You can’t beat an open fire.

It can be fuelled by turf, coal, wood or one of those firelogs one can purchase nowadays. Yes, there is something very special about kicking back with a good book, a stiff drink and a bit of background music in front of a blazing fire. The weather does not even have to be cold to enjoy it.

When I arrived at my place of accommodation on my March visit to Ireland I wasted no time in starting a fire. A thoughtful person had removed the ashes and placed peat briquettes and firelighters in the grate. Everything was ready to go. All I had to do was strike a match and light the firelighter.

It did not take me very long to realize everything was not as it should be. Instead of going up the chimney the smoke began to fill the living room. I quickly grabbed a spray bottle of water and doused the flames.

A visual inspection of the fireplace and chimney did not reveal anything out of the ordinary. I deduced there was something blocking the chimney. There would be no relaxing fire that night.

I rose bright and early next morning eager to investigate the issue of the blocked chimney. I located a set of sewer rods which can double as chimney rods. By poking them up the chimney I discovered some obstacle about four feet up the narrow passageway. It took considerable effort to remove any of the obstacles. The few twigs and bits of debris told me the cause of the problem was a crow’s nest.

When those creatures go about building they drop material down the chimney until it forms a foundation. They continue until the stuff fills up the chimney right to the top. They stamp down with their feet until it becomes wedged firmly in place. Of course, I did not know any of this until later after much pushing and pulling. Picking the brains of knowledgeable people was also extremely educational.

I eventually managed to poke a hole all the way through the nesting material with the rods. My neighbor loaned me his set because it took nine of them joined together to exit the chimney crock. I had only seven.

Now I needed a squiggly pronged device attached to the end of the rods to extract the stuff. No amount of searching turned up such a device so I fabricated one from an old shelving support. MacGyver could not have done better. (I do not believe he ever had to deal with a blocked chimney.) After using my invention with limited success I realized I would have to acquire one of the proper squiggly pronged devices from a store. Do they sell them singly or does one have to purchase the entire set? I gave up the struggle, showered and visited my mother for the weekend.

Returning from my well-earned break, armed with a large amount of knowledge and advice, I located one of the squiggly pronged thingies at a hardware store. Yes, they sell all the pieces as individual items. In my excitement I forgot to buy a few extra rods. Fortunately, I had held onto the ones my neighbor had loaned me. (I did eventually return them all clean and shiny.)

On my return to the house I immediately set about attacking the nest with the proper tool. And what a difference the proper tool makes. Slowly and deliberately, and with much physical strain, I removed that nesting material piece by annoying piece. The Audubon Society would not be impressed and the crows certainly were not. They protested loudly from nearby roofs. I was quite unrepentant because I am a long-time believer that crows should confine their nest building to trees. Anyway, what is with building a new nest every year? Why not follow the example of the bald eagle and build one really strong nest and improve it every spring?

One would have to see the amount of debris I extracted from that chimney to believe it. It filled several boxes and garbage bags.

By the end of the day the chimney was completely clear. I was able to push a chimney-sweep’s brush through until it protruded out the top. What a wonderful sight it was to see it poking out of the chimney crock. The blazing open fire was particularly enjoyable that evening having been well earned.

A few days later my brother-in-law, Kieran McInerney, pulled into the driveway in his van. I had a crow guard and he had an extendable aluminum ladder fitted with a special device for hooking onto the rooftop. The crow guard is a pyramid-shaped device made from steel rods that fits into the chimney crock. It prevents crows, or any other birds, from taking up residence in the chimney. The fact most of the houses in the neighborhood already had guards fitted is a sign I am not the first person to have a nest in his chimney. For less than 10 Euros a lot of trouble could have been avoided. The device has to be firmly wedged in place because clever crown have been known to remove them.

According to Kieran everything I did was correct in dealing with the problem. He had encountered some foolish people who poured gasoline down the chimney and set the nesting material on fire. That is a good method of cracking the chimney or setting the house on fire. Not recommended. My mother actually had a crow fall down her chimney into her sitting room.

While we were on the roof we found some loose concrete on the chimney that would have allowed the ingress of water if not repaired. I owe the crows a favor as the loose material was not visible from the ground. While we were at it we painted the chimney which had not been done since Abba was all the rage. Well, they were in Europe if not in other places.

The crows continued to protest loudly until my vacation was over. They remind me of some people I know. They continue to complain long after it is obvious things are not going to go back to the way they were.

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Tags: Travel, Turf, briquettes, crows, fire., nest, peat

Comment by Bit Devine on April 10, 2014 at 4:23pm

I have a friend who let one of their cottages out to an american family for a week. The family arrived mid-evening, were shown around and left to settle in and rest. It was mid-May, damp & chilly. The father seemed excited about the fireplace and assured my friend that he "knew his way around a fireplace"

An hour or so later, my friend happened to be headed for his barn. He looked over and noticed all the windows open and smoke drifting out. He knocked on the door and it was opened by the father. The family was in front of the fire, reading, chatting, what have ya in a very smoky room. My friend asked what on earth he thought he was doing. The father responded, "Thought it was all part of the ambiance".

Comment by Bill Scott on April 11, 2014 at 11:48am
Love this story . Good old Americans never let you down . I can just see him sitting trying to read his book coughing and spluttering .


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