Putting the Lair into winter mode…

There’s almost nothing I hate more than the official start of winter here at the Secret Lair. Everything above it – and quite a few things below it – on the list of things I dislike involves physical pain.


It was nine in the morning and while the temperature in the main room was holding mostly steady, the bedroom temperature was still slowly falling. Chances of sunlight were looking slim. I might not want artificial heat today, but overnight would be a different matter. And that meant doing something I’d really rather put off … well, forever would be nice.

The woodstove is just an iron box, and getting it ready for use isn’t very complicated. I unscrew the bottom stovepipe section from the top, lift it on its coupling, then slide the stove forward so that I can remove the bottom section and shine a flashlight up through the roof – just to make sure nothing is nesting in there or anything else weird*. I cleaned the stovepipe when I put the stove to bed last April so everything should be fine. But never assume. Put it back together and the woodstove is ready except for…

…filling the woodbox, which can wait till it’s not raining.

Next comes the complicated part…

During the summer months, the bedroom stove is just too handy not to accumulate all my belt and pocket kibble…

…which is theoretically laid out neatly so I can find what I want, but – being my stuff – often devolves into an unruly pile. All this needs to be moved for the winter, because fire and fabric and live ammo don’t mix. I keep meaning to build a shelf but never get around to it. So…

Annually I clean all the stuff I keep meaning to take to the powershed off the little cabinet next to the front door, lay down a clean cloth and move all my pocket/belt stuff there instead – soon to devolve into an unruly pile mixed with stuff I keep meaning to take to the powershed. Then comes the bad part.

The one single thing I dislike about this heater is that the pilot is the very devil to light, especially when the plumbing is almost certainly full of air rather than propane. So – dust off the grill and the firebox, open three propane valves, take the long butane lighter from the kitchen – the built-in spark lighter being almost always useless – then sit down on the bedroom floor and make yourself comfortable. It’s going to be a while before the line bleeds enough to let the pilot light. But once it does, it stays lit a treat and – given that I have a bypass regulator now with two propane bottles to draw from – will in theory stay lit for the next five months. Crank up the thermostat to check operation – works perfectly – and to let the dust you couldn’t wipe off burn off. That kind of stinks and you don’t want it in the middle of the first night.

And that’s pretty much it, except for filling the wood box and laying the first fire in the woodstove. But that can wait till it stops raining. Now I’m done for the rest of the day. It’s raining/snowing out, I decided to skip the usual Monday morning water run, so it’s a fine day to sit down with a cup of tea and Barbara Tuchman.

* Joel’s First Law: Weird Shit Happens. Never assume that nothing weird has happened to something important, just because it seems unlikely.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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6 Responses to Putting the Lair into winter mode…

  1. Judy says:

    Or how to keep Murphy, somewhat, at bay.

  2. Jean says:

    We had our first winter fire last night. The second one was this morning. This year we have juniper, aspen and pallets to burn. The juniper looks to burn nice and hot. It also smells the best when walking downwind from the house.

  3. At the end of wood burning season can you not cap the top of the chimney with something to keep stuff from flying in/out of it?

  4. Joel says:

    If I could get up there I could do better than that and mount a decent cap. But the biggest mistake I made in the Lair’s design was a roof too steep for the old one-legged guy to safely deal with.

  5. Mark Matis says:

    So when will BB be back out? Or can you con Ian into it???

  6. Terrapod says:

    Gosh Joel, Just install that little metal shelf I sent you. Locate it somewhere that you won’t hit it with yer noggin and dump the day’s cargo pants load there. 😉

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