Do you ever think that maybe some skills should not be lost through the generations? I’m all for forward progress and all, but really, what if we find out that (for example) eating GMO food causes cancer and we want to go back to organic farming. Nowadays, even the farmers seem to have forgotten how to go that route.
Another useful skill that has been lost is how to build a fireplace and chimney. Not so long ago, people would build their own houses around a central hearth, so somebody in the village knew how to make chimneys, probably a good many somebodies. Why hasn’t that skill been preserved?
As you probably know, we have a fireplace and chimney. My husband built it himself. Nobody else in La Yacata has one. The few people in nearby Moroleon that have one don’t use them because the smoke comes back in. My husband seems to be the lone chimney maker hereabouts, but nobody seems interested in having one installed. Why? Electric heaters. Gas heaters. Hot air electric heaters. Space heaters. All of which were totally inefficient and impractical for us so the fireplace was the way to go.
Is it difficult to build a chimney? No more than any other type of building I suspect, although every site that gives directions on how to build one tells you it just might burn your house down. What a bunch of pessimists! Our house is made of brick, stone and cement so it would take quite a fire to completely destroy it.
We didn’t have a fireplace in mind when we build our house, but after the first winter, we decided it would be a great addition. It does get cold here in Mexico, not so cold as say, Canada, but cold enough for a roaring fire to be just the thing some days.
So since the chimney wasn’t in our design, the first step was to make a hole in the kitchen wall. My husband started from the ground and made the first section. About halfway up the first section is where the actual fireplace is on the inside of the house. He used cement sewer pipes that are readily available here in Mexico for the inside tube of the chimney, cementing it in place with a round of bricks.
The second section up has a smaller cement sewer pipe so the outer wall is not as big. He is planning on going up another floor because our second floor now has a roof and may be inhabited one day. Therefore, the third section will have another yet smaller cement sewer pipe and smaller surrounding brickwork, to be topped off with some sort of little roof so that the rain doesn’t get in and drown out our fire.
The hearth has an air hole that he made from a car tailpipe. It’s about 8-10 inches from the floor of the hearth and the purpose is to allow the air to circulate and go UP the chimney rather than back into the room. Seems those chimney builders in Moroleon neglected this little step giving fireplaces such a bad rep around here.
My husband finished it off with a seating area made from stones we plucked from our backyard. It’s lovely!
For fuel, we use dead mesquite branches we collect from around La Yacata. We can also use corn cobs (with the corn already removed of course). The fire burns faster with the corn cobs but most years we have plenty to keep it going. We could also use poop. Yep, dried cow patties or horse poop burns a long, long time. We don’t light our fire often enough to use up the mesquite branches or the corn cobs, so we haven’t had to go out and collect dung to burn yet, but hey, just in case, it is certainly good to know.
I’m sure that I’ve made it seem simpler than it actually was. There are measurements and bricklaying and figuring involved after all. It took about a week of work too. But it isn’t such an impossible task as one might think.