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Wood Ash

They say time flies when you’re having fun so I must have been having a lot of fun as it hardly feels that we’re past Christmas and it’s already the middle of January!

There’s not a lot that can be done outside at the moment with snow on the ground. Still I prefer snow to cold rain. You can wrap up warm in snow and enjoy a walk but rain is just miserable.

I’ve been looking in horror at the wood store, we’re down to about a week’s worth so I need to saw up and split a load more logs. Our wood burning stove isn’t the primary heat source, we’ve LPG central heating, but it pumps out enough to switch off some of the radiators and warms the hearth which acts as a storage radiator overnight.

Anything that saves gas is good, LPG is far more expensive than town gas. We’ve just had the tank filled and now have £587 to pay. I’d hoped to get through to February before needing a fill, but no such luck.

We installed a lot of insulation in the loft after our first winter here – the -15 temperatures outside being an incentive but there’s not much more we can realistically (by which I mean cost-effectively) do to reduce consumption than we’ve already done.

The good news is the waste product from the stove – wood ash. It’s a great fertiliser being the source of potassium. Very useful on fruits, tomatoes and potatoes. The odd spade full is used on the compost heap as well. We’ve got some old kitchen flip-top bins in which I can store them in the shed. If they get wet, then they turn into a sludge which is hard to spread and use.

Our stove is a multi-fuel so every week or so in winter, we burn coal instead of wood. It burns hotter and so helps to keep the chimney clean. When you burn wood, especially damp wood, it gives off tars that stick to the chimney, build up and become a fire risk. The cooler the fire, the more resinous compounds. That’s why it’s important to have the chimney cleaned or do it yourself regularly.

My grandfather’s generation mainly had coal fires to heat their houses. As we as a nation have moved on , trust me flipping a switch is more convenient, coal has been replaced by gas. But Grandad swore by coal ash and clinkers for his paths and the soot from the chimney sweep was used on the onion bed. The theory being it contained sulphur that protected against moulds and was absorbed by the onion added to the strength of flavour. The soot also darkened the soil, causing it to warm up faster.

Nowadays we’re not supposed to do that. Coal ashes are said to contain harmful compounds and shouldn’t be used on the ground. I was told at school that coal was pre-historic vegetation compressed for thousands of years underground so how coal ash can be harmful I don’t know. I suspect it’s the precautionary principal. We don’t know it’s safe so say it’s not. I do know that nettles don’t like coal ash so maybe there’s something in it. Anyway, we’ve plenty of wood ash for the vegetable patch.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary

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