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When I first contemplated buying the house (“The Ugg-Duck” as I’m starting to call it), I let the little old lady who owned it give me a tour. Sure, it needed some work, but according to her, it was “move-in ready” (in a deep, southern drawl). That hideous, stained linoleum in the kitchen “shines like you wouldn’t believe” (“shahns lahk yew wuddn’t beleeyve”) if you got down on your hands and knees long enough to scrub it. (By the way, so does the new kitchen floor, and it’s not 70s yellow).

I should probably mention here that during the tour, she was busy whipping up mounds of things made from butter and bacon. I should also probably mention that in my memory, the little old lady who made my house the mess it is today has been transformed into Paula Deen. The accent fits.

So, Paula Deen the little old lady was walking me through the house, strategically hiding all of the loose fingernails I would later find after moving in (for you new readers, read here for the story – make sure it’s after breakfast). When we came to the living room, we immediately began discussing the fireplace – or “farplace” as she called it.

She had never used it, she said, for the entire twenty years that she’d lived there. I suppose when you live in the south, you don’t often need to fire one up, but twenty years and never been used? How does such a thing happen?

So, me being the worrywart that I am, I got a friend of the family to inspect our “farplace” shortly after the closing took place in 2009. He checked the flue, checked the gas starter (it’s wood-burning but has a gas light to ignite the wood), and gave me what I was hoping for – the universal good sign of two thumbs up.

Despite getting the all-clear, our fireplace has been sitting unlit for over a year. Part from my fear of burning down the house, and part from not really needing it until these last few chilly nights (it’s Georgia, after all). But the biggest reason was because of the broken andirons that sat in the fireplace. Since it has a gas starter, the fireplace needs andirons to prop up the wood above it so as to not interfere or bump against the gas line. With a broken andiron, it made lighting a fire unsafe until we could find a replacement.

This Christmas, that’s just what we got… sort of. Instead of andirons that reside on the ends of the firewood, my parents gifted us a firebasket – an iron cradle that holds the pieces of wood above the entire gas setup. Now, even when the firewood begins to break apart, we’re safe from touching the gas line below it.

Maybe it’s just me and this isn’t really something to worry about, but I’ve never owned a house that I was scared of burning to the ground before. So even if that gas line is sturdy enough to sit dormant for twenty years and be A-OK the first time it’s lit, I felt much more comfortable with a new fire basket.

So, we finally did it. We lit a fire for the first time this week, and all went smoothly!
Just to take one more step in the protection department, I also threw a stick of soot-cleaner into the fire each day this week. If you haven’t seen these before,  these cardboard containers hold chemicals that help to clean up any soot or creosote build-up in your chimney. Plus, they make the fire burn in colors like green and blue, so it’s actually quite amusing if you’re having a drink on a cold day in your living room.

Using these cardboard tubes are good anytime you’ve left your chimney unused for a while, such as when lighting the first fire of the winter season. For the first few days, burn one with the first log you light each night. I plan on buying one more tube (they come in packs of 3) and using them sporadically for the next few months for some mid-season cleaning.
Doesn’t our farplace look cozy? I’m happy to report that we’ve been using it all week, and it’s made our cold evenings much warmer (I’ll explain the mess later). Have you used the cleaning tubes before? Got any fireplace tips?

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  1. They also have a chimney sweep log that we throw in every once in a while, because chimney guys don't exist in Miami. I've never seen the little canisters. How much do those run?

  2. Very nice! Your Paula Dean lady reminds me of when we ran into the previous owner of our house before we bought it, and he was all “You know, the toilet in the guest bathroom had a huge crack in it, so I fixed it for you – and that's something I wouldn't even do in my own home.” Yes, he said that. Seriously?! He wouldn't fix a broken toilet in his own house? No wonder our house is the way it is!! ;)

    Anyways, I love the fireplace (am totally envious of your awesome gas-startup, too!!), and thanks for the tip on the soot-cleaning things. We'll have to get some for next fall (or the end of this winter).


  3. The first batch we got as a hand-me-down from my Dad's garage (five-finger discounts from family, gotta love it). But I think you can get them at Home Depot or Lowes for just a few dollars for a set of 3.

  4. We bought our house about a year ago, and haven't lit a fire in our “far place” yet. I am afraid of burning it down, and yes, we do live in south Florida, so there really isn't a need for it. But I will be buying those soot stoppers though, just so we are ready when we do get around to trying it out! Thanks for the heads up!