The wood ash, oh, the never-ending wood ash. It finds its way everywhere, eventually. When we moved into this one-room 1800s home, we did not anticipate all that heating our home solely with wood would entail.
We knew the fire would go cold if we did not tend to it in the middle of the night (and oh, has it gone cold). We knew we’d need to haul in wood at unfavorable hours. We knew suitable kindling — wood scraps, newspapers — would need to be on hand.
Despite any inconvenient truths about using wood heat, we were most grateful to have the grand privilege of a heated home in the first place. We knew our wood stove would keep us thoroughly warm through the harsh winters of our Vermont locale, and for that reason may we never balk.
What we did not and could not anticipate was the wood ash dust, the incredibly dry air, and what the heat would do to our house plants (R.I.P, most of our house plants). There is precious little space in our home, which has in effect forced the best tools to shine. For the sake of full disclosure, I will define “best” as simple, capable, and handsome. Here’s a list of what has truly paid for itself through use over and over again. May you find your home warm and clean through this coming fall, winter and many seasons to come.
I. Corn Broom
For proven function and timeless beauty, there is really nothing like a corn broom. Our one-room home has hardwood floors and is layered with rugs. It sweeps a rug as well as it does hardwood. We have no room for an electric vacuum so our broom is doubly useful.
II. Wool Wedge Mop
Believe it or not, the synthetic rainbow duster we all know and love felt a little too loud in our house. I was seeking something natural looking that could genuinely pick up dust, not just send it scattered into the air to resettle ten minutes later. This workhorse—err, worksheep?—is worth its weight in gold around here. It collects all the wood ash dust. I am partial to a wool mop for its durability, and because it gives me another reason to thank sheep for all they do for us with their wool!
III. An Enamelware Pot (or Stove Steamer)
Wood heat is dry heat. So dry, in fact, that it can wither an otherwise healthy house plant in two days’ time and have you waking up in the middle of the night needing a tall drink of water. We started keeping a small cast iron kettle filled with water atop the stove to humidify the air, but found it evaporated in less than an hour! It was handsome, but not capable (see criteria for ‘best” tools above). For a home with occasional fires and not week-long fires, a small kettle might do the trick. In a moment of desperation for a slightly-less-than-bone-dry home, I plopped down a big enamelware pot full to the brim with water, and voila! Problem solved. It evaporates over the course of the whole day. All this to say, dry is dry. In addition to the water pot, we have adapted with the help of a good hand balm and afternoon pots of coffee.
IV. Heat-Powered Woodstove Fan
This is one of those things that came into our lives unexpectedly, but now feels inextricable to our setup. Our brother-in-law gifted my husband and I one of these, and quite the gift it was. They cost a pretty penny, but considering we burn noticeably less wood because heat is distributed throughout the entire home (rather than centrally around the woodstove), it’s an economic choice in the end. This tool matters. A major benefit of the fan, beyond its foremost purpose: the speed of the fan blades indicate how hot (or not hot!) the stove is burning.