ONE day. One paltry single day, that’s all we had between the last deluge of snow finally melting and this fresh lot dumping. I’m starting to feel a little victimised.
The beast from the east took forever to release its grip here. Huge snowdrifts built up across the track, which is the only vehicle access to the house at the best of times, and simply refused to melt. While locally even minor roads were clear and it was back to business as usual for most, we were still effectively snowed in…. for 17 days.
Everything had to be carried in on foot. I went to the supermarket with a rucksack and only bought what I could carry on my back. The coal merchant split heavy sacks into two loads so I could manage them down one at a time. We started to run low on diesel for the generator and I divided one container load into two and carried them down in each hand, evenly weighted like a loaded up donkey.
It wasn’t just getting supplies in that was a problem, getting rubbish back out was another. The bin lorry doesn’t come down to the house and neither for that matter does the postman. At the top of the track, where the tarmac road starts and civilisation begins, we have a locked postbox and our wheelie bins. Usually it isn’t a problem to stop by on our way out but with the track blocked with snowdrifts we had to carry the smelly bags of rubbish up to the car and drive them round. It certainly makes you think twice about what you throw away.
At home provisions were used wisely. We ate lots of porridge and rice because we never had enough bread. Despite the freezing temperatures our stoic hens continued to lay an egg a day each and we used these to bake cakes and buns, eaten as quickly as they were made but at least we were able to replenish supplies with stores of sugar and flour, only butter ran low and it isn’t too cumbersome to carry. The freezer was well stocked with pheasant and we made great inroads into this, cooked in various forms from sausages to stir fry and pizza to pies.
Sheltered from the cold wind, there were days which had a distinctly spring-like feel in the garden. Garlic bulbs planted last Autumn popped up shoots in neat rows in the vegetable bed and in the greenhouse cress and lettuce germinated despite the backdrop of snow outside. Spring seemed just around the corner and I felt so enthused with the prospect that I carried down a sack of compost and planted tomato, sweet pepper and chilli seeds in little pots and arranged them around the back of the Aga in the kitchen in the hope they would germinate and be ready to go in the greenhouse when the warmer weather arrived.
The rapid melt was not without its problems. The spring water supply to the house turned brown and silt worked its way into the plumbing system seizing up a water pump. Hubby has become adept at unblocking the system and working out air locks but eldest was in the shower when the problems started and looked a sorry state dripping with soap suds to tell us the water had gone off.
Fuel, or lack of it has been a major problem this winter and we are currently buying in logs for the wood burner, which heats the house and provides us with hot water. We have always struggled to get in enough wood to last a long northern winter and suspect that our current system is inefficient, consuming huge quantities of fuel yet providing limited hot water with most of the precious heat escaping up the chimney.
While we are considering alternatives and weighing up the cost of modern wood-fuelled heating systems the fact remains heating your house and hot water with wood will always involves a major investment in time and manpower especially if you are gathering the wood yourself.
In the last few weeks we have at least made a start on replenishing supplies, felling a huge conifer that was shading the field and sawing it into logs to be left for a year to season.
But despite all the spring-like goings on down at the house, it wasn’t until this Friday that the giant snowdrifts on the track melted enough for me to feel confident to drive the car down. Filled to the brim with a huge supermarket shop, more diesel and coal and even a pane of glass to replace the one I smashed while clearing the heavy weight of snow off the greenhouse roof, it was a precarious trip and I was glad I had also found time to get the two worn front tyres replaced while the car had been marooned away from the house. Then on Saturday the weather turned, the promising vegetable beds are now once again hidden beneath a thick blanket of snow and we have had to stow the car back at the top of the track and face a walk in and out for work on Monday morning.
Spring, it seems, is a little way off yet.