I almost started a fire this weekend in my wood stove. The temperatures became very fall-like, from what seemed like one second to the next. I went from wearing T-shirts to work and begging for a colleague to open the window behind her, to having three sweatshirts hanging on the back of my office chair. Overnight.
At home, our heating system is multi-faceted, but mostly inactive so far this fall. We have a furnace that we use only occasionally, individual electric heaters in several rooms, and our trusty old wood stove. During the coldest months, they combine to keep us pretty toasty. But this time of year, when it is only cold in the early morning and it gets warm in the afternoon, the wood stove is definitely overkill. The electric heaters are only in the bedrooms and bathroom, which doesn’t help in the kitchen and living room.
And, well, to be honest, we just haven’t gotten our propane delivered yet.
Once the wood stove gets fired up, it will burn for several months nonstop. The smoky smell will permeate our clothes, and dust will accumulate everywhere (or as I say, worse than normal). It will be so warm in the house that we will run the ceiling fans regularly and occasionally open a window at night so we can sleep. We (read: me) like to hold off on some of those things as long as we can.
When burning at full capacity, the stove keeps it warm enough in the house that the kids go barefoot and wear tank tops and shorts inside. But it requires massive amounts of wood to keep going, and the cleanup is nonstop. It is a major undertaking that I’m not ready to undertake.
Besides, there is something to be said for toughing it out for a little while, I think. It’s character-building, as it encourages everyone to appreciate the warmth when it comes. It doesn’t hurt anyone to wear a sweater or sit under a blanket. It’s even nice to snuggle on the couch with the kids in the more-frequently-rare instances when they’re home and simultaneously speaking to us.
We have an unspoken rule that the first one up in the morning turns the heater on in the bathroom so that everyone else is afforded the comfort of warmth when first getting out of bed. It’s a 50-50 shot whether it is my husband or me. But I am always the who turns it off. I don’t see a reason to leave it running overnight, or during the day when everyone is at school or work. Again, the few minutes of minor suffering while the heater starts to do its work is acceptable to me. A several hundred dollar electric bill is not.
I remind myself that the need for heat in the fall and winter is only one component of these seasons. There is beauty to be found as well, in the changing leaves, the icy designs found in frosty windows, and the pristine appearance of the earth covered in a freshly fallen snow.
I just may need to be reminded of these facts when I’m wiping off my mantle for the hundredth time in November.