For the last two winters we have been snowed in. When Carol was eight months pregnant we were snowed in for a month. As the first snows fell, one of our farmer neighbours, John Wayne rode in on his tractor (this is not his name but to us he is a hero in that frontier way). He told us that he could get us out in his Land Rover if the snows continued and they did. Two weeks later he told us he could get us out on his tractor as the lanes filled up further with snow and the phone line became rather touchy, thumping in and out, echoing phone calls to friends and family that always ended with both parties yelling at each other and jumping up and down as they emphasised their words. Two weeks on and the snows got worse, much worse and John Wayne calmly knocked on our door to make sure we were okay and his parting shot to Carol was he had birthed cows. We resorted to smoke signals in desperation. Last winter was better and for the record, Little D came late and by then the snows had melted but on the day of his birth the heavens opened again. As we took him home the last of that year's snow fell and we just made it home. We have learnt to plan ahead from storing food to fuel.
The heart of our house is our Burley Brampton stove. This has got us through one foul winter burning day after day, fast to heat up and belting out those kilowatts that make us reach for our shorts. This stove is now an old friend. This week we had it swept for the first time after twelve months of vigorous use. It has been a cold, damp summer and the fire has been on and off all summer and fired up from early autumn onwards. The chimney sweep came in today, a lovely man who is only seventy-six and after sweeping he said it barely needed sweeping. Now, that's an efficient stove compared to the old open fire we once had, this regularly belched soot and needed sweeping every six months. Most wood fires need sweeping every six months but it appears our Burley Brampton is bucking the trend.
In our kitchen we have the Broseley Thermo Suprema. We are still learning to use this after a raft of mistakes by the fitters. Some days, due to wind direction we can't use it as it can blow smoke back down on us and set off the monoxide alarms and today the sweep told us he couldn't sweep it as the fitters hadn't fitted an access plate. It's one of those things you learn as you go along but it still makes us wonder why we bought it and for the record, if we had the money, we would rip it out. Yet, this is keeping us warm too but in our opinion we wouldn't trust it to burn on its own all night, it just doesn't retain the heat. That may change with time but this winter our fire in the front room, our oven will keep us warm during the day and water bottles will be keeping us warm at night. Let's hope the snow decides to stay away this year.