Monthly Archives: January 2014

Product Review: The Best Smart Ash Shovel

Smart Ash Shovel

If you’re new around here you might not know I have a wood burning stove. If you’re not new, you know ALL about it and quite frankly I’m surprised you’re still here.

I do tend to go on about my wood stove, cutting and chopping wood and all that goes with it. If you are still here odds are you get it. You get my passion for the wood stove, splitting axes, chainsaws, boots, gloves, sweat and effort.

My good friend John Paul gets it. He’s been heating his home with a single, wood burning, soapstone stove for well over ten years now. A few years ago for Christmas we gave him a firehawk, a handy poker-blower combo that makes reviving a smoldering fire a great joy. I’ll post a review of that tool later, for now I want to talk about the tool he gave me this year, aptly named The Best Smart Ash Shovel.

Simply put, The Best Smart Ash Shovel is a fireplace shovel with a hinged wire grate over it that allows you to remove spent ash from your fireplace or stove without removing the coals. I cannot express how amazingly awesome this is.

If you have a stove you know that the coals are a prime commodity. That’s heat. Coals are just little chunks of wood, scorched to charcoal hardness that’s on fire. Coals are what you want in a wood burning stove. In fact the whole wood burning process is just a vehicle to get coals.

In wood burning parlance, coals are the shit.

There’s so much heat to be gleaned from those glowing embers. The problem comes when the ash (wood that has been burnt to the point it won’t burn no more) has built up to such a point that it’s affecting airflow and threatening to smother those oh so essential coals.

Historically I’ve put off cleaning out the stove until I just can’t put it off any more. Usually I wait to scoop the ash until the air intake is threatening to clog and the space for new wood is limited. I try my best to rake all the hot coals to one side, remove the ash on that side and then rake them over to the other side so I can get the ash that’s left. Invariably, I end up removing more coals than I want.

It’s just a mess, because now, not only have I robbed my stove of precious heat, but I have these chunks of fiery hotness sitting in my bucket of ash. It’s neither safe nor practical to let this sit on the hearth, so now I have to take it outside and let it cool before it can be dumped onto the compost heap. Normally that wouldn’t be such a big deal but for fire safety’s sake I have put it away from the house, but I have these two ginormous German Shepherds and the odds of those ash buckets are not knocked over and scattered are pretty much nil.

With The Best Smart Ash Shovel I don’t have to worry. The wire “cover” only allows the fine ash to sift through to the shovel and with a quick shake the coals are knocked aside and back into the stove. Each morning I give the stove four or five scoops and I maintain a very efficient stove the rest of the day.

There’s a demo video on the website. In it the owner/inventor shows how you can using the natural draft of the fireplace to draw the fine ash dust that often wafts up when you dump the contents of your shovel. It basically gets sucked back into the stove and cuts down on the amount of dust that tends to settle in your home.

This is basic ingenuity at its finest. A guy with a problem, solves that problem and then takes his invention to market. If nothing else buying a Best Smart Ash Shovel supports and revives what was once great about this world.


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Emerson’s Acre Revisited

So, now that 2013 is finally in the bag I can let out a sigh of relief and exclaim, “Finally!”

Only, I still have reservations. Like any good 21st Century psuedo-intellectual I like to pick and choose my cultural traditions and develop a well rounded sense of how the world really works based on the various explanations that appeal most to — well, me.

chinese zodiacThat said, one of those cultural traditions/explanations of the world I like is the Chinese zodiac and for no other reason than it makes sense to me and helps me wrap my tender brain around the events of my life in a way I can understand better.

Whether any of this is real or not is irrelevant. It’s a tool that works for me and provides a perspective for my understanding.

The Chinese zodiac is based on the traditional Chinese calendar, which is lunar. That means that the Chinese New Year doesn’t show up until January 31st this year. So, I’m kind of in a New Year’s limbo right now, which as I see it is a pretty good place to be. I get a full month to transition. I can mull over the past year at my leisure, savor its lessons, grieve its losses and celebrate the victories. I can use this month to make sure I get everything from 2013 right, or at least as right as I can get it, before launching into 2014.

Let’s be clear, 2013 was not an easy year. It wasn’t my worst year, but it was tough and consistently so. Hardship and difficulty compounded upon hardship and difficulty to create a year that at times felt like Chinese water torture.

In terms of the Chinese zodiac 2013 is the Year of the Snake. I was born in 1971, the year of the Pig and if you know any thing about pigs and snakes you know they don’t get along. On the farm pigs are known for eating snakes, this year however has been the reverse, except…

As the year is coming to a close I’m starting to see some of the positives. Snakes are known for shedding their skins, in essence, renewing themselves each time. I’ve gone through not a few changes this past year, culminating in what I see as a grand shedding of old skin.

I’ve addressed some creeping health issues, re-oriented my training and my business, in some ways I’ve come back to ideas I held in the past and in others I’ve come to a whole new level of understanding.

One of the big changes has to do with this, Emerson’s Acre.

Despite the lack of blogging I have been working steadily at the house, mostly cutting firewood, but I built a new compost bin and launched a serious effort to accumulate and compost as many of the fall’s leaves as I could get my hands on. I also managed to clear the last of the privet and wisteria from Harriet and Honey’s back area.

Over the next few months I plan on renting a chipper/shredder to render all the brush I’ve cut into mulch and then follow up with a controlled burn to kill off as much of the poke and other weeds that threaten to take that area over come spring. There’s also much that needs to be done to the house.

Our Christmas gift to ourselves this year was a new bath tub and tile surround. I spent New Year’s Day painting the walls and ceiling and hope to get to the door and trim work this weekend.

Of course with the New Year in bloom I’ve been re-inspired to cultivate this blog, but this time with a different understanding than I had before.

It started as an offhanded conversation right before the holidays with my friend and fellow Alabama Waldorf School parent, Clay Leonard. We were talking about cutting firewood and how much joy and pleasure we got out of it when he said,

“You know, when I was younger I was always in a hurry to be done. Every job was just about getting to the end, to finish. But you know, I came to realize, you never are done. There’s always more to do and all this rushing to get finished is just a bunch of anxiety over something you’ll never really achieve.”

Of course I agreed with him, but it wasn’t until sometime later that this idea really took root and I could see how much of my time was spent rushing to finish this or the other thing. It had gotten to where that welling sense of urgency was becoming a constant companion and I became certain that it was doing me no good.

So this year my goal is to do as much as I can without feeling like I’m doing anything. Urgency and stress and anxiety are what I’m seeking to avoid. There’s much I want to do this year, the house needs painting, inside and out, the crawl space needs to be sealed, I need to run a vent over the stove in the kitchen, and there’s still much left to be done with Honey and Harriet’s area, not to mention I’m determined to have a good garden this year.


I’m going to approach each thing in it’s own time. 2014 is the Year of the Horse, but for me this year is a draft horse, strong steady, unhurried, getting work done. I’ll leave the thoroughbreds to someone else.


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