The big chill has arrived – and isn’t it nice to be snuggled up to the fire! This winter, make your fire work even harder for you with our thrifty hints, and keep yourself (and your carpet) safe with our new ideas.
Roll up, roll up!
It may be winter but the junk mail deliveries just keep on keeping on. Now you can put that unwanted paper to good use – and no – we’re not talking about the tedious and time-consuming process of soaking, pressing and drying waste paper to make fire logs in a costly store-bought presser. To make long-burning paper logs in minutes, all you need is a standard 7.5cm tin can and a heap of junk mail. Use a tin opener to cut off both ends of the can to make a hollow tin tube. Arrange your junk mail in a neat pile and roll it up as tightly as possible. Taking care not to cut you on the sharp ends of the can, push the roll of paper through the tube so that the metal band sits in the centre of the roll. Your aim is to fit as much junk mail as possible, tightly rolled, into the tube so if your roll is looking a little loose, take it out and re-roll using more junk mail. Pop your log onto your fire using a ratio of 75% wood and 25% junk mail logs. The log takes about an hour to burn to ash. Remove the can from the fire when the metal is completely cool. So satisfying!
Re-purposed hearth mat
Spark-resistant hearth mats are usually made of wool, and with the first spark of winter dropping onto them, there’ll be an ugly singe to mark the spot. To protect your floor and keep the hearth looking ship-shape all season, think laterally and re-purpose a mat of another kind. Welding mats are heat-resistant (often up to 130 degrees Celsius) and offer excellent protection for your carpet. They come in attractive, textured, black rubber-like material and can be cut to size so there’s no problem with them fitting to your fire place. They are costly ($175 per metre) but what’s that compared to protecting your carpet!
Ashes are awesome
Ashes can be difficult to dispose of, especially if you live in the city. But why would you ever want to throw wood ash away when it offers so many benefits to the garden. Rich in potassium, wood ash is also acidic so it’s especially useful to scatter around acid-loving plants such as camellia and rhododendron. But don’t let that stop you using it on other areas in the garden, and on your compost – just be sure to team it with lime to balance out the pH level. Ash is also useful as a slug and snail deterrent. Scatter a ring of it around your seedlings to keep the pests at bay. Note: don’t use ash on the garden if it comes from treated wood or if it contains coal or other non-wood materials.
Careful how you carry
Most of us know how to safely remove ash from a fire but few know the follow up tip of how to carry it safely out doors. When carrying ash out of the house (even if you believe it’s cool) always back out the door with the ash container held in front of you. This is so that any breeze coming into the house doesn’t disturb the ash (which may still contain embers) and blow them out of the container and onto material which can catch alight immediately (or later, after smouldering unnoticed). Even better is to make sure your cover your ash container with a fireproof lid before taking it outdoors.