by Rick Vuyst
The stockings are hung by the chimney with care and let’s hope that soon St. Nicholas will be there! If he doesn’t show, the hearth is still a much-loved gathering place on chilly holiday nights. For many, the aroma of a fire on a cold winter evening carries a special, contended feeling and evokes warm memories. For some it’s the evergreen goodness of pine logs in the fire or the strong, smoky crackling of seasoned oak, the root beer aroma of birch or the sweet smelling smoke of fruitwoods such as cherry or apple. Aside from the obvious benefit of warmth, many people have fond memories of hearth and home and the scent of a roaring fire.
Wood used in a fire should be seasoned and dried. Well-seasoned wood will appear grayish on the outside and light colored when split on the inside. It should weigh less than a new piece of wood of the same species. Only bring as much as you need indoors at one time in case you awaken some bugs in a midwinter nap. You can safely burn wood from ash trees that were affected by the emerald ash borer. However, be sure to only use wood from trees that were cut down in your area. Wood from ash trees should not be transferred to be burned, as this could result in the spreading of bugs. Additionally, remember oaks should only be cut or pruned during the dormant season and never in April to September due to oak wilt disease. The following woods are timeless favorites: Hickory, Cherry, Apple, Oak, Birch, Ash, Cedar, Elm, Pine and Sugar Maple.
People often wonder if firewood ash can be used in the garden. The answer is yes. Unlike green plants, ash does not carry nitrogen benefits; it does provide phosphorous, potassium, calcium, boron and other important elements, making it a useful amendment—in moderation— for the garden or compost pile. Be careful not to overdo it because the ashes could affect your soil’s pH levels.
While Jack Frost nips at our noses, here’s to roasting chestnuts on an open fire. May the sights, aroma and warmth of a crackling fire warm your heart with friends and family this holiday season!