Free kindling to keep the home fires burning this winter

Stored pinecones ready for burning as kindling on the winter fire. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Stored pinecones ready for burning as kindling on the winter fire. Picture: GETTY IMAGES - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Apparently, it was Blue Monday on January 15, calculated to be the most depressing day of the year, when factors such as the weather, debt levels and low motivation are most likely to come together to make the perfect storm of despondency.

It’s a load of rubbish, of course, not least because the idea came about when a holiday company asked a psychologist to come up with a formula for the January blues, presumably to persuade people they needed to book a holiday.

Others dislike the term for different reasons, with mental health charity Mind saying it’s “dangerously misleading”.

I think it’s misleading too. In my book, every day is blue in January, the coldest, darkest month of the year.

I’m always pleased to see the back of it. Among the tools I use to get through are chocolate, fresh air and log fires.

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This January seems to have been particularly challenging and, to be honest, there have been more log fires and chocolate for me than there has fresh air.

But if you are looking for a spirit-lifting wildlife spectacle, there can be few better than the starling murmurations that can be seen in various locations around the region at this time of year.

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Some of the best have been centred on RSPB Minsmere, not far from where I live.

A shape-shifting, swirling mass of birds is sometimes visible from my sitting room, meaning I can enjoy chocolate, log fires and some of the joys of being outside (without getting cold) all at the same time. Even better, this spectacle costs nothing.

The same, however, cannot be said for the firewood to keep my log burner going, which seems to go up in price every year.

I have, however, found a solution for kindling: pine cones, collected from local woods and, in my case, where they’ve fallen from a tree in my garden, do the job perfectly.

? Thanks to Helen Lewis, of Hollesley, for her tip about ways to cut down on plastic waste. She recommends reusable bags sold by Onya bags UK. “They’re ideal for vegetable and fruit produce,” says Helen. “They can be washed when necessary and used indefinitely.”

I like this idea but wonder, could you make your own out of old or unwanted fabric or clothing even more cheaply? I might give it a go.

Send your thrifty tips here.

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