Country Living (UK) - - Contents -

Prac­ti­cal ideas and ad­vice for would-be small­hold­ers

WHETHER YOU’RE PLAY­ING a game of cha­rades or sim­ply warm­ing your­self af­ter a brac­ing win­ter walk, there are few things nicer than a crack­ling open fire at this time of year. Here’s how to get the warm­est glow.


Like a good wine, fire­wood im­proves when stored and ma­tured cor­rectly. Re­cently chopped, or ‘green’, wood is still full of wa­ter, so will burn less ef­fi­ciently and smoul­der, po­ten­tially caus­ing a dan­ger­ous build-up of cre­osote in the flue that could lead to chim­ney fires. Cut­ting and split­ting wood, and keep­ing it un­der cover in a well-ven­ti­lated store – known as ‘sea­son­ing’ – al­lows the mois­ture to es­cape. As a gen­eral rule, hard­woods take two to three years to sea­son, while soft­woods take a year.


Hard­woods (such as oak) have a greater den­sity of fi­bres than soft­woods (such as pine), so pro­vide you with more fuel, which burns longer and slower than the same vol­ume of ‘softer’ logs. How­ever, soft­woods (if sea­soned) cre­ate more in­tense flames, which are use­ful for get­ting a fire go­ing.


Dif­fer­ent types of tree burn in dif­fer­ent ways, so ex­per­i­ment to find the one that best suits your re­quire­ments:

ASH is con­sid­ered to be the best fire­wood, as it will burn evenly with­out be­ing sea­soned.

OAK takes at least two years to sea­son but it’s worth the wait as it makes ex­cel­lent fire­wood, burn­ing slowly and pro­duc­ing lots of heat. Oak logs will keep a fire go­ing overnight.**

HAWTHORN BRANCHES trimmed from hedges make ex­cel­lent ‘fag­gots’ – bun­dles of wood that are use­ful for get­ting fires started.

PINE AND LARCH blast out plenty of heat when sea­soned but have a ten­dency to spit, so are best used in a wood­burner. Pine fag­gots are great for start­ing a fire.

SYCAMORE can grow like a weed in gar­dens but its branches make use­ful kin­dling.

AP­PLE AND PEAR will scent the room with a glo­ri­ous aroma, and are good for cook­ing over, as the smoke gives a lovely flavour to the food.

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