Christmas pudding…

Pudding + brandy + fire = Christmas!

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Stove damper installed and working…

Following the last post about this, it didn’t turn out to be as easy as I thought it would be to drill through the enamel flu pipe! I had the right metal drill bits but they just made no impression in the metal surface. It didn’t help that I was drilling from the side and couldn’t get a lot of force behind the drill but there was no way I could get the holes in it.

So, thanks to living in an area with mixed uses and a variety of services, I managed to get the holes drilled by the metal fabricator and railing manufacturer just up the road. I cycled up there thinking i”d also have to then go to a different place but the guys there were very helpful and said it was no problem to do two quick holes. It literally took him 3 minutes and no charge.

It was fairly easy to then get the damper fitted into the pipe then fit the pipe back into the liner, screw the register plate back up then fire cement the pipe back in.

The damper has made a real difference to how quickly the wood burns and also to the amount of heat coming out. The burn rate isn’t quite as low as i’d hoped but much better than before. A damper with fewer holes could be an idea and I’m thinking about fixing stove fire rope to the damper to further limit the air flow but so far it’s done the job.

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Chimney fixed…!

Since we put the stove back in, following the installation of the new hearth stone, it has been drawing really slowly and keeping a nice slow burn. This has meant we’re getting through far less wood than last winter, when we were chucking wood on and needing to keep quite a high burn to get a decent internal temperature in the house.

I had thought this was mainly to do with the new external insulated render, which we had installed in March last year.

It turns out, it was far more to do with the fact that the flu pipe which comes up directly from the stove wasn’t even connected to the chimney liner! It was burning slowly because there was very little air flow up the chimney. I had discovered smoke collecting in the loft. This had been an issue we experienced before we had the chimney lined and was due to smoke getting through the small gaps in the stacks mortar. The idea of the liner was that the smoke wouldn’t even enter the main chimney, but be carried up the liner and out from the cowel at the top of the chimney pot. Claire had already called a chimney company who had said it sounded like a torn liner.

So, my hunch was that there wasn’t a liner tear and thought immediately it was a connection problem, mainly because the stove had recently been re-fitted. First thing I saw when I inspected it yesterday morning was the image above!

It took about 1.5 hours to get the register plate off, check the problem, fix the pipes together again and fix the register plate back up + clean and hoover all around. Not bad and I know it’s fairly easy to do if the stove needs to be taken out again.

The result of the re-connection is the stove is eating the wood up at a fierce rate! Maybe twice the rate as before but a bit less heat coming out into the room. Much more heat is now just going up the chimney and not being held in the stove. The solution to this problem is fairly simple: a stove damper.

This fits into the flu pipe, above the stove and below the service door, and can be turned to let more or less air up the liner. Some air is always allowed up through it though. The chrome handle matches the stove and it was only about £13. This will hopefully allow us to control the fire much more precisely and be able to leave it on very low while we’re out of the house for a few hours. It does require two holes to be drilled in the flu pipe but this shouldn’t be a problem (famous last words!).

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Log burning experiments…

The great thing about spending time at home is that I can carry out all sorts of little science experiments and observations about the things around us. The latest one was about log burning and internal temperatures.

I wanted to know how long it takes for the internal temperature to go up, using the wood burner. So, this morning, after a cold night, the temperature was 17.8 degrees and after an hour of the fire being on, this went up by 1 degree.

8:30          17.8 degrees

9:30          18.8 degrees

10:00        19.8 degrees

10:30        20.4 degrees

10:40        20.8 degrees

So, after the initial hour when the stove was heating up and increasing its output, the temperature went up by 1 degree every 30 minutes, so in just over 2 hours, it went up by 3 degrees.

The other thing was to work out how many fires the pile of logs by the stove would give us. My first guess was about 1 week, but now i’ve worked it out properly, it works out as 16 days! Each fire uses 6 cm of logs (about a row) and 12 logs per row.

Once the fire is on a up to a good temperature, I only need to put on a single log at a time to keep it going.

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Insulation, temperatures and stove…

Some observations about heating, insulation and the stove…

The difference between the inside and outside temperatures last year before started to use the stove was 9 or 10 degrees. We would get the temperature up to the low 20’s in the evening with the stove on, then in the morning, it would be as low as 16 or 17 degrees, meaning quite a large overall drop during the night.

So far this year, before we just lit the first fire last night, the temperature difference between inside and outside was something like 12 or 13 degrees. The outside temperature was around 6 degrees for a couple of days in the morning, while inside it was around 19 degrees, giving a 13 degree difference. This was after two very cold days, with clear nights.

Since last winter, we have had the loft hatch replaced with a new and much less draughty one, had the double glazing replaced with new and had the external insulated render installed. The hypothesis is that more heat will be retained within the house and for longer periods. I also hope that less heat will need to be produced in order to raise the temperature inside (due to less heat escaping and less cold air entering).

Last night was the 1st fire of the year. The temperature was 21.6 when we went to bed and in the morning, it was 19.2 degrees, giving a 2.4 degree drop over the 8 or 9 hours with a clear night. The outside temperature this morning was 9 degrees, giving a 10 degree difference.

So, the difference seems to be around 10 degrees still but the temperature drop was only 2.4 degrees, compared to last year when it was something like 6 degrees. Seems like progress but we haven’t had the really cold weather yet!

The other thing i’ve noted is the amount of wood which we just used, out of the stack by the stove. For the 4 hour fire last night, we used about 1/7 of the whole stack, meaning about 7 days (1 week) worth of fires, burning between low and medium heat.

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Thistledown camping…

Our first camping trip of the year! We had a great few days camping with our friends the MK’s and their kids. We’ve been to the site once before and that was also really good so there was no hesitation in going back. We’ll probably go back there this year as we’ve found another area of the site and we’ve also explored the valley further.

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There’s a National Trust area at the bottom of the valley, around Woodchester Mansion and lots of amazing walks and trails to explore. We all went on what we thought was a kid-friendly walk down the valley through the woods, which turned into a massive hike! It was great though, but dd involve a fair bit of boy-carrying! We found lots of cool features and future walks, including a great boat and boat house and some amazing woodland. One thing that struck me about the conifer plantation we walked through was how little biodiversity there was and the lack of sunlight. It was almost barren, apart from the trees and some ferns on the ground.

The weather was really good and we had some good camp fires in the evenings. The nights were cold and the second night sleeping I had a t-shirt, two long-sleeve shirts, a cotton button up shirt, fleece and cardigan! Also a hat. Slept really well though! It was great just sitting around the camp fire and there were some potentially big decisions made!

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Jamie’s new tricks…!

Jamie has been involved with a few landmark events in the last couple of weeks…

The first was brushing his teeth all by himself! Up to this point, either Claire or I have done them while he’s been in bed and then got him to practice doing them himself. He hasn’t been very keen to do much of it himself and i’ve been suggesting that he needs to start doing them. So, out of the blue he just went into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror and brushed them for ages. I then finished them off but was really surprised and pleased. It’s another thing he feels he can do and he seems excited about being able to do it.

The other thing yesterday was Jamie and one of his friends nearly starting a fire in garden! Kids seem to be obsessed with fire and matches but Jamie nearly took the interest a bit too far. There are two things which probably prompted the whole incident. The first was the fact that we have a wood-burning stove as our main heat source in the living area of our house, and he always sees us lighting it etc.

The second thing was recently the boys have been watching Bugs Life a fair bit. Not too bad you might think, but there is a scene in there where the circus bugs put on a stunt called ‘FLAMING DEATH’! Essentially it involves setting up a line of unlit matches, which light each other in sequence when the end is set off. It acts like a fuse. Anyway, the two kids were in the garden and had setup a little pile of twigs and were ‘pretending’ to light a camp fire. pretending being ‘actually’ doing it! Jamie apparently told Claire that he had got a chair and climbed up to the DVD player shelf to get the box of matches from there. This was actually a cover story, because he really got them from the shed, from one of the shelves, after Claire had told them all not to go in there! Clever kid!

The other thing which he’s been doing more and more, is asking WHY all the time!! It’s not getting annoying yet, but it could do. I’m just trying to answer his questions as best I can but some things are so hard to answer, without long or more technical answers – a good challenge!

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First fire…

It was a mild but wet day today – not quite the winter weather fit for the first fire but we pressed on regardless!

Jamie got into it and made his own little stick and string object, which he made without any help.

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Claire did a cool stick and string lattice with some nice shapes. I made a triangular box, with a leaf from the apple tree, a piece of fire wood and a tomato leaf inside. We also made a cat offering, with a fish leaf, tied to a couple of pieces of wood, with a long string. Claire also made a ‘Haslam’ family offering.

Nice to have a fire during the day, but it did have the effect of putting everyone to sleep! It’s also nice to have everything setup and ready for winter! Logs, new windows and insulated render on the way!

The new windows really keep the heat in and it already feels more even, with fewer logs needed to keep the heat coming out. The logs themselves also burn well and slow.

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1st fire / Samhain…

There are a lot of seasonal things going on right now – and not necessarily things which most people would be doing.

There are things in the garden, the piles of logs & kindling ready to be used, lots of autumn spiders making webs everywhere, the last of the fruit being picked, winter veg being planted, the wood-burner being cleaned out ready to be used, the house is being insulated against the cold and we are only 4 weeks away from the exterior of most of the house being rendered.

The colder weather and leaves turning is my favourite time of year and reminds me of sitting in warm pubs and going running in the rain when I was younger. It’s a time of experience, with different days and feelings, and changes all the time.

Given the approaching colder weather, the 1st fire is on the way and I thought it would be a cool idea to mark the occasion with some kind of fire ceremony. This is a strong cultural link to the season, particularly in Buddhist, Celtic and Pagan cultures, where the turning of the season towards the dark half of the year is a significant time.

Anyway, I was checking out a few links on the net for ideas and randomly came across the following site: Sweep the dust, push the dirt. Slightly bizarre stuff but some of it is hilarious! But, the basic premise is as follows:

‘In ancient times the fire sacrifice was an elaborate ceremony that could involve the sacrifice of horses, cows and goats, as well as gold, gems and other precious items into the fire. Today, a havan is a simplified ritual that rarely involves animal sacrifice or the placing of precious items into the fire. Instead, rice or a kind of popery is commonly substituted for these items, but still the basic meaning of the ritual remains.

This may sound odd or glib, but an easy way to think of the havan is as a symbolic “postal system.” The fire container is the postbox, fire is the postman, the items placed into the fire are the message and mantra is the means of address.

Another quote is great…

‘[Editor’s Note:  If you invite Pagans to your Buddhist Bonfire, make certain to state that no curses are allowed…also nothing that uses menstrual blood or herrings.  Take my word on that.]

[Editor’s Note 2: Don’t invite Cthulhu cultists to a Buddhist Bonfire.  They still use animal sacrifices but they do bring the best beer…it’s a coin-toss]’

Anyway… A couple of ideas for our fire ceremony tomorrow (yes, tomorrow!) include making a paper picture box, with images of my family, filled with important or significant items. I’m thinking a family photo with a single apple tree leaf inside, maybe with a piece of small wood and the top of a tomato. The message would be health and happiness for the family and garden (particularly the apple tree which we pruned back this year) and a mild winter or warm house. The kids might think it’s fun and might pick unique items which are special to them.

‘Our modern celebration of Halloween is a descendent of the ancient Celtic festival called “Samhain;” meaning Summer’s End. Samhain was the first day of winter, and the end of one pastoral year. It was the time when the night became longer than the day, the last apples were picked, and the year began again with its dark winter half. Also called Samhiunn or Hallowe’en. Originally a Druidic festival, it was celebrated on the eve of November 1 (October 31 – technically, either date is appropriate as the Celts measured the day from sunset to sunset.) The sacred fire.

This loss of connection to nature (and as a consequence our greater negative impact on the planet), is a really important issue, linked to basic principles of respect and sustainability.

So, we’re all going to make some kind of object to burn in the 1st fire, to kick off the start of winter (even if it is a month too soon – we just can’t wait!), if for no other reason than to become more aware and connected to the changing seasons.

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