How to build a proper fire (or a startup)

For you city folks out there struggling with our “unusually cold” Atlanta weather, today I have two simple lessons. The first is this: put on a coat, gloves, appropriate footwear, a hat, and a scarf. You’ll be fine. In other words, dress appropriately. It really isn’t that cold. Ask anyone from Chicago, Buffalo, or Fargo.  The second is less sarcastic and more useful: how to properly build a fire in a fire place.

Follow these steps, and you’ll have a great fire every time.

  1. Clear out most of the ashes under your grate or andirons. Don’t have either? Well, if you have a fireplace, you should. A decent grate is cheap at Home Depot. You’ll be glad you did. But if not, no worries, just build on top of 2 logs placed perpendicular to the back wall of your fireplace.
  2. Stuff a bunch of newspaper under the grate. No, don’t just shove it under there! Take it one double-foldout at a time, punch your hand into the middle of it, and then twist it into a ball at one end and loose ends at the other. Shove it into the fireplace with the ‘ball’ end first, so the loose ends stick out at you so you can light them later.  FILL the underside of the grate with these twisted up pages of newspaper. Yes, other paper will do, but newspaper is best, simply because it’s the most useless thing in the world.
  3. On top of your grate, put one piece of Georgia southern pine fat wood. You can get that at any country store, or pay 3x for it at Home Depot. Again, you’ll be glad you did. Only one piece now. Don’t get greedy.
  4. On top of the fat wood, put your bundle of kindling. What? You don’t have any bundles of kindling? What have you been doing all summer and fall? Acting like the grasshopper is what. Now you’re paying for that sloth aren’t you?  So, go back in time, get out in your yard, and pick up as much kindling as you can find. For you uber city folk, kindling is sticks and twigs with a smaller diameter than your thumb. You should be able to grab a full bundle with one hand and hold it together fairly easily. Again, don’t get greedy here. Each bundle should be tied with good old twine to hold it in the shape of, you know, a bundle. Now return to present day, and see that you have 10-15 of these bundles next to your woodpile. Seriously? No wood pile? What the…? Never mind. It’s going to get cold. That’s why they call it “winter”, so you’ll need to have some wood in the garage, on the porch, under the porch…wherever. Try to keep it dry.
  5. Now, on top of that ONE bundle of kindling, place 3-5 sticks. A stick is between a kindling and a log. You can hold a stick in one hand, comfortably, like a weapon if necessary, and a stick is about 1-2″ in diameter.
  6. On top of your sticks, place 2 medium sized split logs. Split logs are drier and catch fire better and faster than un-split logs. Use split wood. You city folk will buy these at Home Depot, or, worse, at the convenience store, for about a buck a log.
  7. Now you should have, from the bottom to the top
    1. a little bit of ashes
    2. lots of twisted up newspapers
    3. 1 stick of fat wood
    4. 1 bundle of kindling (with twine!)
    5. 3-5 sticks
    6. two split logs
  8. Light every little loose end of newspaper you can see sticking out from under the grate. Use matches, or one of those fancy stick lighters, if you must.
  9. Once these are lit and starting to burn up under the grate, blow low and slow on those flames.  If you city folk have to have bellows, I suppose you could use them at this point, but please don’t just open-shut-open-shut real fast, or you’ll blow the flames out and blow ashes all over yourself. Low and slow. Low and slow.
  10. Step back, close the mesh screen curtains or put the screen in front of the fire, and enjoy.  You’ll need another 2-3 logs, split or un-split doesn’t matter now, to make this fire last about an hour with flames. The embers will glow for 2-3 hours after the flames go out.
  11. When you do add a log, don’t just throw it in there. Carefully place it on the back of the fire, close to the back fireplace wall. That’s where the airflow goes, and that’s where the new log will burn the best.

That’s how to build a fire.  The work starts in the spring, months earlier than when you actually reap the rewards of heat and romantic flames.  Same with a startup, which requires knowledge, preparation, the proper tools and location, and the proper technique.  Now go build yourself a fire, and dream up a good idea for a new business.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve.

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