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Nuts for winter

When you use wood heating, you have to get ready for winter well in advance

It seems like a strange thing when it is still summer to be thinking about winter, but it's part and parcel of life in rural France that you have to think ahead. This year, we began our winter planning in July.

Most of us here, for instance, heat our houses with woodburning stoves, so there is no 'turning the heat up' when you need it and just expecting the mains supply to be there. You have to make sure you have stock in, and wood ordered in summer comes at a lower price than winter wood, for obvious reasons. It's also better delivered in summer so that you can get it under cover and make sure it dries out good and proper before winter arrives. 

This year, we haven't had a summer wood delivery because we're waiting for a friend to come and cut up the remainder of last year's overstock, which was too long to fit in the stove. Our chainsaw is broken, so this is labour we'll have to hire for this year. 

Instead, I ordered densified wood, which at 257 euros a half-tonne and 335 euros a tonne, works out a lot cheaper if you buy it in bulk. That arrived on Monday, just as the heavens opened (in the driest summer since 1914...), and the DH and I had to barrow it into the barn in the pouring-down rain. Just as we finished, so did the rain, of course.

We also ordered the oil for our central heating back in June. Those of you who don't heat with oil will not have noticed the price drop, as it hasn't translated into petrol prices at the pump, but the lower price for heating fuel is a massive bonus this year - around half the price it was two years ago. So now we have a nice full tank, which always makes me feel happy - it was so empty it was nearly running on vapour. 

Meanwhile, on Monday, the 'window guy' came to measure up the windows properly and get his deposit. Three medium-size windows (replacing leaky single-glazing) are setting us back nearly 3,000 euros. Argon-filled, with a stove-enamelled finish, they are the world's whizziest windows, and for the price, they'd better be. But we trust the installer, whom we've used before, and the windows will be started on 20 September, just before the weather gets really cold. 

On Friday it's the turn of the bedroom, which is being insulated with 20cm-thick polystyrene-backed plasterboard. Hopefully it will make a big difference, as below our beams, which are dado-rail height, we are only protected from the outside world by a centimetre-thick layer of plasterboard. 

Things should be better this year, though our cathedral ceiling means the room will never be warm. But I don't ask much, really. Just that I don't have to sleep in a hat all this winter, as I did last year...

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