I’m getting through my firewood pretty quickly, certainly much quicker than last year. Then again, the wood I was using last year was nowhere near as good as the dry oak I’m now burning and as my wood burner is performing a lot better than before, it’s burning the wood quicker and more efficiently and I’m getting a lot more heat out of it.
So I’m actually getting some decent heat into the house for a change, but as it’s not very well insulated (a job on the list for the future) and as I also only have single-glazed windows with no curtains (still :-(), I have to keep chucking logs on of an evening to keep the temperature up.
OK, I can live with that, but it still doesn’t get away from the fact that my wood store is emptying quicker than I originally thought it would. So what I decided to do was cut and split all of the one metre lengths that I still have so they take up just over half of the space that they currently do and then order in some more while there are still stocks of seasoned dry oak to be had. This is actually a serious concern because everyone else with a wood burner is probably finding the same as me now that the cold evenings and nights have arrived, and is using their wood up like billy-oh.
Anyway, I started on this the other day and more or less broke the back of it, leaving a bit more to do today. I’d finished cutting the remaining wood down and was in the middle of splitting it when I hit a particularly hard bit of oak that the splitter was finding tough to deal with. Suddenly the wood went with a loud bang and the two pieces that resulted shot across the wood store like mortar bombs. After I’d retrieved and stacked them, I returned to the splitter to do the next piece only to find that the ram, instead of returning to its starting point was stuck in the middle where it had previously come to rest.
Working the splitter is a two-handed job, principally I think, for safety reasons. You have to push down on a lever at the base of the ram mechanism while at the same time pressing on the ‘start’ button and as these two things are separated by a foot or so, you need both hands to do it. When I checked, I found that the ram still moved when you pressed the ‘start’ button but the lever was somehow loose and floppy.
To cut a long story short, the lever presses on a kind-of plunger that operates a non-return valve of some sort, and this had become stuck. So out came my tool kit and after a bit of faffing around, the plunger eventually shot out accompanied by a stream of hydraulic fluid. It didn’t take long to get things back together again and when I operated the controls, the ram worked as it should, moving forward when activated and back again when the controls were released. But with so much fluid having been lost, there was no way that I could operate the machine as it was without risk of damaging it, so the next job was to find some suitable hydraulic fluid.
There’s a small gardening ‘atelier’ in Thonac which isn’t very far from my house, but I dismissed that as I’ve had mixed experiences there – poor from the proprietor who had no interest in helping me with my first motor mower not long after arriving here when I needed help getting the blade off, but excellent from his young assistant who kindly gave me a bolt for free off an old broken mower when I needed it after one had fallen off my second machine and got lost somewhere in my garden. ‘No’, I thought, I’ll try Intermarché on the off-chance as I had to go there anyway and I did buy oil for my chain saw there, and if I had no luck there, I’d just go into Les Briconautes who would surely have some.
Sure enough and not surprisingly, I had no luck in Intermarché so off I went to Les Briconautes. I couldn’t see what I wanted so I asked a chap in the gardening area and he took me off to the shelf in the main store where there were various oils on show. Sure enough, they had some but only in a 5 litre container at a cost of well over 20 euros! Good grief, who could possibly need that much hydraulic oil! A ‘fendeuse à bois’ like mine only takes a litre or so and when filled should never need topping up, as if it’s leaking it won’t be working up to pressure and will need repairing or replacing. Even large models come complete with oil and the same applies.
So off I went to Thenon where there’s a Pôle Vert garden centre thinking that surely they must have what I’m looking for as they sell a range of ‘scies à bois’ and ‘fendeuses à bois’ which are similar to what I have and they also sell mostly to ‘particuliers’ (members of the public) rather than the trade or the farming community. But what did I find. They also had a shelf containing various oils but when I checked with the fellow in the showroom he looked and said that they too only had oil for ‘fendeuses’ in 5 litre containers!
So now I was at a loss and as it was getting on a bit, I thought that I might as well go home and resume my search some other time as although I still have a pile of cut logs ready for splitting, I already have more than enough wood ready to use on my wood burner. ‘What the heck’, I thought to myself, ‘As I’m heading back south again anyway, why not drop into the gardening place at Thonac and see what they can do for me’. So that’s what I did (following image from Google Earth).
M. Grangier looked on his shelf and came back to tell me that for the moment he couldn’t help, but had I tried Savimat down the road? That came as something of a surprise. Savimat is a depot on the road into Montignac which has a small showroom attached to it but is where the local farmers buy their heavy equipment – tractors, trailers, bailers and so on. Not the place, you’d have thought, that a member of the public would usually go to or perhaps, even be welcome at. But as the man at Thonac had suggested it in good faith, I thought that I had nothing to lose and might as well give it a go (following images from Google Earth).
When I got there, there was only me and a young guy walking into and out of the adjoining offices and while he was gone, I checked the shelves. Well, I could hardly believe my eyes because sandwiched between all of the 5 litre containers and larger of various oils, there were a few 1 litres of ‘huile pneumatique’ suitable for ‘fendeuses à bois’.
He set me up an account on the computer (seems they haven’t heard of a general Cash Sales account down here) and the transaction was soon done – for the princely sum of 7.30€. So all my driving around to Montignac and Thenon were in vain, and all because I’d made a rash assumption about the little place in Thonac. If I’d gone there first, I’d have been able to buy the oil I wanted and return home to get the job finished, which will now have to wait until another day.
There was one silver lining though. Diesel fuel prices here in France are much lower than in the UK (but due to go up next year because of EU ‘environmental’ concerns) and have been dropping even further due to the falling world price of oil. But not so in the Montignac Intermarché who evidently think that they have a captive market, where it’s still 1.23€ a litre. There’s a small Carrefour supermarket in Thenon which almost always sells its fuels a bit cheaper than the Intermarché, but today I was stunned to find that its ‘Gazole’ was down to only 1.16€ (92p) a litre! I was able to fill up while I was there so at least I’ll be able to enjoy some benefit from having made the drive up there 😉