Gathering winter fuel

We had our first cool evening of autumn this week, and I had to scramble around to find enough wood for the evening. Which spurred me into action on the Winter Fuel Hunt. This year I had to make enquiries about these heaps of uprooted old vines. Sadly there are all too many vignerons going bust and there’s no shortage of excellent fuel – if you can handle the dusty work of shifting a ton or so.

Daniel, the '87 'van de pays',and the wind farm

Past, Present and Future: Daniel, the '87 'van de pays', and the wind farm.

uprooted vines, Alaric in background

uprooted vines, Alaric in background

Back in 2000 we didn’t have a stove and relied on a mix of portable LP gas heaters, paraffin heaters and the judicious use of portable electric panel heaters which thanks to the special tarrif scheme we signed up for, means we get 300 days at Euro 0.05 (five centîmes ) per KWh, 43 days at E 0.10, and 22 days at 18 or 49 centîmes depending on offpeak/peak times. Our bill comes to about E 900 p.a. for the Big House (used for only 5 months a year) and the Cook’s House (where we live the year round) combined. That’s two houses – one being 20 m. by 22 m. by two floors, plus the smaller at 7m. by 7m. by two floors.

A pre-electric cutter- and the last pruning for these 100-year-old vines.

A pre-electric cutter and the last pruning for these 100-year-old vines.

Have I lost your interest yet? Oh? Ok then, let’s press on with the maths! So each floor in the Big House is 440 sq. m. – 880 sq.m. in all ( we won’t bother with the cellar or the attic which would only double this figure to 1760 sq.m. – since few people go there anymore, now that the cellar staff have left and the servants died fifty years ago . . . And then our little zone is a simple 50 sq.m. times two. Yes? At the back there? Good! 100 sq.m.!

So I make it about 1000 square yards (going off-metric for the benefit of our numerically isolationist friends across the Atlantic) of dwellings (9 bedrooms,4 bathrooms, two kitchens) – that get served with electricity every year in one form or another: hot water, ovens, cookers, hi-fi, lights, computers, TV, fans and heaters – plus the running of a 12m. by 8m. swimming pool almost all year round. That’s 9000 sq.ft. of house for 90 euros a month. Which somewhat suspiciously works out at a rather neat One Square Yard costing One Centîme (or a cent if you’d feel more comfortable – or a penny, if you’re feeling nostagic or a bit vague and alzheimerish).

old vines in the barn

three months supply of old vines in the barn

For the last few years we’ve had the Eiffel Tower in our midst. It is small and dirty and inefficient. It might serve better at smoking a row of kippers than a room of people, and demands more feeding and cleaning than a two-year-old.

Nanquette stove, and the log-box my grandfather made while the bombs fell on London c.1943

Nanquette stove, and the log-box my grandfather made while the bombs fell on London c.1943

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