• Helen

From twigs to pimps

If, like us, you rely on a wood burner as your sole source of heating, you will know that a good supply of dry kindling is essential and makes the difference between what can be a frustrating and smoky process of struggling to get the fire to catch, and a simple, fast catch that results in the fire kicking out heat almost instantly.

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One of our winter tasks is felling trees - we don't usually do this specifically for firewood as there are plenty of trees in our woods that nature has already felled for us and which are thus already some way into the all-important seasoning process, but more for specific uses such as fence posts, log walls, steps, or else simply taking down trees that are either starting to look as if they may be in danger of falling and causing damage, or else that are shading our sun-hungry olive trees or vegetable garden.

Felling a tree is a remarkably quick process. However, clearing it up is a much more long-winded task - the trunk and thicker branches need to be logged into suitably usable (and movable) lengths, and then all of the smaller branches and twiggy pieces need to be tidied. Sometimes the quickest and easiest way to do tidy the small, scrappy pieces is simply to build a bonfire and burn them. As often as we can, we bring try to bring the smaller pieces to somewhere that we can reach with the tractor so that we can turn them into wood chip with the tractor's chipper attachment. We then use the wood chip to mulch flowerbeds, vegetable beds, fruit trees, etc. or even for making compost.

Another use for those small twigs, however, is to gather them into kindling bundles, or pimps.

While we know that 'pimp' is an old English word for a bundle of sticks, there seems to be some debate as to whether a pimp is a small bundle of sticks tied with string or whether a pimp is 25 of these smaller bundles tied together to create a larger bundle. Either way, you get the picture.

We had never heard of pimps before - faggots, yes, but not pimps. It turns out that:

  • Faggots are larger, longer bundles of twigs, typically about 3ft long, and were used to fuel bread ovens (and are now commonly used for river revetment work).

  • Bavins are smaller than faggots but larger than pimps and were mostly used to fuel ovens and kilns. (Or, possibly, bavins are the same as faggots but tied with one band instead of two.)

So, while faggots and bavins were used to fuel fires, it was the pimps that were used to light fires.

Anyway, semantics aside, with an abundance of twigs available following the felling of four ash trees last winter, we decided it was worth attempting to make some bundles (to be used the following winter) rather than simply burning the whole lot in a bonfire.


Rate of productivity was a little low at first, but picked up once we had settled into the rhythm of things proved to be a very satisfying task.

After around eight months of drying, we experimented with using our pimps for lighting the pizza oven and, later, for lighting the wood burner and can confirm that they really do make the best fire lighters.

What's more, they make an attractive year-round home decoration.

Bundles of sticks for fire lighting.
We pimped the pimps with some lights!

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