Light my fire, thermal comfort


We’re still chopping up wood for our wood stove. In France they say “having a wood stove warms you up three times”: chopping the trees, sawing the trunks/splitting them and the heat of the fire of your wood stove, real thermal comfort.

Of course we have central heating, great insolation, but I just love the idea of doing what our ancestors did, having nothing but wood to heat with. Our cosy evenings are filled with the aroma of wood, or sometimes with the aroma of a stew on top of the wood stove. Just looking at the red embers, the casting light of the dancing flames and feeling that shocking amount of heat, feels like being spoiled by the house, warmth right through!

I feel like a real builder every time when igniting the fire with collected tinder: on a bed of old ash and rolled up newspaper sheets, spreading dried pine needles, pinecones, some twigs, dry bark, leaves and moss, adding the kindling with enough space for the air to surround them: soft wood chopped into small pieces and built up according to the “wigwam” pattern or a square pattern, followed by the “good” wood. The joy of fire tending chores…

The next morning it is time to refuel with some fresh wood on the “braise”, the still glowing coals, and the next joy: seeing it burst into a new fire.

Our chimney is made of stainless steel, providing more heat all around, although having high ceilings, together with our excellent roof insolation, warmth in our stone cottage is all around, as hot as a furnace.

I enjoy the hard work before the end result, deciding which trees are too close to others on our 3 hectares of land, letting the freshly cut trunks dry out for at least 6 months ( the French here, say it should be 5 to 6 years, but we don’t have the man power to work so long ahead) to get rid of their 45 per cent moisture content.

Designing the “pile” as the French call it here (1m width, 4 meters length and 1m high, three of them will get us through winter), stacking the well cut and split logs (having the desired length for our wood stove) in a sunny spot where the wind can move freely around the stack and finally proudly looking at your hard work, is another joy. Our back terrace smiles at me whenever I look at the wood against its wall, enough to last us through winter’s hardest days, the piles outside do the rest. We’re ready for harsh days to come.


I can’t resist when walking the dogs, to pick up a lost abandoned vine log, its aroma on the wood fire, even a barbecue, is the best reward. In the vineyards they only use the vines for so long, when they start to get too old, they grub them out and plant new ones. The villagers use them for barbecues because of their wonderful aroma.


Our land provides oak, wild cherry trees, holly, acacia, hawthorn, and what I call my “vanilla trees”. These trees consist of really hard wood and when burning, give of a vanilla scent. On the land they’re a nightmare, as growing up till 1m5, they then fall over and shoot new ones around them.

Some wood burns twice as much heat as others, I know, but we use what we have on the domain. We do have loads of pine on the land, but as resinous softwood, they’re not chimney safe. Insurances here demand a yearly control of the chimney by an official plumber! One doesn’t want to set the world on fire!

Our first fire, normally always an annual pleasure, resulted in a bit of drama this year, when closing the wood stove door the door simply fell off shattering the glass everywhere on our floor while of course the well built fire was taking off. Insurance paid back the costs, but it gave us a fright and from now on we’ll never forget to oil the door regularly in future!

I always have some firewood in the house, stacked not far from the wood stove, before burning, so I’m sure it is already warm and dry before we use it.

Wood cut here, is for the wood stove but also for our annual (31st of December my birthday) bonfire. Next year we’ll need some extra for the wedding of my daughter, taking place on our land, with as French (meat eaters) do it in the region, a barbecued pig over a roasting fire.

Thanking the trees on our land, providing us our harvest.

Home is where the HEARTH is,




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