In 2012 it came on 9/11, as solid ice, not just frost.  (See my blog post, 9/11/12: First Frost is ICE!)  I celebrated that morning with a campfire, too.  That’s right, two campfires within a week, the 11th and 16th, celebrating the cold.  Summer is my least favorite season.  Campfires feel better in the cold.

(As always, click the pix to cozy up closer.)

Yes, I do have a metal folding chair stashed out there at the Turkeyfoot Campsite.  And now and then I like to saunter around Balsamea letting my feet experience the ground as it truly is, naturally.  Hey, I’m the Balsamean.

I do not remember that it was a windy day, but it must have been pretty gusty for me to put down the chin-strap on my hat.  That campsite does catch more wind than the others.

Are you a big fan of campfires?  Enough to have them several times a year at home?