The Smell of Wood Smoke
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  1. #1
    Moderator Jim in NC's Avatar
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    The Smell of Wood Smoke

    I grew up in a time when most of the farmers in the area heated their homes with wood. Most had at least one wood burning stove in addition to using a fireplace and/or a wood burning cook stove. From the first cool days of fall through the cold of winter chimneys puffed throughout the countryside, and even right much in town.

    We have many varieties of wood to use for heating. From the softest pine to the hardest oak and hickory the smoke produced has distinctive smells. We heat our home mostly by wood even though we are equipped with a fairly modern central heating system.

    The various odors of wood smoke in the air now reminds me of many things when I was young. Aging makes the wood cutting chores a little harder and last longer, but we carry on. I remember as a youngun coming in from the cold and backing up to a stove or fireplace to warm. Some of the houses of my youth also had year-round air conditioning because if one stepped only a few feet away or in the next room without a heat source, it was a natural reaction to look for an open door or window.

    We live in the house where my dad was raised plus three other generations of my family before him. The farmhouses in which I spent youthful time varied from nice brick homes to simple frame houses with tin roofs and little to no foundation and no insulation. Our home was set on rock pillars when the original log section was built and when additions were made. A brick foundation was laid under it when the last addition was made by my grandparents in the 1940s. My Grandpa passed away in 1976, and when able cooked on the same wood cookstove that I remember from my youth and that still sits in our kitchen now. It gets used occasionally in the winter just to savor the goodies that it produces. There were no electrical outlets in the kitchen when we moved here. We have modernized a bit since then.

    There was also a chimney with fireplace in the opposite wall about 20 feet away from the cookstove where my grandpa had a woodstove just for heating. Like most of the farmers of his day, he would often mix a little green wood in with his dry wood so the fire would last a little longer. My granny and grandpa slept in a double bed within a few feet of the heating stove. Doors were closed and the other rooms were not heated. I spent many nights here as a youngun. I was snowed in here for four days one winter. I slept in the next room right beside where my grandparents slept. It was 80 or more in their room, and probably 40 to 50 where I was, and about 10 degrees outside. Under many layers of homemade quilts I'd eventually get warm even though I could not move.

    My kin and folks I helped and knew of that era were content. They worked hard to make a living and took all things in stride, whether good or bad. As they aged many did install a kerosene burning "oil circulator" that would heat 3 to 4 rooms. My mom's parents installed an oil fired furnace and central heating system in their home sometime in the late 50s or early 60s, about the same time my mom and dad built their house.

    The smell of wood smoke reminds me of the people I once knew and have journeyed on to a better place. It reminds me to be thankful that I am still connected to the land like previous generations of my family and community. It makes me remember the tastes of all the good food my granny cooked on her wood cookstove. It makes me hurry to finish a chore so I can get inside for some warming to chase away winter's chill. Finally, it makes me feel blessed that I am able to still do it and enjoy all it provides for us.
    Last edited by Jim in NC; 01-28-2016 at 08:54 PM.
    "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from a cornfield." ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

    "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads." Henry David Thoreau

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    Moderator prwttsh's Avatar
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    Thanks for the story. We didn't have a woodstove in the kitchen as a kid, but we had an old woodstove in the basement for rendering lard. And the old wood/coal octopus for a furnace.
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    Senior Member 4imnotright's Avatar
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    Jim my favorite smoke smell is when you were smoking hams and bacons. I have Mom and Dad's wood cooking stove that was made at a local foundry. It was replaced in 1957 when Dad installed a forced air oil furnace and electric stove. Did not miss filling the wood and coal boxes everyday when we got home from school along with feeding the hogs and collecting the eggs and feeding the chicken. After Dad sold the milk cows, we still had steers that needed to be fed also I slept up stairs in a house that was built before the civil war and the only heat during the winter was what rose from downstairs. More quilts.
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    Jim that was a nicely written recollection of years gone by, so thank you for the memories. You are so right about the 'smells' sparking particular memories. There's a lot of overlap in our rearings. The cookstove Dad bought for Mom in 1939 rests in pieces under one of my workbenches in the shop. We too had just a cook stove in the kitchen and a King Heater in one bedroom with nothing in the only other room in the middle. No running water, we'd have to draw a bucket full (in addition to the drinking bucket) the night before to prime the pump with in the mornings in cold weather.

    I could go on, but I'll save it for another time. Thanks again.

  8. #5
    Senior Member Sugarmaker's Avatar
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    I was raised in a old farm house that did not have a lot of insulation, so the big wood stove in the basement was fed with coal and mostly hickory wood cut from the south wood lot on the farm. It was a lot of work keeping the fire going but what a nice enjoyable heat! Its in my bones!

    Cheryl and I have been heating our homes with the same small wood stove for about 40 years. We use the propane as a back up, but it sure doesn't warm the house like the wood. Building a fire and keeping it going on these cold winter days is just part of the routine.
    Sometimes when really cold I may get up and fill the wood stove at 3:00 in the morning. I usually don't go back to sleep until I hear the blower kick on and I know the house will be warm when we get up.
    Takes about six cord of dried and split wood for the heating our well insulated house. We fill the wood boxes in the basement about every two weeks.
    I look for the smoke from our chimneys and do enjoy the smell of hard wood burning!
    Also still making maple syrup with wood as the heat source too. And it sure feels good to come into the sugarhouse and get a roaring fire going using dry slabs of mixed hard wood.
    Just added a wood stove in the sugarhouse to "get your hands warm" . I connected it into the same stack as the evaporator. I have burned a trailer load of slabs in that since December with fires on and off on cold days when I want to get some work done in the sugarhouse.
    Still like to cut wood, so we are going to keep doing it till they tell us we can't!
    Good article Jim!
    Regards,
    Chris
    Last edited by Sugarmaker; 01-29-2016 at 10:10 AM.
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    -Willy- Lovesthedrive's Avatar
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    My father had a camp that he used to live in year round. We would visit the home he built back in the 1930's when he was a teenager.
    In the summer we burned softwood and called it "skeeter" wood. Skeeter wood is what summer folk here use to keep the mosquitos from invading a home in the summer with a cold chimney. I myself burned wood many times in my youth. Yet I was in a explosion once a long time ago. Burned myself 27% of my bod. Now my bod is much more tempermental to the cold and it needs a more uniform heat. Alas wood stove heat is fine for me at a distance, yet anything closer than 3 feet and my skin still hurts where it was burned.

    I too love the smell of a wood burner or coal burner. Probably why I liked the hobby of live steam. It was also great fun to run a steamer on a cold day. You would be nice and warm behind that boiler while everyone else froze.

    Thankyou for your wonderful stories of history. I am glad you are able to keep your homestead with out it becoming history from fire. Up here too many of the grand old houses are disappearing to the ilks of burning wood.
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    Moderator Jim in NC's Avatar
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    Willy thanks for the nice pics and thanks to all for your compliments. I guess it is easy for me to have these types of memories since I am fortunate to live on property that has been im my family for so long. I have posted here in years past about curing tobacco with wood. Now there's a great combination of smells, the wood smoke and drying tobacco leaves. Most all tobacco farmers cured their tobacco with wood when I first began helping them and they gradually shifted to kerosene fired burners and later to propane. After tobacco harvesting and curing, the tobacco was stripped or prepared for market in the fall. The building where that took place was the packhouse. Tobacco was stored here until it could be stripped. This was done during the fall and a woodstove was used in the packhouse to provide heat. The combined smells of the smoke and cured tobacco were special.
    "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from a cornfield." ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

    "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads." Henry David Thoreau

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    Cool

    I grew up on a farm with a old farmhouse. It had a pot belly (warm morning brand) in the living room, a pastel green Morning glow cook stove in the kitchen and a old cast iron laundry stove in the back room where mom did the laundry.

    Dad built mom a new house in 1961 and the only stove that didn't make the move was the old laundry stove.
    Mom cooked on that old wood burner till the late1970's.

    For a short stint I had a natural gas furnace in a small home I bought that was to small once I married. I have been burning wood for heat in our new house since 1986. That is 30 years now.
    For many years I was taking my equipment trailer up north to big forestry operation and they would load it with 6 cords of tops from their logging operations. They expanded and had a crew that would cut and split the tops then sell the wood that way.
    I started taking stuff from my woods after that. I am also getting dead stuff off the neighbor's place too.


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    Chimney protect us from extreme cold weather. It is designed to draw the smoke and gases produced by a fire up safely out of your home. So, proper cleaning and repairing is essential for its smooth working. Safety comes first that is why hiring a professional would be a best option to have your chimney cleaned and inspected regularly. There are chimney expert from Nassau county, Suffolk county and other parts of New York. You can choose according to your requirement and locality.

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