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December 28, 2008 Snapshot: Forno win ikshudn

Note: I promise, I'll write lots of stuff about my awesome Christmas and pre- and post-Christmas activities. But I wanted to throw this up in real time, while I sit in the home of a friend with a high-speed internet connection.

I'm in the home of a friend who has a woodburning stove, instead of a butane-powered stove like mine. In Tam, that's a forno win ikshudn, in contrast to my forno win butagaz. (Forno = furnace or stove). Her stove is a cylinder, about 15 inches in diameter and probably 2 feet tall. It looks a bit like a small trashcan, but there's a rectangular door in the base, about five inches tall and 8 inches wide, through which you can place wood and remove ash. The lid is also removeable, and has an inset circle which can be removed without taking off the rest of the lid; this handy feature enables you to set a teapot on top of the stove and heat directly from the fire.

She's lying on the floor, her feet in the air and her hands picking at a pile of wood fragments gathered from last night's kindling extravaganza (ie when her husband spent half an hour bashing tree segments into pieces that could fit into their small stove). In her mouth is the cylinder from a used-up pen, which she uses to channel her breath into the coals, producing sounds like a blacksmith's forge.

The process started with the search for coals left over from last night's fire. Most of the ashes were brushed out, but the few that flared red when blown on were left inside the stove (or, in a few cases, picked out of the ash pile and set back inside.)

Once she'd assembled all the viable coals, she blew on them through the pen tube. She slowly and systematically added the wood shards in a pyramid pattern around the coal pile, alternating between reaching into the stove and blowing on the coals. The narrow chimney is having trouble drawing, so every time she blows in, smoke comes billowing back into the room.

After half an hour, the fire is rolling along strongly enough that she dares to put in bigger chunks of wood - the only survivors after last night's hours of warmth consumed nearly all the wood her husband had prepared.

As much as I love the smell of woodsmoke, I find myself grateful that I chose to go with the buta heater. The hardest part of lighting that is pressing the spark-button repeatedly, and it usually only takes three pushes before giving me a 18" by 24" sheet of flame. It doesn't smell as nice, but insta-fire has some major perks in our mountain homes...

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