Updated: Dec 22, 2019
The sun seems cleaner and the air fresher on cold bright days like this. And it takes a lot of work to bring up a sweat. I love the rewards for a hard day’s work in summer – a glass of wine in the garden listening to the birdsong and the buzz of insects. But the reward on these shorts days of toil is also wonderful – get the wood burner going, play cards with the kids in its warmth, then later, when they are in bed, a hot chocolate whilst spinning a few records and listening to the music over the crackle of the fire. This cackle, you know, is proven to slow the heart rate and help you relax. Something to do with hunter gatherers knowing the wolves will not come near the fire?
Clearly wood burners are not the most sustainable form of heating, however they are better than any form of fossil fuel heating, and as The Granary is powered by Air-source and solar, with any surplus energy required coming from a sustainable energy supplier, there is no harm in treating yourself to a night by the fire at this time of year (not that you’d need the heat as our underfloor heating and insulation are perfect).
The arguments against log-burners is that they pollute, the smoke kills nature, the particles harm our lungs, and they deplete our wood. Well, like most things, done correctly this can be limited to a much greater extent than the damage from fossil fuels can.
Firstly, replenish the wood you burn – I guess we are lucky here at Manor Bottom as this is fairly easy. Usually we take down Ash and we take it at the time of year where the stump has plenty of energy to regrow. The tree is not dead – it comes back with vigour. Trees coppiced like this seem to be able to go on forever. And if we do take a tree down fully, we plant more than one in its place.
Secondly, the log you burn releases only as much carbon as it would have released anyway as a dead log. Dubious because the log wasn’t dead. Personally, I find this justification rather limited as a ‘dead’ log left on the forest floor would have been home to hundreds of insects and loads of fungi, all of which do their job in reducing carbon. A burnt log clearly cannot do this. However, this is why burning wood is officially classified as carbon neutral.
Thirdly, as long as you are burning dry wood you are good – we season all the wood (except Ash, which doesn’t require it) we put in The Granary for two years, making sure is has less than 20% moisture. That way it lets off no harmful emissions, and as it is burning harder it keeps the fire going longer, so more efficient, and as the heat is higher, with our Charnwood stove, the gasses present in the smoke are fully burned and not released into the atmosphere.
So don’t feel any guilt in putting the fire on at The Granary, and warming your feet by it as you listen to a few perfect records. And if you are looking for inspiration for a few fireside records, here are my top five, all of which can be left in The Granary for you upon request:
Thelonious by Himself – April in Paris as a sampler. The whole album, as well as his Live in San Francisco is perfect.
John Martyn – Inside Out, in particular Fine Lines
The Weather Station – Loyalty, I Mined
John Prine – For Better, For Worse, Fifteen Years Ago
Coleman Hawkins – The Hawk Relaxes, I’ll Never Be the Same