One of the other homesteading projects my husband and I have been working on is collecting kindling and other materials to make starting fires in the winter a snap. Collecting small branches and twigs is pretty impossible in the dead of winter, when everything is buried in snow.
At our family’s cabin, we have always filled 10-gallon buckets with sticks and twigs, which usually suffices, and everyone remembers to bring up newspaper when they go. This works, but only because we take very few trips up there in the winter. Since our wood stove will be our primary heat source at home, we can’t possibly store enough 10-gallon buckets. Buying those fire starting bricks from the store is always an option- but cost aside, what exactly is in those anyway?!
We decided to bundle twigs, smaller branches and newspaper together with twine for an easy fire-starting method: just pop the bundle in, light the paper, and add your logs! These were quick and easy to make, and a great use for all the dead trees we have cut down, and the fallen branches we have been clearing.
When making your bundles, it’s important to only use black ink newspaper (none of those color ink as inserts; they don’t burn well and the inks aren’t safe to burn indoors anyway) and dry, dead wood. Make sure you choose assortment of twig and branch sizes, from the very thin, easy burners, and up. Twist up a few sheets of newspaper and tuck them in among the branches, wrap with twine, and tie off! Easy. We are storing ours on a shelving wrack in the basement, right next to our wood pile.
The bricks utilize our latest “toy”, which my husband found online. I don’t know where he finds all these things (well, when he isn’t on Craig’s list anyway) but I love this new little tool.
It makes 4 bricks at a time, and is simple to use and clean. You only need water, newspaper (again, black ink only) and wood shavings. With all the tree work we have going on, my husband has been saving the shavings left behind by the chainsaw. They are the perfect size for our fire starting bricks! Here are our steps:
- Soak newspaper in water overnight
- Mix soaked newspaper mush with wood shavings; ours are approximately 2/3 paper, 1/3 wood shavings
- Put mixture into molds, packing on tightly; close and compress
- Let blocks drain overnight, then remove and place on a rack in the sun to dry completely.
- Store in a dry place until ready for use!
These blocks are great with our bundle to quickly get a fire going, and having them ready to go means less work when you get home and the fire has died down. I’ve made many fires with numb fingers, so I can attest that the faster I can get that fire roaring, the happier I am!
Does anyone else prepare quick fire starting materials for their winter fires? I would love to share tips and tricks!