Sunday, 5 December 2010

living a simpler life?

last year we had the first severe winter I've seen over here - and I came here 15 years ago. the winter I first visited, we had a bit of frost and some snow, but it was all over after a few days. we have had one or two winters with a lot of snow - for a day or two; then it melted and that was that. and then last winter! that was a big one for us, not only extremely cold, but the change in weather conditions made it very hazardous as well. now, for those of you, who live in areas with cold winters it might be nothing new. but the irish live in a usually very mild climate! cars drive on summer tyres (and some had no profile left even on those, as we saw last year!), pipes run along the outside walls etc. nobody has much experience, be it with driving around or living under "restricted" conditions. I think our ancestors would have a good laugh at people nowadays - they were well used to walking or driving a cart and running water? could be found in a stream:))

we have adjusted quite well, I think. we are lucky to still have gas and electricity and the telephone of course. non of that was availabe 150 years ago! but the pipes are frozen (they still are, the very slight thaw does nothing to a block of ice in the tank at the north wall:)) and showers are not possible right now. instead we use this:
 we use the stanley to heat 1/2 of the house (it has radiators connected to it) and our running water for the kitchen. we have a smaller stove in my room at the other end of the house, but it only heats that room and the bathroom - and gives hot water for the bathroom as well. of course, now they still heat up the water - but the running water doesn't work. so we can switch to heating only the radiators, which means that they heat up quite well and make for a warm and cosy house during evenings and nights. the pot on top looks small - but it actually contains 25 l of water, when full. it's a canning pot - old, but still very useful. if you wanted to have a full bath, you'd need several of those, but for a half bath, this pot with hot water and another smaller one from the other room (plus of course cold water to "tone" it down:)) is enough! it might not be as convenient as running water, but it works well enough - and certainly better than our ancestors had it with an open fire and very little hot water! (did I mention that the washing machine still works - that pipe is well "hidden" and doesn't seem to freeze....)

of course during a cold spell like that there is one other important thing - for all the outdoor jobs a necessity really. the water has to be carried inside in buckets, coal or timber for heating has to be brought in, and of course - if you want to do any shopping, right now you have to walk to town (or use the bike, which I don't dare on the snow/ice - coward that I am:)). usually we get our stuff delivered, but in this weather the supermarket only delivers inside the town. luckily we have most of our supplies for emergencies here now - we only have to go to town for some fresh stuff like fruits, eggs etc. so here they are, my second essential item in the house:
 some people show their killer heels on their blogs - but there's no such thing in this house. those are my trusted boots, comfy and warm and pretty much non-slip, apart from sheer ice... they don't exactly look dainty and pretty, but they keep my feet toasty:))
another essential (at least I think so!) during this cold weather is tasty food! normally I make my poppy stollen for the first advent sunday, but this year I was delayed... so here it is - for the 2nd advent sunday:)) hmmm, delicious...
unfortunately poppy seeds aren't all that easy to buy over here, but I discovered tins with ready-prepared polish poppy seed filling in the local supermarket! I added some bits such as chopped almonds, more raisins etc. and it worked quite well. and saved me grinding the poppy, boiling it etc. 

not everything fared so well though. remember the last rosehips here? they didn't like the frost one bit and the thaw even less - this is how they look now! the birds don't mind the decay though - I saw them "attacking" the hips, when they turned soft and squishy! they still have a gorgeous colour though - which reminds me of the bags full of frozen hips that I still have to turn into jam!

there is hope for higher temperatures towards the end of the week - if they come you'll probably see me dashing into town and stocking up again on all kinds of food/supplies:)) I am pretty sure that this won't be the end to winter.....
stay warm if it's similiar over where you live!


Delighted Hands said...

Wow, you are roughing it! The cold sure does give you a perspective on the ease of the rest of the year! We are preparing for a very useasonal cold snap this week-bringing in tons of the plants and covering up those that we can't bring in! Hoping this will be the coldest week and then more temperate weather will prevail!

Woolly Bits said...

yes, in some ways it's going back to the past - but on the other hand I figure that we're still far better off than many people! we have enough food and water and warmth - having some additional jobs to do isn't that bad:)) makes you appreciate things more, when we're back to normal!
we are promised a thaw for the end of the week - and I hope you'll manage to keep most of your plants safe during the cold spell!

Leigh said...

Very interesting post, Bettina. Your radiators being hooked up to your Stanley is brilliant. With the purchase of our new cookstove, we've been trying to think of a way to use it to heat the little bathroom floor (they'll be on opposite sides of the same wall.) I hadn't thought about shower water! My Sweetheart does have a 5 gallon water reservoir, so that will be useful.

The stollen looks delicious! And about the rosehips, I read somewhere they're sweeter after a frost (??)

Woolly Bits said...

Leigh, the radiators were the only way to put some heat into the kitchen and kid's room. our doorways in between rooms are very small, and the heat doesn't travel through easily. connecting a radiator also uses heat (we don't need hot water all day...), where it would be wasted otherwise. we do have another woodstove in the kitchen, put that is only used during extreme cold (ie. next to never:)) - and in emergencies, when there is no electricity -which powers to thermostates on the two other stoves! it's quite a complicated system - I sometimes wonder what I'll do if DH doesn't take care of it all:))

Anonymous said...

Hallo Bettina,
hmmm - der sieht lecker aus der Stollen.
Viele Grüße