Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Smoke


The smell of woodsmoke...next to the free heat an outdoor wood furnace gives...is the best thing I like about my winter. I love the smell of woodsmoke. It reminds me of camping...Freedom...Youth. The smell of woodsmoke becomes a part of your life with an OWB. During the planning stages of installing your furnace, you'll want to consider the prevailing winter winds in relation to your house...and any neighbors... I have my furnace located to the northeast of my house and...for the most part...the wind carries the smoke out towards the vast woods behind my house. I noticed since having an OWB, I always know which way the wind is blowing. I am always watching my smoke and seeing if it is going out to the woods or over towards the neighbors. My woodpile has varying degrees of seasoned wood and if the wind is carrying the smoke towards the neighbors I only put in my best stuff to keep the smoke to a minimum. When the wind is blowing towards the woods, I dump in my green stuff, pine, cardboard, anything. You have to be a responsible neighbor in all that you do in life but especially with an OWB.
But any trip to my furnace results in me being embraced by smoke when I open the door to the firebox. That is why I always wear the same wool coat whenever I go out there. The wool coat protects me from the flame, if I get too close and it helps to keep the smoke off my clothes that I wear in the house. The knit cap does the same thing for my hair. Smoke likes to check into your hair and never check out. The knit cap also keeps my bangs from being singed from an unexpected blast of heat when I open the door. This had happened to me once and it made for a long, embarrassing couple weeks at work until my hair grew back into proportion. My last piece of equipment is a long pair of welders gloves. They protect my hands from the splinters and the fire when I'm tossing in logs. In my opinion, all three of these things...the wool coat, hat and welder's gloves...are a must if you have an outdoor wood furnace.
If there is one thing you will learn with an OWB it is the smell of woodsmoke will become a part of your life. I remember one evening this last summer smelling a camp fire and I immediately thought of winter time and loading my wonderful OWB back at home. All winter I smell the smoke all the time...going to get the mail, walking out to the chicken coop, or going out to my car for work. The smoke, despite my best efforts, follows me in the house and both my daughters and my wife all comment about the smell of smoke. I wonder when I'm not around if the smell of a fireplace makes them think of me? Fondly I hope.
I also noticed that I can tell what type of wood I am burning by the smell of the smoke. To me certain types of trees have distinct smoke smells. Pine, which nobody likes to burn (unless you have an OWB...in that case anything is worth burning) has a sweet smell as does cedar and just about any soft wood. Oak has a distinctive heavy odor and Black Cherry smoke, to me, smells like Elmer's Glueall. I can smell that same Cherry smoke smell when I am cutting it with the chainsaw. My favorite is, by far, Elm. Elm, if you ask most people, can make a lousy firewood because Elm does not spit...at all! I will burn Elm but only if the logs are small enough to fit in my furnace. If they need split, I don't dare take them home. Even with a hydraulic log splitter, Elm will give you fits trying to split it. But for smoke smell, Elm can't be matched. It has a pleasant, baby powder smell to it and it wafts into your nose the moment it hits the flame.
I would imagine that anyone with an OWB deals with the smoke just as I. I go to my furnace each morning before I go to work and I know that my clothes smell of smoke when I arrive at the office. I wonder what my coworkers think? "Smelly dude." To me, the smoke is a welcome sign of winter and it is the pleasant byproduct of a summer's worth of hard labor. All the searching for trees, cutting, loading, dumping, splitting and burning not only gives me a winter's worth of free heat, it gives me the pleasure of smelling the wood smoke. Ahh to be the owner of an outdoor wood furnace! How lucky I am. Smokin

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