Keeping the home fires burning
Keeping the home fires burning


Growing up in rural North Carolina, fireplaces and woodstoves were commonplace, and still the smell of burning wood spilling forth from a chimney still conjures all sorts of memories.

But before there was the fire, there was the gathering of the wood.  I owe many layers of adolescent muscle to chopping wood, shirtless and sweaty, in the humid Carolina summers.  I also owe a healthy sailor’s vocabulary to it, too. As satisfying as it is to quarter an oak log and stack it beautifully, it’s equally frustrating to get a knotty stump that refuses to split despite repeated whacks and expletives  (#[email protected]$#!!!)

Wood beautifully stacked
Wood beautifully stacked

There are a half-dozen cords of wood stacked on the north side of the barn, but we keep a small stand near the side entrance to the house for those mad wintery dashes.

The fireplace in the kitchen of the farm has a beautiful cooper hood, and last week while having a dinner of hearty rabbit stew, flames started raining down from the hood in a wondrous copper waterfall.  Over the years, creosote had built up on the undersurface of the hood and had caught on fire.  Luckily, we were there and able to get the situation under control quickly, but we knew it was time to call in the chimney sweep.

All seven chimneys of the house have been cleaned now by the local chimney sweep at a budget-breaking cost of $993… and they didn’t dance, or even so much as hum Chim- Chim Cheree. I was very disappointed. Fun help is so hard to find these days.

The living room fireplace now ready for action.
The living room fireplace now ready for action.

“TO” TRAIN REPORT: (Each week I’ll give a quick status recap of the train trip to and from The Beekman)

On time.
But now that we are no longer officially saving daylight, most of the ride is in pitch darkness.  For some reason this seems to make people more quiet.


When we got up at 6:30 on Saturday morning, Farmer John was already in the field, gathering fresh-cut clover to feed to the goats.  From the upstairs window, I could tell that he had on many layers of clothing underneath his trademark school-bus yellow jacket.

Perhaps inspired by the thoughts of farmers who never really get a day off of work, I hurriedly dressed and headed outside.  I had promised myself that I would get started on organizing the garage.  I contemplated it all summer, but, as you know, there are many things to occupy your time on a farm in the summer, so it never got done.

We use many of Fiskars' products on the farm

All of the pruning equipment now neatly displayed.  As you can see, we are big fans of Fiskars products.

Even the garden shed can be tidy

All of the gardening equipment (and our store of winter squash) is now neatly stacked on shelves built expertly by the irreplaceable Handyman Dan.

Well-used tools, easy to find

Forget stockings, nothing pleases me more than hanging the shovels with care (and knowing exactly where to find them)

The weekend turned out to gray and gloomy, which made it more difficult to practice the art of “seasonal living”—which we loosely define as appreciating what every season has to offer whether it fits into a stereotypical definition of beauty and abundance or not.  Once I caught myself thinking that it was a particularly ugly time of year, I decided to pick up the camera and “snap” out of it.

Winter berries
Winter berries

These berries will stay on the tree throughout winter.  They look beautiful in the snow.


I do believe that this bush in front of the barn looks prettier now than it did during the summer.


The last remaining color in the formal flower garden


The cabbages in the vegetable garden are still delicious.

Burning Bush
Burning Bush

The last remaining embers of the row of burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) that line the driveway leading to Farmer John’s cottage.

So, you see, there is beauty all around us even when things seem their dreariest.  We just have to look a little harder for it.

If you are feeling a bit bleak this week, take out the camera and go on a beauty hunt for yourself.  Share the results with the rest of us.


On time
Assembling this week’s HowToo blog made me think of sugar and spice and everything nice.  I was starving by the time we got home.

by Dr. Brent

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Your burning bush berries are lovely. I envy you. I planted 2 of them 4 years ago and they are now smaller than when I planted them, thanks to the appetites of our many neighborhood deer. They make short work of most of my plantings. Don't you have any deer in your area?