What is the “back burner”, really?

Back Burner

You’ve probably referred to projects you’ve put on hold as being “on the back burner”. I understood what the phrase meant, and had used it often myself, but when we got our new/old cook stove, I learned how the saying probably came about.

I'll be putting things on the back burner for real with our new/old wood or coal cook stove.
I’ll be putting things on the back burner for real with our new/old wood or coal cook stove.

While the previous owner explained to us how to operate the stove, the meaning of the “back burner” phrase became very obvious. On these old stoves, the heat is most intense on the front burners. The back burners never get very hot, but can simmer or slow cook the foods.

This link has a very good explanation of the phrase origins. The foods that don’t need a lot of attention can go on the back burner. If it needs to be frequently stirred, put it on the front burner and get it finished.

Nowadays we put things on the back burner if we’re not ready to work on them yet, but don’t want to completely forget about it.

Moving things back to the front

I’ve had some items on the back burner for a few months and today finally got one of them moved to the front, finished up, and taken off the stove altogether.

The first draft for an article on ginseng habitat through the seasons is in the hands of the Blazing Star editor now. There may be some edits required, and when those come back it’ll be on the front burner because the timeline will be too short to move it to the back again.

The Blazing Star is the newsletter for the North American Native Plant Society. It’s a pretty big deal to me to have a byline in that publication, so I’m excited. It should be live in spring.

Moving the pots around

Tomorrow I’ll take two more of the things I had on back burners and move them to the front. Another article for United Plant Savers about our public ginseng sanctuary in Bentonville, AR and a third one about ginseng for a guest post at LiveVote.com. I’m not too sure about the possible exposure for the guest post, but I’m curious enough to find out.

Still on the back burner

I know it seems like my Bounty Hunter novel is on the back burner, and in a way parts of it are… is? Neither tense of the verb looks or sounds right.

Anyway, I’m not working sequentially on it right now. I’ve been recording some notes and ideas for scenes that come later on in the series and I need to write those down as they bubble up or I forget them.

Chapter ten is ready for me to upload to beta readers and so that part is moving to a front burner soon. Then I have to decide whether I’ll wrap it up as a short novel or continue to full-length. The target was 80K or so words, but it seems that shorter works are fairly popular right now and if I break it up to smaller books then I can publish more of them more quickly.

We now have real back burners to go with my metaphorical ones

I can’t wait to get our new/old stove hooked up so I can try it out. Then I can test the origin of the phrase myself and really “put things on the back burner”. As if I need encouragement with that.


First Hunt by Ima ErthwitchPredator and Prey, or the hunter and the hunted is a common theme throughout my fiction writing. No Qualms, one of my short stories (free at most retailers) is about about a predator/prey relationship. Symbiosis, my first finished novel, not published yet, deals with predator/prey relationships and the balance of energy among life on earth, sometimes symbolic and often outright. Many of my flash fiction stories (I have twitterfiction and 100-word flash stories) are also dealing with this same dynamic. This is a strong theme that runs through most of my fiction and is strongly influenced by life in the wild Ozarks where we live. My first published novel, First Hunt, also has a predator and prey theme to it. I guess it's just part of my nature.

Nature Farming


Wild Ozark is 160 acres of beautiful wild Ozark mountains. I call what I do "nature farming" because the land produces, all by itself, the shagbark hickory trees, ferns, moss, ground-fall botanicals, and the perfect habitats for growing and stewarding American ginseng. I'm co-creating with Nature - all of the things I use to make the Fairy Gardens and Forest Folk, the bark we harvest for Burnt Kettle's shagbark hickory syrup, are produced by nature without my input. This land is my muse for inspiration when it comes to my writing, drawing, and photography. It's truly a Nature Farm.

About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


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