Skip to content

Morning Ritual

November 15, 2015

Mornings now consist of starting the fire in the cookstove.  We let the fires go cold at night. It’s not cold here in the maritime west, but there’s a chill in the air with our rainy weather, if you’re cold, you’re cold.  A fire feels good, it’s as plain as that.  There is a certain comfort in building a fire in a stove that also burned the wood in the photo below showing my dad and my big brother.  The sights, smells, and sounds of building the fire each day in the cookstove that has been a fixture, appliance? in the kitchen for so long evokes memories of these guys who have been gone from my life for far too long.

Douglas Fir cordwood – 1943ish

Each morning I grope the match safe on the wall with my left hand as I am rummaging around for kindling in the woodbox.  I wish I could say it was one smooth movement but it’s not.  Invariably I will have throughout the day brought more kitchen wood from the basement as I tended that fire, and the kindling is at the bottom now. Never waste a trip from the basement without carrying something, Right? Already I have moved the stove lids, and crumpled up a few pieces of newspaper.  Next I add a triad of kindling, some wood a little bigger and I strike the match.  I’d like to think the memories swirling all dreamlike in my mind are something really dreamlike, but truth be told, it’s probably because I want the water to boil so I can make some stump water.  The dreamlike state disappears quickly as I look at the dishes in the sink.  The reality is that I need to clear the deck, because it’s soon time to head to the barn and milk.

My brother and Hangdog

My brother and Hangdog

As soon as the fire takes hold I close the damper, scoot the teakettle onto its place of honor on the hottest part of the cast iron top and I concentrate on feeding the dogs and getting them out of my hair.  This is my only quiet time really, and once the dogs are sated and let out to go do their business I can relax a little with a pot of coffee.  Just me and the French Press.  I ignore the dishes a little longer and peruse the blogs and websites I usually read each morning.  Some are new to me, some are like old friends that I have been reading since I started reading blogs which was way before I ever thought of blogging myself.  I consciously make myself check them instead of having them in my feed.   That sure cuts down on my internet time. I would rather let my mind drift into mind stories about here.  The cookstove does that to you in the dark of morning, it transports you for a minute or two all the while demanding your caffeine starved brain. I may think of that time visiting my brother and boyfriend on a logging job and taking photos of them pondering the drum on the TD-8, then that mind story quickly goes to photographing wild ginger blooms that day, then the fire cracks, brings me back to now, I touch the stovepipe to see how hot it is and close the oven damper to direct the heat to the stove.  It’s raining hard, the chimney doesn’t draw effortlessly, it’ll be an open draft kind of day.

The stove is crackling a bit, and the rain is pounding, yesterday’s storm never materialized until now.  The reminiscing moment is gone, in present time now I think of doing all the chores in the rain, and once again I have to circle back to the stove and think about it, the workhorse, in a couple of hours some wrung out flannel gloves will be the scent in the air mingled with the beef stock that is on the back of the stove, and the jerky drying in the warming oven.  The work of  cows, wood, water all mingled over time and part of the collective memories.  Just work, nothing exceptional except the roteness of it all.  It all circles back to the stove somehow.  Taskmaster. Comforting.


36 Comments leave one →
  1. deb permalink
    November 15, 2015 6:01 am

    Lovely words. The comforting rituals of a life well lived. I can smell the woodsmoke.
    And I am keeping yesterdays post on training a dairy calf…invaluable. first calf fell through, but have a contact for what may be an even better little gal… or at least better fed and managed so far, and that is a big thing

    • November 15, 2015 6:32 am

      Deb, thanks. Yes, that feeding and managing is a good thing. Fingers crossed the right girl will come along for you.

  2. November 15, 2015 6:34 am

    This is one of my favorite posts from you ever. I can see it all in my mind’s eye. I would say “you should write a book”, but I’m quite sure you wouldn’t have the time in your busy days!

  3. scott permalink
    November 15, 2015 6:41 am

    MOH- wondering what blogs are on your regular list…..yours is on mine….thnks

    • November 15, 2015 10:19 am

      Scott, let’s see, it waxes and wanes depending on if the blog authors are in the writing mood…Northview Diary,Chiot’s Run, Chism Heritage Farm, Le Petit Canard, Sailors Small Farm, Ebey Farm, Down to Earth, Jefferson’s Daughters, and many others if I remember them, not to mention some weekly posters, and Instagram feeds.

      • Bee permalink
        November 15, 2015 5:57 pm

        Thanks, Nita, I’m honored to be on your list!

        • November 16, 2015 10:21 am

          I tried to leave you a comment on your latest post, and got an error message? I’ve been debating doing a post about that myself, Cowspiracy has me grumbling to myself almost every day. Not sure if I want to open up that can of worms or not 🙂

  4. Eric F permalink
    November 15, 2015 8:21 am

    I share your comforting memories around the wood stove. It just feels like home!

  5. Ben permalink
    November 15, 2015 11:09 am

    Beautiful. We’re just starting these memories at this place.

  6. elaine permalink
    November 15, 2015 11:30 am

    Beautiful! Mornings with coffee around the wood stove is just… magic.

  7. November 15, 2015 5:48 pm

    That story made me close my eyes and try to think what it would be like to live like that. I was expecting more…….then it ended. Now we need another one.

  8. thecrazysheeplady permalink
    November 16, 2015 4:55 am


  9. VaGirl2 permalink
    November 16, 2015 7:21 am

    I loved this post. I could imagine myself in the kitchen listening to the stove crack and pop, the rain on the roof and the smell of coffee. Perfect.

  10. November 16, 2015 7:59 am

    I’m sitting here in western Washingnton staring at my own pile of wood, mustering the energy to light my wood stove. The call of coffee is strong so here I go! What a beautiful post, thank you so much for a wonderful morning read.

  11. November 16, 2015 8:19 am

    Beautifully written – felt like I was there. Love the pic of your father and brother – that is a pretty big Doug. Sure makes our trees look like babies – and they are over 100′ tall!

    • November 16, 2015 8:38 am

      LFF, I know, my dad passed almost 50 years ago, and I remember my brother saying many years later he would not believe the wood we were currently burning, second growth fir. The limbs on the big ones were/are as big as trees.

  12. November 17, 2015 5:04 am

    I need to get back to my morning “ritual” of writing down the ambling thoughts in my brain on my blog. I have been so lax with it, but I must have 20 blog posts bumbling about in there, all clashing into one another. Trouble is, I am so busy, I never take my camera out. What is a blog post without a good photo, or two?

    We are burning the outside boiler as well. Days right now are a lush and delightful 50-60 degrees. Nights a bitter 30 or below. Getting up requires one to quickly bolt into jeans and sweatshirts etc and then race for the coffee pot!

    • November 17, 2015 6:00 am

      You should! You have a little one underfoot though. Hugs to Peggy!!!

    • November 17, 2015 6:53 am

      Actually working on one right now. We bashed some pumpkins up, spread some seeds, and brought some in to dry, hoping they are “pure” so we can grow some big big ones to sell next year.

  13. November 17, 2015 8:19 am

    I loved this post! You are blessed to have such a heritage.

  14. November 18, 2015 7:42 am

    I’ve always enjoyed your posts MOH, but this one was very up close and personal. Your morning is being “lived” again by each person who reads this. That is very powerful. Thank you for sharing your “quiet morning time” with us.

  15. November 22, 2015 9:50 am

    MOH, As a long-time reader of your blog, I know that you are searching for Guensey heifer. Missouri is probably too far away, but I saw this ad on our local classified site today and immediately thought of you. A 2yo Guernsey heifer bred just bred to a Guernsey bull for $1500. Not sure if you are up for a road trip, but I wanted you to see it. If I didn’t already have a field full of dairy cows, I would have probably considered her for myself.

    • November 22, 2015 10:58 am

      Groan, sadly it is too far 😦 She is sure pretty though. I’m crossing my fingers I can still breed Jane…which would make the most sense, and I have a couple of leads on possible babies in the future. Or a sex-change operation for Raylan 😉

  16. mtnmedx permalink
    November 27, 2015 2:10 pm

    MOH- (sorry I’m having trouble with responding on instagram. I’m sure it’s user error 😯) When you share milking with the calf, do you allow the calf on first or last? That might sound like a silly question but our cow is new to us and I’m not sure how much milk she will give just after calving. So do I milk her first then let the calf nurse? Or letter calf fill up then milk her out?

    • November 27, 2015 4:26 pm

      No problem, it’s easier on here anyway, typing is much faster, at least for me :p I let the calf milk last, I am reluctant to let the calf nurse first just because of letdown issues with many cows. They hold up for their calves, so if I train the cow to letdown for me, it’s a lot easier going. You would not believe how much they can hold up that milk. So it depends on what your cow is used to. It’s also hard to pull off a big calf that is drinking, they’re cute and weak at first, but they grow rapidly and are strong and stubborn pretty fast, if the milk bar is almost empty you have a better chance of taking the calf away each milking. I always check for any milk though the calf might leave…I have to put on iodine and balm so checking to make sure the calf is thorough is pretty easy.

      • mtnmedx permalink
        November 28, 2015 3:28 pm

        Hmmm. How do you know the calf gets enough before the milk bar is empty?

        • November 28, 2015 4:31 pm

          mtnmedx, I guess by eye, when they are little they get full pretty fast, and you can always leave more than you think they can drink and finish for them.

  17. November 30, 2015 6:20 am

    I have many scars on my arm from 3am woodstove feedings… it was a hard life but I was a lot more healthy because of it.

  18. November 30, 2015 5:58 pm

    Oh I’m certainly hearing you. The kitchen is the heart of our home and the wood stove is the soul. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: