Saturday, 24 September 2011

Chimney Sweep

No, this is not the story of Mary Poppins, or of Dick van Dyke, but the story of my French roofer, who I discovered this year is a chimney sweep as well.   I was expecting to get a photo of a black, grimy face with white eyes peering out of it, but it seems the job is much cleaner these days, than when poor young children were taken on to do the job in the chimneys of days gone by.

Although we have owned the house for 6 years now, because we are not here in the middle of winter, we have not worried about the state of the chimney.  We did not know when it had last been cleaned before we bought the house, but we thought that maybe it was time we did something about it.  With a fire in the chimney and no proof of annual cleaning, the insurance will not pay out!!

It was not as easy as planned; the whole woodburner stove had to be uncoupled and moved forward so that he could cover the fire place, work from the top and collect all the junk at the bottom.
Having never seen a chimney sweep at work before, I was fascinated, and also delighted, that I would not have a soot covered salon

Up the ladder; sorry to say, the sun was in front of me, despite being in the late afternoon and I could not get a better focus!  Moving to the other side....

Removing the very heavy concrete block from the top of the chimney.  Our chimney sweep is very short and slim but is incredibly strong. Earlier this year he carried a railway sleeper across the garden for me single handed!!!

Getting started

Luckily he has good balance

and no fear of heights!!  Health and Safety? what's that?

The difficult part lifting the concrete block back up again.  I could hear the grunts from the ground and could see the straining muscle.

Phew- made it.

Just look at that, all spotless and back in place.  I might add I am very glad the blue cover was there; at least 15cms (6 ins) of black yuck, spread over the whole floor of the fire place, was vacuumed up - so pleased it was done, but then it all has to happen again next year!

Just as the work was completed, our neighbour  (who also wanted his chimney cleaned) arrived with the deputy mayor, and we all celebrated the achievements with a drink or 3.

103 comments:

  1. Hello Diane:
    This looks to be a highly dangerous mission which, happily, has been accomplished without mishap. We are, like you, amazed at the strength of the 'sweep', able to remove and replace the cap unassisted.

    Here the State sends round chimney inspectors each year and it is compulsory to obtain the annual certificate. But, surprisingly, no charge is made for this 'service'.

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  2. I've been gone from blogland for a while, and this is the first thing I pulled up to read this morning. So glad I did. I, too, am sorry Mary and Burt weren't there to dance on your roof, but you got some great photos in spite of. I've never seen a real-life chimney sweep (just his well-labeled truck in front of me on the highway). Interesting!

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  3. And...this is the first I've seen your header photos! Amazing!

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  4. Jane and Lance, this guy seems to be fearless. As I said his main job is roofing and I have yet to see him ever work with scaffolding! When he helped me put the ceiling in the barn, he was at times in scary positions hanging on one foot with a hand on a beam to steady himself. while he he worked with the other hand in a corner. Heights do not worry me but there is a limit....... Sadly there is a fee here. Most people here do there own chimneys, but if there is a fire they have no proof of it being done so I would rather pay the fee!! Diane

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  5. Deb from WhatsInMyAttic, also my first with a chimney sweep, we have never had the luxury of a real fire before. We never even had heating in S.Africa just a gas fire for the odd time when it was chilly!!! Depending where you are it can get very cold there in winter but it is usually sunny during the day. Very occasional snow where we were in Johannesburg! Thanks for the comment on the header. Have a good weekend Diane

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  6. I remember my first encounter with a chimney sweep. We were living in Heidelberg, Germany, 1968, and he arrived on a black bicycle, dressed all in black and even a black top hat...Mary Poppins style. I was fascinated to watch him. Good, clean fires await you!!

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  7. Oh I wouldn't want to be a chimney sweep. Looks scary. You will be glad you got the job done though.

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  8. Susan the outfit sounds so perfect LOL I must tell my friend that he must get a black top hat he he. Have a great weekend. Diane

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  9. Ellie I am delighted that the job is done. After seeing how much junk came down I guess it was a very good job we did it!! Diane

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  10. I think chimney sweeps are so cool. what a wonderful, ancient and worthy profession. So good to have it done too.. a friend had a chimney fire and it was scary... only quick thinking averted disaster.

    Lovely fireplace!!

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  11. haha - good one ... I don't think you'll find anY chimney sweeps anywhere here in southern Africa ... he does look strong hey, lifting that concrete slab and all ...

    could he estimate how long it had been since the last clean ... six inches of soot sounds like quite a bit?

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  12. Oh my God he is strong, I got tired just at reading your story, and you sure reminded me I have to go through this business now that winter is over! big hugs my dear

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  13. Oh yes, get that done before you use the chimney again! We stopped using our fireplace, not efficient at all as a heating element, and stopped using chimney sweepers too. I didn't think a stove like yours would also necessitate a chimney sweeper!

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  14. lostpastremembered friends of ours who live close by also had a fire in their chimney last year. Luckily he managed to control it, also with quick thinking, but work needs to be done before he lights his fire this year!!! Diane

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  15. Graham, chimney sweep in S.Africa, maybe in some areas but I never saw one!!! It would be impossible to tell how long it is since it was cleaned, we are never here in winter so the fire only burns occasionally when I return at the end of March. He did say it was very dirty though!! For insurance it must be cleaned annually. Diane

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  16. Thank for reminding me Diane, I need to call our sweeper before the chimney season starts again!

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  17. Pamela I am just amazed how such a small man can be so powerful, but very strong he is! Have a great Sunday. Diane

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  18. Rosaria we put in the wood burner because the open fire was useless. It does though still use the chimney. The bottom of the chimney has a removable metal sheet and the small chimney from the wood burner only goes above that by about 6 inches. The wood burner does though warm the whole of that side of the house :-) Keep well. Diane

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  19. I am glad you posted this Diane, as I am about to attempt mine.
    I have all the brushed, just a little worried about the mess!

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  20. Cuisine de Provence, only a pleasure we do not want you fighting with unwanted fires! have a great Sunday. Diane

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  21. 'Tis the season: we popped down to the Marie today to get the name of the chap who sweeps around here. We had the woodburner installed last year--it heats 90% of the house. So knew we'd need a sweep this year for the certificate.

    Amazing banner photos BTW.

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  22. Admin, welcome to my blog, glad to be of service, now you know how to sort out the mess!! Simply cover the fire place and tape well into position, few logs along the bottom. Take care. Diane

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  23. Niall & Antoinette it is amazing the heat that come off these wood burners. Hope your sweep does as good a job as mine did. Thanks for the comment on the banner photos. Have a good Sunday. Diane

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  24. Wow, I imagine it was such a major task as you had not had the chimney swept in six years! I have never seen a sweep go up on the roof until now!

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  25. I would not do this job for any money:) walking on the roof is not for me:)

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  26. I'm amazed by his balance as he stood on the chimney without any kind of harness. I hope he was well paid - and well insured!!

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  27. P.S.WOW the banner is awesome!

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  28. Linda it was certainly a first for me, we have radiators in the UK and no proper heating at all in Africa. I was fascinated by the whole exercise. Diane

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  29. Ola walking on the roof is not a problem for me, but standing astride a chimney working at the same time is another story!!! Diane

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  30. Gaynor thanks for the comment re the banner photo. As for the sweep, as his main job is roofing I am sure his wife has him well insured! Cost €60, Not sure I would do it for that, and with our chimney he had the added problem of unassembling and assembling it all again as well! Diane

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  31. What a fabulous post Diane. Chemney sweeping is almost like lost art these days. So glad you shared it here.
    And loving the celebration of today's achievements. You're doing it in style!

    Red

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  32. Boye By Red, it was an interesting evening especially followed by the celebrations afterwards!! Diane

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  33. Pretty clean and efficient! It reminds me that I have my two chimneys to clean too...

    ciao
    Alessandra

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  34. Most of the jobs nowadays re getting easier compared to god old days because of the high tech product. Looking at him working atop your roof makes me dizzy lol. Have a blessed Sunday Diane.

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  35. Fireplace lloks so nice;) I am a little bit disapointed taht chimneysweeper wasn't dressed asone:((

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  36. I used to love the chimney sweep coming round when I was little - it was my job to watch for the brush coming out of the top. I miss having a real fire, xx

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  37. Alessandra, glad I have acted as a reminder. Have a great day. Diane

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  38. chubskulit you are right it often makes me wonder how they ever did some of these jobs the old fashioned way. Have a great day.Diane

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  39. Dzoli, LOL things are not quite what the used to be. Nothing was as I expected! Take care Diane

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  40. Diane, after having watched this, I wonder why they used to clean from the bottom. It seems much more sense the way this was done from the top and sooooo much cleaner. It just was not quite what I was expecting LOL. One lives and learns!! Take care Diane

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  41. Hi Diane, this is so interesting and I can only say I'm glad this job is now done by grown men and that it is so much cleaner. It's one of those occupations that wouldn't be still on the books in Australia.

    Denise

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  42. Denise I have to say I had never heard of them in S.Africa. Having said that there are many places in the mountains that have open fires so I presume they would have to be swept! As it was my first time I was intrigued. Diane

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  43. Hi Diane .. I do remember the mess from years ago .. sounds as though Mr Chimney Sweep did a good job - not sure I like the idea of the concrete slab lift up! .. I guess he'll get someone to help him next year ..

    We certainly couldn't get it done here without insurance etc etc Health and Safety wouldn't allow it ..

    Well I know where to come if I want toasty toes .. cheers Hilary

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  44. Hilary I am sure he will be on his own again next year. He knew just how heavy that concrete slab was as he replaced it solo for us last year when the old one cracked!!
    I certainly hope we will now have toasty toes with no worries. Take care, Diane

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  45. What a scary job. We had it done years ago but have not used the chimney as it has not been cold enough here in the winter. I like the look of your stove – it must put out a lot of warmth. And I had to laugh at your last statement saying that you had a drink to celebrate, with the deputy mayor. It seems in France there is always a good reason to celebrate “et boire un petit verre….”

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  46. Vagabonde that wood burner is brilliant, but at times it gets too warm if not kept under control!! You are so right, we never have a job of any sort finished here that does not end up with out a celebratory aperitif, regardless of the time of day!!! LOL Take care Diane

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  47. Nice to have that job done, at least for another year.

    LOVE your lightning shots!

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  48. Thanks Gaelyn. Yep glad that is out of the way for the time being. Diane

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  49. what a hard job once all this is done :) it looks fabulous and relaxing

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  50. Torviewtoronto, not a job I would like to take on!!! Glad it is all over for another year though. Diane

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  51. Oh, it looks dangerous up there.:-)
    Nice done.:-) Hugs Stina

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  52. Lilla Kullan, he does not seem to think so, but one slip and....... Keep well, hugs Diane

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  53. we have a note to call the chimney sweeper tomorrow...we had our first fire last night.....

    kary

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  54. Looks like we are in for a hot spell now the chimney is done, but that is the least of my worries. The longer we can hold off the better :-) Diane

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  55. Diane I love chimeney sweep but Im agree is a really dangerous work clean! your chimney look so nice, special for autimn! LOL gloria

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  56. What a great job he did..It is good to have it done, like you said.
    We don't use wood, but coal sometimes..now we have a pellet stove and easy cleaning..hubby can do that.
    Now you are all ready for the chill.
    Nice and cozy..good job done..
    xoCarolyn/Rosebud

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  57. my first time seeing this. Really looks like a tough job, not mentioning the fear of height. If my house has a chimney, i would have done the same, to engage someone to do the job. Now you can have warm clean fire! Yay!

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  58. Now you can safely enjoy a fire the next time it rains or gets cold.

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  59. Bravo pour le reportage! Vous êtes maintenant prête pour faire un bon feu, quand il fera froid...le plus tard possible!

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  60. It's always a relief to get it done and to have the paperwork to prove it, just in case!
    Your chimney sweep is certainly fearless - I hope he doesn't have those workmen's lunches that include a small picher of wine !! (unless of course he only does roofs before lunch!)

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  61. Gloria it does look dangerous but he seems to be totally at home up there at the highest point!! Diane

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  62. Carolyn/Rosebud I am so glad that it is done and even more pleased that it was all so clean at the end of it. He did a great job. Diane

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  63. Lena I have no fear of heights but the weight of that concrete slab was the most difficult. It is really heavy!! Diane

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  64. Pam you are right I feel much happier now that I know the job is done. Diane

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  65. lejardindelucie, merci. Oui,le plus tard possible! :-) Diane

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  66. Jean when he was doing our roof the neighbour used to come around just before 12h00 and aperitifs were the order of the day. I often wondered how he managed to cope in the afternoons!!! Diane

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  67. my 1st time seeing this, Thanks for sharing.

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  68. Hi Sonia, my first time as well!! I t was very interesting. Keep well. Diane

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  69. Oh my - for the first time in my life, I have seen the work of a real chimney sweep. Thank you, Diane, it was a real treat!

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  70. Olga first time for me as well but I guess I will be seeing this on a regular basis from now on. It was fun watching but quite scary! Take care Diane

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  71. That was quite an operation! Lovely finished job your fireplace is so pretty!~
    Mary

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  72. Just wishing you a good day Diane, thanks for the visit. Take care.

    Rose

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  73. Même dans les appartement quand on a un chauffe-eau ou chauffe-bain au gaz,nous sommes obligés de faire appel à un ramoneur. Il est vrai aussi que les ramoneurs n'ont plus la même tête qu'avant.
    A très bientôt

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  74. Thanks Mary (Mum's Kitchen) for the kind comment. Have a great day. Diane

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  75. Thanks Rose for thinking of me. Have a fantastic day and take care. Diane

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  76. Nadji, Je suis surpris. Nous avons des gaz en Angleterre, mais aucune cheminée. Bonne journée. xx

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  77. How scary of a job is that! But your fireplace looks stunning =)

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  78. I could never be a chimney sweep; I am terrified of heights. Thanks for your post, it reminds me I have to get our chimney cleaned when we get to Sablet next week.

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  79. Peggy I agree not a good job if you do not like heights!! Thanks for the comment on the fireplace, we also think it is pretty nice :) Diane

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  80. chcmichel, glad to be or service sir. I seem to have reminded quite a few people that the job needs doing!! Hope the weather stays like it is now for you next week, it is like mid summer at the moment :) Diane

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  81. So, I'm guessing you live in a tiny town like mine, where the chief of police or deputy mayor (which we don't have) will just show up to see what's going on. I've had my chimneys swept, too, although I don't use my fireplaces. This house is so sturdily built and draft free that it actually becomes colder when we open the flue in the fireplace, even with the fire burning.

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  82. I think that is one job I would not want to do.

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  83. Marjie we are in a hamlet of only a dozen houses. When we had the open fire it was hopeless, all the heat went up the chimney, but the wood burner is a completely different story and the chimney is sealed to outside drafts. Diane

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  84. Christine's Pantry, I think that it is a job that either you are happy with, or you definitely cannot do. No in-betweens!! Diane

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  85. Diane,
    Many thanks!
    I admired him the "acrobat" cleaner chimney!
    Your photos are amazing!
    Best regards

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  86. Thanks Magda, it is good to have you back again. Take care. Diane

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  87. Jut had ours swept as well, a few years back I was laughed at for taking photographs and putting them on my blog, lol.

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  88. Paul and Roz, I wonder why everyone laughed at you it seems most people are interested!!! Diane

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  89. Fantastic, do we even have them here anymore?
    I love seeing old professions like this still on the go.

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  90. Cor blimey Mary Poppins, this brings back memories!

    I love my stove in France and used to spend a lot of time cleaning, stoking, feeding it
    It is such a pleasure to sit by a real fire and watch the logs burn, especially when you've hauled ansd stacked them yourself.

    Do you use those special logs you burn to loosen the clinker stuff? I found the mice had eaten mine when I returned last time.

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  91. Not everyone, just faily, lol, others were fasinated, I remember as a child I used to watch the sweep, the job of children was to let the sweep know when the brush came out the top, French kids don't get to do that as French sweeps as shown in your pics sweep down.

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  92. How interesting. I have never seen a chimney sweep at work. Now you are all ready for some nice fires. I hope you enjoy them.

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  93. Bourbon&Pearls I am sure they must be around because there are people who do still have wood fires and wood burners. Probably some still coke I think mainly in the towns people have gas fires and radiators so no they would not use them there. Have a good day Diane

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  94. Mouse I wonder how we survived before we put in the wood burner, the open fire was useless!
    Yes I have Bûche de ramonage, bought this year because of the cedar that we will be burning. The smoke is very tarry and clogs up the chimney but when wood is free what can you do? We will burn half and half with oak. Thanks for your visit and have a good day. Diane

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  95. Paul and Roz I was surprised when I saw that he was going to work from the top, but I am sure it is much easier and very much cleaner!! Diane

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  96. Words Of Deliciousness thanks for the visit good to 'meet' you. Yes I am delighted that this job is now done and we can,I hope, enjoy a good fire with no worries. Take care and have a good day. Diane

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  97. Very interesting for me Diane. We dont have chimney here and I havent seen a house with chimney too, I honestly dont know why...but great to know that its spotless and good again. Have a great week ahead.

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  98. M.Kate, it was interesting for me too, I have lived in S.Africa for so many years we certainly did not have a fire there. Looking forward to warm house now though in winter :) Diane

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  99. What a great post Diane! When I first moved to Ireland in 2006, I lived in a house that needed to have the chimney "swept" and was fascinated with the goings on. I couldn't believe the amount of soot I had to clean up before my (then alive) two cats investigated!

    A real fire is just so wonderful, but the place I live in now (I call it my artist's garret) doesn't have a fireplace alas. Just think of the cosy fireside hot toddies, or wine and cheese you and Nigel can share this winter X

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  100. Dolly I was so delighted that done this way I had no cleaning up to do. All soot and junk contained and the massive vacuum cleaner he had brought had it all up in seconds. A fire always looks warm to me which is always a huge help, somehow radiaters are not quite the same!! Take care. Diane

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  101. Way to go, Diane! Isn't it the best when things are clean and fresh? If only they could stay that way! Your guy is a gem, brave and strong! He's a keeper! Now you can enjoy sitting by the fireside and enjoying a drink or 3 with your friends!

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  102. Pam I am very happy that we can now light our fire knowing that we have a nice clean chimney. Looking forward to that aperitif with warm toes LOL. Diane

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  103. I appreciate all of the information that you have shared. Thank you for the hard work!

    - The chimney sweep saugus ma

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