Perhaps the most-loved improvement we’ve made to our 1931 house is installing a super efficient wood stove insert for the original fireplace. The heat-radiating ceramic glass door allows us to enjoy the beauty of the fire, and we have a screen if we want to open the door and get more snap, crackle and pop atmosphere. But we rarely do that, because the stove kicks into high gear with the door closed, and the blower circulates warm air around the house, helping us lower the cost of heating our home.
But more importantly, the wood stove insert has made our hearth a gathering place for everyone in the family. Wood burning fireplaces tend to be used more on special occasions, but our wood stove insert inspires us to keep it going all the time, and you can always find people and animals vying for their position in the warmest spot–until they get warmed through and have to move. The hearth gives our home a heart, a center that draws us to each other while in turn encouraging us to enjoy our solitary time.
When Patrick, our middle son, had to bake bread for a college biology project–and write a paper about the chemical and physical changes that occurred–he brought the dough, and later the loaves, to rise in front of the fire.
Our new dog, Bella, the black lab/greyhound mix we adopted from Lake Country SPCA this summer, understood immediately how to join our old golden retriever, Sunshine, in doing classic retriever duty of lying in front of the fire.
Rick tells me the fireplace insert paid for itself in one season. He’s a factory manager and calculates costs and productivity and value as naturally as I write and talk. But he’d agree with me that the economic positives of the fireplace insert have turned out to be the side benefit. The primary benefit is the fireside’s creation of our family gathering place, for telling stories, playing guitars, and enjoying our cups of tea together.
In summer, water draws us to the river. In winter, fire draws us to the hearth.