The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The annual village fete and a precious Eltex memory

Photo: Vintage Eltex greenhouse heater

Photo: Vintage Eltex greenhouse heater

We were lucky with the church fete this year. It was a warm sunny day and attracted loads of people. Gradually over the years it has evolved from a quiet village fete to an efficiently run machine. As a fund raising enterprise, this has worked. The takings have shot up and the small village church reaps the dividends.

these days, we have Stewards’  badges and T-shirts for the core workers.  Danny and I help run the bar which now sells beer, lager and soft drinks alongside the St Clements Punch . The latter used to be optionally alcoholic (via a bottle of vodka for discreet requests) but now is a delicious teetotal drink that D and I make the evening before.

As you have to buy the T-shirts, we prefer to arrive in mufti. Despite this we actively compete with the food stand next door. They won this year (having sold out and packed up early) and taken wads of dosh. We finished the five hour stint feeling like marathon runners that completed after dark. But we took more money than last year and I’m sure that it was down to the efficiency of Archie, Russell, Paul and Owen who were instructed to help us.

It’s always fun running a busy bar. No one needs to be cajoled into buying a drink on a hot day.

And beyond the bar loads of tempting stalls beckon.

This year I bought lots of strawberry plants and a few choice tomato varieties that I hadn’t grown this year. I’d decided not to look at the books or the White Elephant stall but as I was tottering back to the bar behind a vast box of strawberry plants I spotted a real winner standing heroically beside the White Elephant stall.

A vintage Eltex greenhouse heater (brass and galvanised steel). This little beauty runs on paraffin and has four wicks – two per burner – and a humidifying tray. Perfect for frosty days and nights in our greenhouse – it can run on one burner or anthing up to four.  This heater just cost me just £5. Later that day I discovered that I had bought a bargain – one sold recently on Ebay for £58.

There was a lot of interest in the fact that we had bought the heater. Several people had spotted it but held back, hoping for a real bargain at the end of the day.

“Why did you buy it?” Raymond gently enquired.
“Because it’s beautiful and useful. I like vintage stuff.  Eltex is a good make.”
He examined the heater closely.
“These windows are made of mica. It’s dug out of the ground.”
I’ve got some mica in my crystal collection but would be loathe to use it to replace the window lights on the burners, which are a bit damaged.
“One of the local horse racing stud farms called us and I went to collect it. My grandfather had one.” He touched the heater gently.
“I remember filling up the tray at the top with water.”

For a second I could almost see Raymond the child, holding the heavy watering can and pouring carefully.

We will treasure our beautiful heater. It will enable us to grow salad leaves in the winter, start our seeds really early and protect our precious scented pelargonium for next year.

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  1. Hi,I am the chairman of maesgechen allocments in north Wales.I have recently (luckily) found and brought self same heater.They are brilliant.I too can remember filling Dads trough with heavy watering can.We came 2nd prize for our float in Bangor carnival last year,with the help of our trusty heater we will get 1st this year.If anyone would like to visit our website,feel free. growing for 2013. Gary

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