One of the first things I began to think about when we got back home to France was the winter. We missed it last year because we were in Africa and Asia. In the Creuse it’s cold. Some days, mighty cold. Beautiful and crisp and fresh and all those other lovely weather words. But bloody cold.
There was a time when the inside temperature in our house was measured by the bendiness of Percy Pigs. It was a particularly cold night when you could snap one. For anyone who’s not British and familiar with Percy Pig sweeties, it’s like snapping jello. When we first moved in, we skyped back to Scotland in hat, gloves and scarf. From the living room.
The house also still seems big. And everyone seems far apart. We hatched a cunning plan.
We decided to build a “campervan” within the house. Make one cozy room with the fire on all the time. Attract our little offspring back together with heat.
The first step was to build a partition wall. From the front room you go directly into the living room. It was easy to lose heat every time the front door opened. With a wall, we separated the space into a room and a corridor. And insulated it well with polystyrene blocks and sheeps’ wool in the odd spaces (thanks sheep).
A lot of heat was lost through the concrete floor and single glazed windows. We decided that it would be cost effective to use half of our winter wood budget to double glaze the living room windows and insulate and tile the floor. Neil also put down a small electric mat below the tiles to warm the room up when the fire didn’t go on or for really cold Percy Pig days.
We also found an old headboard in the shed, covered in bird poop and cobwebs. It looked, with a little stretch of the imagination, like a lovely wooden coathook rack. And ta-daaa…
Some time we plan to work out a rocket fired or masonry oven system to replace the wood burner, but that’s another project for another day. There was no time before winter and it takes a while to get to grips with the physics of it all. Rocket fired ovens are incredibly efficient, use very little wood and produce very little (or no, if it’s done right) waste gas. Our travels round Austria let us see masonry ovens (a kachelofen) in action; they are very popular there.
And when it’s really snowy I’ll need to get the sewing machine out and make blinds.
It’s worked. We have a toasty room which attracts people from all corners of the house. We’ve started playing some games again. Katie has joined the chess club at school in secret to take on her brothers. The tiny kitten and massive dog share the hearth, although the dog lies stiff as a board terrified he’ll do something wrong and bear the wrath of his new 9 1/2 wee old buddy.
The last (I think) of the cranes have flown over, seeking southern warmer climes. Our campervan within a house has been finished just in time.