It is indubitably autumn. Not only do the autumn bulbs tell us this, but the night time temperatures have dropped considerably. It is the time of the year when we have our annual debate about whether it is time to start lighting fires yet.
We live in relatively large house. Not, I hasten to add, large by modern McMansion standards. We may have five double bedrooms (some almost palatial) but we lack the requisite six bathrooms of such modern, aspirational mansions. Lacking a maid or housekeeper, I am not perturbed by their absence and am happy to make do with just two. But we also lack the heat ducting systems that go into modern houses. We heat the entire house with wood collected from around the property. This is by choice. I don’t want a heat pump because I don’t want the humming and whirring that usually accompanies them and we haven’t spent a lifetime of trying to keep our power bills low to give in and splash out now. Not as long as we can manage the firewood.
We light two fires. The open fireplace in the dining room is not an efficient heat source by modern standards but it has a wetback and we must be one of the few households whose power bills actually drop in winter because of that hot water.
What we call the Big Grunter in the hallway is a far more efficient heat generator, being of Canadian design where they are used to much colder winters. It heats the cold side of the house and the entire upper story to the point where we can be too hot as a result. The dogs don’t mind. They have their winter daybeds beside the Big Grunter and are happy to snooze away cold winter days. On particularly bleak days, I have seen Mark light that fire in the early morning for the benefit of the dogs.
It is the pine cone and faggot time of the fire season. This does not count as burning our way through the winter firewood supplies. It is midway territory. We may be one of the few households with a designated pine cone shed. What we lack in bathrooms, we make up for in sheds here. The volume of pine cones depends on whether one of our massive pine trees has fallen in the year. None have in the past fifteen months so it is just the cones I have picked up from the gardens and lawn but it should be enough to get us through the shoulder season.
I have decided to reclaim the word faggot from its ugly, homophobic abusive connotations. Besides, what other word can be applied to the gatherings of gum twigs and bark that fall in abundance? Lacking the historic faggot bundler that I spotted at a stately home in Yorkshire, I pack these for kindling into sacks and store them for this time of the year.
When winter comes, Mark will take over firewood duties and cut kindling and bring in four baskets of wood each day. Until that time, we will burn our faggots and pine cones and pretend that we haven’t really started to seriously light the fire yet. What do we burn? Anything and everything that falls or is expendable and generates good heat – pine, prunus, schima, camellia and more.
I set out to gather some of the autumn bulb flowers for the top photo but heavy rain and a grey morning meant pickings were limited mostly to Nerine sarniensis hybrids and Cyclamen hederafolium with just a couple of oxalis flowers and one lilac Moraea polystachya open. I shall return to the oxalis collection another day.