The Last Really Good Shack – 38

The Last Really Good Shack by Carol Allen

I can’t believe its been a year since I wrote a shack story! But its this time of year that makes me especially nostalgic for that wonderful old house.

By the autumn, at least a couple of cords of firewood would already sit stacked out beside the shed along the top of the drive. If I had been really organized, the wood would have been there all summer, getting good and dry and seasoned, so that it would burn perfectly.

But most years, the woodman was called at the end of August and we stacked it just in time for the first cool night. It was not unusual for us to have a fire in the evening by the middle of September. The weather might be beautifully warm during the day, but as the sunlight began to dwindle into autumn, the nights would get clear and frosty by dawn.

Those first fires were sometimes a little smoky, causing us to open every window in the house and turn on all the ceiling fans to rid the house of that first fire smell. The nice thing about our wonderful woodstove ( that I loved so well after having a wall eyed fit about its placement – see earlier posts about the chimney saga), was that once there was a good fire, the bed of coals could last all day. So the stove stayed a little warm and was usually no problem getting the nightly fire to blaze.

Once we had cold weather move in for good, the stove had its own routine. Each morning, Bob would fill it up with wood, working with the night’s coals and maybe with a little extra kindling, building a steady flame, making the house warm and toasty. He would soon be out the door to work. So as I left, I would add more wood, dampen down the vent and making sure the stove door was closed, good and tight. I, too, would be out the door and off to my job.

Each afternoon, as I drove down our tree covered lane, rounding the last curve, there, perched on the side of the ridge, the shack would come into view. And each afternoon, I would think –‘Well, it didn’t burn down today!”

One thing I loved about heating with wood was the quiet. No furnace fan or blower, just the occasional shifting of logs or the popping of embers. A gentle, living warmth radiating from the corner of the living room, into each room and up the stairs. It was perfect.

Perfect, except for the constant attention it needed, the removal of ash, which caused a trail of fine particles to dust the entire living room. And the occasional popping ember out of the stove onto the carpet and the days when the wind was just right, the smoke refused to go up the chimney and would just much rather stay inside the house. Oh and those bitter, snowy nights when it need to be fed from the stack way on the other side of the shed.

Yes, my glasses aren’t so rosy that I have forgotten all the trouble it took. And now, when the furnace kicks on, loud fan and all, I can remember the wonderful old woodstove in the warm comfort of our lake house.

Until next time – and I won’t go another year – smiles…

*** And I promise to go thru all the photos and start sharing more pictures from the shack years.

Vashtu Homa

The Last Really Good Shack by Carol AllenIn our Ozarks home,
the last really good shack in Benton county,
a woodstove was our only source of heat.
A beautiful hulk of metal
that would keep bright embers alive
thru the cold winter nights.
Its warmth pervaded the old drafty house-
silent and holy as the sacred fire.

Ritual feeding with fragrant split red oak
and removal of spent gray ash-
a daily blessing and curse.
Beginning in the cool evenings of early fall
and extended into warm days of late spring,
morning and night each had its own ceremony.
Formal practice of gifts
given and taken-
kneeling before the fire,
feeding the flame to give it life
and in turn,
we received the same blessing.

** A Hindu fire ritual – Vastu homa- a house-warming; to encourage good Vastu (energy in buildings)