In Britain we’re used to shelving outdoor fun until the weather’s good enough. And that in itself can be a challenge. How many non-summer days do you get when it isn’t too windy, the temperature is comfortable, and it’s dry? Not too many! Luckily a simple chiminea is all you need to make this winter go with more of a swing than ever before. Here’s our guide to using a chiminea in winter.
Picture this… our idea of winter chiminea heaven
Here’s how we spent our weekend. It was deliciously crisp and cold with lovely blue skies and some faint warmth coming from the sun. In other words, it was perfect chim weather. We were fed up of being stuck inside and the kids were going stir-crazy, having been indoors all week.
We hauled our cast iron model out of the shed, mounted it on its usual place on the patio in full sunshine, and fired it up gently. Even at this time of year, it’s no good rushing things. A small fire to start with, getting steadily bigger, is the way to go. And that’s just fine since the whole chiminea thing is about relaxing and taking things easy, not rushing about like a blue-assed fly. The fine art of relaxation is your goal, and using a chiminea in winter makes it easy to achieve!
We hung around in the garden for hours, first cooking a simple but tasty dinner out there and then, when darkness fell, topping up with toasted marshmallows. It’s amazing how children never get bored of playing around fires. Chimineas are – despite being big and hot – safer than having an open fire or bonfire that the little ones can fall into. The heat and flames are contained inside the chim’s fat belly, so while the adults sampled some very nice wine the kids rushed around finding tiny twigs to burn.
It was actually quite hard to drag ourselves away at the end of the day, even though everyone was tired, happy and ready for bed. The kids eventually made their way indoors for baths and bed, and we carefully tidied up and put everything away again, a mellow way to end a very special day. If that sounds like fun, I can assure you it was! An afternoon and evening spent in the fresh air, good food and good company, and the thrill of a real fire. Lovely.
Lots of lovely heat for outdoor entertainment
Does it get frosty, snowy and icy where you live? If so, and the ambient air temperate regularly drops below freezing in winter, you’d be forgiven for stashing your chiminea indoors and leaving it there until spring breaks out. But it’s such fun using a chim on chilly winter days, it seems a shame to relegate this excellent piece of garden kit to the shed or garage for half of the year.
Yes, freezing temperatures and moisture can take their toll, making the clay or cast iron brittle and enhancing the risk of cracking. But on the other hand it doesn’t really take a whole lot of effort to either buy a good quality chiminea cover to protect it properly outdoors all year round, or even to shift it back into your garage or shed after using it.
Moving a chim does put you at slightly more risk of breakage than leaving it where it is, but two of you should be able to carefully move it without too much of a problem. And firing her up on a cold day is so worth the risk, such fun.
Using a chiminea in winter – Choose a sunny winter location
Winter days can be crisp, sunny and gorgeous. Before you install your cast iron chiminea, pick a location that gets the most possible sunshine, since even watery, weak winter sun can pack a lovely, mellow punch of warmth. It will also help keep your chim reasonably warm outdoors and cut the risk of cracking. In the northern hemisphere a south-facing location is your ideal thing to aim for. Failing that, see if you can face west and catch as many of those precious winter rays as you can.
Dressing the part – Enjoy getting smutty!
Fires are sooty and smoky. That’s part of the pleasure: the potent scent of burning fuel, full of nostalgia, and the age-old look of smoke as it curls up into a darkening winter sky. It’s an experience that hits your primitive buttons hard, all at once, leaving you feeling exhilarated and wide awake. And it’s an experience you’ll enjoy all the more when you’re dressed for the part, wearing comfy old clothes that you don’t mind smelling of smoke. It makes a piping hot shower or bath even more enjoyable, which makes the entire winter chim experience much more than the sum of the parts.
Storing your chim after use in winter
If you want to keep your chim outside for the duration so it’s ready whenever you are, a good quality chiminea cover is the only real answer. They’re specially designed to withstand cold and damp, they help keep moisture away, prevent cracking through frost and also keep off damaging UV rays. We stock all sorts of covers so there’s bound to be one to fit your chim perfectly, and depending on the weather around your way they’re available in different thicknesses. If you don’t want to invest in a specially designed chim cover, a tarpaulin is your best friend. It won’t fit snug around the chim like a proper cover and won’t look as nice, but it will keep off the damp and cold reasonably well.
If you’re stashing your chim outside it’s also wise to put the lid on. Most of our chims come with a lid. If yours doesn’t have one, you can buy a separate lid. It’s an excellent idea since it keeps the rain and wet out of the inside of the chiminea. If you can’t find your lid, in an emergency an upside down plastic bucket will do the job. But again, it won’t look anywhere as neat and nice as a proper lid.
In cold weather it’s particularly important not to chuck water on your chim to put the fire out when you’ve finished using it. That’s a sure-fire way of causing damage, simply because the difference in temperature is so dramatic, an instant hit of cold onto a hot, hot surface. Out hottest tip is to keep a metal bucket of ash handy, using the ashes from previous chiminea sessions – or from your bonfire – to smother the new one thanks to the ash’s oxygen-limiting properties. If a fire can’t get oxygen, it can’t burn. Last of all, don’t forget to take your chiminea off its stand for storage when you take it back indoors.
No chim? Buy one and fall truly, madly and deeply in love with winter
No chim? No worries. There’s still plenty of winter left to enjoy, and we’ll deliver your chosen chiminea to you in no time. Any questions, just ask.