November 25, 2013

My darkest day

After leaving him lying on his bed in my lounge overnight, today I laid my lovely Toddie to rest in my garden at a spot that I now realise he had indicated to me several times over the last week or so, was where he wanted to be. I won’t tell how I knew that, but I know I’m right. I won’t share any more details either, except to say that in the final moments he looked comfortable and right lying where he was before I wrapped and covered him in one of his old car covers that had lots of his marks on it and carried his scent.

It was a terribly black day for me and I can say in all honesty that I’d have willingly given a year of my life for the privilege of sharing one more year with my lovely, gentle old dog. I know I’ll be feeling very raw for a few days, so please forgive me if you don’t hear from me for a little while.

November 24, 2013

My Toddie

I am sad to say that at 10.55 am local time this morning, Toddie, my springer spaniel who has been my old pal, best mate, constant companion and closest friend for the past ten years, passed away. Mercifully, the end was not too drawn out and he ended up dying quite peacefully in my arms in his own bed in his own house in front of his own fire. I can’t imagine what my life will be like without him but the way I feel at the moment, I just can’t say any more for now.

RIP my darling, darling old dog.

November 17, 2013

Woops!

We’ve got some showers coming up over the next few days followed by a cold snap at the end of the week, so I thought that I’d better move as much of the wood I got ready yesterday into the house where it wouldn’t get wet, and so any that was already a bit damp could dry out and be ready to burn. So I did that this morning. A bit earlier on I was relaxing in front of the TV thinking that the ‘burning wood’ smell was rather nice but getting a little bit too strong, when I noticed that it was getting, well, a bit hazy in my lounge. When I investigated a bit further, I found that some of the wood that I’d placed next to the outside of the wood burner was actually glowing bright red and smouldering!

OK, I’m no expert about these things, but although I’d thought that any wood touching the side of the stove would get a bit warm, I’d never expected that it would get hot enough to actually catch fire! All I can say is that it was lucky that I was actually present to acquire this new-found snippet of knowledge, because if it had been left and all of the wood I’d stacked up ready to burn had then gone up, I’ve a sneaky suspicion that the whole house would have gone up with it as well!

Memo – don’t in future stack wood so that it’s touching the outside of the wood burner because that puppy gets a heck of a lot hotter than you expect 😯

November 16, 2013

Born to this life!

It was a pleasantly warm, bright day today, which made working outside a pleasure, so I was looking forward to getting out in the fresh air and chopping up some wood for the wood burner. My aim was to get enough chopped and ready to burn to keep me going for a few days to save living from hand to mouth as I had been doing and having to keep dashing outside to find and cut enough dry wood to meet my immediate needs. However, even before I’d completed one cut, the chain on my chainsaw failed. As I mentioned in a previous post, it hadn’t been cutting very efficiently for a few days, but the cutting blades themselves were not the problem. What had gone wrong was that the backs of many blades that connect onto the drive pinion had worn away, so much so that drive to the chain had been lost, allowing it to jump completely off the guide.

So a replacement chain was in order, but I wasn’t sure where to find what I needed at such short notice. If I couldn’t get hold of one today I’d soon run out of wood and end up with a very cold house, as overnight temperatures are forecast to fall to just above freezing for the next few nights. So there was some urgency. I’d checked at Les Briconautes when I was there the other day but they were only offering Stihl chains, none of which were the correct length, and I also didn’t know whether they’d be of the correct specification in any case. As it happened, Victor chose that moment to ring, which was very fortunate. He confirmed that chains for all models of chainsaw are of similar spec and that it was just a matter of getting hold of the right length. He said that it might be worth giving Les Briconautes another try and asking about the lengths that were available, as it is possible for them to be adjusted.

So that’s what I did. Initially it didn’t look too encouraging as the assistant I spoke to said that I needed to go to an Oregon supplier. However, he said that he’d speak to his colleague who turned out to know much more about chainsaws then he did. After taking a couple of quick measurements and counting the tooth frequency, he said that if I would like to wait for 10 minutes, he’d make me a chain up. So I did, and when he returned and told me that the price was 28€, I asked if he would make that two instead. He said that he’d be pleased to, and that there was a Stihl offer on as well for a 50% discount on the second chain if you buy two, meaning that I got two Stihl chains for 42€. I thought that was a real result πŸ™‚

When I got back and started using the new chain, I was amazed by how well it performed compared to the old one. In fact, not only did I succeed in chopping up a large quantity of wood ready to take indoors, I also chopped up all the rest of the wood left behind by my house’s previous resident, which I then put under cover in my shelter, and completely chopped up the dead tree that was recently blown over as well and put all of its wood into the shelter too. And I loved every minute while I was doing it! Sure, it helped to have a chainsaw that was working well, but there’s something primevally satisfying about cutting wood from your own land to use for heating your house. And the best thing is, it’s for free too, so there were two reasons for the smile that I ended up having plastered over my face. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of collecting and chopping the wood and carrying it indoors to stack next to my wood burner. I don’t know how long it’ll last, a good few days at least, but it’s nice to know that there’s more chopped and ready to burn, waiting outside in my shelter. I’m sure that it would be too hard for some, but for me it’s a great life and I love it πŸ˜‰

November 14, 2013

Jobs done

It was a fine day yesterday so although there was quite a high wind, I decided that I had to take the opportunity to finish off my wood burner work. Unfortunately, when I took the extra length of flue pipe that I bought the other evening out of my car, I found that I should have taken a closer look at it (that’ll teach me to go without my glasses), because it had been dropped and bent at both ends. It was still usable, but it meant that first I had to gingerly dress both ends back into shape using a pair of pliers and then give it a respray using black high temperature paint where the original finish had been damaged, to prevent it rusting.

Having done that it was time to put my ladders up and climb up onto the roof, which was not very pleasant because of the wind. Nevertheless, I managed to carry up the new length of flue tubing and lower it down the chimney to connect up with the existing pipe and then do the same with the last cut length that I had measured and cut down beforehand so that it just came a couple of centimetres above the rim of the chimney. Then it was time to fit the securing bracket on the top so the flue stack couldn’t move around on top of the wood burner down below, which went exactly as planned. I used my old cordless drill to make a hole in the masonry of the chimney for a large plastic plug that held the single bracket fixing surprisingly securely. The fixing then screwed into the plug and one half of the bracket then screwed onto a thread on that. I needed a lock nut to make it firmer on the thread and a search in my toolbox yielded a bolt of exactly the right thread with a wing nut on it, that I’d had for years. The wing nut worked a treat! All that I then had to do was attach the other half of the bracket, lightly tighten the fixing bolts and the work up-top was finished, with my wood burner flue nicely secured vertically and away from the walls of the chimney. Hooray πŸ˜€

Then I had to fabricate my chimney sealing plate. I’ll say as little as possible about this as in all honesty, I think it’s the worst DIY job that I’ve ever had to do – and that really is ever! I carefully measured the plate as best I could for the location of the hole for the flue pipe and then cut the plate in two from front to back through the centre of the hole. Then I used my jig saw to cut the two halves of the hole out, which was so far, so good. Fitting the plate turned out to be an absolute nightmare that took me hours, because with the imperfections inside the chimney that prevented each of the two halves of the plate from dropping down, I had to keep trying, seeing where the plate was catching and then taking it out again, usually after it was stuck fast, to trim a bit off. And all the while, every time I moved the plate inside the chimney soot, grit and muck kept falling down onto me and into my eyes until I and the clothes I was wearing were covered. I broke two jig saw metal-cutting blades and had to go down to Les Briconautes to buy some more before they closed, filthy and looking like a chimney sweep.

It was well into the evening before I managed to get both halves of the plate in and seating in a reasonably satisfactory way by which time I was covered in soot, tired and aching all over. I couldn’t wait to get my filthy clothes off and get into the shower but I had to wash my face and head separately first otherwise the shower would have ended up almost as dirty as I was. I got the wood burner going but it was too late to bank it up to see how it performed and I thought I’d leave that until today before I went off to bed and a rather fitful night’s sleep because I was aching so much. My first impressions were that it still seemed to be reluctant to get really fired up so it could begin to chuck out some good heat, but that remained to be seen.

So this morning I gave it a good clean out and got some more wood in and ready to go. It’s raining again while I’m typing this but this morning it was dry and with little wind before the grey began to move in and the clouds began to lower. Then I got it fired up. I did it without paper this time, just using dry twigs with wood on top that I got going with my blowlamp. There’s still no wind so there’s little natural ‘draw’ in the chimney and I thought I’d try and counter that by getting a good blaze going that would create its own. And after a rather slow and smoky start, because I’m still using up my old garden wood, it’s looking encouraging.

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I think the wood burner is working more or less as it should for the first time today, and that’s still without there being very much wind outside to pull the smoke out and away. After getting a good burn going, it’s running well with the bottom vent closed and the top only half open, which it hasn’t done before and the heat it’s giving is, I think, the best so far. So now I just have to wait and see – and just keep cutting and chopping more wood! It’s a hard life down here, in the country, but I think that after yesterday’s efforts, I’ll give myself the rest of the day off πŸ˜‰

November 12, 2013

Good news, bad news

The good news is that when I checked my wood burner’s flue outlet this morning, there was nothing blocking it and when I went up onto the roof later on, I found that all of my repairs were perfectly intact and as I left them and nothing appears to have fallen down the chimney. The bad news is that when I looked down the chimney, the flue pipes, which I expected to reach almost up to the top were a lot further down than I expected and that another length of tube would be needed together with the short length that I already have, to reach up to the full height.

This presented me with a small problem, because when I did my circuit of all of the local suppliers before buying what I needed from Leroy Merlin at Brive, none of them had stocks of the 150mm tube that I required. I’d already had to start work later than I’d wanted to today because we had horrible low cloud and drizzle for the whole morning and the period immediately after lunch, but I had no choice when I found that I needed an extra length of tube other than to drop everything and go in search of one. As usual, because of the large distances between the various suppliers, this turned into a total nightmare, made worse by the fact that as the afternoon drew to a close and darkness began to fall, the low cloud and drizzle returned. This in itself would not usually present much of a problem, but as I mentioned in a previous post, my car heater fan has decided to stop working. When I say, ‘stop working’, this isn’t totally the case. It turned on full and was blowing like the clappers early on when I didn’t need it, but it then decided that enough was enough and decided to take what it obviously thought was a well-earned rest thereafter.

I started at Les Briconautes in Montignac and when I found that they still didn’t have 150 mm tubing in stock, I headed for Bricojem in Rouffignac followed by Perigord Noir Bricollage out on the way to Bergerac to find that neither of those had any stock either. I therefore decided to cut my losses and head straight for Leroy Merlin at Chancelade on the north-western outskirts of Perigueux who I reasoned would by now have new stock in after not having any when I first went over a week ago to buy all of the materials that I needed to install my wood burner. And I was right, although the drive through Perigueux coincided exactly with the rush hour, which is no fun at this time of the year, in the dark and in drizzle. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the drive back out to my house was even worse because my windscreen was partly misted over almost the whole way making the drive very uncomfortable with a stream of impatient French drivers following behind who were eager to get home for their dinners.

After last night’s experiences with smoke blowing back into my lounge and the stove performing very inefficiently, I’ve decided to do without it tonight and have my little fan heater roaring away on the other side of the room instead. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my wood burner problems are just down to the inefficiency of the flue and not having my chimney sealed off down below but I won’t know for sure until I’ve rectified those two things. Tomorrow is forecast to be much brighter than today and a bit warmer after a little bit of rain first thing in the morning, so I just hope that I can get on and finish the jobs that need doing without all of the constant disruptions that keep cropping up and are so ruddy annoying 😑

November 11, 2013

Excellent flight

Today was Armistice Day in France, a ‘jour fΓ©riΓ©’ or national holiday. And it was also one of the nicest days we’ve had for several weeks, with bright sunshine, blue sky and very little wind. So it was the perfect day to do the flight south that I’d had planned for weeks but had been unable to do because of the fickleness of the weather over that period. The route I had planned is shown in the pic below.

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I planned to turn out right after take off and head south-east towards Salignac and then onwards towards Souillac. That was as far east as I planned to go this time and I then planned to head south-west along the Dordogne river towards the village of Domme. That would then bring up the airfield of Sarlat-Domme on my left although I hadn’t planned to land there on this occasion. I then planned to turn towards the north-west to take in the spectacular Chateau de la Roque before heading north to return to Galinat.

I followed my plan pretty closely but as the flight progressed it became rather chilly, so I did cut one or two corners. I had to put on my gloves in the latter stages which then prevented me from taking photographs, but I did manage to take a few before then. First, the village of Salignac, not particularly remarkable but I took the picture to test out my new little Lumix camera as much as anything else.

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Then onwards to Souillac, more of a small town than a village and mainly noteworthy for being the last stop on the railway line from Toulouse to Brive and a staging post before the A20 motorway when heading south. I didn’t get as close as I wanted to because by then I was beginning to feel the cold a bit.

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Although it was very picturesque as I flew along the Dordogne between Souillac and Domme, I didn’t take any pictures. The main reason was that as I was flying over thick trees to the north of the river, it was cold and surprisingly bumpy. I was at about 1900 feet at that time and I found that it was warmer when I descended a bit to around 1500 feet, and the other advantage was that at the lower altitude, I could smell the smoke from all of the wood burning stoves that were in action below.

I did take a few pictures, though, as I approached the Chateau de la Roque which is situated between Domme and St Cyprien high on rocks on the north bank of the Dordogne. I didn’t get close enough this time to do it justice but I made a mental note to make sure that I do in the spring or summer when the weather is warmer and more favourable.

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It was after I’d passed the chateau and turned north to head back to Galinat that I realised looking down how few areas there were that were suitable for use in the event of a forced landing. Surprisingly, I now realise the more I fly in the Dordogne that this is not usually the case, but on this leg of my flight there were mainly just large areas thickly covered with trees and very few open spaces between them that you could land on. So it was with some relief that I eventually found myself overhead Sergeac as I approached the final stage of my flight. As I looked for Galinat I found that as on previous occasions, I’d have to climb to get myself onto what I regard as a safe approach into Galinat ie on the high side for safety so that I’m on more of a glide type approach making me less reliant on the engine. I’ve decided after today that I must always aim to be at 1500 feet or possibly even a tad higher, by the time I turn onto long final.

I landed safely and could have landed a bit longer than I did, as the grass on the runway was both quite long and wet. As were my feet after I’d parked 56NE up, tied it down and put all of its covers back on. I just wish that I could find a pair of boots (in my budget range!) that are waterproof πŸ˜•

Tomorrow I really must do the work needed to finish my wood burner install. I now have another reason for doing so, namely that there’s something wrong with the flue. I’m not getting anything like the heat from the stove that I was originally and also, if I open the door to add more wood when the stove is burning, clouds of smoke come out into the room. I heard a noise a couple of evenings ago which I initially had thought was just a log falling over in the firebox. However, I now think that it was some kind of debris falling down the flue pipe from inside the chimney and causing a partial blockage of the wood burner outlet. I won’t be able to find out for sure until tomorrow when the fire is out and I just hope that it turns out to be nothing too serious. I don’t fancy having to do any more repair work on the chimney for a while and just hope that maybe it’s a large lump of mortar or something like that that has become displaced. What worries me is that if I’m right about debris falling down, whatever it is must have come from pretty high up. The flue reaches almost to the top of the chimney (I think), so I just hope that it’s not something to do with the repairs that I recently did. Anyway, all will be revealed tomorrow, which will for the most part be another dry day, if not as sunny as today was.

November 10, 2013

Catch up

So what’s been going on? Well, my plan for the next few weeks is simple – complete the installation of my wood burner and then take a bit of a rest, getting in a bit of flying whenever possible. But life happens, and plans always end up having to be modified.

The first thing was that I took Friday out to go down to Cahors, to have lunch with a new friend. The drive there and back was appalling – non stop rain, fog on the higher ground and my car heater decided to choose that day to stop working. Oh for the days when everything in a car was controlled by on/off switches. You want to demist the windscreen? OK sir, pull the knob to open the hot water valve, push the lever to move the flap to direct the air onto the windscreen and switch the fan on. Lovely and simple, and effective too! Now everything has to be controlled by electronics for some reason, which always let you down when you most need them. Digital? Give me analogue every time because it always works, unless something physically breaks, and except for a fan stopping working because a fuse had gone, I’ve never heard of a car heater stopping working before.

But that was the day’s only disaster. Well, that’s not quite true actually, because surprisingly for France, the food left a little bit to be desired, the first indication being my companion receiving her first dish served up on a stone cold plate. But the same certainly cannot be said for the company, which was both charming and excellent. We enjoyed a lovely meal together that consisted almost entirely of the two of us chatting non-stop for the best part of two hours before we eventually had to go off on our separate ways in the rain, me back to Plazac and she to Carcassonne.

I received the metal sheet to make my chimney sealing plate out of a few days ago and all I need to do now to complete my wood burner install is make and fit the plate, climb onto the roof and fix a steadying bracket for the flue in the chimney and fit the last length of flue tube. But I need a dry day with not too much wind in order to complete these tasks. Saturday wasn’t that day, so I thought that I’d phone an advertiser who had what looked like a pretty nice microwave for sale on Le Bon Coin, and quite locally too, at Larche, this side of Brive. He still had it, so I said I’d like to come and take a look, which I did and ended up buying it off him. He demonstrated it by doing a quick run through of all its functions (it also has a convection oven and a grill as well as being a microwave, just what I was looking for), so we then loaded it in the back of my car and I drove home with it.

When I came to give it a go at home, I was surprised and disappointed after his demo to find that it came up with a fault message. It appears from what I can gather from a Dutch web site that I googled, to be something to do with a temperature sensor problem. A poster on a forum said that it’s not an expensive repair, but it leaves me with a bit of a dilemma. My initial reaction is that I should return it and get my money back, but the only problem with that is that when he demo’d it to me, there was no sign of the fault, and what he had done was exactly the same as I had. So he could well deny that there was a fault when he sold it to me, and might he have a point? Was it shaken around a bit in the back of my car, because I hadn’t placed any padding around it, and maybe I should have? The fault is problematic but not disastrous, because it seems to be intermittent, which is another reason why I think something may have been shaken internally while I was transporting it. So I will probably just have to live with it, and in any case, by taking it back I would end up spending half of what I paid for it on petrol as well.

By the time I got home, it was far too late to think of doing anything except get my wood burner fired up, and although I had cleaned it out ready in the morning, it meant going out to get in as much dry wood as possible to burn in the evening. I had some indoors already, but not enough, and you can take my word for it that there’s nothing more miserable than being out in the rain cutting wood under the leaky roof of a rickety outdoor shelter to bring indoors while it’s still damp, to then try and burn. And that’s what I’ve been having to do for several days because of the appalling wet weather that we’ve been getting continuously for the past week or so. I did the best I could, but couldn’t get enough in and ended up letting the fire go out later in the evening and having an early night.

I awoke this morning to spatters of rain being blown by howling winds so the first thing I did was launch into my new early morning regime of cleaning out the wood burner. This involves clearing out all the ash from above and below the grate from the night before, cleaning the door glass and either getting the flames going again if it’s still burning or, as was the case today, laying it with paper and thin, dry twigs for kindling, to light it again later on. With the wind and rain, I gave up on any idea of doing any chimney work and decided that the best I’d be able to do was cut up as much ‘dry’ wood as I could ready for taking indoors and replace it under the shelter with ‘wet’ from outside. And that’s what I was eventually able to do. My new little chainsaw is already showing signs of ‘tiredness’ and doesn’t whip through the logs anywhere near as fast as it did when new a couple of weeks ago. Part of the problem is that the wood it’s cutting through is damp, but I think that the main problem is that the chain is already becoming a bit blunt. I suppose that’s the main difference between a more expensive machine and the one I bought (remember the old saying – if you buy cheap, you buy twice) and I’ll have to look at the possibility of upgrading the chain for a better quality one, as the engine certainly doesn’t seem to be lacking in power or speed.

I got through a fair amount, though, which hopefully should last me for several days. I also pulled out three lengths of the ‘new’ stuff I’d found that was left behind by the previous resident of my house, and it’s either oak or pine, I can’t tell the difference. But it’s of much better quality than the rough ‘garden’ wood that I’ve been burning up to now, as I could tell when I cut it up with my chainsaw and from the few pieces of it that I’ve burnt so far. It was lucky that I found it when I did because it must have been there for at least four years and the ends of the lengths on the bottom are already beginning to show signs of rot. Oh, yes, the other thing I found this morning was that after last night’s/this morning’s high winds, another dead tree that was standing on my side of the border between my garden and that of my neighbour’s behind me, had blown down into my garden. So there’s even more fuel for my wood burner, and the good thing is that because it was very old, it broke off at root level, so there’s no stump to worry about.

The rain didn’t return after this morning’s soakings (the ground from my back door round to my wood store is currently slurpy mud – my planned new path is high on the list for early next year) and later on this afternoon we even saw blue sky and the sun for a short while. I thought that after the high winds, it would be a good time to go across to Galinat and check on 56NE. I’m glad to say that the covers are working well and doing their job and the only movement was in the flap of cover that I’d tucked in on one wing tip, which had blown up. Nothing major was exposed and no harm was done, but I really must get round to finishing the wing covers off to prevent this happening again. The trouble is that there’s never enough time πŸ˜•

The latest weather forecast, which was showing more rain, is now saying that there will be a dry window with low wind tomorrow. That’s good news because if I put my chimney work off (again!) there’s a possibility that I might be able to get a flight in. Wow, now that really would be a nice surprise πŸ˜‰

November 6, 2013

A handy surprise

More rain today and the forecast is for rain every day for the next week or so, so the prospects for flying look pretty gloomy. Am I glad that I got 56NE’s covers done so at least it’s pretty well protected even though it’s having to stand out in it. I’ve just had a quick look back at what I was posting exactly a year ago and I was complaining about the self-same thing, saying that I’d had 56NE for four weeks and it had been rained on every day in that time while standing out in my garden. So it doesn’t look as though this kind of weather is unusual at this time of year. Mind you, although we were getting much colder days then than we are now, I was at least mentioning the odd crisp but bright, sunny day that kept turning up, that we seem to be missing out on this year.

So today was yet another one to avoid going out in if at all possible, and I spent the first part of it again putting together all the papers that are required by the company to which I’ve applied for insurance for my car. I did it all a month ago, but as the company concerned then wanted me to go to an agent to complete the process, which I didn’t want to do as I thought it rather negated the whole purpose of doing it on line, their cover stopped on 31st October, at the end of the initial month that you get when you complete the on line sign-up process. After putting the package together again for the new company and dropping it in the post this afternoon, I’ll now have to wait and see what happens.

After lunch, I went down to the SFR shop at Sarlat. The reason for my visit was to exchange my SFR Neufbox that provides me with internet and telephone. The one that I had up to today I’d received in exchange for my original one that was damaged when my house was subjected to the 400 volts power surge back in April, but whereas that one worked great, the replacement has always been subject to unexpectedly and without warning dropping its WiFi signal. This got so bad that in the end I just had to get rid of it, so SFR customer service arranged for me after a phone call this morning, to pick up another one this afternoon at their Sarlat branch.

It was after I returned home from doing that that I had my pleasant surprise that I referred to in the heading. I mentioned in a previous post that the previous occupier of my house had left a pile of old tree wood in my garden that, when I started to delve into it, I found had some much better quality timber underneath it that should make for quite good burning. As I’ve been gradually using up the wood that I placed under my shelter to keep dry, I’ve been shifting wet wood from outside into the space vacated, for it to dry out and become suitable for burning. It was while I was pulling wood off the aforementioned pile that I uncovered what was hidden at the back, which turned out to be a reasonable quantity of cut and split logs that the previous resident must have bought in to burn and left stored outside until they got round to using it. They must never have, and although the plastic cover that it was covered with has deteriorated over the time since then, the wood itself still looks to be in very good condition.

I won’t know for sure until I’ve removed more of the less good stuff that I’m gradually pulling off the heap and working my way through, but with this new, albeit quite small supply, what I have already and the quite large dead tree in my garden that I can cut down and chop up, I might well end up with enough wood to see me through the whole winter. In any case, my heating bill is bound to be considerably less this year then the EDF bill for in excess of 700€, that I received after last winter for heating my house using the electric convection heaters that I bought as a desperate measure to keep warm! I was stunned when I got it, so at least there won’t be a repeat of that this year, now that I’ve got the wood burner going. Thank goodness!

November 4, 2013

Weather window

No, not for flying, which seems a distant prospect at the moment. After my experience the other day of dashing outside to get wood which was getting wetter and wetter in the rain despite being covered up (due to the useless covering material), I realised what a valuable resource wood is when you’re relying on it to heat your house and keep warm. Yesterday was dull for the whole day but it was dry, so it gave me an ideal opportunity to go outside and get myself organised for the bad weather to come as we approach the fag-end of the year.

The previous resident of my house left behind a lot of rubbish when they departed almost all of which I’ve disposed of. However, they also left various bits, pieces and lengths of wood which I was loathe to throw away, and I’m glad that I didn’t because I can now use all of it as fuel for my wood burner. But first I had to clear it all out from under the shelter at the end of my house, which, in any case, was a job that was well overdue.

The shelter is in two halves. I haven’t been making very good use of it up to now, mainly because of the rubbish that it contained that didn’t need to be there. I’ve been keeping my wooden outdoor table and chairs in there when the weather has been bad, my rotary clothes dryer, which I’ve only used about three times, and the Honda ‘motobineuse’ (rotavator) that I got hold of for when I start digging up my garden and which has been under there ever since I bought it. And that’s about it really. The cement mixer that I bought earlier this year for laying the path I have planned around my house has been standing out ever since I got it, covered by the same blue tarpaulin that has proven so useless for keeping my wood dry, so I thought it would be a good idea to move that under the shelter alongside the rotavator. I wanted to use one side of the shelter for all of those things, therefore, and the other side for wood, which meant clearing it out, shifting things around and cutting wood for storage, so it was ready for putting straight onto the stove. And I didn’t know how long I’d have to do it because of the vagaries of the weather, so I had to get going and not stop until I’d finished!

I didn’t do too badly either. I managed to get all of the remainder of the wood that I’d cut from the dead tree in my back garden dry before moving it indoors and stacking it next to the stove so I knew that I’d be OK for fuel for a day or so. I also moved all of the wood from when Christian lopped my ’tilleul’ (lime tree) from the front of the house round to the shelter and got most of it cut up into usable logs, some of which I also took indoors and stacked up next to the stove. I had to leave some larger pieces under the shelter until another time though, because of how long it would have taken to chop them up but at least I know that when I do, they’ll be dry. I also found some more very nice old wood left by the previous resident getting wet under a stack of what I had thought was just rubbishy old bits of tree, so I pulled some of that out to dry it off, cut it up and moved some of it indoors as well.

So all in all, it was a very successful day. We had rain and gusting high winds overnight and as I type this, the rain is still falling, so I’m very glad that I got done what I did yesterday. In the meantime, I’m finding that the stove is eating its way through the wood, though, and keeping it fed is becoming almost a full-time job. I think the next thing that I’ll have to do is learn the finer arts of wood burner regulation, and in quick time too with the speed at which it’s getting through the wood that I brought in yesterday. I don’t fancy the idea of having to go out of the warm, into the rain to get more in πŸ˜‰

November 3, 2013

A few thoughts from yesterday

Yesterday was something of a disaster. It rained all day long virtually without stopping so every time the dog had to go out, he got sopping wet. OK, I’m used to that, but I also had to keep going out in it myself, to get more wood in. And every time I did so, I found that my small stock of wood was getting wetter and wetter despite my having been careful to keep it covered up.

It turns out that all of the lightweight blue tarp that I’ve been using (left-overs from MYRO’s old covers and new stuff that I’ve bought over here that’s similar) is as about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike when it comes to holding back water, which just passes straight through it. You have to ask yourself, therefore, what can it possibly be useful for? All I can think of is dust covers – other answers on a postcard please πŸ˜•

I managed to get by by bringing in as much wood as I could and leaving it to stand for as long as possible to dry off before bunging it into the wood burner, but although I managed to get by and still had enough of a fire left this morning to get going again, it could hardly be called successful and by the evening, the house was quite cold. On a brighter note, Russ’s glass cleaning method worked a treat and I’ve decided that my regular morning regime will include cleaning the glass every day before the muck gets a chance to build up, as well as clearing out the old ashes. Like anything new and unfamiliar, it’s a learning curve, isn’t it.

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The downside is that with all this messing about with the wood burner, I’m beginning to smell like an old bonfire all the time. If I can notice it myself, what on earth must I smell like to other people πŸ™‚

November 1, 2013

No sweat

Well, the wood burner flue problem wasn’t a disaster by any means, just a temporary set-back. The wood I’d left in last night hadn’t quite all burnt this morning even though the stove had become pretty cool, so I raked it around a bit and started some flames to make it give out a bit of heat while I was having breakfast. In the meantime I checked on the possibilities for flying today and decided that it wasn’t going to be on. It was quite chilly and the vis was poor and it didn’t look as though it was going to improve any time soon. So I thought it best to forget about it and sort out the wood burner instead.

I was worried that the flue pipes would all become stuck together once the sticky black liquid in the joints cooled and hardened and this seemed to be the case because earlier on, I’d wiggled the pipe directly on top of the stove, and it moved, whereas later on, when it had cooled, it wouldn’t. I was all ready to use my angle grinder to cut it off off above the stove outlet when I thought I’d give it a go with the blowlamp. To cut a long story short, I managed to separate the pipe from the stove after heating the joint between them, and stand the whole flue on the platform next to the wood burner, so I knew that if I could do it with that joint, I’d be able to do the same with all of the others.

Once I’d got all of the pipes separated and standing outside, I could see how bad the problem was. I tried cleaning the black stuff off with turps, but it didn’t work, so then I decided to take more drastic action and burn it off with the blowlamp. That did the job, even though it took a while and I ended up using most of the gas in the cylinder. I thought that by burning off the volatiles in the gunge, at least it wouldn’t be able to run down the pipes again when they were heated up but in fact I found that once the liquid in it had boiled away, what remained was more or less a kind of grey ash. So I then removed that with a scraper, which got the tubes back to being quite smooth again, albeit not very pretty looking. But I soon solved that, by giving them all a coat of matt black heat-proof paint that I’d had left over after doing MYRO’s exhaust silence all those months ago, back in England πŸ™‚

Then all that remained was to get the flue pipes back onto the wood burner, the right way up. Only one problem – they wouldn’t connect directly that way because the ‘male’ end was the same diameter as the flue outlet on the stove, so wouldn’t go in! The situation was complicated further because today happened to be a public holiday in France, so I doubt that Leroy Merlin was open. And not only that, when I checked their web site, they didn’t appear to list an adaptor or connector that would do the job. So I ended up making a connecting collar of my own by cutting just over 10 cm off the end of one of my pipes. I found that this was a very firm fit on the top of the stove and in fact needed to be hammered on as the stove outlet has a small taper, so I hoped that being so tight a fit, it wouldn’t allow any black gunge to pass through the joint to the outside.

It then didn’t take long to get the flue back onto the stove and after clearing up, I was all ready to fire it up. Everything went pretty well – obviously it was now impossible for any liquid to escape from the flue pipe joints that are up the chimney, so the only place I had to look out for was the flue joint with the stove outlet. In fact, a small amount did begin to emerge at the front and then an even smaller amount round at one side. For the time being, I’m going to leave them be and see if they self-seal when the liquid dries out and turns into hard clinker inside the joint. If not, it won’t take too much effort to lift the flue off again and put some kind of high temperature sealer inside the joint, although obviously I’d like to avoid that if I can.

But at least the wood burner is back in action again and I’ve got it burning pretty briskly at the moment to get some heat back into the house. Tomorrow, when it’s had time to cool down a bit overnight, I’ll see if I can clean the door using Russ’s recommended method, before getting the cycle going all over again. Hopefully I’ve now turned the corner and will be able to look forward to being awarded my wood burner’s badge quite shortly πŸ˜‰