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A Fire in the Hearth

When we showed up at the Haines House, the pipes were frozen. No toilet, no shower, and the occasional spurt of running water-true Powder Road style. The Haines House operates from three possible heat sources, all of which can be used in synergistic unison. 1. Diesel Heater 2. The Wood Stove 3. Sweaty Latin Dance Party With snow piling up deep, the storm raging, and only a few scraps wood outside, we were faced with a heating crisis. Short term, we needed to keep the place warm enough so that the pipes wouldn't refreeze. The task meant buying Diesel #1, or meeting all the salsa dancers in town because wood delivery was not a short term option with the deep snow in the driveway. So it was Diesel #1, the most expensive of the three sources, for a week. Then, in a third party deal, our two chords of wood finally arrived- our long term heating solution. We had been warned that they were wet, but we had no idea that were totally green, and so began the epic battle to get the stuff to burn. Chopping it is hard, burning it is even harder- especially in the beginning stages of a fire. It's not uncommon to hear early morning cursing in the house as first fire goes up in flames. Then, to keeping it going, is an all day affair that requires constant attention- leave for half an hour, and your fire is done. The traditional wood stove dream of shutting down a fire during the night and waking up to some embers in the morning is a long lost dream with the ultra wet wood. Everyone lives by the ambient air thermometer on the diesel heater. When starting a fire in the morning, the firekeeper gets an idea of how cold the night was outside by how low the thermometer drops on the stove, and whether it kicks in a forty-six degrees to avoid the pipes from freezing. Forty-Six is as low as it gets inside the house, and the record, when in full sauna mode is ninety-two degrees F. The Southern Sauna Sweet, at those temperatures, surely reaches the 100 degree mark. Everyone has there own techniques for battling wet wood. Some feed it air, others shut down the flu to let the heat spread through the burning chamber. Some start with kindling, others with tons of paper and little shavings, but no matter how you slice it, the fire at the Haines House is a constant battle and pain in the arse.