By “The Photographer’s Assistant”
It is April and I feel careless about the fire. I stand outside the cottage looking pensively up at the sky. It feels chilly, though it is only about 4pm, so I have come straight in from garden labours and lit the fire. The smoke is dense and white, which means I have put something wet on the fire. Not good practice, so I go back in and fiddle about a bit and put some dry wood on. I want that perfect still evening curl of wood smoke that lightens the heart and lets you know that spring is on its way.
The log burner is just about our most treasured possession. It is now 11 years old and much loved. In the summer it looks ugly and black and has a flower arrangement in front. In the winter it gives a large part of the house warmth and combines with the kitchen range to make us a little home. If you set it right the flames dance and sing together merrily as you snooze through world news that is probably totally irrelevant out here.
When we first came here we were recommended our woodman, a now much trusted friend. He came and tackled our scrub land with a team of enthusiastic chain saw users, which included a woman, who worked with as much gusto as the men. You don’t need a gym girls, you need a chain saw. It was the start of our Moorland education.
We have a large tumble down shed in which our wood is stored. We have a corrugated lean to on the potting shed. Any waste wood is always welcome. Old worn out fence posts, and telegraph poles have all graced our log burner.
As long as it fits, the wood goes in. Recycling at its best. The largest supply comes from our friend, who, come what may in his life, or in ours, delivers two huge trailer loads of wood each June or July. It is a much anticipated visit. The weather can be steaming hot and it seems an attack of madness to be filling the shed, but come even an August evening, you are grateful. We all usually celebrate the delivery with great hunks of cake and big mugs of tea. It is so hot that the sweat pours off us and we enjoy the real blinding heat for one of the last times in the summer. Come September, the Moor will have its way and sitting out in the evening will become rare as the chill arrives.
So come real winter, light your burner, having ensured your chimney is clean. There is much thatch on the cottage and you know of too many chimney fires to take a risk. If you are good at it and you are experienced, your fire won’t go out again until the weather eases and your first shed is two thirds down. At night, build the fire box up a little and turn the control on the side of the burner just down to that small hole that is meant for night time use and in the morning you will be able to cautiously start your fire off again with a little kindling. You can have breakfast by the fire with hot toast and coffee from your range. Tell me a better way to start your day.
Next time, you have reached spring and its time to see your friends again for a quiz at the local village hall. You can turn the fire down or out and ease off your log carrying then! Come and have some fun with me.