First Logwatch

Tonight hailed the first subfreezing temperatures of the season, so I thought it would be a cool activity to, once I picked up the girls and got them home, build a fire in the fireplace. They were highly excited about this, and it went swimmingly.

My fireplace a regular wood-burning one. This sounds odd to say, being that it is a fireplace after all, but these days with all the options of gas-log, electric, and any number of flat- and faux- options, it seems that one should always specify.

Opening the flue, I half-expected the remains of an empty bird’s nest or something to fall into the fireplace, but instead got to get right down to the business of building the stack and lighting it up.

I also lit a series of candles along the front of the hearth, and after doing so, gave a simplified overview of both the basic workings of a fireplace (or, “why the hot comes into the room, and the smoke goes out of the chimney”), and another big idea I suppose should be titled, “Fire and fuel”. I think that the primary concepts seated rather well with them, and even if they don’t fully grasp it, they will be good primers for discussions later on when they are ready.

After dinner and some reading by the firelight, we checked homework, and after they were off to bed, I sat petting the dog as she inched her way away from the fireplace, and watching the flames lick flutteringly at the final log, thought over the “fire and fuel” discussion. I’d made a point of mentioning that ‘the flame, once started, needs two things to survive: fuel and air’. The candles bore a highly convenient witness. The flames in the fireplace were consuming oxygen and the logs. The candles were consuming oxygen and the wax (which at that time had gone completely liquid). The big idea was a discussion to remember when it comes up in a science class in the future. But knowing what the flame needs, it was also about safety, about how to put out a fire (take away either one or both of its needs), and also about life and the balance of needs. As the end of Fall impends and the beginning of winter rolls in, it turned into a very useful, seasonal dissertation.

I really did mean Fall. Not Autumn.

I bet some of you geeks saw the title of this one, and thought I was going to talk shop about some Apache logs, didn’t you? Speaking of looking at flatpanel displays for hours, remember to go outside and catch some afternoon sun while it’s still around, that way you will be less likely to be SAD.

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