Friday, November 30, 2007

How I Spend My Evenings, as of Late

A few nights ago a friend of mine needed some help making decorations for his coming wedding. He was building candle holders out of the thick cardboard tubes found in the center of industrial rolls of newsprint. He somehow obtained over forty remnant rolls from the Fresno-Bee newspaper with a “mere” hundred yards or so of paper left on each of them. Our task was to get rid of the paper and salvage the cardboard tubes. This turned out to be great fun as soon as six of us got involved, pooling our creativity and energy late one night.

The first method we tried was using razor blades to cut through the inch or more of paper along the tube length-wise, then peel it back and lift the tube out of the newly created paper stack. This was hard on the fingers and quite slow. It would take one person nearly ten minutes on just one roll. There had to be a better way. One person started rolling his roll down the hill, kicking it off into the dark. While this might have been fun, it kept tearing and catching along the ground, thus slowing him down to about the same pace I was going. Then someone else had a brilliant idea, which turned out to be very quick and quite fun. We used a bench press outside of the weight room as a support, then a long wooden dowel on one side of the bench and a shovel handle on the other to hold two rolls at a time as alternating runners pulled them out across the road into the dark. The pile grew very large, very quickly, soon we were running through waded paper three feet deep. It was great fun to have your feet get caught up, tripping and falling, or getting tackled by a friend hiding in the dark. Every once in a while a car would drive by and clear out the paper, spreading it down the road. We worked quickly until all the rolls were all bare, then we collected the paper into a huge pile over eight feet tall, tackling each other, and jumping into as if it were a pile of leaves or a snow drift left over from the snow plow after a storm. When we had it fairly compacted, we pushed, wrestled, and lifted most of it into the back of a full size pickup truck. We had to lay on top of the towering pile to keep it from blowing away as we drove it all up in two trips to the needle dump to be buried and burned. I haven't had so much unexpected fun in, I can't remember how long!

Now that the temperatures drop below freezing at night, I spend my evenings the old-fashioned way: tending a fire. Last week I stacked up a large pile of wood outside the door where it will be easy to get to once the snow comes. I'm impressed with how proficient I've become at building an extremely hot fire, maximizing efficiency each night, in the shortest amount of time possible. I saved a stack of newsprint that I had cut off from two of the paper rolls to use for starting my fires each night. I would much prefer to have some paper with the excellent writing of The Los Angeles Times or even The Chicago Tribune, but seeing how expensive a subscription of that sort would be, this blank stuff works quite well for now. It burns just as well, and I suppose there are less toxins for lack of ink. (I was surprised to notice that the paper is white, and only turns the “newspaper gray” because of the ink residue.)

I've got a little routine down:

I start with the crumpled paper, just one layer of crumpled pieces, cover it with a handful of pine needles, then stack as much wood as I can fit in the wood burning stove on top of it, leaving a channel of air up through the middle. I light the bottom paper just in one spot right in the middle, I immediately close the doors with the small air vents shut as well. I let that burn with the flu open for about five minutes, while I put on a kettle of water, then shut the flu two-thirds. After about twenty minutes, I open the flu, open the doors, poke the logs to collapse them, add wood until it is stacked full, then shut everything as much as I possibly can. Really, this stove is nowhere near as air tight as a Vermont Castings stove like I grew up with at home. If you shut all its vents it kills the fire for lack of oxygen. On this one, I can hear it sucking in from all over, and even see the glow of flame through the large crack which runs across the top plate of the stove. With a full load of pine, all closed down like that, it will burn to nothing in about three hours. I can add wood every hour if I want to keep it burning at its peak temperature. Tonight I had it so hot that I couldn't get close enough to it to add another log. I have no idea how hot that is, but from what I remember of our temperature gages at home, it's way into the red zone. Is that “Chimney Fire” zone? I can't remember. Maybe, but the flu is all the way closed, and most of the heat is coming out into the room. It keeps it quite warm in the cabin.

I enjoy being able to settle down in the evening with a cup of tea or hot chocolate. I either read, write, or have friends over to watch a movie or play games. I've been trying to have game nights once a week, since I know from experience that there are plenty of people like myself who could use a bit of local family hospitality. Right now I've got the room for it, and I feel it would be irresponsible not to be sharing it. I love sharing it. I don't think of myself as being gifted in hospitality, but this is how I grew up; my parents modeled this kind of living for us. God blesses us so that we would bless others. Just like he's been doing since the days of Abraham. Thanks mom for showing that to us as kids. It makes life more full...
more full of life, I guess.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Build A Better Tomorrow

Sometimes I don't know where I'm at, but I keep going.
Right now I can't see very far, all I know is...

It'll be all right
In the morning.
I'm gonna open my eyes and see the light.
It'll be all right, when the sun is shining.

-singer/songwriter, Andrea Hamilton

The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, the oracle.

Two things I asked of You,
Do not refuse me before I die:

Keep deception and lies far from me,

Give me neither poverty nor riches;

Feed me with the food that is my portion,
That I not be full and deny You and say, "Who is the LORD?"
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God.