Firestarters

It has been SO windy lately.  Cold and windy.  Welcome to February in the Colorado mountains.  This is very typical weather this time of year.  It has been warmer than it was in January though.  Even with the windchill its only 9 degrees, which is much warmer than it was a few weeks ago.

Today was a productive day.  We spent the morning making dairy products.  We made mozzarella, cottage cheese, and sour cream.  With all the fresh milk, I usually make dairy products 2 days a week, on Mondays and Fridays.  We didn’t get to the yogurt today, so I’ll be making that tomorrow.

After we finished all the dairy products, I wasn’t sure what we were going to spend the afternoon doing; there were several options of things that needed to get done.  As I was adding wood to the fire I noted that we were running very low on firestarters and since the ground is currently dry I decided we’d better make some.  It could snow next week and not melt off again for a month or more and we wouldn’t have the chance to make them again.

We heat our house with wood using two wood stoves in different rooms.  We have a propane furnace, but with the high propane prices, and the size and draftiness of the house, we are trying really hard to rely on the propane only for the water heater and to heat the bedrooms at night.  We have access to a lot of free wood from downed trees and dead standing trees on our own property and our friend’s and family’s properties.  So besides the work to chop and stack it, which we enjoy doing as a family, it is a very inexpensive heat source for us.

We can use newspaper and such to start the fires, but I really like having firestarters handy because they work so much better and quicker than newspaper (and are way more inexpensive than things I can buy at the store to help start the fire faster).  And when I am starting two wood stoves at least once a day (usually twice because we let them go out in the middle of the day when the sun is heating the rooms through the windows) it comes in very handy to have a quick way to start the fire.  Here is what a firestarter is:

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It is a pinecone, in wax, in a cupcake liner, with a wick.

I sent the older two kids out to collect the pinecones (there are zillions all over our property) while the younger two and I got to work inside.

Here’s what it takes to make them: pinecones, cupcake liners, wax, wicks, old muffin tins, a double boiler, and some sort of scoop for the wax.  I get our wax and wicks for free by going to the local Catholic Church and asking them for their used candles.  They have TONS of them and they are just going to waste.  When I melt them down I use a stick to pull out the wicks and cut them to the lengths I need.  I make the firestarters for only the cost of the cupcake liners (which I buy 50% off throughout the year right after holidays).  So they are practically free.

We melted down the candles in the double boiler and the kids lined the cupcake tins with the paper liners.  It works best to double line the tins and then peel off the outer liner and re-use it.

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Tins ready for wax.

When the wax was ready I used my old 1/4 measuring cup that is set aside for wax only and scooped wax into the cups, about half full.  The kids stuck in a wick and a pinecone and we left them to cool.100_5350The most time-consuming part is waiting for them to cool.  But I put them in our mud room, which is chilly, and it speeds them up.  Besides the waiting, it is a very quick process.  We were able to do a whole tub of them in a couple of hours this afternoon with a lot of other things accomplished during the waiting.

To use them I just stack up the wood in a log cabin or teepee style in the wood stove and put the firestarter under it and light it.  I close the door but open the vent to get air to it and  I can walk away (to go start the other wood stove) and come back in five minutes and 99.9% of the time the fire is fully burning (and then go back to the other one and it is burning).  So easy!

It feels great to have all the dairy products in the fridge and all the firestarters by the wood stoves!

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