If you’re reading this expecting some true insight into fire then I’m sorry to disappoint. My Art of Fire relates only to the use of my wood burning stove and my desperation at trying to keep the damn thing going.
When arriving in the countryside last summer, we quickly realized that heating the house using the oil boiler was going to cost us a fortune. A cold spell in July meant that we had to have the heating on so to avoid Baby Piglet getting cold. Our house is old, with thick pise walls, great for keeping cool in the summer or keeping the warm in during the long winter months, but when the weather suddenly turns from warm to really cool, not so great.
Every moment we had the heating on I spent fretting that we were going to run out of oil. I ended up placing an order and managed to get our oil tank half filled for the grand price of 1500 Euros. Having no idea how long this would last us, we were enticed by the French government’s tax incentive encouraging you to use renewable heating sources and ordered a wood burning stove.
The stove has been Mr Piglets domain since it was installed, but a new work challenge has meant that Mr Piglet is no longer at home everyday to keep the thing going. This has left me, not even a girl guide, yet alone a scout, at home trying to figure out what to do with it. I daren’t turn the heating on downstairs for fear of having to re-fill the enormous oil tank again, so I persist in my trial and error with the stove.
Each morning, Mr Piglet gets the fire going and leaves me with the instructions on how to keep it going.
The first couple of days I kept getting distracted by work. By the time I went back downstairs the fire was out and I spent the next 5 hours trying to get it going again. Each evening Mr Piglet would give me a lesson in the art of starting a fire. Needless to say I failed miserably again the next day as each attempt to start a fire quickly fizzled out.
After the first week, I became better at keeping the fire going but then I burnt myself on the door after successfully managing to chuck in a few logs and wouldn’t touch it until my burn had stopped hurting.
Now, I can just about manage to keep it going from 9am until gone 7pm when Mr Piglet returns. I’m even managing to do it without smoking the house out and for the moment, without burning myself. My technique? I let the logs burn almost right out and then I stoke the ashes around, chuck on as many logs as I can get in the stove and turn the air vent right up. So far, so good although there really is an art to fire and I think I’m a long way off from learning it. Just so long as the wretched thing doesn’t go out…