It’s snowing.  O.K., it’s really, really coming down here in Connecticut.  I think we can now officially call it ‘The Blizzard of 2013’.  I’ve stocked up on foodstuffs – I’m certain much more so than I needed to. Hey, you never know.

Murph (a.k.a. Rick) has got a fabulous fire going in the cooking fireplace. Always does. I marvel at his fire-making handy work.  For some reason I find myself fire-making challenged.  No matter how many times that man (with the patience of a saint) shows me – to this day, I (with less patience of a saint) tend to do my own thing – with, of course, pathetic results.

So today’s a new day – a perfectly super snowy day – to ask my very cute, upstate New York, Grand Pubah of the perfect fire every time guy, to give me (just one more time) a brush-up lesson on making a fire in the smaller fireplace in the old parlor.  And with that thought, there may be others like me – just a tad fire-making challenged, or just a little rusty – who, along with me may want a simple refresher as well.  So here goes.

Making a fire 101

Tools needed: Andirons – beneficial in setting up the logs off the hearth.  A poker and tongs – adjusting the logs.  Shovel – cleaning out the ashes.  Fire screen – safety from flying sparks.  Long handled propane lighter – for easy reach lighting.

Materials needed:  Well seasoned wood (seasoned for at least 1 year) – we buy 1 – 2 cords of seasoned firewood a year.  If you infrequently make a fire, the grocery store log bundles are just as effective because they are kiln dried (yet more expensive).  Starter Logs(bricks) – you can buy a box of these at the grocery or hardware store.  Fatwood sticks – also available in boxes in grocery or hardware stores.

1. First, you need to make sure the flue is open (I already knew this Murph…next)

2. Break off a chunk from the starter log/brick, and place towards the back half of the firebox.

3. Take 4-5 fatwood sticks and arrange criss-cross over the chunk.

4. Light the chunk, and in turn it will ignite the fatwood sticks. (Murph advises that you can start the fire in other ways, but this has proved to be the fastest and surest way for him – good enough for me.)

5. Once the fatwood sticks are burning, start laying in the first 2 logs horizontally – with the first log up against the back of the firebox, and the second one about 2-3 inches forward. (This 2-3 inch gap is essential to ignite the rest of the logs – I think this is where I usually veer off course.)

6. Next add 2 more thinner split logs – criss-crossing vertically on top of the 2 horizontal ones.  Again, maintain that 2-3 inch “chimney” gap in the center for flames to come through.

7. Add one more layer horizontally criss-crossing on top of the verticals – replicating the steps.

Murph advises (very seriously) that it is of the utmost importance to stick by or near the fire for the first hour, because as the fire initially burns in this first hour, the logs keep shifting.  Once the fire is well-established, keep adding logs to keep it going.  Here’s where you can add larger logs as well as “not so seasoned” logs – because at this point the fire’s already very hot.

All that’s needed now is a big old mug of hot cocoa (or a glass of full-bodied red wine).

Hunker down, snuggle up, and enjoy the storm!

Love, Nora





  • Nora thanks for the refresher. I’ll be weathering the storm with you (in Port Chester, NY) but I’m saving the firewood for tomorrow in anticipation of the power going out sometime tonight. Love the snow and hunkering down but it’s the wind that keeps me on edge. Stay safe!

    • When Murph and I were first married we lived in Port Chester! We always say”all roads lead to Port Chester”. You be safe as well. Thanks very much Jaime.

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