At the moment, keeping warm for us is a matter of hard work. No central heating installed as yet, to give the place an even ambient temperature when we wake up. We hope to install underfloor heating fired by a wood burning boiler during this year at some point, funds permitting. Until that happens, we are relying on our, mostly home made, wood burning stoves to take the chill off. We have to be organised and remember to feed them so that they don’t go out. No automatic fuel feed here! Just elbow grease and manual labour!
Logs, seasoned for at least two years, are stocked under the verandah, ready for immediate use. Larger logs of less well seasoned wood are stocked behind the house in a long, purpose built lean-to, ready to be used in a year’s time. During the winter months, we cut wood in the vast expanse of nearby woodland belonging to some friends. They are glad to have parts of their woodland coppiced and managed and we are glad to be able to cut as much wood as we want, to supply our needs. An excellent and satisfying exchange, plus the vigorous work involved is a great way to keep warm.
When we first moved into the two roomed house here, we needed to find a way of heating the place. Ever resourceful, David took an old gas bottle and turned it into a very effective wood burning stove. It saw us through two cold winters and is now continuing it’s excellent service in the workshop. Chez nous, ‘Proto’ started a gas bottle stove evolution.
Having seen ‘Proto’ in action, the partner of a friend ordered a gas bottle stove for the wooden house they were constructing in the middle of some woods. They specifically requested a hotplate on which to be able to cook. So, ‘Flash’ was born.
They have come to rely on ‘Flash’ and he is moving with them to their new place. ‘No way’, they said ‘will we leave him behind’.
Our current problem is trying to warm the three floors of our house whilst we wait to be able to install the heating system. Part of the middle floor is heated by a wood burning stove on which we also cook. It warms a small part of the whole house but because of its offset position, the warmth doesn’t reach all areas. We needed to try to warm the rest of the place from the bottom up. A hunt for empty gas bottles turned up two for free, in a nearby village. These were transformed into ‘Le P’tit Cochon’, a double barrelled stove. A successful experiment in the ‘double burn’. Burn the wood for heat and then burn the wood gas for extra warmth and better burning efficiency.
The beauty of these home made stoves is not just that they are very simple in their construction, and that they work really well but that they are made from stuff that other people have no more use for. In this case, empty gas bottles. That means a few less empty gas bottles on rubbish tips. Plus, we get to use up the odd bits and pieces we have lying around that are recuperated from other things. The handle on ‘Le P’tit Cochon’, for example, is from an old, broken down trailer.
Admittedly, we are lucky. David is an artist blacksmith by trade with a pretty extensive practical engineering background, so it comes naturally to him to experiment and to create these sorts of things. He loves to ‘tinker’. So, in a chance exchange with a fellow gas bottle stove enthusiast, David came across ‘rocket stoves’. These are (and I quote Wikipedia) ‘innovative, clean, efficient cooking stoves using small diameter wood fuel which is burned in a single high temperature combustion chamber containing an insulated, vertical chimney which ensures complete combustion prior to the flames reaching the cooking surface’. Here again, the oddments of steel we have lying about were put to good use and within a very short amount of time, Mark 1 Rocket Stove was created, insulated with some wood ash from our wood burning stoves. We’re putting it to the test tomorrow when we’re going over near to Rodez to pick up six empty gas bottles that someone is offering for free. We’ll stop somewhere on the way, light the rocket stove and make fresh coffee instead of taking coffee in a flask. And when it gets warmer and on into high summer, we can use the Rocket Stove outside on the veranda, as a complement to the barbecue.
Just another small step for us, away from dependence on fossil fuels and towards using sustainable energy sources.