(Photo courtesy Mazzeo’s Stoves & Fireplaces, mazzeosinc.com)
(Photo courtesy Mazzeo’s Stoves & Fireplaces, mazzeosinc.com)
Driving about this week I’ve seen some maples with a blush on their leaves, and the breezes carry the faint scent of ripening apples. It’s that time of year, when a mash-up of garden harvest and wood-related chores confirms that it must be late August in Maine. The hot afternoons find us in the garden picking corn, squash, cucumbers, beans and tomatoes for freezing, canning or pickling and pulling onions for drying. But for those cooling early mornings and evenings, a wood fire feels good and takes the chill off. We juggle the garden chores with bringing wood down from the slope behind our house, piling the larger pieces behind the shed for splitting and tossing the smaller inside for stacking, but I notice others along the road have nice piles of cut and split wood that have been dumped in the yard, ready to be put into the shed — lucky them. I feel as if I’m on top of the vegetable end of things; we have the canning jars and all the items needed to fill them — funnel and food processor, canning kettle and tongs for lifting hot jars, a vacuum sealer and rolls of plastic bags for freezing, as well as recycled yogurt containers for sauces. But on the wood front, I feel unprepared. We have the shed and stove, but we need accessories.

If you have a woodstove, you may already have a set of tools that are often found around fireplaces, one that contains a poker, some kind of ash scoop and a broom. We have a version of this set, but what I really need before the wood heating season is in full swing is a good pair of fire-resistant gloves, ones that come well up on my forearms and enable me to reach into the stove and reposition a burning log. The best ones are made of split cowhide (my favorite ones come in bright red) and have several layers of padding, including some kind of fireproof foil or other insulation and a soft layer next to your skin. These gloves also come in handy for barbecue season or around a campfire. Or if you are considering taking up welding. At the very least, they allow you to pick up any stray hot coals that may escape from the stove and toss them back where they belong.

Next on my list? A good log carrier. The best kind are those with sides, so that you don’t scatter bark and chips on your trip from wood pile or shed to house. Look for one that stands open for loading, made of sturdy waxed canvas or leather, with carry straps that wrap all around the bottom, so they don’t pull out. It’s worth getting a heavy-duty carrier because you’ll have it for years. If you get one that stands up, it can even serve as an auxiliary log holder next to the stove on a cold night.

Even if you have a good tool set for your fireplace or woodstove, one with a generously wide shovel for cleaning ashes out, you need something to put the ashes in. Something metal, of course, as you can have some hot coals mixed in with your ashes. The old-fashioned coal hod variety, made of black metal, is both handsome and safe for storing ashes until you can dispose of them, but you can also purchase a bucket-shaped ash holder with a lid, which is even safer. Most ash holders have double bottoms or stands that hold the bottom off the floor, but if you opt for a simple galvanized steel bucket with a locking lid, you’ll have to be certain to set it on an inflammable surface while the ashes are cooling in it, not on the priceless Aubusson carpet or heart pine wood floor.

Related to the ash bucket on my list is a nice new dedicated galvanized trash can with a locking lid, because where are you going to store those ashes? You can scatter them under the lilacs or sprinkle them over the compost or even directly into the garden, but having a big can conveniently located outside the door is a real plus in the winter. It means you don’t have to wade through the snow or totter about on the ice with a bucket of hot ashes when you can store them there for a leisurely disposal. The ashes could even come in handy on a slippery walk or driveway.

Next up on my list for must-have woodstove accessories is a steamer set on a trivet. While nothing warms you like wood heat, nothing makes the air drier, which can lead to dry, itchy skin and throat. I’ve used a heavy old cast-aluminum kettle for steam in the past, but it’s amazing how quickly it can run dry. Best to be safe and use a trivet, which will keep you from burning out your water vessel, and a cast-iron steamer built specifically for putting moisture into the air. Many of them come in fanciful designs and enameled colors, if you want to get fancy. You can even, if you are inclined, add a scent to the water, cinnamon or pine, although the scent of woodsmoke is good enough for me.

One last accessory is a good wood rack or holder. I make do with an antique wash boiler tub, which is handsome and big enough for inside use, but a rack that held more wood to stand just outside the door would be nice. For inside use, some of the larger log racks also include hooks for hanging fireplace or woodstove tools, which makes the area around your hearth less cluttered. There are also smaller racks that are designed to be used with your log carrier, as well as round ones that stand next to your stove and have a very Swedish, modern vibe to them.