Day to day events mostly cataloguing my complete lack of understanding and common sense!

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Tagged with "chimney"
Thursday 14th September, 2017
Category: 2017/09
Tags: renvotions heating chimney

It's that exciting time of year again when a fairly substantial renovation project takes place and there's lots of noise and muck and chaos and wishing I'd never embarked on the work before the final basking in pleasure at the new improvements. I'm currently in the middle of the process, though the end is pleasantly in view.

This year I decided to make some major changes to the heating arrangements, in particular to the fire in the living room. When the house was first renovated back in 2005/6 they put in an open fire place in the corner of the room as at the time I was only ever planning to come here for sunny holidays. My how things have changed!

This is it just before the final plastering over the chimney breast.

It was a lovely feature (though admitedly I never particularly liked the giraffe stonework around it) but never a practical source of heating. The smoke used to puff back into the room now and then, and of course 90% of the heat just wooshed up the chimney. Added to that the enormous draft that would come down into the room in winter when the fire wasn't lit (which is why it's been boarded over with a big sheet of plastic for the past 5 years) and it became nothing more than an ornament.

Since having the wood burner installed I haven't needed the open fire anyway, except on those rare occasions when the electricity is off for more than a few hours. You see my wood burner runs the central heating, and when the electricity goes off the battery back up only keeps the water pump running for a couple of hours. After that I need to let the fire die down or else run the risk of the water in the back boiler overheating and exploding. So I needed some kind of non-electrical back up.

My first idea was to have a glass door made for the open fire, but then I thought well the heat's still just going up the chimney. The second idea was to buy a small stove and sit it in the space where the opening is, but it was quite hard sourcing a fire of the right dimensions, and most of them only had small windows so I wouldn't see the flames very much. The third plan was...

Ha! It's completely gone. Yes, I decided to get rid of the old fire completely and have bought a nice stove to go in that corner - one with a really big glass door and which I can also cook on top of (again thinking if the power's off for any big amount of time).

It took the guys a lot of hard work getting the big old flue pipe out as it was a custom made huge steel thing that weighed a ton. It's now sitting in the garden awaiting the time when I can find someone to give me a few bob for it.

After three days the walls were all neatly plastered and the floor smoothed over, and I've now painted all that area. So now they can come back and actually put the stove in position and fit the new flue pipes. I can't wait! It'll also be really handy say in early October when I might want to take the chill off for an hour or two in the evening but without having the whole house heated by central heating.

In the other corner I wanted the wood burner moved so it's at an angle to the walls so that the heat would be more directed into the room and not towards the front door. This meant draining all the water/anti-freeze down whilst he re-cut the pipes and then filled it again. I also have a lovely new UPS (which provided the battery back up) as last time the power went off there was a horrible burning smell emanating from the old one which was swiftly unplugged!

Once the new stove is in place I can scrub the floors and then give them a new lick of paint and sealant, and then it was all be deliciously bright and cosy for winter evenings laying by the fire, watching TV, crocheting... perfection!

Sunday 17th July, 2016
Category: 2016/07
Tags: garden weeds hay harvest chimney

Worst jobs of the year: 1 - cleaning out the woodburner, and 2 - going into the loft to check on the water level in the central heating system. Guess which one I did yesterday.

I'm thinking of auditioning for the role of 'plucky Victorian urchin'.  I only cleaned the stove out about a month before I stopped using it last spring, when the stove suddenly produced clouds of smoke in the living room which is usually a good indication that the pipes need brushing out. So I wasn't expecting there to be much build up this time.

I always start at the top and disconnect the flue pipe from where it enters the wall on the landing which leads into the chimney outside. I did this as normal and began brushing away into the pipe with the spikey chimney brush to dislodge the soot. To my amazement every brush movement brought heaps of soot out of the pipe and onto the landing; there was no end to it. I got a torch and shone it into the pipe which fits into the wall and saw to my horror that the main chimney at the end of the pipe was absolutely chock a block with soot. It must have been about three feet deep in the chimney! No wonder the stove had become smoky.

I went outside armed with a dustpan and brush and a bin bag to put the soot in, and removed the round cap at the base of the chimney. Soot instantly poured out all over me. Disregarding any attempt to get it to pour neatly into the bag I just reached into the chimney and dragged out dozens of handfuls of soot straight onto the path.  A few jabs up the chimney with the brush soon brought another cascade down and when it was all swept up it half filled the bin bag. Note to self: every time you clean the stove, remember to empty the chimney itself too!

Two hours later and the stove was all scrubbed out and reassembled ready for next winter, and I took myself out into the garden with lots of soapy water to try and clean off the mess.

I wonder if I can pay someone to do it next time.

Finlay the cat was pouncing around wildly amongst the sweetcorn the other day which usually means he's found a mouse or a lizard to torment. This time though it turned out he'd caught himself a bird, and unfortunately it was one of the beautiful golden orioles I love to see. It was already dead and looked huge sticking out of his mouth as he rolled around pretending to kill it over and over again. Unlike the lizards the bird didn't go to waste and a short while later this was all that was left:

Poor little oriole.

Can you see something else in the top right hand corner of that picture? Yes, the abominable bindweed strikes again! I told you last time how it had decimated one of my new raised beds, so this week I started fighting back. I decided to empty said raised bed and then put a double layer of black plastic sheeting under it - surely bindweed can't break through plastic can it? I had the idea of removing all the roots from the soil in the bed as I emptied it, but a couple of spadefuls later I realised just how dreadful the problem was. Although there may be only a dozen or so little shoots of bindweed on the surface, beneath the soil it was a total tangle of white roots. The whole bed was absolutely riddled.

This bucket is the result of sifting maybe two cubic feet of soil.

So what I did is remove some of the soil from the bed, and then stacked the rest up at one end so that I could gradually slide the plastic sheeting underneath the frame, and then shovelled the soil back on top of the plastic. Now I can sit in the bed and sift the soil a section at a time, but also hopefully any roots which do start sprouting leaves again will be quite loose in the heaped compost and might be easy to pull out complete.

Luckily the other two beds haven't been as badly affected though they will also get the plastic treatment come autumn when the crops have finished. I'm also going to try and systematically kill off patches of bindweed in the lawn, especially the ones nearest the veggie patch so maybe they won't spread as much. The only thing I need to be very careful about is not piercing the plastic at all and of course being 100% vigilant at nabbing the first sign of any bindweed regrowth.

One of the crops which did manage to survive despite the bindweed was the parsnips. I've got two more patches of them to harvest and have already sampled some with my dinner. Very tasty!

I've heard that you're supposed to leave them until after a frost to improve the flavour but that's another 4 or 5 months away and it'll be like chewing twigs by then. They tasted fine to me already so I'm going to harvest now.

Speaking of harvests. The other day I got a phone call asking if I could spare a bit of time to help out with a hay harvest in the next village. My job would be to drive the pick up truck between the barn and the hay field rather than any actual hefty work, so I went along for a couple of hours in the morning.

I had one go at heaving a mound of hay onto the truck which nearly killed my arm, and then left it to the experts.

Once so much was on the truck, Annie would climb on top to help hold it down and to evenly stack the rest as Dimiter (in the picture) heaved more and more up there. I was amazed at just how much hay could be balanced before we then slowly swayed our way back down the track for the off loading. My reward for volunteering was several nice bales of old hay left over from last year, which the goats won't eat.

An excellent start to this year's mulch collecting!

Tuesday 30th September, 2014
Category: 2014/09
Tags: chimney sweep balcony author

September is almost at an end and what with days out, visitors from the UK, jubilee celebrations and other events it's certainly been an action packed month.  The weather during the day has been beautiful and sunny recently though as soon as the sun begins to set, the air turns remarkably nippy.  We had a couple of days of solid rain and despite my best resolve I gave in and fired up the central heating... ahhh bliss. 

With the arrival of autumn I thought I'd better arrange for the chimney sweep to come so I phoned Mitko who did it last winter.  Now, Mitko speaks pretty good English but what's the point in my trying to learn the lingo if I chicken out at the first opportunity, so, having reminded myself of the word for chimney I phoned him to arrange a visit. 

The conversation began predictably with him saying 'hello?' (in Bulgarian of course) and me asking if I was speaking to Mitko which he confirmed.  I then began my little spiel by introducing myself and the village I was calling from, at which point I detected a certain supressed sniggering from his end. You remember me? I enquired and he said that he did, amid more stifled chuckling.  Was I committing some huge telephone faux pas?  Is my accent really that appalling - something akin to 'Allo 'allo... Leesen very carefully, I shall say zis only once... I soldiered on by mentioning that he cleaned my chimney last year and could we arrange for him to come and do it again.  Yet more merriment as he said he would be in the village on Saturday anyway and he'd come to my place first between 9 and 10am.  I thanked him and hung up wondering a) why all the laughter and b) had I really arranged for him to call on Saturday.  Time would tell.

Saturday duly came along with a second day of hefty rain so I really wasn't surprised when he didn't show up.  I tried calling a couple of times but there was no answer.  On Sunday I was out for the morning but when I returned I noticed he'd tried phoning me.  I called him back and he was actually in the village at someone else's house so, since I was now home, he would come down to me next.  When he arrived the reason for all the telephone conversation chuckling became apparent: he is just one of those people who has a sort of nervous laugh when they speak to someone they're not very familiar with.  Phew, nothing to do with my linguistics at all!  It didn't take him long to do the chimney during which time I quizzed him about the Lada jeep he owns (his opinions have now put me off getting one) after which he went on his way with a 'same time next year' farewell and a few more giggles.

The cold nights haven't deterred me from sleeping on the balcony though a few layers have been added to both me and the bed.  The mozzie net isn't really needed now although I drape it round the bed during the day to prevent it from becoming a snoozing pad for all the neighbouring cats (Molly is the one exception of course). The one problem I need to solve is how to keep my head warm without flattening my hair all over the place (vanity, I know).

I've got a lovely cosy hood on the onesie I've been sleeping in, but I need something a bit looser.  I'm tempted to create some kind of pram hood out of cardboard which I could plonk around the pillows and which might provide enough protection from the cold, or maybe stuff a hot water bottle right into the centre of one of the pillows.  Anyway, the rest of me at least is toastie warm and a cold head is a very small price to pay for falling asleep to the sound of an owl hooting, or the polecat screeching as it heads off to hunt; for laying there and seeing the stars and various lights on distant hills; and for waking up just as the sun begins to poke through the leaves of the big old walnut trees in the lane and hearing the rapid fluttering of bird wings as small birds hover briefly under the eaves picking off insects. 

Molly likes it out there too, especially when at 5am she can come back from a night's hunting and creep sneakily beneath the duvet to curl up in the crook of my knees, cheeky cat!

I've spent the last two days varnishing the wooden fence around the garden, just to top up its protection before winter, and whilst I was doing the outside today someone I didn't recognise came strolling up the lane.  As he got closer I said hello to him and it turned out it was Slavi who owns the newly renovated house just across from the park to me.  I spoke to him briefly last year about this time and have seen his car parked there on occasion but not actually talked to him since.

He lives in Sofia most of the time but likes to come and check on the house whenever he can, though unfortunately his visit this time has been cut short as his wife's father (or was it her mother) died only yesterday and so naturally he's heading back to Sofia.  He invited me back to have a look at his place during which time he told me quite a lot about his family and his connection to the village.  He's the middle child of three and the place he has in the village was actually his childhood home.  When the parents died the place fell more and more into disrepair, and since he's a trained engineer by profession his siblings said that he should be the one to do the place up, so he took the project on. He's got two sons himself, both in California, and he has put the house in the youngest one's name (not sure why, maybe the older son wasn't interested).

Slavi is very well educated; he's writted two books on engineering but his big passion in life is Bulgarian history.  As we sat there he tried to tell me so many things; about the first people to settle in Bulgaria; about the various invaders; about how the Bulgarian kingdom is so much smaller than it once was; about the problems of villages dying due to dwindling populations... I confess I was only catching snatches of what he said and getting the general gist but his love for his country shone through it all.  Amazingly then he undid a little package of books and presented me with one!

It's called Thoughts and Comments for Bulgarians, and is a collection of essays he's done.  He even wrote a little message inside for me:

"To Miss Julie with heartfelt wishes to always love Bulgaria and Gostilitsa!"

How lovely was that! I shall make it my mission to try and understand the book a bit at a time, beginning with the prologue and the first essay which is called "What kind of partisans have Bulgarian freedom fighters been?"

The next time I see him I shall also ask him more about his memories of the people who used to live in my house.  He said it was an old couple he recalls from when he was a boy, and the husband was a war invalid with an injured leg.  I hope he won't mind if I record our conversations though, that way I can decipher the information at leisure and not lose a single drop of what he says!


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