Friday, 30 January 2015
My love affair with the woodburning stove
Today I have a heavy head cold. I woke this morning to light snow on the hills and in the garden. I had a hammering headache and streaming nose and eyes. This was not a day for venturing out. It was a day for sitting by the stove, snoozing, doing a little comfort reading. I couldn't even find the concentration to knit. But the day has passed away in a warm and comforting way because of our woodburning stove.
We have been using this stove for three seasons a year for nine years now and I could light the fire in my sleep. I start with quite a bit of scrumpled paper. We use a broadsheet newspaper and I use about eight sheets. I am pretty sure Ian uses fewer than that but that is what works for me! Then kindling. The kindling here was bought chopped during the period when Ian was languishing in bed with flu. Normally he chops all ours. How much kindling to use depends very much on how dry the logs are that we are burning. If the logs are seasoned and dry they will burn with not too much kindling, perhaps half a dozen pieces. If the logs are a bit wet you might need quite a bit more than that. We don't buy seasoned logs as we are lucky enough to have a generous and kind neighbour who is a tree surgeon and who often lets us have wood. We store it as huge pieces in a log store for a few months before it is chainsawed and split into logs the rightsize for the stove. Then it goes into one of the old stone pigsties in a tidy stack against the wall. Our wood burns fine but it is perhaps not quite as quick to light as the best kiln dried seasoned wood which you would buy from a dealer. Mind you, you would pay a lot more for the privilege!
Ian made the kindling basket a couple of years ago on a course at our excellent and very local Woodland Skills Centre led by renowned basket maker Mandy Coates. I love baskets and home made baskets in particular. There is something so satisfying about the shape and texture.
Logs live in two galvanised buckets which sit in another basket made by Ian. A couple of small logs go on the stove to start with and the larger ones are saved for when the fire is well established. You get very used to a fire and you know that in the first half hour or so you need to give it some attention. Once the fire is going strongly it only needs a bit of feeding but until it gets going properly you can find that getting distracted for forty minutes means that it has gone out while your back is turned. Keeping an eye on it becomes as second nature as keeping an eye out for the baby when a fire is part of your life.
And there we go. The fire is burning, the baskets are charged and the heat from the stove radiates out through the room. Now it is time for a cup of lemon and ginger tea and the high indulgence (restricted to times when I am not well) of the rereading of one of the books from my childhood. I am torn between "The Children of Green Knowe" by L.M.Boston and Elizabeth Goudge's "The Little White Horse". How do you comfort yourself on those days when you are under the weather?