Author: Jess Hill

How To Roast Chestnuts This Christmas

Get into the festive season by indulging in the best Christmas food. One of those being roasted chestnuts. They can be used for turkey stuffing, cakes or crumbles.

They are at their peak over the festive season. For the best flavour look for the largest nuts and choose those that are shiny and feel heavy.

  1. First, you cut the shell carefully. Make an x shape on the nut but be careful not to cut the nut inside just the outer shell
  2. Heat the oven to 200 degrees fan or gas 6. Roast for 30 minutes until the skin splits open.
  3. Let me cool and then you can peel them. Serve immediately or chop ready to add to another recipe.
chestnuts Roasting over an open coal fire

If you want the ultimate festive experience this is how to roast chestnuts over an open fire.

  1. Prepare the charcoal grill for direct heat. Light charcoal, for a medium-hot fire you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the flame for around 5 seconds.
  2. Use a knife to cut an x into each chestnut
  3. Cook for 20 minutes or until chestnuts have split

To roast them in the fireplace wrap the chestnuts in a foil packet then place into a medium-sized fire. Roast for about 15 minutes then leave them to cool before unwrapping. When the chestnuts are cool enough to handle you can peel them.

 

How to keep your pets safe this winter

It is important to keep your pets safe over winter, as the temperature drops and the chance for snow increases there are things we can do to help our pets.

1. Wrap up before a walk

As you would put a coat on your dog may need one too. Especially if they are fine coated such as a greyhound or staffie.

2. Check their toes

After being outside it is best to check their toes for snow, salt and grit. The snow between their toes can gather together and create ice balls which can be very painful. To help prevent this you can trim the hair between their toes as this can get very long.

3. Fire safety

This time of year the fires will be going and dogs love nothing more than cosying up by the fire. Check out our other blog about keeping your pets fire safe.

4. Keep them warm and dry

Make sure they are dry once inside and have somewhere warm to return to away from cold drafts.

5. Active cats

Your cat may want to stay indoors more over the winter months. If they do like to go outside make sure they have a warm dry shelter outside they can go to or get a microchip cat flap. This will stop other cats from entering your home and allow your cat to come and go as they please.

6. Keeping small pets warm

If you have pets like rabbits, guinea pigs or ferrets that live outdoors think about bringing them indoors in a sheltered area such as a shed or garage. Give them some extra bedding to keep them warm and keep them away from cold drafts.

7. Winter hazards
  • Antifreeze and de-icer used to stop cars from icing up when in contact with pets they can be very toxic. Cats are at the most risk as they like the sweet taste. Make sure you mop up any spills.
  • Salt and grit, this can irritate pets paws, if you salt around your home choose a pet-safe product.
  • Poisonous plants, holly, ivy and poinsettia are all toxic to pets if they eat them.

3 Reasons To Love The Cold

As the nights are darker and the days can seem very gloomy and cold its hard to see the appeal of winter and the cold. However, there are some benefits and true pleasures to be had in the winter months.

  • Cosy by the Fire

This time of year is perfect to get your log burners going and enjoy the warmth. Your fireplace can create a festive atmosphere especially when decorated. Make sure you stock up on wood get your chimney swept a minimum of once a year.

To give your fire that extra bit of Christmas spirit you can add spices to your fire. Cinnamon sticks create a lovely spicy and sweet smell. Just place two sticks with the logs alternatively you could add a few drops of essential oil to your logs, allow them to dry and then burn away.

  • Warm drinks

There are so many lovely hot drinks to enjoy this time of year from hot chocolate to mulled wine. These are perfect to enjoy in the cold gloomy weather and a great pick me up. Here are some classics that’ll get you in the Christmas spirit;

  • Coconut milk hot chocolate
  • Eggnog
  • Hot buttered rum

If you’d like more ideas and recipes click here

  • Food

Winter brings around all the best food that you can enjoy. From roast dinners and mince pies to cheese boards and lots of chocolate. This Christmas why not try something new at a Christmas market like the chimney cakes or strudel.

Do you like winter or summer?

Four Common Mistakes When Using Wood Stoves

Wood stoves are a great way to reduce your heating bill as well as providing aesthetic value to our homes.

However, burning wood takes some preparation and you have to make sure it is ready to burn safely through the winter months.

Below are 4 major mistakes people make with their wood stoves!

Not inspecting & cleaning your stove

You need to make sure your stove and chimney are ready for the season. There are a few things you’ll need to check

  1. Examine the firebrick lining and see if it needs replacing  – the lining will keep the stove from overheating
  2. Make sure the chimney is cleaned. This will prevent chimney fires and help your stove burn more efficiently.
  3. Check the sealed door. You want a tight seal to make sure smoke doesn’t enter your house. The cord that’s around the door may need replacing on occasion.

Don’t neglect these steps as you could be at risk of a chimney or house fire.

Not having enough fuel

Running out of fuel in the middle of winter is not ideal. It is best practice to have too much wood than too little. How much you’ll need will depend on several things;

  • How large your house is
  • The efficiency of your stove
  • They type of wood you’ll burn
  • How often your light your stove
  • Not storing your wood properly

Once you have your wood you need to make sure it is stored in the correct place it could affect the performance of your stove.

You don’t want your wood to get too wet as burning wet wood reduces the efficiency of your stove.

The best practice is to keep the wood out of the way in a dry shed and on a pallet so the air can circulate. Check out another blog about storing your wood!

Not having a backup plan

If something happens to your wood supply then you need alternatives. Some will burn quickly while others with smoulder for a while.

  1. Rolled old jeans
  2. Rolled paper logs
  3. Coffee logs
Bonus mistake

Not using the Firemizer winter pack! This will help you light your fire with an odourless firelighter and firemizer will increase your fire efficiency and reduce harmful particulates. 

Are you prepared for the winter season?

Brief History Of Fireworks

Fireworks originated in china around 1000 years ago by a monk. He was from the city of Liuyang in China, this is still the largest producer of fireworks in the world. A temple was built to worship this monk and the people of China still celebrate the invention of fireworks every April 18th. 

The Chinese believe firecrackers have the power to ward off evil spirits. Fireworks play a big part in Chinese new year as they are said to bring in the new year free of evil spirits.

Marco Polo is credited with introducing gunpowder to Europe in the 13th century. However many historians prefer the theory that the curators bought back black powder to Europe as they returned from wars in the middle east.

During the Renaissance, two separate European schools of pyrotechnic emerged, one in Italy and the other in Germany. The Italians focused on effects and stunning displays whereas the Germans stressed scientific advancement.

The English were so captivated by fireworks in 1487, they were used in the coronation of Elizabeth of York. Their popularity grew in Great Britain during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The queen liked them so much she created a position of fire master of England.

should we ban fireworks? 

Even with all the history and tradition, we cannot ignore the dangers of at-home displays for us and wildlife.

  • The loud sounds from fireworks cause distress for pets and in some cases have been known to cause heart attacks.
  • The fear they cause can often lead animals to flee into roads potentially causing accidents and vehicle damage.
  • Fireworks can also cause environmental damage through fires and the release of harmful chemicals.

Currently, there is not a ban on fireworks. However, some supermarkets have stopped selling them to the public for private displays. However, if you do plan to have a display please follow these tips;

  • Remover bird feeders several hours before lighting. This will stop birds coming into the garden.
  • Wait until late evening to ignite as there will be fewer animals in the area
  • Do not use fireworks near trees, birdhouses or nesting areas
  • Clean up all firework residue as this can be harmful to wildlife and the environment

For more information about fireworks and your pets you can click here 

[socials]

How To Build A Bonfire

As the 5th of November creeps up you may want to get ready and have the perfect bonfire!

Bonfire law

There isn’t any law in England and Wales about bonfires however there is a law about creating a nuisance. You can’t get rid of household waste if it will cause pollution or harm to health. Occasional bonfires are fine as long as there are no local bylaws in place that prevent it, you can check with your local council.

You must make sure the smoke doesn’t blow across a road and cause danger to traffic. You can’t burn anything that would cause pollution or harm public health. This includes rubber, plastic, oil etc.

Here’s how to build the bonfire:
  1. Make a circle with bricks or stones. If you want a permanent bonfire pit in your yard, you can dig a hole and then surround it with bricks or stones. Stand the tinder in a teepee shape in the centre of the circle.
  2. Make a teepee out of kindling around the tinder, leaving some gaps for oxygen to escape. This is also a good place to use any firelighters, why not use Firebuilder!
  3. Put some fuel logs parallel to each other on two sides of the teepee.
  4. Repeat this process up to five times, building the teepee in higher and higher layers

Once the bonfire is set up, drop a match into the centre of the teepee (or stick it into one of the gaps) to start the fire. Make sure the match gets all the way into the tinder layer of the teepee.

Be sure to have a supply of water on hand. Put out the fire completely, before going inside.

Watch out for wildlife

Make sure you check your bonfire pile for any animals especially hedgehogs as they love a woodpile. To make sure you avoid harming wildlife build your bonfire the day ou plan on setting it alight.

What to do with the leftover ash

This will be warm for a few days so wait for it to cool down. A small amount of ash can lower the acidity of your compost heap and help create an environment for red worms which help the compost thrive.

 

 

 

 

Outdoor wood storage tips

Outdoor wood storage tips

It is important to have firewood storage as it helps protect your firewoods lifespan but also for your safety too. Fresh firewood can have a high percentage of moisture and burning wet wood can cause creosote to build up as well as being less efficient for your stove.

Storing firewood outside is the best practice as you want your wood to have exposure to adequate airflow.

wood ashYou want to store your wood at least 5 feet away from your home. This is due to bugs will likely start to live in the woodpile. You could invest in a firewood rack, these keep your firewood elevated keeping air circulating around the wood.

An alternative is using a seasoning shed. These are great for drying out wood quicker, it keeps the moisture out and keeps the heat in.

Stacking wood

The best practice is to stack it no higher than 4 feet. If the wood is not fully seasoned stack it bark side down so the moisture can evaporate. If it is fully seasoned stack it bark side up to shield it from rain or snow.

To avoid the wood getting wet you can use firewood covers, a shed.

Keep a small pile of wood inside for easy access however only bring in firewood that you plan to burn that day as unknown bugs could be inside your wood. Don’t forget to use the Firemizer Winter pack! 

For more info click here

[socials]

How to Help Forests

What is it? 

Deforestation is the act of clearing a wide area of trees or forests. Forests cover 31% of the land area on our planet. Furthermore, they provide people with jobs as well by purifying the air and water.

Forests absorb a lot of the carbon dioxide in the air and without them, humans would not exist. Likewise, many animals rely on forests for food and shelter. 

What are the causes?
  • wildfires
  • Farming for oil, soy and palm oil

The main cause of deforestation is agriculture. It is estimated that 18.7 million acres of forest are being destroyed annually, this is equivalent to 27 football fields every minute.

Deforestation is a concern for tropical rainforests as they are home to much of the world’s biodiversity. The amazon is commonly referred to as the earth’s lungs. The amazon spreads over 5.5 million square kilometres. Most importantly, farming and plantations have consequently contributed to the destruction of the amazon. Approximately 20%.

Impact

Forests absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Due to this deforestation is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, greenhouse gas emissions contribute to rising temperatures, changes in weather and extremes in weather.

monkeyAs a result, this affects numerous animal species;

  • leopards
  • elephants
  • panda, chimps
  • gorilla
  • rhinos
  • tigers
  • tree kangaroo.
How to help

Above all, we need to do our bit to help. First of all supporting charities that help compact deforestation like the WWF here are somethings you can do to help.

  • plant a tree
  • Use less paper
  • Reduce meat consumption
  • Raise awareness
  • Buy sustainable wood products
  • Alternative fuel like coffee logs

All About Castle Fireplaces

The History of fireplaces in castles

The Romans Using tubes inside the wall to draw out smoke from bakeries, but real chimneys did not appear in northern Europe until the 12th century. The earliest example dates back to 1185AD in a Yorkshire castle.

wood ashFireplaces evolved very slowly. Chimneys were a later addition to castle walls. The chimneys are on the outside walls as they stick out. 

Domestic fires were located in the middle of the main room or hall. Halls would often have lanterns built into the roof which would let out smoke and sometimes the heat. Over time the purpose of fireplaces changed from necessity to a visual purpose.

In the 1800s new fireplaces consisted of two parts, the surround and the insert.  The surround consisted of the mantelpiece and sides, usually made from wood or marble or granite. Where the fire burns uses a cast iron insert and decorative tiles. Victorian era fireplaces added heat and a cosy ambience.

Rochester Castle in Kent

A medieval castle with thick stone and tiny windows had inefficient fires that made the castle difficult to keep warm. The tapestries weren’t only there for decoration but to help insulate the castle walls. Heating the stones as well as the chamber and directing the smoke from the room allowed for a much more warmer castle.

Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire

In the 16th century heating, the home wasn’t just a necessity but it was about fashion. As the most up to date fireplaces and chimney stacks were a status symbol in Tudor England.  Several large fireplaces were installed when Robert Dudley wanted to impress Queen Elizabeth I.

Framlingham Castle in Suffolk

In the 16th century, intricately carved chimneys were added to the castle which replicated the fashionable royal palaces of the period, but only two of these connect to fireplaces. This was due to the appearance of warmth was even more important than the real thing.

coalWitley Court in Worcestershire

The large heating system took around 30 tonnes of coal a day. The coal came from the family that lived there as they have their fortune in the production of coal. The house used a hot air heating system. They transported all the coal that was bought through on barges from the black country and loaded onto their underground trolley system. Using tracks through the tunnels beneath the court the coal was delivered to the builder room. This powered five hot water boilers and dozens of fireplaces in the court. 

To find out more click here

Fireplace Glossary

Fireplace glossary

Here is the complete Fireplace glossary for all the terms and definitions that you may hear when dealing with your fireplace.

  • Andiron – Either one of two horizontal metal bars resting on short legs intended to support firewood in a hearth
  • Arch – An arched top of the fireplace opening.
  • Ash dump – An opening in a hearth to sweep ashes for later removal from the ash pit.
  • Back (fireback) – The inside, rear wall of the fireplace of masonry or metal that reflects heat into the room.
  • Brick trimmer – A brick arch supporting a hearth or shielding a joist in front of a fireplace.
  • Chimney breast – The part of the chimney which projects into a room to accommodate a fireplace.
  • Crane – Metal arms mounted on pintles which swing and hold pots above a fire.
  • Damper – A metal door to close a flue when a fireplace is not in use.
  • Flue – The passageway in the chimney.
  • Hearth – The floor of a fireplace. The part of a hearth which projects into a room may be called the front or outer hearth.
  • Hearthstone – A large stone or other materials used as the hearth material.
  • Insert – The fireplace insert is a device inserted into existing masonry or prefabricated wood fireplace.
  • Jamb – The side of a fireplace opening.
  • Mantel – Either the shelf above a fireplace or the structure to support the masonry above a fireplace
  • Smoke shelf – A shelf below the smoke chamber and behind the damper. It collects debris and water falling down the flue.
  • Throat (waist) – The narrow area above a fireplace usually where the damper is located.
  • Wing – The sides of a fireplace above the opening near the throat.
  • Firemzer – a metal mat that sits on your grate. You’ll save 38% of your fuel and reduce harmful particulates.

Scroll to top