That took me four hours....
That took me four hours….

We recently moved house. Again apologies to my regulars. I know you know this. And I know that you know that I know you know this. I have new people reading though (eek) and they might not know.

Actually soon I will have to stop writing that we ‘recently’ moved house. It was in fact in May and so we have been here 5 months (bigger eek). I guess the whole process was so traumatic; you know lawyers, estate agents, removal men, boxes, boxes, boxes; that 2015 will forever be ‘The Year We Moved House’. We will probably start measuring time from it. Next year will be ‘The Year After We Moved House’ etc. 1PHM. Or some such.

Anyway where was I?

Ah yes we moved house. And now we are the proud owners of two wood burning stoves. Really, really, really big eek.

I have never lived in a house with open fires. Or wood burners. Or anything that doesn’t involve a thermostat and automatic timer. I still have the thermostat and automatic timer. Which is a good thing. And the reason that it is a good thing is that these wood burners are not all that easy. Not really.

If the wood burners were my sole source of heat I would be typing this in fingerless gloves. And boiling kettles for a bath. Luckily they are not and so they remain, for now, a fun and totally voluntary addition to the home.

My first hurdle was acquiring fuel. Yes that is right, the previous owners did not leave us with a neatly stacked woodpile. I guess it was May. And so they had no need for one. And anyway they would probably have moved it even if they had had one. Just as they moved everything else. (Let the curtain pole thing go, Sarah, just let it go)…

And so I needed to acquire wood. It sounds like such a simple thing to do. Find a bloke selling wood and order it. But then I got that ‘telephoning fright’ thing that I get. Before I am able to ring up people like timber sellers I have to gird my loins. I am worried about making an absolute fool of myself. I did not know how much wood to buy. What sort of wood to buy. Where I was going to store that wood. Also I wanted to be sure said wood had been sourced responsibly. Before making such phone calls I have to be in the right frame of mind. A frame of mind where I feel able to make an arse of myself and not care.

That time was about two weeks ago. I found a company on line who looked pucker and had free local delivery. And I called up and got a lovely man called Steve. He was very, very nice and gave me great advice. And so I ordered the minimum amount I could and he turned up a week later with his tipper truck and a bag of free kindling and dumped that smallest quantity on my drive.

Well it is safe to say that over the next few days that ‘minimum quantity’ of wood gave me a great work out as I stacked it down the side of my house. Out in the open as advised with a ground sheet on the top for a certain level of weather protection.

We were set to go. Steve’s number was on the fridge. He had told me not to hesitate to call with any fire starting issues. He muttered something about ventilation. Pah, I thought to myself, how hard could it be?

Apparently quite.

Just by way of background you ought to know that I am a Girl Guide. Well I was. I am also a Queen’s Guide, don’t ya know. Further more I was always on permanent ‘fire duty’ at camps. Most of the other girls spent their whole ‘fire duty’ rosta screaming and running away from the smoke. Pathetic. I did not feel like I had camped unless every article of clothing I had taken reeked of wood smoke. We camped rough (no gas urns here) with a permanent fire going under our tin dustbin full of water. I banked it up at night to ensure easy lighting the next day. It got me out of ‘latrine duty’. And ‘gadget building’…my god the tripods and washing up racks, torture. My snake and square lashing suffered but my fire building and tending skills were legend.

So there we are. Safe to say I am a bit of a pyromaniac. And I have no trouble starting fires. I never have. Tis easy. Newspaper, kindling, small bits, big bits. Off you go. And this technique has never let me down.

Keeping an open air fire going is just a matter of fuel, but not too much, oxygen and, no that’s it. Fuel and oxygen. Oh and keeping the rain off if at all possible.

Wood burners are a whole different ball game. They are temperamental. They have vents and require their doors warming. Bless.

I can light them, no worries. Keeping the bugger going though is a whole other ball game. Search the t’interweb for log burners and without fail they all tell you how to start one….I do not need that people. I need to know how to keep it going. What to do with my door and air wash adjust and primary air vent. When to refuel. When to leave well alone. These wood burner things do not behave like a normal outdoor fire. At all.

On my first attempt I lit it straight off and within half an hour it had gone out. I tried again after some instruction manual reading. I hadn’t bothered the first time as the type is SO SMALL. This time I shut the door having ensured all my ‘vents’ were open and the door had ‘warmed’. Almost counter intuitively it went better. For a while. Then it went out again.

Any how a lot of kindling later I finally got it going (third time lucky) and it lasted about two hours.  And then it went out again again. By which point it was nearly time for bed so I gave up.

On our return from holiday yesterday the house was cold. I had had the foresight to bring some wood in to dry before we left. Even so after a successful light it was dwindling to almost nothing and I had to again rescue it with kindling and smaller bits of log. I am running dangerously low on ‘smaller bits of log’. Finally I got it going and it lasted until bed time. About 5 hours. Woo hoo. During those five hours it consumed an awful lot of that ‘minimum quantity’. However I was too nervous to adjust my vents to regulate fuel consumption. So I let it eat wood…at least it was hot.

Today it has taken me four hours to get it to a point where it seems beyond going out. But I have spent an awful lot of those four hours sat in front of it. Tending. Poking. Blowing. None of that is anywhere near as much fun as it sounds. Well ok it is quite fun. But it still takes up quite a lot of time…

So I guess I need to ‘get the hang’ of my wood burners.

And buy a hatchet.

And get up really, really early on Christmas Day.