The Odd Pot

Man and fire


THERE’S AN ART to building a good fire.

And I have no idea what that is, so my approach is to bludgeon the matter. I pile a mountain of firewood, and I torch a handful of ocote, which is a resin-full wood that ignites gleefully when introduced to flame.

Stick the burning ocote under the stacked wood and wait. That’s all there is to it. Perhaps I do grasp the art.

I lit a fire downstairs yesterday, the first of the season. Before that, I climbed the circular stairway on the upstairs terraza to the roof and removed plastic sheeting from the chimney top. Most of the year it’s wrapped in plastic to keep mosquitoes out. It took me about three years to learn that.

On about two occasions, I forgot to uncover the chimney first, and you can imagine what happened.

I paused while on the roof and took a look around at the green mountains. I inhaled the clear winter air, and I thanked the Goddess, hardly for the first time, for landing me here in my declining years. It’s good to end one’s many days in such a spectacular fashion.

There were two blazes yesterday. The first was in the morning because it was dang cold. The second was late afternoon. It was less cold, but I desired a cozy atmosphere. After I got the fire burning, I sat on the nearby scarlet sofa and read a good book about Stanley and Dr. Livingstone.

And felt good about myself. A fine fire will do that.

24 thoughts on “Man and fire

  1. There is something comforting about a fire. Maybe it takes us back to the days of the clan gathered around the warmth of the camp fire while tales of the day were shared — without all the bother of wolves snapping at our backs. Or, maybe, it just feels good on its own.


    1. Señor Cotton: Likely for the reasons you cite and even more. Not much call for fireplaces there where you live, I imagine. It’s one of the good things about high mountain life.


  2. What a wonderful post about man and fire. There is nothing better than flames in a fireplace and a good book to read. Take care and happy blogging to ya… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ms. Shoes: The first couple of years we lived here, we always had a serious mosquito problem inside the house, especially during the rainy season. It baffled me because we kept the doors closed religiously and the windows all have screens. One day a light bulb went on over my noodle. We covered both chimney tops with plastic, and the mosquito problem fell by 99 percent immediately. No-brainer, as they say.

      And not just mosquitoes. Bats too. Last summer, we found a bat hanging from a light fixture in the downtown Casita. How on earth did he get in? I checked everywhere I could think of. There was no place for him to enter, or so I concluded until later in the day when another light bulb went on over my noodle. The chimney! I have put a permanent screen over that chimney top, so I doubt we’ll have any more bats hanging from light fixtures.


  3. Great title and theme!

    My wife is an expert at starting camp fires. She got her childhood training in the Campfire Girls. (Plus, she can whip up some hot, gooey S’mores with the best of them. (a confection I don’t much care for.)
    Our only problem is we don’t have a fireplace in our present living cave.

    Don Cuevas


    1. Señor Cuevas: Fireplaces really don’t provide all that much heat. At least ours do not, especially the one downstairs due to the living room being so large. But it’s a great atmosphere setter.


  4. Beginning in the 70s, the new housing construction in outlying areas of northern Bexar County just about every house, apartment building, whatever had fireplaces. To meet demand for burning logs, the local convenience stores are bundling together dried ones to sell for probably $10-12. We have a gas-fired fireplace, much easier than dealing with ashes from real wood. But, you are right, fireplaces don’t really heat the space except immediately in front of the grate. We have friends in Canada who have a very fancy wood cooking stove and the fireplace is designed with vents to disperse the heat in the living area. Those particular Canadians have such a dislike of Hydro One, the electric company, they are installing solar panels and doing everything that is doable for a rural residence not to have to rely on Hydro One.


    1. Carole: There are a couple of things I really wish we’d done when we built our house. One was to install gas lines in the walls to all rooms. I would have vastly preferred a gas fire for the reasons you state. I remember thinking of doing it, but for some reason, I blew if off at the time. I have since learned that Mexican constructors balk at that sort of installation, considering it dangerous. That is hilarious considering all the dangling electrical wires, underground fireworks factories and God knows what else you routinely encounter down here.


      1. Felipe: You might consider writing an e-book on Mexican Home Construction. Your idea of installing gas lines in the walls to all rooms is brilliant. Modern gas space heaters are the way to go.


        1. Andrés: Gas lines in the walls was a common approach in old houses where I was brought up. With a space heater in each room. Doesn’t seem to occur to many people down here.


  5. Hearth, heart and home all seem to go together around the time of the winter solstice to banish the blues and to help keep warm. Ancient families would gather together to keep warm in front of the fire while the the nights are the longest.


  6. It is not really cold enough here at the lake for a fire. We used to light our fires, when we lived in cold northern Connecticut, with paraffin covered pinecones. Now, we just light the gas fire occasionally. My husband makes hummingbird feeders out of olive oil bottles, stoppers and feeding tubes he bought while we were back in the states. He would fill the bottles up at night and by morning, they were all empty. One night, we stayed up to see what was drinking that much sugar water and we heard a tremendous flapping – swarms of fruit bats (do bats swarm?) were flying by the feeders and sticking their long tongues out and drinking as they flew by. After that, we knew when the bats were around by their strong citrus smell. We started bringing in the feeders at night.


    1. Bonnie: Do bats swarm? They swarm like nobody’s business. You obviously have never witnessed their departure from beneath that bridge in Austin, Texas, at dusk. It’s a black cloud that goes on for an hour or more, quite the sight, quite the swarm.


  7. Yes, I actually have seen the bats in Austin. They also live under an overpass in Round Rock, just north of Austin, though not nearly as many. I meant to ask if the correct word is swarm, or is there another, bat-specific word?


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