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Posts Tagged ‘wood burning stove’

The Vicar bought some chimney brushes last year. We’ve found it a very cost-effective way of  ensuring that we don’t fill the living room with smoke too much. I think the set cost about £30, which is already less than we’d pay to get a sweep in. Our chimneys are quite easy to sweep as everything is contained in the woodburning stove box when it descends, although the house is three storeys, so we had to get extra rods to reach the top. Everything keeps clean as long as black bin liners are judiciously applied. Here’s the happy Vicar in his sweeping kit, displaying some of the soot, which shows up very nicely on his peely-wally Scottish hands:

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I’ve just been enjoying some early Spring views from my kitchen window as the sun sets on a surprisingly balmy February day. First there was the cheering sight of the robin hopping about around the bird table that the Vicar was given for Christmas. He doesn’t seem to mind all the clutter out there in the yard.

The yard is also where the Vicar was then chopping logs in a manly way to prepare the wood for our fires for next winter. We’ve had a good haul of wood over the last few weeks, mainly due to some serious redevelopment going on in our town centre. They’ve been chopping a good few trees down and have left the wood out for the hunter-gatherer tribe, of which the Vicar is an enthusiastic member.

Watching the Vicar chop logs reminds me of Almost, who we’ve not seen for a few weeks now. Almost is from Kosovo and is once again trying to get leave to remain in the UK. Almost tells us that his 3 brothers got permission some years ago but he had to return to Kosovo with his wife and family. His wife was taken ill  (with a stroke) on the way back and died recently. So he is back here trying again. He is living in cramped conditions and occasionally comes to ask if we’ll pay him for some work or for help with his gas or electric.

When Almost was last here, the Vicar was log-chopping and was then clearing up the prepared wood before he was able to take Almost to the Post Office to top up his gas card. As he does with most visiting able-bodied men, the Vicar offered Almost a go of the axe. And although Almost is much slighter than the Vicar, his axe skills were far more impressive. We asked him if he’d chopped wood before, back in Kosovo.

Ah. Too many, too many.

I wonder if our boys will grow up with great axe skills but sighing about having to chop too many, too many.

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We are very stingy ecofriendly here in the Vicarage don’cha know. We use our paper shreddings as firelighters. In fact we shred every piece of A4 paper we can, because we’ve found that strip shredded paper is a brilliant base layer for getting the logburners roaring quickly. It burns easily and creates lots of air space to encourage the fire.

Recently I’ve been trying to get on top of some paperwork which hasn’t exactly been properly filed. Piled up in the utility room would be a better description. And I was getting rather fed up of interrupting the Vicar in his study in order to shred.

But happily all has now been solved by the purchase of this excellent shredder from our local Lidl for a mere £8.99. Not only was it cheaper than nearly every one we’d looked at online, but it also sits neatly on top of the shredding basket next to the woodburning stove, thanks to its cunning telescopic arm.

Just wanted to share the joy. You know. They might even have one left at your local Lidl. If you’re lucky.

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More Shed

The Vicar pointed me to a better picture of his glorious shed, this time taken from the garage door end.

The Vicar is very proud of his handiwork

The Vicar is very proud of his handiwork

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Now I know that normal men like to retreat to their shed for a bit of peace and quiet out of the house. The Vicar, however, has filled his shed so that retreating to it to sit down or smoke a pipe or something manly like that would be totally impossible. Actually it’s strictly the garage, but it is the largest outbuilding we have. And our car wouldn’t fit in it. Or it would but we couldn’t open a door to get out of the vehicle. The garage is Austin Seven size I’d say.

The good news is that instead the shed is filled with logs for our beloved wood burning stoves. As you can see, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to watch the Vicar chopping wood outside my kitchen window. Not in the last couple of weeks, though – it’s been a bit busy here. Thankfully I think we probably have enough wood to last a few more days.

It's hard to see the scale, but you can just see the top of the garage door at the back

It's hard to see the scale, but you can just see the top of the garage door at the back

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Living in a vicarage is an enormous privilege. Ours is a seven-bedroomed three storey detached Victorian house with a large garden, outbuildings and a cellar. It’s wonderful to have so much space to live in and to share with parishioners as we offer hospitality.

Big houses can be freeeeezing

Big houses can be freeeeezing

Vicars tend to have big houses so that they can have meetings and offer hospitality (well, I guess that’s the reasoning). I think there are even some minimum size stipulations for living rooms to ensure that you can fit the entire PCC in. So we have a big house. And a stipend of about £20k. The size of the budget is not at all proportionate to the size of the house and the associated heating bills. In fact, if we hadn’t made careful provision, I’m sure we’d fall into the government’s ‘fuel poverty’ bracket (more than 10% of income spent on heating).

We have a boiler that’s 20 years old, single glazed sash windows and 10 foot ceilings. Beautiful but freezing. The diocese is poor and doesn’t have the budget to ensure modern levels of comfort in every house.

So what techniques do clergy families use to keep warm in their huge and unheatable homes?

  • Clothing layers and slippers. As I type this up I am wearing my fleece gilet. Essential clothing for a vicar’s wife. At our last church, the vicar’s wife had a down-filled one which she wore nearly all year round.
  • Limited room use. We stick to the kitchen and one family room most of the time.
  • Baking. And porridge in the mornings. It really helps if you have the cooker on.

Before we moved here, we also decided to use some savings, our harvest from working as engineers in the Far East before we had children. We decided that we’d spend it on being warm in the vicarage. So we’ve installed two wood-burning stoves in the main reception rooms and underfloor heating in the bathrooms. We reckoned that this way we could be warm in the mornings and evenings without having to pay for the boiler to heat the whole house.

This seems to be working very well so far. We’ve managed to remain very comfortable without the heating until now and are hoping we can last until half term this way. The vicar is getting very skilful with the wood-burning stoves, but I’ll save all that for another post.

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