Firemaking – The Art of Making the Perfect Fire


Firemaking at India House with Ruger and Coco

The art of firemaking is having a resurgence in the world of late and given the fresh winter snow that has fallen over the mountains last weekend, is a hot topic around the Bastiaanskloof dining room table at the moment.


In Europe, firemaking is becoming something of a cult pastime. Choosing a particular type of wood – from aromatics to eco logs made from sustainably forested virgin timber – is now as minutely discussed in some circles as others might critique the latest small-batch coffee beans or artisan chocolate.

The same attention is lavished on stacking and smouldering. There are specialist courses for fire lovers, keen to spend their weekends splitting logs with hand-hewn Japanese poleaxes. Designers, too, are turning their attention to fires, creating beautiful accoutrements to make the hearth aesthetically alluring.

Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting was a surprise bestseller which won the 2016 British Book Industry Non-Fiction Book of the Year award and details the best way to chop, stack and burn wood.

According to Mytting, “A perfect fire gives out no smoke at all; there may be no smoke without fire, but it is possible to have fire with no smoke”. To do this, he says, “dense hardwoods should be mixed with softer woods that burn more easily”. Hardwoods come from trees that loose their leaves in winter. Most softwoods eg pine, larch and spruce grow faster and the logs are less dense and tend to burn more quickly. For fragrance, Mytting suggests fruit trees.

Piles of Winter Wood

Piles of Winter Wood

In terms of ageing wood, the earlier the logs are chopped and stacked the better – our woodcutter Nicholas is busy in our black wattle forest (the alien species which we are trying to eradicate from along our river at the farm) from spring to the end of summer so that our guests have an endless supply of dry wood for winter fires at India House and the cottages which at the same time assists us environmentally to restore our indigenous vegetation.

While firemaking is recently having a resurgence in Europe, we in South African’s do obsess about – be it for making the perfect braai (barbeque) and for keeping us toasty in the winter months.

India House has a huge fireplace and all the cottages have one too, fully stacked with dried wood and kindling to keep you warm this winter – we do have some specials for winter, so do check our accommodation pages – and book your stay soon! We are also a 30 minute drive from Ceres and the snow!

Happy (responsible!) firemaking everyone!


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