It has been very cold here all week. Yesterday the low temperature was 21 degrees. Brrr! Perfect fire weather, though, so I've built a fire in the fireplace every morning as soon as I get up.
And the fire needs to be watched until it's established. I have to sit and tend the fire. It isn't an unpleasant way to spend the first half-hour of a morning, sitting by the gradually warming fireplace with a cup of coffee, coaxing it to keep burning.
For us, though, the fire is a luxury and not a necessity. We have central heat which will make the house as warm as we like it (I try to exercise some self-discipline and keep it on 64 degrees F). We have an oven, and so we don't need the fire for cooking. In fact, if the fire simply refused to burn, I could give up and the only consequence would be that somebody would eventually have to clean the charred wood out of the fireplace.
Imagine getting up at 5 a.m. on a bitterly cold morning, and starting a fire to heat the house and cook breakfast. Imagine shivering in the cold as you wait for the temperamental logs to finally catch, and imagine having no firestarting accessories like we have today. You might have matches, or even (perhaps) a flint. Or, if you're lucky, there might be some coals left over from the night before, if you've banked the fire well enough. And if the fire doesn't start, you'll just be cold, and eat cold food. Or, if the cold is severe enough, you might die. Our forefathers (and foremothers) had a great deal of intestinal fortitude, I think!
Now I will admit that I have never started a fire out of coal, and coal was a popular fuel for at least part of our history. But I know that wood is temperamental, and I know that it takes a good hour for me to get an established fire that can just sit and burn without tending every few minutes. And I am very thankful for my modern conveniences - here's to heat and modern kitchens and firestarters! :)
If you're interested, the author of this article Build a Better Fire claims to have invented a more efficient way to use your fireplace. And now Melissa is here and we are going to enjoy the fire, so I will close this. Stay warm, everybody!