The jewel in the crown of our house remodelling is Phil’s log burner.
It is just a fire, and a simple chimney outside; one cannot cook on it. But it can keep upwards of one room toasty, in October at any rate. And, you see, the heat is free.
That is one of the reasons my very slightly pyromaniac husband loves it so. Another reason is that it burns prettily and thoroughly, leaving only a small pile of ash in the morning.
We do not get our wood from the garage. Oh, no. We started by going out and picking up small ineffectual bits of wood from the forest floor. All well seasoned, all perfectly nice, but they did not have the advantage of bulk. It seemed to be scratching the surface of setting up a log pile.
So one day, I was out with the dog, and I saw this long pine tree.
Well, perhaps I exaggerate. Well-developed sapling would be closer to the mark. But I shall refer to it as ‘tree’ for the remainder of this post.
It was probably about twice my height; it had a lovely slim trunk which tapered to the most promising twigs, perfect for kindling to help light a fire. It had been lying there, on the forest floor, fallen and forgotten except by the beetles and bugs, gently seasoning throughout a decent English Summer.
I know what I could do with that, I thought. I could log that.
But not here.
So: I picked up the tree, found its fulcrum, and balanced it all the way to the big main road.
It is fortunate that I had picked a quiet time to teeter across, proudly bearing my pine tree.
A warning: once you have begun collecting whole trees it can become addictive. We’ll walk past some fallen beauty and comment gruffly: “That’s two evenings, that is.”
And it is: because once home and in our back yard we saw each tree into myriad logs, and each log is a heat-pod just waiting to be released.
The other day we employed child labour. Come on, kids, we said to them, we’re going to collect some wood. And they protested vigorously, but I will tell you that every Shrewsday except the dog was carrying part of a tree home to Shrewsday Mansions that night.
Now: you might be thinking: Nutter.
And this is what 95 per cent of the population of our area would also think. So: when we spot someone coming, we show ourselves to be truly fickle. We ditch the tree at some point for later reclamation, and stroll nonchalantly past saying our good mornings or good afternoons.
It has brought a new frisson to walks in the forest, if one were needed. We have learnt how to snap them in just the right place so the trees we bring home do not require the balance of Charles Blondin and five clear minutes to cross the road.
I am sitting here in front of a blazing fire. Only thing is, it smokes the house.
So when you walk in, you are put in mind of kippers and well-smoked bacon, rather than freesia and gentle English roses.
You win some, you lose some. We are zealots: newly-converted eco-warriors. We are off-grid.
What a bit of smoked kipper in the face of all that free heat?