Keeping the home fires burning…
When you live in the bush (Southern Highlands of NSW) you try your best to be as sustainable as possible and warmth is an area to address in this neck of the woods most years. Keeping warm is a must through a bitter Southern Highlands winter, plus the fact my other half feels the cold and wet, and we have a house (An historic renovators special) that has more draft holes in it than a Swiss Cheese.Why am I telling you all this?
Well if you cook and heat your kitchen and house with a fuel stove and open fires, then there is a ritual every fall and every spring – getting them ready for the winter and then placing them all on stand by through Australia’s scorching summers.
This old timer dates from about 1886, maybe a tad later. It took me almost 3 years to restore her to working order again, after cannibalising three totally stuffed stoves of the same age and make from around NSW. However she still needs some work in the firebox and oven, and ongoing passion.
Through this journey, I realised that I enjoyed the experience and restoring these old timers and fireplaces, and that the restoration of this bygone age was a real art form and space that was devoid of players who really knew what they were talking about – in fact since restoring this graceful old lady and other time travellers, it dawned on me how practical and cost effective they were in their time. Somewhat different now with wood at $1 a stick and Solar and wind power being far more cost effective and user friendly.
But unfortunately there is no sitting by the warm glow of an open fire or fuel stove, cooking Lamb Shanks in cast iron pots very slowly, roasting jacket potatoes in the coals or browning marshmallows in the hearth over an open flame – these are the luxuries from a past I relish every Autumn and Winter in the Highlands.
The only thing that needs to be addressed is the use of coal or coke – these days, no longer a commodity that sits well with our modern sustainable society, especially in our cities, where smoke free zones now pervade! So what’s the answer? Well you can convert to gas, which is excepted as smoke free, or there are other combustable materials one can use, such as charcoal.
Outside the smoke free areas I suggest a mixture of Iron bark and charcoal- I burn brown coal beads with a hardwood in the fuel stove and it gives off a strong heat and is acceptable re a carbon footprint – great to cook with too. Our open fires run on local iron bark or river gum, purchased from a source who believes in sustainable, manageable forests.
I also enjoy a hot kettle on the hob, so a cuppa is never far away – call me a romantic and someone who lives in the past, and I’ll say the soft light from a kero lamp, the warmth and fascination with an open fire and the solitude of the country is mind food and solace for a far clearer mind – others prefer a bar heater, reverse cycle air conditioning, gas heating, electric blankets or convection cooking, excuse me while a blacken the stove for winter…