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 😕

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 😉