Fire & Ice

“D’you think the fumes from the Rayburn could actually be dangerous…?”

I inquired of Tony whilst munching my breakfast toast.  “Hmm, not too sure…” he mused, thoughtfully plunging a sliver of homemade barleycorn bread into the silky golden interior of his soft-boiled egg, “but let’s face it, life in ‘The Furnace’ isn’t exactly pleasant.”

For the last few weeks we’ve been grimly gritting our teeth & staunchly suffering the sickly, oil-slick stench which has relentlessly belched out from our obviously-unwell, extremely-aged  Rayburn. 

I decided to conjure up one last, ‘farewell’ meal on said ailing stove; after which the very beating heart of our home would have to be grimly silenced until dear, consummate expert Iori (our  local, free-range, range engineer) could be summoned at a frisky fire-tender’s canter in his off-white Knight’s Charger of a van, to determine the nature of the barb digging into this inevitably thorniest of Rayburn problems.

It was another cold, bright, but sunny day: as the light emerged, a thick pall of brittle frost was revealed which patterned the barn rooves with myriad, complex, crystalline structures; tendrils of opaquely silver mist blushing coralscent in the first tentative rays of the early morning sun.

After breakfast Tony & I set ourselves briskly to work; anything rather than enduring being cooped up in our frustratingly fume-filled cottage. 

Once the worst tinge of frost had melted from the grass, we let the Milkforce out to stretch their legs for a few hours.  We try & encourage our more heavily-pregnant goats to take plenty of exercise; they are loathe to do so during the later stages of pregnancy but it can be beneficial for the goats’ overall health; although this year we opted to turn out the later-kidding group as they have less space in their pen, than have the ladies due to give birth in the next few weeks. 

I departed to Carmarthen’s outlying farm shops, scheduled to stock up on groceries & feed during the afternoon; although perplexingly I ended getting snarled up in traffic for a fair while owing to roadworks which even on a Sunday had only a snail’s pace of traffic control & so made me miss purchasing the majority of our monthly provisions. 

Thus I bounced the Navara down the rickety drive just before dusk, ready to roll up my sleeves & get stuck into the evening chores whilst Tony put the finishing touches to the weekend’s latest agrarian DIY.

Supper was duly prepared by yours tiredly, at Tony’s equally exhausted request: a robust, spicy Haggis with whole crushed potatoes loaded with butter, cream & fresh-ground pepper to keep out the cold; supplemented with home-grown peas & a spicy rocket salad as we mutually mourned the temporary death of our dear old reassuring yet aged Rayburn, my hand tenderly reaching out to repeatedly pat Old Fat-Arse’s relinqushing rump temperature as day froze again into another long, dark winters’ night.

So whilst I wrestled with our evening supper, Tony built up the radiant heat from our sturdy big woodburner in the parlour; which would decide whether we toast our toes or freeze our faculties, tonight…

At least scavenging the first few sticks from the construction site has proved a Godsend as we’d just about run out of precious kindling; indeed, I’ve recently spent many vigorous hours frantically scurrying around the Ffarm to salvage the few remaining suitably dry beech & oak branches & twigs, in a desperate attempt to keep us warm.

And yet; for those readers luxuriating in regularly-powered central heating, we still do not envy you, despite our apparently primitive heat sources….because when you have a power failure, whilst you are plunged into an unforeseen confusion of darkness & frigidity we can still cook; we still enjoy comfortable, stable, round-the-clock warmth; & can sink happily into a deep, foamy, piping-hot bath with a good book albeit illuminated by a myriad of tranquil, dancingly-seductive candlelight flames….the latter which you grid-imposed accolytes, can only huddle round in the folorn hope that ultimate power will be restored over hours, days or weeks allowing you again to again see, cook, heat, wash etc – & as it so sadly seems most importantly, these days; watch telly or play the latest X-Box/WII (??) hype.

Meanwhile fire burned & cauldron bubbled (or for more direct & less Shakespearian translation, our Haggis supper spiritedly steamed, bursting at its’ sheepishly-gutsy seams in an old earthenware pot). 

And as the Rayburn’s temperature reluctantly expired, the woodburners at each end of the cottage were duly & substantially stoked: as the temperatures outside again plummeted below -10°C, another icy night ahead….cold enough for us all, to warrant the most robust of heartwarming fires & to snuggle up under a heap of duvets with dreams of warmer times ahead……

Roll on a healthy Rayburn.


About LittleFfarm Dairy

The LittleFfarm Dairy Team: Jo - Goat farmer & Gelatiere Artigianale, plus General Dogsbody; Tony - Airline Pilot & part-time Herd Manager, Product Taster, Accounts Secretary, Handyman etc!
This entry was posted in Animals, Cooking, Diary, February 2008, Food, Goats, Life, Livestock, Locality, Smallholding. Bookmark the permalink.

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