The greatest of country winter skills is the ability to keep the home fires burning, especially the ones in open fire-places. The truly skilled, and lucky, country fire-bugs manage to keep an open fire alive for twenty-four hours. It is revived in the morning from embers that were covered in ashes last thing at night. The ash broods over the embers like a hen over eggs.
|seemingly no sign of life|
We feel very proud because we have managed to keep a fire going for seven days. This morning's fire I revived with three Kleenex, a couple of sticks and half a fir-cone. No matches involved.
Obviously the type of wood that is being burnt counts for a lot. The fruit woods, for example, (cherry,pear,apple) are lightweight and burn clear away. The same goes for the 'white' woods – ash, aspen, beech. Pine burns well, smells good but tends to spit and tar up the chimney.
Not a good wood for a room with expensive rugs in front of the fireplace, for then, as the loi d'emmerdement maximum' will have it, the sparks will jump the fireguard. Sparks from chestnut logs that are not properly dry are even worse – they seem to be able to jump six feet.
The secret is to get an angular log for last thing at night, one that has all sorts of nooks and crannies in which fire sparks can lurk. It is what professional firemen dread. The fire seems to be out but a little wind – or breath in our case - and the glows start to flame. Add a little dry tinder and the whole flares up.
|but there is a glowing heart|
The best, the most prized and most expensive firewood is well seasoned oak. Heavy oak logs that have been split into manageable widths, about a metre long, and that have dried for three a good three years since splitting. We were briefly the proud owners of an X ton hydraulic log splitter but it was a cumbersome device, our tractor was underpowered. Eventually it became too dangerous to take it into the woods. Fortunately, Jean-Claude down the road had always wanted one and he had a full powered farm tractor. We struck a deal, he took it away and we gained lots more space in the tractor shed.
Now we use professional wood cutting companies to cut down selected oak and chestnut trees, do the splitting and stacking near the house. Then we – that is Alexandre – cuts the logs into stove or fire-place sized chunks and stacks them. A very comforting view.
Of course, in line with the law that one workman creates work for another – the bucherons did manage to drive their ginormous tractor and trailer right over the the inspection chamber of the Hermitage's septic tank. |In March I screeched for M. Angibaud, who empties our septic tanks (and any leaking pools), who said he would come, fix. In September he came – by which time I had almost given up. But he did a beautiful job. His sons were this year's chimney sweeps.