Burning down the house

No, nothing to do with the 80’s classic from the Talking Heads, nor the last desperate act of a father on the brink, it’s just that it’s rather cold and we ran out of wood!

But before you worry too much its not the house we are living in that we are torching, despite what you might think about a house of straw they don’t burn that well, rather it’s the old derelict house down by the barn.

Eighty or ninety years old, maybe more, it holds many memories for some of the local people. Only this Boxing day we met an elderly lady who remembers visiting the house as a young girl, visiting your neighbours was all the rage back then. The house itself was considered big for its time and its design is one that typifies the Polish countryside for me, with many examples still sanding, nestled between the modern freshly built houses of the last 20 years. If you ever visit Poland I would suggest a visit to one of the many open air museums, http://openairmuseum.pl/ they offer a unique glimpse of Poland’s past architecture and way of life.

Still we made a deal with my father in-law in the autumn, that if he demolished the house he could have half of the wood for his own winter fuel supply. No sooner was the deal struck then the family and quite a few friends descended, although it has to be said the bulk of the work was carried out by mother and father in-law.  We were left with heavy beams, cut to the length of the van for transport back to the family home, piled neatly under tarpaulins and whilst most made the journey quite a bit was set aside for us.


In the end half of the house was left standing, the weather turned against us and it made sense to keep the shelter in place as there is still a couple of tonnes of clay in there! Which is handy as I want to build a straw bale cottage there in the years to come.

So here I am, cutting with chainsaw and chopping with axe, almost a hundred years of history to warm a new generation. Marvelling at the giant hand carved dove tail joints that held the old house together, it seems a shame to burn it somehow.

But burn it does and it burns wells, too well in fact as the old dry timbers are a honeycomb of wood worm burrows and rot that has set in over the years. I just hope that it lasts us the rest of the winter as I’m not sure what to burn next…um maybe this bit of old furniture in the basement!

Author: Eddy Winko

Left the rat race to live a less hectic and harmful life. From the building of a straw bale house to the composting toilet diaries; read my blog https://winkos.wordpress.com/

10 thoughts on “Burning down the house”

    1. An interesting idea, I just wish I was more artistic or indeed knew someone who is. Mind you I plan to try and use some of the wood in door frames and maybe a mantelpiece. Some of the heart wood that remains once the rot is knocked off is very impressive, almost petrified, I may try and rescue a piece for posterity.

  1. I’m sure all that wood will last over a winter with your tight well insulated house. I bet it’s fun to split too…no knarley knots to pull apart, so no excuses for reducing the pile of old furniture you’re going to rehab. 🙂

    1. There is something primeval about chopping wood that I enjoy, so you’re not far wrong when you say it’s fun to chop 🙂 Although there are plenty of stubborn beams in the mix. I still have quite a bit of detail to complete on the window surrounds so we are maybe letting in a bit too much of the outside at the moment, but nothing an extra log or two wont solve 🙂 It started to warm up today (above freezing) so I think the furniture will survive….for now 🙂

  2. I’m surprised the Germans left anything standing big enough to burn Eddy.
    Those beams look like a lot of work to cut. I expect you are boasting a six-pack by now, and not of ‘Tyskie’ either!
    Stay warm my friend.
    Best wishes to you three, Pete.

    1. Aye, they take some chopping, first with chainsaw then with axe. Half a days work keeps us warm for about four days. Tyskie, a rich mans beer! Harnas is the one to look out for at less than 2 zloty a bottle…I remind Gosia when she heads to the shops 🙂

      1. I can see your point 🙂 By the way, I meant to mention that guests that came round last night said that the Germans and indeed the Russians had both taken up residence on the land, no doubt because of it’s elevation and view of the surrounding area. Who know what we will find in the foundations.

  3. . . . I had read somewhere humanure burns well . . . No, wait; it was part of a saying: “not a pile of crap chance in hell” . . . or maybe it was snowball; I don’t rightly remember.

    By the way, you might like this (if you’ve not already read it):

    Click to access Chapter_5.pdf

    And yes, it does seem a shame to burn that much history. I too hope you have enough history to last the winter.

    1. Ah The Humanure handbook, a well thumbed book in the privy. Funnily enough your Mr Gates new philanthropic adventure burns human waste after all the moisture us taken out 🙂 A possible way to provide drinking water and sanitise parts of the developing world?
      I’m sure a few bits of wood will make it into a door frame or mantelpiece, just as a reminder 🙂

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