Late summer on Flinders Island when the temperature drops to 18 degrees and Mutton-birds fly towards the North Pacific is a good time to start thinking about how you are going to keep warm during the winter months.
While some enjoy last swims or outdoor picnics others start replenishing woodpiles. Interestingly, many homes burn this resource year-round to heat water and cook, part of the self-sufficient ethos of island living.
In general the homes on Flinders Island feature a wood heater, combustion stove or open fireplace and if you live in older farmhouses like Sammi and I do, you will definitely need to know how to light a fire!
Natural tinder resources for fast ignition can usually be found close by. Look for dead branches with brown leaves. We also favour the needle like leaves of She-Oak trees. Folded and wrapped with Pampas grass the leaves function just as well as newspaper does; or use newspaper.
You can add pinecones – many islanders have “Pine Cone Factories” in their yards; the open ones are the best because they are nice and dry. Now you should have enough tinder to help light the fire and create plenty of flames in the beginning.
Time to collect kindling. Look for random twigs and branches – small and smaller are best – these sticks form a base for bigger logs to sit on. There are many techniques you can use to stack kindling, laying a horizontal grid works and you can make a teepee shape.
Once you’ve prepared the base stack one or two bigger logs securely and it’s time to light the fire in a couple of places from the tinder. A good sign your fire is going is crackling noises.
Wait for the kindling to catch and if the fire is going nicely you will start to see red embers beneath. If it isn’t you will need to repeat the process – you probably need more tinder or your firewood is wet. If it is wet you could be there a while! Try stacking an emergency pile in a wheelbarrow or box undercover eliminating this annoying problem in the future.
When the smaller wood has caught, add a really big log and if it’s an open fire use a poker to adjust the firebase so that it sits at the back of the fireplace. It’s not uncommon for logs to roll out of open fires… If there is a guard, wise to use it.
Any minute now you should be cosy and warm and it’s likely you’ll stay that way for at least a few hours. Kick back and enjoy some scones and jam with a cup of tea!
If you have an open fire and plan on going out, it’s best to let the fire go out. Simply break up the wood with a poker and spread the coals out as much as you can over the firebase, this will help it burn up and go out.
It’s probably good to mention that because wood heaters are contained you can continuously fuel the fire and shut the airflow down. This means you can keep it going around the clock. The same principle applies with a combustion stove.
Fires can be temperamental, so a bit of preparation and touches of persistence is the key to creating that perfect island ambience and remember if you play with fire, you’re going to get burnt!
X Sammi & Megan
Location :: photos taken at Baileys Lane Accommodation – Flinders Island