I knew when I made the decision to live abroad a whole world of opportunities would be open to me and that I would now doubt learn many new things. Some things are obvious, of course I learned to be more flexible, be more understanding and tolerant. But there are some skills living in Ireland has taught me that I have surprised me, so I thought I’d spend some time posting on these new skills in a bit of a series.
The Art of Fire Making
Growing up we never had a fire-place…Santa used the front door. Of course there are plenty of homes in Upstate NY that had some sort of fireplace we just weren’t one of them.
When I first moved to Ireland I was fortunate to live in a house share with three other girls. There was a fire place but I never had to bother with it.
My next place had a gas fire and sure anyone can learn to flip a switch. Not that I bothered much, it really didn’t give off more heat than the radiators so I didn’t see much point.
It wasn’t long before the King then convinced me to move out into the country where we lived in an idyllic 200-year-old farm-house. Idyllic and cold as hell.
Fire building was survival, it was impossible to keep the whole house warm and most of the radiators were turned off in rooms we didn’t use. There were days I saw my own breath in that house. We spent most of our winters there huddled in the sitting room by the fire. It was cozy and freezing.
With mixed emotions we had to leave our farm house when I was pregnant with Princess M…we just couldn’t have a baby there. If it had been warmer and drier though we certainly would have stayed.
Now we’re living in a much warmer house that is right smack tucked into the middle of two other warm houses. Warm is still a relative term though. I am certain anyone who visits from the US would not use warm to describe my house.
I have come to appreciate and enjoy a warm fire after a long day. Or in fact on a very dark afternoon. It’s like lighting a fire forces you to be still and relax.
It has taken me years to learn to build a real fire. For a long time I cheated with those ‘fire in a bag’ things that you just threw in the fireplace and put a match to. But finally after 9 years, I feel confident that I have learned the proper sequence of firelighters, kindling, coal, wood and even peat. I finally have the proportions right. I have learned to practice patients and wait until the coals are burning orange before packing more on the fire and tucking myself in on the couch.
Our house currently has the added bonus of a back-boiler which when turned on takes heat from the fire-place and heats all the radiators in the house including the hot water tank. With a good fire going we can heat the whole house.
I am sure there are a million down sides to a fire, its dirty, probably not the best for the environment etc etc.
But I do think the skill of making a good fire is handy to have…and if/when we leave Ireland fireplaces, the smell of fire and burning turf on a cold winter’s eve will be something I will undoubtedly miss and long for.