Tales from the Cabin
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Cabinitis: Fire the Fireplace

What’s keeping me from ditching the logs and switching to gas?

By Lars F
Published: December 1, 2005
Photo by Tina Rencelj, dreamstime.com
I have a love/hate relationship with the wood-burning fireplace at my cabin.
I enjoy sitting in front of it on a cool evening, mesmerized by the action of the flames dancing on the logs. There is something about a fire that is almost hypnotic in nature.
And, most assuredly, my family is totally enamored of watching a fire in the fireplace, particularly on cold winter nights. My fireplace is elegant, hand-built and lined with rock native to the area. It has good draft controls and, overall, works very well. But, I hate it!

Well, let me clarify that. What I dislike is cutting down trees, sectioning the logs, splitting them, hauling them, cleaning up after hauling, clearing the ashes from the fireplace, etc. The old saying that a fireplace warms you three times (i.e., when you cut the wood, when you split the wood and when you burn it) rings true – but they missed the part about having to haul it into your cabin, stack it, clean up the debris that falls off, etc., etc., etc.  
In short, I find a wood-burning fireplace a lot of work.
Now, I realize that my sentiment is not necessarily the most popular one. The smell of burning firewood provides comfort that’s hard to beat. And, yes, our fireplace even generates some usable heat, although I suspect its contribution is rather minimal.
After the fire is out, there definitely is some heat loss going up that chimney which is open to the sky on a below-zero night, no matter how efficient the closure is at the top     and bottom.
No gas? So why, you ask, don’t I have a gas fireplace in my cabin? A gas fireplace is clean-burning and generates heat efficiently. And fires in these fireplaces have become remarkably realistic over the past few years. One has to look at them very carefully to be certain they are not wood-burning fireplaces. The flames alternate, the artificial logs and embers glow and fade and the overall effect is very realistic.
In short, I could have mesmerizing flames at the command of a switch. Call me lazy, but flipping a switch certainly seems to trump cutting, sectioning, splitting, hauling, clearing, stacking and burning all that wood.
So why haven’t I switched?  Plain and simple: I have learned when to admit defeat. My family, for the most part, usually agrees with my viewpoint in various matters. But in the case of replacing our wood-burning fireplace, I have been totally out-voted, out-argued and out-fought by every member of my family.

Family peace. They all enjoy the smell of burning wood, the dancing flames and the ambiance of the wood-burning fireplace. And they absolutely, positively do not want it to be replaced.
Of course, I have yet to see any of these afficionados cut or split a log. The extent of their contribution is to haul wood into the cabin, man the fireplace and, of course, totally bask in its warm glow.
So, I concede defeat. For the foreseeable future, I can guarantee there will be the snap, crackle and pop of burning wood in our fireplace. The pleasant memories of fireside evenings will live on.
Is that necessarily all bad? No, it’s not. I have taken my defeat gracefully and have gone on to other, more pressing matters.
Now, if I could just knock down that wall and add on a few feet, my work room could be much larger     and ...

Lars F. has refused the 12-step plan to control his cabinitis. Only his first name is used to protect his identity.
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