Building a good fire takes skill and know-how. Believe me, it isn’t as easy as you think, especially if you want a cooking fire. Building a fire is an art and even a tradition. Historically laying a fire differed in various areas of America. A typical New England fire was built on top of andirons, where more central colonies like Pennsylvania simply used the hearth floor.
To make a good fire you first need to do one extremely important thing. Open your flue!! If your flue is not open your house will soon fill with smoke which will set off the smoke detectors, thereby alerting the fire department to a fire in your house and well, you can figure out the rest (ok, I may have done that once or twice, maybe even 4 times but my local fire department is really friendly and I just sent them on the merry way with a few homemade cookies, or jam, or dilly beans!!)
Next step is to build or lay your logs. You want to lay 2-3 logs across your hearth or in my case the fire log holder basket thing, facing from the back of the fireplace to the front. The next layer of wood goes in the opposite direction from the first so that would be from side to side across the ones that ran front to back. Leave a good size space in between each one because you want to be able to fill it with kindling and dryer lint. You should be saving your dryer lint all year long just for this purpose, it works like a charm and it’s free!! Or you can use newspaper rolled up into a tight log, or even pinecones will do the trick. When I was a Brownie back in the day, (never made girl scout, just wasn’t my thing) we made firestarters using leftover bits and pieces of candles wrapped in wax paper like a giant tootsie roll with the ends twisted and those work really good too. Stuff all the spaces between your layers of wood with your kindling and lint but leave enough space for the fire to breath.
Now ignite the kindling using a tight roll of newspaper, really long match or a handy dandy Bic extra long lighter. Within minutes you will have the perfect fire crackling away filling your home with comfort and warmth.
I am very fortunate to have five fireplaces in my home. The largest one is in my dining room and measures 8 feet wide by 5 feet tall. It was designed to be used for cooking back in the early 1800’s. It even has a built in bread oven. My goal for this winter is to master the art of cooking over the open fire. I can’t imagine anything that would make me feel as close to my ancestors as this.