It’s only just September and already my mind is turning towards the subject of fire. Our main source of heating comes from two multifuel stoves and, until last year, we always burnt coal. It burns well and it’s easy to source, but it’s filthy, leaving a tarry dust on every surface every day, and it’s ecologically more than a little suspect. Becoming single has brought many changes to my life and one of them has been a huge lowering of our environmental footprint. Burning wood is part of this, but which type of wood and how to source it is the on-going question.
I have read a massive amount of literature on the calorific values of things that burn and similar amounts on ways to dry wood and the relative moisture content of the resulting products. On paper briquettes seem to be the way to go, but not all briquettes are equal – hard woods are better than softwoods, oak and ash briquettes have not been transported across the globe so will be ecologically superior to their exotic wood cousins, bark briquettes burn fast and are poor value for money…
Then there are the issues of transport and storage. The company I used last year brought briquettes by the pallet load with a lovely driver who didn’t make any fuss about driving his large lorry down the cramped (and usually partially blocked) road that leads to the house. I know from experience of book deliveries that not all lorry drivers are so easy-going. On the other hand I’m not sure that last year’s briquettes were the best. They seemed to burn rather faster than advertised. Was that simply the bitter cold and hungry winds howling down the chimney or should I switch to another make?
Logs come stacked on pallets and would be a devil to find a home for and keep dry, so again briquettes win – they come in plastic bags which can be stacked in our ‘tunnel’ – a cave like area behind the kitchen that goes underneath the road at one side of the house – too damp for a log stack, but works for briquettes under wraps.
So yes, briquettes it is. But which ones? Last year’s model with the friendly driver, but not the best price or burning time? Or one of three or four other companies I’ve found who all claim that their briquettes should not be confused with those inferior ones? I can’t find anyone who says they sell the inferior ones.
Some kind person recently told me about a very good supplier of very good wood – I’m sure I kept the email, but I just can’t remember who it was… And while I’m moithering about fuel for the fires I need to get the chimney sweep to come and work his magic (he doesn’t normally come so far as the wilds of Blaenau, but I persuaded him last year) and I need to find the part for the door of the main stove that needs refitting – oh, and buy some of that wonderful powder that stops the lignum in the wood from gunking up the insides of the stoves…
Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing in this odd old house that reminds me of days huddled round an open fire as a small child in a Victorian terraced house in Middlesbrough. But there is something deeply satisfying about a house that keeps me in touch with the most elemental parts of life. And where else could I afford to live but this quirky, rambling house that makes its demands, but provides a home for an equally quirky and independent press? We are soul mates; Meirion House and I, so I’d better get on with that research and find the best wood for the fire.