Nice going Lightning and thanks for taking us along.
Yer welcome Mike!
Just to summarize.. Maybe somebody on the board will need to push for a long burn for a short trip. Here are a few things that I feel are important..
1) Start 12 hours before by running a swallow fire, so at prep time you can get in as much fresh coal as possible.
2) At last load time, do a complete evacuation of ash, as much as possible.. Then layer on a few inches and let it ignite. Its important to take coal from the top of the bin that has no fines.
3) After ignition of first layer, fill to the top of the bricks and then mound as much as possible in the center. Don't be afraid to have 14 -16 inches deep in the center. Again using coal off the top of the bin.
4) After burn off of volatiles, set primary air for a "reasonable" low heat output. Allow a little more than usual secondary air to help drafting thru daily outside temp changes if possible. This has always helped with drafting of my outside block chimney when it warms up outside.
Thank you for the mentioning of topping the coal bed with ash or rice coal. I didn't try this, but it makes sense that it would trap some heat, for a more even burn across the area of the coal bed. I would also tend to think that a barometric damper would be required to keep draft pressure steady for an extended burn. Not to strike a match with the baro/mpd war hahaha, just my own opinion..
Thank you for participating with my cold weather, hands off, successful, epic extended burn..