The Heart in a Hearth

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.

Kevin, our oldest son, was home working on a paper for college recently, and found that using his laptop in front of the fire was the warmest way to work.

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.

As homeschoolers, we do math and read history and watch science videos on the couch by the fire, and Nick likes to read on the floor in front of the fire.

And of course, it’s a great place to take a nap.

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.

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5 Responses to The Heart in a Hearth

  1. You are making me feel warm and cozy.

  2. Michele says:

    Ah, how cozy! And beautifully written. I wish we could do the same.

    This is the first time I’ve seen your blog (saw the link posted on Facebook) and I’ve just spent some time reading previous posts, many of which made me smile and laugh. I’m so glad you are writing.

  3. Robin says:

    Nice write-up, Jeanne! That would make me want to come on over and hunker down in front of the hearth, BUT I saw your golden. And much as I love them…. they don’t love my nose. And you know how badly my nose goes into overdrive.
    We only have a fireplace where you can flip a switch. And I know that Cade and I are the only ones in the house who use it. Josh hates it because he says all that heat rises up to his room and sweats him out. (Maybe that’s a good thing, huh?) Everyone else just considers it a nice little frame on the wall. It’s pretty, but it doesn’t crackle and pop and it doesn’t have that warm, wafting smell that a real fireplace has.
    Next house!

  4. Oh dear, Robin, I do believe Sunshine would be sneeze-inducing for you! But the fire place is great. When we lived in Mississippi, we had the gas logs. They were behind glass, and when we first moved into the new house, I found myself peeling at the glass, thinking we should be able to remove it. Felt like such a rube to realize that the fireplace was designed with the fire to be behind the glass. Give me a real fireplace any day!

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