As I made my way down to the huge vaulted kitchen in the East Wing, I knew something was afoot. The air felt cooler and clammier than normal – not helped by it being yet another damp and cold August morning.
The sight of Hazel rummaging in the back of a cupboard for the electric kettle confirmed what is possibly the least welcome news when all hands are needed out in the fields: the Aga had gone out.
Normally it gives us a week or two’s warning, with a drop in temperature and a bit of a pong – but not this time.
Going fine yesterday (240C in top right oven) and then dead as a dodo. Mind you, a scan of the diary revealed that it was a week away from six months since it was last serviced, so it was right on cue. The magic additive had done its work again.
It’s not just the electric kettle that needs a dust off – it’s the twin-hotplate electric cooker, too. The older Muscle is home from London, and he likes his food.
By the time the kettle, the cooker, the toaster and the microwave were plugged in, the kitchen sockets were looking pretty busy. And we had to find room for the two rechargers for the electric chainsaw (some gateway lopping needed) and my new lightsaber. And three phones.
We lasted all of one day without the Aga. Harvest is when the washing machine seems to go full time, but there was no drying to be had on the line this August.
The Aga was put to bed nightly under a heap of shirts and shorts, some of them still smelling of WD-40. That task alone was needed enough to provoke a shockingly early morning service.
The Muscle had lifted out the central barrel the night before, and I got stuck in with my spanners. Within 10 minutes I had the crucial bits – yes, fully clogged up with carbon – in the new benchtop sandblaster, powered, of course, by the electric compressor.
That made short work of them, and they were soon refitted, with new wicks and a new 90deg brass compression elbow.
Ten minutes waiting for the oil to flow through, a check for leaks, and a long lit match carefully poked into the lighting hole, and we were away. And all with the help of three flatcoats thrilled to have company at ground level at that early time of day.
Yellow flame went to blue, the barrel was rolled into place (no point waking the Muscle) and all seemed well.
Hazel took the opportunity to give the Aga a proper wash as it was warming up, and I could treat myself to a good scrub, too: hot water from the electrical immersion heater which replaced the exploded Agamatic back in the 1980s.
All very satisfying. I boiled up the electric kettle one last time (for six months, anyway) and headed out into the garden to check the drizzly, dank post-dawn light; no combining till well after lunch – again.
On a whim, I checked one of my favourite websites – Gridwatch, which breaks down power supply by source. Wind and solar were, between them, supplying a dismal 1%. CCGT – natural gas – was doing 55% of the work.
I leaned a hand on the now pleasantly warm Aga hotplate, listened to it putt-puttering away, and looked at the banks of electrical gadgets and tools all demanding instant, reliable, flick-of-a-switch power on a dull damp dawn.
And that’s before we start charging cars, for goodness’ sake. Boy, we’re going to miss fossil fuels.