Nothing like a wood fire

Sunday was Earth Day.
I hadn’t paid much attention to the day until I watched the news on CBC that evening and saw the parades and people working to cleaning up waterways and parks across Canada.
People also planted trees along roadways and replaced fallen trees in parks.
In my lifetime, I’ve planted lots of trees in my yard. And now, more than 30 years later, I’m blessed with shade in the summer and huge drifts of leaves in the fall.
The leaves go into bags or onto my compost pile.
At the cottage, we harvest our dead birch, cedar, and ash for firewood, though we barely keep up with those three species of wood. We also use the white and red pine, but they take a lot of splitting effort.
In Fort Frances, we are now burning wood to create steam and power to run the kraft mill and paper machines. It is “green” energy because trees will grow back and the supply will not end.
In the past year in cities and towns across Canada and the United States, a movement has sprung up to ban the burning of wood in neighbourhoods. Wood smoke is a pollutant.
A letter to the editor at the Welland Tribune reads: “Fire pits, fire rings, bonfires, beach burns, chimaeras, outdoor wood-fuelled barbecues, and all wood-burning devices must be prohibited/ended/banned in all residential communities in our nation.”
I was taken aback. And even moreso when I read that some counties in Wisconsin even are banning outdoor wood-burning furnaces. Fairbanks and Juneau, Alaska have banned wood-burning boilers and stoves.
In the fall, winter, and spring, as I walk through the neighbourhoods, I enjoy the smell of wood smoke in the air. I even can tell you what type of wood is burning.
I have two wood-burning fireplaces in my home and in the cooler months of the year, the smell of wood burning in our home gives me a certain feel of comfort. At the cottage, a fire along the shore was a time to roast hotdogs and make “S’mores.”
It was a good family time with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all joining in around the fire.
As a Cub leader, the best time of the day when camping was the campfire with all those young boys in a circle. The sun had set and the sky was filled with stars that shone like diamonds.
And the anticipation of what might happen had every young boy excited. Fire was magic.
Around the fire, we sang campfire songs and told the boys of legends. After the campfire, the boys would return to the main camp, where they would make bannock on a stick, bake it over the coals, and then fill the inside with raspberry or strawberry jam.
Fire through the ages has brought comfort and warmth. Even in the earliest times of man, the ability to make fire was an important craft. Not everyone could spin a pointed stick on another piece of wood to induce fire, or spark a flint onto the down of a cattail to begin a fire.
The fire brought light to darkness.
In the rain on Saturday at the cottage, my brother-in-law dragged huge amounts of spruce and balsam deadfall to our burning rock and cleaned up years of downed wood. The bonfire warmed the cold, wet area around where the burn was being supervised.
Around the cabins everything looked better. The coals at the end of the day would have been perfect for cooking.
Back to the cabin, I fired up the wood stove shortly after eight a.m. when the temperature inside the cabin registered one Celsius. By 11 a.m., it was 22 degrees C in the cabin.
The bluish grey smoke drifted out of the chimney. It was great to come inside from the cold wet outdoors.
We filled the hot tub around noon Saturday with lake water that was four degrees and heated it all afternoon and through to 8 p.m. The tub had reached 33 degrees when we submerged our bodies into the warmth of the water, with snow and drizzle falling.
Wood was our companion all weekend, heating the cabin and the hot tub, and the smoke drifting across the island would let anyone know that there was safe refuge and warmth close by.
I understand why people with breathing problems and allergies would want to ban fires. But I really enjoy the wood fires in my home fireplaces and wood stove at the cabin.
And I don’t ever want to lose the tradition of cooking on an open campfire with children.

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