Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Most winter mornings...

Most winter mornings, the first order of business is a trip to the shed to fill up the coal shuttle. We don't have central heating in our little cottage, so our only source of warmth in these cold, windy months comes from the small multi-fuel stove nestled into an awkward corner of our dining room/lounge. It's a very small stove, but then, it's a very small cottage. The original owner cleverly installed an intricate back boiler system, so when the temperature in the stove gets hot enough, a pump clicks on and hot water, heated in coils on the back of the stove, circulates throughout the cottage. There are radiators in every room and soon enough a gentle, warming heat can be felt in every corner of the house. In such circumstances, one little stove is more than enough.

Waiting for the coal to catch...
Although it is really very efficient - especially as compared with the smelly, expensive oil boiler systems that are so common in Ireland - we try not to waste any of our little stove's many offerings. We boil our water for tea and dishes on top of it, we dry our clothes in front of it, we've even been known to cook on it. (Okay, so the cooking doesn't work all that great, but it's possible, is my point.) This is our first winter in the cottage, so we're mostly buying in fuel, but going forward we hope to supply at least half of our own wood from the many, many trees on our land. In the short term, there are the branches and entire trees that we've cleared to open up the view and site the garden. In the longer term, we're scheming to cultivate a coppice on the back half-acre.

Tea kettle at the ready
I have to admit, it's kind of a hassle, when the stove has gone cold overnight as it often does, to shuffle out in the wind and rain to gather fuel, when all you really want is to be warm and dry with a steaming cup of coffee in hand. It's kind of a hassle to build the fire, then wait the half hour for the coal to catch, then for the temperature to rise high enough that the back boiler clicks on. And of course, one has to remember to refuel on a regular basis throughout the day. Already there have been several occasions when "WHO LET THE FIRE DIE DOWN?" has rebounded off our hills. (Um, that would be me, sorry... I forgot!) But despite the frustrations and petty inconveniences, I really love this heating system of ours. For the first time since moving to Ireland, I'm actually warm and comfortable inside my house. (When we moved out of our last rental house, I'm sure I channelled Scarlett O'Hara when I vowed - "As God as my witness, I'll never be freezing again!") We are warmer than we ever have been and we're actually saving money in the process. Truly, at the end of it all, nothing beats the warm, radiating heat of a solid fuel stove.

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