In a departure from the usual subjects of the animals and the resulting meat, I thought I'd go off on a tangent for a bit and entertain (or bore) you with my heating system. Like most people who live away from mains gas, the choice of heating is usually one of oil or LPG. Rather than arriving quietly by pipes from the "mains", both are delivered periodically by tankers whenever one runs low, and as a result, one needs to remember to order a refill whenever one runs low (although there are electronic monitoring systems available for the more technically adept!). And Sod's Law says that the more disorganised of us will run low just before Christmas, and just when delivery leadtimes go from being within a day or two to being within a week or two, leading to a mad scramble to figure out how to have a cosy Christmas with no hot water or heating! I kid you not - it's happened to at least a couple of people I know in recent years....

Well - here at Hoo's Herd, we converted (some might say rashly) to biomass heating a couple of years ago. My main driver then was counteracting the increasing cost of oil, until I realised that our yearly oil consumption was similar to driving 120,000 miles a year - and then the environmental guilt kicked in. Tending to the geeky end of the human spectrum, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a good alternative that would lower the personal and planetary cost, and settled in the end on biomass, choosing a Guntamatic Powercorn boiler (courtesy of Treco down in Devon, great company!) which burns cereal grains or wood pellets. The upfront purchase and installation cost will eventually be covered by the fact that (even with grain prices being at record highs) the saving over oil is at least 50%.

But that has left me still with the issue of having to monitor my fuel store and proactively place an order when stocks are low. And yes - I left it too late this month, and found myself running around this week, trying to find a way to get a delivery of something to keep us going over the festive season. Imagine the reaction of my nearest and dearest!

Wood pellets have been my most recent fuel of choice, as the recent cost has been lower than grain, and the ash produced is minimal (meaning only having to empty the ash can once a quarter rather than once a fortnight with the equivalent amount of grain), but I've not really reconciled that with the feeling that wood pellets have more of a carbon footprint (longer carbon cycle, more production inputs), compared to grain which is only a one-year carbon cycle and relatively efficient to produce (albeit there is the "burning food" angle to consider).

But wood pellets proved impossible to get this week in bulk, so it was back to grain, courtesy of Timuss Grains in Wheathampstead (an aptly named location!). One phone call and Peter Titmuss had a lorryload of 4 tonnes of wheat ready to be pumped into the fuel store the next day. Great guys.

Memo to self - better forward planning next time!