A burning issue on Mallorca

The weather hasn’t been too cold so far on Mallorca this winter, although February is looming on the horizon and it’s the month that can bring snow and very chilly conditions. Even though the mercury hasn’t plunged too far down yet, we’ve kept our Jotul wood-burning stove going 24/7 since some time in November. The Boss likes to  “keep the walls warm”.  We’ve been quite warm too (and there were winters here when I thought I’d never say that).

In previous winters we’ve had to perform the routine task of cleaning out the stove pipe about once a month. It’s a tedious task – and a very messy one. We have to let the fire go out, then remove the metal pipe connecting the stove with the chimney entry point, and then clean out all the black gunk that’s accumulated inside, before putting the whole thing back together.

Making a pass or two 

Did I say ‘we’? Tut, tut. It’s actually The Boss who does the lion’s share of this cleaning job. He’s the one up the ladder cleaning the chimney access and taking the pipe outside to clean it out. I just stand at the foot of the ladder passing him the necessary implements, like a surgeon’s assistant: “bucket”, “large metal pokey thing” (I’ve no idea what it used to be), “small metal pokey thing” (ditto), and “mirror” (so he can see up into the chimney).  The whole job takes about an hour – time we could certainly use more enjoyably.

This winter The Boss gave the stove pipe and chimney a very thorough clean before lighting it for the first time. And, unlike previous years, we haven’t had to clean it again until today. The stove has a way of letting us know when it’s necessary – and it usually involves stinky smoke filling the room. It was today. Job now done.

We can only conclude that we’ve been buying cleaner-burning wood since we changed our supplier to one in Porreres. We also get more for our money there. And that’s always a burning issue.

Man at work

Man at work

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Trailer tales

When The Boss announced – prior to our move to rural Mallorca – that we’d need a trailer when we were living on the island, I did wonder whether this wasn’t a case of a desire for a new Man Toy. We certainly hadn’t needed one living in Oxfordshire. However, The Boss’s convincing case for owning a trailer once we were living in the Mallorcan countryside meant that we bought one before we moved, in case we couldn’t find a suitable one on the island. If only we’d known . . .

The Manacor area – in which we live – is largely agricultural and it seems that most country dwellers here have a trailer of some sort; we even regularly see one that has clearly been home-made: an old wooden fruit box that’s been mounted on a set of redundant pram wheels and is towed by an ancient moped ridden by an equally ancient man. There are plenty of more robust ones like ours too, and several places in the area where we could have bought one, as it happens.

Our trailer – manufactured in the Netherlands and bought in Oxfordshire – did, however, serve a useful purpose before we’d moved here. About a month before the Big Move, we drove our car and trailer down through France and Spain to Barcelona, where we caught the ferry to Mallorca. It was an opportunity to do some work on the finca and to bring some of our possessions with us in the trailer, in advance of the removal men bringing everything over. We shared the driving and I was surprised to find that towing the trailer didn’t present any particular problems (although I’m not sure I could have parallel parked the car/trailer combo, had I needed to!).

Bureaucracy rules . . .

But if you’re moving to Mallorca – or indeed the Spanish mainland – I’d recommend buying a trailer when you arrive, to save all the bureaucratic processes involved in importing a vehicle. Yes, although our trailer has no engine, it went through the same processes as our car in order to be registered in Spain, and the task took almost as long as it did for the car to be legalized. Our problem was that we had no ficha técnica, the official document detailing the full technical specifications of the vehicle.  We had all the paperwork provided by the retailer of the trailer – which included a brochure containing all the technical details required. But it wasn’t an official Spanish ficha técnica, and therefore didn’t cut any mustard with officialdom.

Long (and oh-so-boring) story short, we had to contact the trailer manufacturer in the Netherlands to obtain additional details to enable us to meet the legal requirements here. We then had to have our trailer measured and inspected by a local official who, having confirmed that the details provided by the manufacturer were correct, produced the necessary ficha técnica. But this was only one of some nine documents required to complete the registration of the trailer in Spain. With the benefit of hindsight, we would have bought the trailer on Mallorca.

But, despite my initial reservations about the need for a metal box on wheels, our trailer has been very useful. It’s an easy way to transport large unwanted items to the local Ecoparc (where we do our recycling); bring construction materials home with us (saving a delivery charge) and, several times during the winter, to collect logs for our stove from a wood yard. And the cats have found a use for it too . . .

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie - enjoying the trailer life

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie – enjoying the trailer life

 

We live a long way from a traditional British fish and chip shop . . .  but not as far as you may think. Visit www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com to find out about a great chippy in Palma de Mallorca.

 

 

 

 

 

Trailer tales

In preparation for our move to live in rural Mallorca, The Boss purchased a trailer to hitch up to our car. I wasn’t convinced that such a piece of equipment – known here as a remolque – would really be necessary in our new country life, but it’s proved to be very useful for all manner of things.

Having towed it down through France and Spain before we moved here (loaded with some items for our future new home), we had to set about legalising it for use on Mallorca’s roads. It proved to be a task fraught with complications. Long story short, the process took longer than it did to transfer our car registration from British to Spanish – involving phone calls to the trailer manufacturers in the Netherlands, visits to various ITV (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos) centres, and much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth.

Hitch ‘er up

But it’s all been worth it. We soon discovered that having logs delivered for our woodburning stove was an expensive exercise, and meant that we had no choice in the wood that we received. Having the trailer has enabled The Boss to go and buy our wood from a farmer who sells it from his land, and he can hand-pick decent logs that will fit inside our stove.  We’ve also used it to take sizeable unwanted items to the local Parc Verde (recycling and household refuse centre).

We recently went to buy a large quantity of small stones to put down on our drive, and were shocked to find that the cost of delivering them to our property was higher than the cost of the stones themselves. So The Boss duly hitched up the trailer and returned to the builders’ merchants to collect the stones himself.

A trailer of two (or more) kitties

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie - enjoying the trailer life

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie – enjoying the trailer life

But we’re not the only ones who see the value in having this trailer. With its soft black cover in place, it has proved very popular as a lounging spot for some of our family of adopted cats. I guess that makes it worth every penny . . .

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 (www.sonsuredaric.com) 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 . . .