Keeping Warm

We had no electricity or running water on the farm except rain water that was collected in two large tanks that stood close to the back of the house to catch all the rain water from the roof. It was then piped into the house and a cistern that was heated by a wood stove. That was also the means of cooking and had to be kept going most of the time – it used an awful lot of wood.

To keep up the supply, old trees were chopped down, then sawn into small blocks. Then the blocks were split into smaller pieces to fit into the stove or for the open fire. Any big knotty blocks were used as a backlog in the open fireplace and would burn slowly for days with a small fire burning along side it. Sometimes if the wood was green or a bit damp it would not burn properly, so to help it draw we would hold a sheet of newspaper across the front of the fireplace to cause a draft. It usually worked, but sometimes the paper caught fire too. Then one had to be quick and try to crumple the paper into a ball before throwing it onto the fire. If it was not screwed up, it would fly up the chimney and easily set the house on fire. This happened a couple of times when the chimney was very sooty. Then a couple of the boys would go up on the roof with wet sacks to spread over the chimney to stop the airflow and suffocate the flames. They would have to get into the attic to check around the chimney where it went through the roof to make sure there were no sparks or smouldering wood from the heat. By the time all that was done, the hearth fire would be out and we would be sent to bed to warm up under the blankets.

For lights we had candles or kerosene lamps. There were no fixed lights in any of the bedrooms and a fixed light only in the sitting room. So candles had to be lit and stuck to a saucer or an old tobacco tin with a bit of melted wax, and carried from room to room very carefully or they would blow out and leave you stranded in the dark.

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