Radiant Love

Radiant Love

The comforting warmth of wood heat

By Ron Schmidt
Current Contributor

Many have sung songs and told stories about their fondness for a particular car or truck they have owned, but I have not heard any about a favorite woodstove. A decent vehicle will get you from here to there—that is true—but a good woodstove filled with seasoned hardwood logs will keep you warm and cozy all the way through until spring.

If a storm takes down the powerlines, and there is no electricity for hours or days, a woodstove will reliably keep you feeling warm and as welcomed as a good friend. 

How many of us wished we had one just before Christmas? A big storm in Michigan took down powerlines and knocked out electricity to thousands; plenty of folks in Northern Michigan had no heat for two or three days. I sure wished for one of my former woodstoves and a good woodpile to feed it.

Where It Began
My first kinship with a woodstove was in 1973, when I bought a wood-burning antique cookstove at a yard sale in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was already 50 years old at that time but in great condition. 

This cookstove was cast-iron, weighed about 500 pounds, and needed four adults to move it. The oven was between the firebox and a water reservoir. Above the burners were warming ovens to keep the plates warm or allow bread dough to rise. 

I loved cooking with this stove, which also kept our house warm—I used it for 10 years, until I had to leave it behind when we moved to the Lower Peninsula.

I soon missed heating with wood so much, though, that I bought an Ashley woodstove. The Ashley held much more wood and was more efficient than the cookstove had been. When I finished my farm chores, I reveled in sitting in a high-backed rocking chair next to that stove and feeling the heat radiating from the Ashley’s metal firebox. I fed the stove with seasoned firewood that I had cut myself, with the help of my brother and friends.

In 1983, my wife and I welcomed twin daughters into our lives. When one or both infants would awaken at night, I had the pleasure of rocking them back to sleep beside the warmth of the Ashley. Sometimes, I would fall asleep, too. 

A few years later, another move found us in a smaller home—with no room for a woodstove. 

Upper Peninsula Heat
Six years passed before I again enjoyed the warmth of a wood-burning stove, once more while living in the Upper Peninsula. 

I bought a remote cabin in the woods, where I lived every May through October. The cabin was outfitted with an old Ashley woodstove that had seen better days and had numerous problems. Still, it kept my cabin warm for nine seasons. 

During that time, as the beech trees in my forest slowly died from beech bark disease, my brother Karl and I cut them and split them for firewood. It was fantastic to sit in my overstuffed easy chair four feet from the stove and feel comfortable on cold nights.

In the late fall of 2010, I decided not to cross the Big Mac bridge and to instead stay the entire winter at my cabin. However, I needed a new woodstove and a lot more firewood. So I researched stoves and decided on an Avalon Arbor cast-iron model with a big firebox and glass doors. We stressed and strained, but Karl and I successfully installed all 300 pounds of it. 

Next came the firewood. I figured with 30 face cords of wood and a new, efficient stove, I could make it through to May. 

My brother and I cut and stacked the wood, and I planned to split the logs as I needed them. I calculated I would use about 100 pounds per day. Each morning, I would shovel the snowy paths to the woodpile and outhouse, eat breakfast, then split the next 24-hour supply of firewood with a sledgehammer and steel wedges.  

It sounds like a lot of work, but the stove was a dream to use and enjoy while listening to music—CDs and the radio—and while reading or writing stories.

Two moves later, I am back in the Lower Peninsula and a “troll” once more. I had to leave my woodstove buddy behind and am without one again. I hope to remedy that soon, so that when the next power outage happens, I will not be shivering in a sleeping bag with my black Lab, Lila—and waiting to hear the furnace groan back to life.

Keep warm!

A children’s author, Ron Schmidt lives in the north woods with his leader dog, Lila. He enjoys long walks, listening to birds and music, and reading next to a wood-fired stove.

A version of this article first published in January 2022 in the Freshwater Reporter, a newspaper based in Manistee and Mason counties.

Featured Photo Caption: Lincoln family wood-fired stove in the kitchen of the Springfield Lincoln home, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Daniel Schwen/Creative Commons.

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