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Diana Kuyper: Hauling ash takes some heat

Columnist DianKuyper

Columnist Diana Kuyper

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Updated: May 30, 2011 12:25AM

I have a love-hate relationship with cleaning. I hate to do it, but I love the way it looks (and smells!) afterward.

The most onerous chore I have every spring is cleaning up the results of our fall-through-winter-to-spring use of our wood burner. It is a workhorse, because although we have a conventional furnace (gas hot water heat) we mostly rely on the wood burner. We live in a timber frame with an open floor plan and a big loft, so a wood burner is an efficient way to heat.

The wood burner is not a stove. We do not cook on it; we load it with wood many times daily and simply let it radiate indescribable warmth. It’s even better than a hot bath to warm up your core after coming in from the cold and damp.

But around or about April l, I look at this black behemoth and want to simply chuck it out the door. There is no doubt it keeps our heating bills low, but it is messy beyond your typical cobwebs-in-a-corner or dust bunnies-under-the-bed.

During wood burning months my vacuum cleaner is my best friend. I use it almost daily, sucking up the fine-grained grit that gets on every surface, even if I haven’t cleaned out the wood burner recently.

Yes, I did say I clean it out. My husband provides us with a well-stocked wood pile all winter long; the least I can do is scoop out ashes from time to time.

It is way past April 1. We are fast approaching May 1 and burning wood is making me a bit crazy — so much so I am wearing multiple layers and my warmest fleece shirt today just because I don’t want to fire up the wood burner. This is the latest date we have ever needed to supplement our furnace, my husband informed me this morning.

I am hopeful that soon we can cart that wood box out to the garage and I can start spring cleaning, beginning with the wood burner. My annual chore includes scooping out copious amounts of built-up ashes, removing the interior parts of the wood burner, giving everything a good scrubbing, putting it back together and applying a fresh coat of coal-black spray paint for high-temperature metal surfaces.

Only then can I sit back and admire our shiny clean workhorse until we start burning wood again (I hope not before late September) and the perpetual mess starts all over again.

Diana Kuyper’s column appears Fridays. You can e-mail her at

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