Lets talk "ashes". Ashes, as in the by product of a wood fire.
As you know, I'm a wood burner. Hubby says that I have a fascination with burning things, but regardless, I've maintained a woodstove for most of my life. Perhaps its in my blood since Granddad was a fire truck chaser. We have a small cast iron stove in the living area, a Morso Squirrel, that takes the chill off the house and helps keep the mold down. A bonus is that I can cook on it. I also run a small rocket stove for cooking livestock feed (roadkill, slaughter waste). And I also have a homemade TLUD stove for making biochar.
All these stoves are carefully installed so that there are no burnable surfaces nearby and are set on nonflammable bases. The rocket and TLUD stoves only run when I am present and on non-windy days. I keep a pile of soil and shovel handy plus a water source just in case a spark or ember should break loose. I have never needed either but it's good insurance to have both handy.
All stoves are kept maintained, cleaned, and as safe as possible. Most stove owners see the sense in this but the one area that I have seen people make tragic mistakes is with handling the ashes. I know of a house fire, numerous lawn fires, and a garage that burnt.....all due to the ashes. Yes indeed! For real!
My ash container is a metal garbage pail, with lid. I mention the lid because wind can blow ash and live embers right out of the pail on a windy day. I saw it happen to me once. So I'm careful now to get the lid on. If ash is kept indoor (no wind) then a simple metal bucket should suffice, as long as you don't have a toddler or dog........or clumsy spouse......who can knock the ash can over.
Some stories just to illustrate the danger of "cold ashes" and "dead fires". (Names are changed to protect my friends from being embarrassed yet again for their stupidity.)
1- First thing every chilly morning the ash was shoveled out of the stove and into a plastic bucket that "Jill" had been using for years. The bucket was then set outside the kitchen door while she went back to start a morning fire. One day coming into the kitchen to start breakfast, "Jill" noticed an odd smell. Thinking her neighbor was burning trash, she ignored it. 10 minutes later the smell was stronger, so stepping out the kitchen door to complain to her neighbor about the odor she discovered that the plastic ash bucket was melting and on fire. Thankfully it wasn't real close to the house and was sitting on concrete steps.
2- Before starting the evening fire, "Jack" decided to run the chimney brush down the stove pipe. He then shoveled the soot, creosote, and ashes into a paper bag, taking it out to the garage. Back to starting the fire, making coffee, and watching a movie. When he smelled smoke he went to investigate only to find his garage on fire.
3- "John" had forgot to empty is ash bucket that morning, so when he went to scoop the previous night's ashes out of the stove he had more than would fit in the bucket. Assuming the ashes were old and cold, he scooped the extra into a cardboard box. Yes, you can see where this is going. Yes, the ashes were set outside the front door. Yes, the cardboard box smoldered then ignited. The first the "John" knew about this was when his neighbor banged on his window to tell him that his door and porch were on fire.
Then there are the multitude of grass fires. I know of lots of people who take their ashes outside and proceed the spread them about on their lawn and gardens. The ashes look dead, but tiny embers often lurk there just waiting for some fresh air. Ah-ha, another grass fire! Yes. It happens a lot, more than you think.
I've rediscovered something that my ancestors were well aware of.....ash is a wonderful insulator. Embers can stay hot for hours, often a day or more under the right conditions. I've seen ash and embers sit in a bucket for a full day and still have some heat to them. Given some fresh air, and the tiny embers begin the heat up and glow. Something to think about.
Back to my ash bucket. By the way, I have two. One in use, and the second to start using when the first one is full. It takes a week or more to fill a bucket, so it has plenty of time to really become dead before I spread the ashes. I also have an old metal frying pan with lid that I sometimes use. It comes in handy in the house.
What do I do with the ashes once they're cold? I add them to compost. And I sprinkle them onto the pastures that need it. Ashes raise the soil pH rapidly plus provide some trace minerals and other nutrients. Ash is rich in potassium, a plant requirement.
For these photos I set the ash containers on a garden rock wall. But that's not a safe place because of the dry litter from grass, trees, etc. Yes, I tend to be over cautious when it comes to burning my house down. Normally the cans set on a concrete pad outside the side door.