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Tagged with "heating"
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!

Tuesday 22nd October, 2013
Category: 2013/10
Tags: Dryanovo festival central heating

I was thinking back to this time last year earlier today and feeling rather amazed at the huge changes the past year has brought about both in me and the house. I wouldn't relish the thought of being transported back to last October as I recall nursing a broken ankle and having to deal with the daily invasion of workmen shouting all over the garden whilst I hid indoors feeling a little vulnerable. Today was much much nicer. I've just finished clearing (and slightly extending) the veggie patch which already has much better quality soil in it than the stodgy clay I tackled earlier this year. Next week I intend to go and prod around in the compost heap to see if anything has rotted down enough to be dug into the soil to improve it even more.  Stefka has already got her spring carrot seedlings underway and has offered to give me some to plant out, though she tells me I may need to make some sort of cloche to protect them from the snows.  The street outside has been carpetted in falling leaves and there have been two burning sessions so far; one under the close supervision of Baba Ivanka down the side lane and the other with Bobi and Stefka out on the front street.  The leaves are swept into little heaps along the roadside and then set alight to burn down producing clouds of dense smoke.  Gancho kept saying (and I couldn't help but agree) that we should burn the leaves on a patch of soil instead of spoiling the road surface but the women ignored him and lit their fires anyway.  I chose another tack altogether and this morning raked up the leaves in front of my house and then threw them all over the fence into the park! Job done :D

The weather has been gorgeous this week and is forecast to continue like this until the end of the month at least. This has given me time to sort out my central heating problems without suffering from cold weather.  It all started the other week when I'd lit the fire for the central heating and was dozing on the settee in front of the TV.  Molly the cat suddenly made the most awful yowling noise and ran to the door. When I sat up I realised what had frightened her: There was a dreadful banging noise coming from the boiler and the water pipes were buckling away from the wall.  For some reason the water was overheating and not flowing as it should.  There was nothing to do but grab my jacket and flee into the garden with Molly to wait for the fire to die down by itself and hope that the boiler wouldn't explode.  I got in touch with Billy from the next village and a couple of days later he arrived with a tall guy called Daniel.  He's a volunteer with the fire service once a week and the rest of the time works with Billy. After checking a few things and asking what had happened he then single handedly pulled the stove away from the wall to get to the pipes. (If all Bulgarian firemen are this strong I need fear nothing in the event of a blaze!)  It turns out there is a filter in one of the pipes which is supposed to be cleaned out once a year and since I didn't even know of it's existence it's never been cleaned since the heating was put in four or five years ago.  Ooops.  He unscrewed the filter and showed it to me. There's the problem, he said. It was absolutely caked up with black gooey sludge. I washed it out under the tap and he refitted it. As soon as the pump was turned on again the water went round all the radiators as normal. Phew!  He refused to take any money for his help despite me chasing him up the path waving my 10 lev note and off they went. The next morning it was pretty chilly and raining so I decided to get the fire going before heading upstairs for my language lesson on Skype. Halfway through the lesson there came a familiar banging noise from downstairs and as I flew down to investigate the pipes were once more buckled away from the wall and the boiler was banging away for all it was worth. The fire was still blazing quite high so I grabbed two of the metal fire tongs and managed to carry the burning logs outside and threw them into the rain where they sent up huge clouds of smoke. Once the lesson was over I phoned Billy and told him the problem had returned. Now you might think why didn't I just check the filter again. The thought did cross my mind but there were two problems: 1 - the boiler is situated too close to the wall to turn the lever which shuts off the water supply, and 2 - I didn't actually see which bit of pipe the filter came out of. It was a couple of days before he could come out again but when he did it was indeed another sludged up filter pipe. This time I asked him to leave the stove pulled out so that I could give the filter repeated cleanings every few hours until hopefully the system was cleaned up. My first go was a little messy. I dropped the filter and the mucky water spurted out all over the wall but after that I got the knack. It's surprising how much black gunge there was and it took about 6 cleanings before I felt it was safe to relight the fire. Oh but the sheer joy of finding all the radiators getting lovely and hot straight away and the boiler working nice and quietly as it should. The stove is still pulled out at the moment but when it's put back I need to make sure there's enough space for me to get to the valves and the filter so that I can clean it again whenever necessary.

Onto nicer matters.  It was the Dryanovo festival last weekend so on Saturday afternoon I headed there with Andrea for the evening. All the streets below the pedestrianised bit were lined with stallholders selling clothes, toys, tools, ornaments, all sorts of things. I bought another pair of pyjamas (7 levs) and black handbag (8 levs) and a little hatchet tool for chipping weeds etc (12 levs). We dumped our purchases back in the car and went back towards the funfair. In the pedestrianised bit there were some dancers and singers performing folk songs:

   

We got down to the fair bit and decide to have a go on the Octopus ride. I don't think I've been on one of these since I was about 12 when I used to find it quite scary. It didn't help my nerves when Andrea told me a little tale of Bulgarian fairground standards. Apparently a few years ago a child was having a go on the little bungee rope trampoline things when the rope snapped and the child was launched into the watching crowd. Fortunately they landed unscathed, the ropes were fixed and the ride continued! Can you imagine this in the UK? There would be an army of lawyers and a health and safety team shutting the entire place down. Anyway, we survived the octopus and went to have something to eat from one of the many 'fast food' places. We had spicy burger, sausage, pork skewer, bread and coleslaw and a drink each (15.50 for us both). I was intrigued by a 'strong man' challenge where you could win 100 levs if you managed to hang from a bar just using your hands for two minutes. Several guys attempted this but we didn't see anyone win. As the evening darkened all the kiosks put their lights on which made it all look very pretty and festive:

I found room for a banana and chocolate pancake later on and had a game of air hockey before heading back to the car. That's when we noticed that all the new fountains that have been put in this year were illuminated:

(Click for video)

It was a really lovely afternoon and evening and well worth going to again.

And finally I thought you might like to see these chocolates I bought from Kaufland the other day:

The ideas team at the chocolate factory must have been struggling the day they came up with this one!

Thursday 21st March, 2013
Category: 2013/03
Tags: renovations roof veggies central heating

This sees to have been a whirlwind week of organising things... oh okay, having things organised for me!  So, I'm sitting here on the sofa, the garden wall is complete and looks amazing in my opinion - beautifully straight, and very solid:

Mitko (who also delivers the milk) is up on the roof replacing the ridge tiles that blew off in the storm, the appointment is made to go with the accountant to VT next Friday to sign the yearly tax return, I'm awaiting quotes for the new garage and to replace my downstairs door and windows (I'm planning to have nice new draught free, mozzie proof ones put on the house and the old wooden ones used for the garage), and finally the electrician is due to come on Sunday afternoon to find out why neither my central heating pump nor the UPS back-up seem to be working.  Phew, that God for Keith who has done all the running around getting all of these things into place for me.

My little veggie project is developing quite nicely.  I spent a happy half hour pouring boiling water on an ant nest in the veggie plot but apart from that one I can't see any signs of other nasties in that area.  The onions are beginning to sprout and I saw some rocket seedlings showing too.  In the pots on the balcony there's a lot of things growing well.  The courgettes are sturdy with their big leaves, about 9 cucumber plants are sprouting, most of the tomato plants I transplanted have survived so hopefully they'll grow better with more space, there are marigolds and so far one morning glory plant (though I soaked a lot more seeds and planted them so maybe more will develop) and dozens of snapdragons though they were all so thin and tiny that the heat yesterday wilted them all.  The runner beans are just beginning to poke through which is good because they were quite old seeds.  The only disappointment so far has been the peppers but I read on the internet that they germinate better if soaked for three days first.  I've just done that and planted them out today so fingers crossed for some results.  Now that the wall is finished I will tidy up the little side garden a bit and start preparing areas for sweet corn, flowers and herbs.

Interesting time in Slavie's bar last night (pronounced Slavvy - not sure how you spell it).  An old boy known as 'Dyado Ivan' (grandad Ivan) came to sit at our table and chatted away nineteen to the dozen.  I managed to catch odd bits about his education (he learned 5 languages at school), his family (scattered all around the country and a sister in London), his working life (the secret to his 85 years thus far longevity is to always be working, it keeps you strong) and his numerous vehicles over the years.  He mentioned a bit about a collective, which I imagine to be back in communist times.  It sounded like several villages were in a collective and his job was to take farm vehicles like combine harvesters to each one in turn.  Then again, I may have just made the entire thing up!

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