Five Go With Us Into the Winter – Part 3: the Logburner

Not such a blast from the past - our old almond-shell-burning stove

Not such a blast from the past – our old almond-shell-burning stove

When we moved into our finca in Mallorca there was a traditional metal open fireplace in the sitting room. We’d been looking forward to cosy winters in front of a log fire, roasting chestnuts, as we enjoyed a glass or two of one of the delicious Son Sureda Ric ( wines, produced in our region of Mallorca.

We had a small supply of logs delivered and lit our first fire with great excitement, but it wasn’t long before we had to open all the doors and windows because of the smoke billowing around the room. Somewhat counterproductive when you’re lighting a fire to keep warm!

The Boss soon got to grips with the fireplace, but meeting its demand for logs became difficult. Because it was an open fire – and our home is exposed to the north winds that often whip up the valley – the wood burned very quickly and little heat seemed to come into the room.

Norwegian Good

So we invested in a Norwegian Jotul woodburner, which has filled our winters with warmth and pleasure – and is one of the best things about winter in Mallorca. It’s very economical with logs and, even better, will burn slowly 24/7 if we want it to. Not only does it give us heat, I often cook jacket potatoes inside it, and make soup that sits in a large pan on top of the stove, slowly cooking through the morning so that it’s ready for lunch. Oh, and it makes a useful plate-warmer too!

One of the things left behind in our finca by the previous owners was a Hergóm stove. It no longer worked, having at some stage had its stovepipe removed, but at one time it would have been used to burn almond shells – a handy fuel on an island with so many almond trees. I’ve tried to persuade The Boss that we should recommission it and install it in the bathroom, but to no avail.

However, I gave the old stove a bit of a spruce-up and it’s become a purely decorative feature in our home – a rustic reminder of how homes like this would once have been heated. Except that on one of our visits to Leroy Merlin – a DIY store on the outskirts of Palma – we saw one of these stoves for sale. It looked exactly the same as ours at home, and had a price tag of 300 euros. So much for nostalgia.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2012 

Five Go With Us into the Winter – Part 2: A Dehumidifier – a Mallorca Essential

Our first winter in Mallorca was … challenging. It wasn’t until the week before Christmas that we finally had electricity in our rural finca (after eight months without being able to plug in anything electrical). Although we had a traditional Mallorcan metal fireplace in our sitting room, its heat failed to reach the rest of the house (and most of the sitting room, actually).

We had to resort to using the butano-powered heaters kindly left for us by the previous owners, if we wanted additional heat. And we did. Back in the UK, we’d been used to a centrally heated cottage, with an inglenook fireplace and, hombre, did we miss those warm radiators!

Water, Water, Everywhere

The problem with heaters using butane gas is that they give off a lot of moisture – far more than you’d ever suspect (I did once read some alarming statistics about this but can’t now find them). It was only after we’d been using the heaters for a while that we became aware of a general dampness around the house. We decided to buy a dehumidifier.

Back in the UK, we’d once had a radiator burst upstairs while we were both out at work. I returned home to find the house full of steam, the kitchen ceiling hanging down and water everywhere downstairs. We hired an industrial-strength dehumidifier for a week or two to help dry the place out. No way did I want to live again with something that noisy or large.

A Sucker for Comfort

Much to our surprise, every electrical retailer in town seemed to sell dehumidifiers; we’ve since realised that they are a winter essential.

Even though we’ve long stopped using butane heaters in our home, there is still good reason to use the dehumidifer every winter day when there is enough sunshine to fuel our solar power system (ie, when we have free energy).  Moisture from using the shower, cooking, and from the generally damp winter climate is all worth removing, for a warmer and drier feel indoors. I am often amazed at the amount of water that the dehumidifier sucks out from the atmosphere, even with regular use.

A Five-star Solution

I recently attended a press lunch at a luxury boutique hotel in the mountains, which coincided with my weekly radio broadcast about what’s on in Mallorca. The hotel manager kindly allowed me to use their best suite – and it was rather fabulous and pleasantly warm – for the 10-minute phone link to the radio station on the mainland.

One of the best pieces of equipment we've bought for our finca in Mallorca

One of the best pieces of equipment we’ve bought for our finca in Mallorca

As I waited for the phone call, I had a little look around and, to my surprise, found a dehumidifer (the same model as ours) in the corner of the lounge area. And it was almost full of water. Even luxury hotels and homes can fall victim to damp in the Mallorcan winter.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2012