I just read last nights post and thought it looked a little bleak, so I thought I’d quickly post this picture from last week.
It was the start of a wonderful sunny day with the sun taking temperatures just above freezing. The house heated up to 23c\73f without having to light the fire, the water warmed up to 45c\113f from the solar water panels and I ventured outside to chop up a bit more wood to make sure we can deal with another cold month.
I first gave up about ten years ago, but not for long, followed by a few more attempts finally taking my last drag well over three years ago now, with no real slips other than drunken nostalgia with old friends. Continue reading “Smoking!”
No crash of thunder or flash of lightening; no, just a gentle warming, trickle of water and a chance to see the grass again below the snow. I like Thaw, he’s a nice God, and he came to visit us three days ago.
After our first imprisonment this year, we were finally released from a seven day lock down on the use of the vehicle. Whilst the snow wasn’t that bad, the drifts that covered our two possible escape routes were way above the Nivas sump and without one hell of a lot of shovelling there was no way out other than on foot.
To be honest it’s wasn’t that bad, we did run out of milk, but not for long as Gosia hitched a ride with the neighbours to get provisions. A short walk down the hill and a longer walk back with a rucksack and shopping bag!
It has been cold, which on it’s own is no real problem, but it was backed up with some pretty strong winds which pushed the limits of our poorly sealed windows. Unfortunately one of the jobs I never completed last year was the external window sills and insulation round the French doors onto the terrace, so the wind kept finding it’s way in and keeping the temperatures down on the few extreme nights we have had.
Not that it’s that bad, don’t get me wrong, I keep the boiler stoked and the temperature stays close to 20ºC and we have only resorted to using coal twice when the temperature dropped to -16ºC and that was more for Malina than us. I’m just a little disappointed with myself that I never sealed the building better.
Still it will be spring soon and whilst the weather is dry and sunny, like it was today, then we pick up quite a bit of solar gain through the windows. There was no need to fire up until the sun went down today and we picked up a tank full of hot water (48ºC) from the solar panels and it was only 8ºC outside! Anything free is always sweet to a Yorkshireman.
Anyhow, just a short post to keep me in the swing of things, I’m busy fulfilling promises I made which must be completed by the weekend for Gosias birthday and names day, these Catholics have a good deal!
And now to try and catch up on a few of your posts I haven’t read yet.
No, nothing to do with the 80’s classic from the Talking Heads, nor the last desperate act of a father on the brink, it’s just that it’s rather cold and we ran out of wood!
But before you worry too much its not the house we are living in that we are torching, despite what you might think about a house of straw they don’t burn that well, rather it’s the old derelict house down by the barn.
Eighty or ninety years old, maybe more, it holds many memories for some of the local people. Only this Boxing day we met an elderly lady who remembers visiting the house as a young girl, visiting your neighbours was all the rage back then. The house itself was considered big for its time and its design is one that typifies the Polish countryside for me, with many examples still sanding, nestled between the modern freshly built houses of the last 20 years. If you ever visit Poland I would suggest a visit to one of the many open air museums, http://openairmuseum.pl/ they offer a unique glimpse of Poland’s past architecture and way of life.
Still we made a deal with my father in-law in the autumn, that if he demolished the house he could have half of the wood for his own winter fuel supply. No sooner was the deal struck then the family and quite a few friends descended, although it has to be said the bulk of the work was carried out by mother and father in-law. We were left with heavy beams, cut to the length of the van for transport back to the family home, piled neatly under tarpaulins and whilst most made the journey quite a bit was set aside for us.
In the end half of the house was left standing, the weather turned against us and it made sense to keep the shelter in place as there is still a couple of tonnes of clay in there! Which is handy as I want to build a straw bale cottage there in the years to come.
So here I am, cutting with chainsaw and chopping with axe, almost a hundred years of history to warm a new generation. Marvelling at the giant hand carved dove tail joints that held the old house together, it seems a shame to burn it somehow.
But burn it does and it burns wells, too well in fact as the old dry timbers are a honeycomb of wood worm burrows and rot that has set in over the years. I just hope that it lasts us the rest of the winter as I’m not sure what to burn next…um maybe this bit of old furniture in the basement!
It has to be one of the sounds that defines spring for me, but whilst it’s good to finally hear the Yellowhammer perched on the roof of the old derelict house, I know that by the late summer the melody will have worn a little thin! Mind you, you have respect to a bird that inspired the beginning of Beethovens 5th symphony.
So here we are again, back in the land of the potatoes (Pyrowki). Our normal approach was still blocked by snow when we arrived last Wednesday, so we headed down the valley road to our neighbours to park up and climb the hill. Not so bad, unless you have a car full of supplies to relocate, and after the first assent by foot it was decided to test the Nivas four wheel drive credentials. Lots of wheel spinning, mud flying and random steering to keep us on a relatively straight path; we managed to get within about 100 meters of our barn and stable, good enough for me.
Our little stable has faired quite well over the winter and after a quick sweep up and dust down it just need a little bit of heat to make it our home from home. So after a quick sweep of the chimney, i.e. dismantle the chimney into sections take them outside and poke them with a stick whilst shaking them violently, the fire was stoked up and the temperature began to rise.
The weather was surprisingly good so after a quick inspection of the house we decided to crack on with a few outside jobs; we had started to clear the patch of land beyond the orchard in the Autumn so it seemed like a good idea to continue with the task before spring sent up a new set of brambles. Work is hard going after such an extended break without much physical activity and after three or four hours we headed back to the stable, breaking ourselves in gently so to speak.
That was until we noticed the small river winding it’s way down our track, it had sprung up during the day as the snow started to melt and was taking the easiest route to the valley; but not only was it taking this route it was also taking our road, depositing it further down flied! And on top of that the recently filled trench that hid our electricity supply cable had collapsed creating a small canyon, the cleared earth finding its way into the well water. Anyone who says that washing your hair in well water turns it green would be mistaken on this occasion as it would definitely be a dirty orange if you used ours. Mind you it tasted ok 🙂 (Joke!)
So armed with a spade I tried to find the source of the rapidly evolving rapid and quickly dug a trench to divert the flow a couple of hundred meters further up the hill; a job that carried on the next day as we also discovered a small swimming pool in the basement of the new house! The digging of a swale in the top field and drainage around the foundations have made their way up the list of things to do, although I hope this was a bit of a freak event as many hectares of half meter snow melted over a three day period; that’s a hell of a lot of water and not likely to occur again until next year, is it?
Road or river
Land clearing, wood chopping, house cleaning and visiting friends filled the last four days quickly and a few beers and vodkas snuck in as we were welcomed back; we have been well fed and watered as we did the rounds. The proliferation of eggs, as everyone’s chickens have started to lay again, is apparent in the food that everyone cooks for you; Friday saw a breakfast of scrambled (4 eggs) a lunch of egg mayo sandwiches (2 eggs) a later lunch of a cheese omelette (4, maybe 5 eggs) and finally a supper with an accompanying dish of stuffed eggs; I only managed 1 🙂
But it’s not all eggs, oh no, we did finally fire up the bread oven on Saturday and along with a Dahl inspired by Food and Forage Hebrides I made some Naan breads. Whilst Gosia was kind and told me how good they tasted I think I need a little more practice with the oven and experiment more with the distribution of fire; although from the results of the weekend I know that I will be able to make a top notch pizza that should cook in under 5 minutes; with the high temperature that is generated on the brick base.
The one thing I can say about my sister is that she has taste, which is probably why she had her own interior design company once upon a time; back in the day she was very well known and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Kevin McCloud before he hit the TV screen, and refitting a fifty room manor houses was not unknown. Sadly a number of reasons, including ill health, have meant that she is no longer whisked off by helicopter to Chivas whiskey distillery to rearrange the decor.
But true to form, when she moved back to Yorkshire from Spanish Galicia, she picked an absolute gem of a house and in a perfect location.
Hillary Hall in fact, late 17th, early 18th century, grade II listed building; my new temporary Hall of residence.
Of course the downside to living in an listed building is that the landlord was unable to put in double glazing or make too many alterations to try and keep the heat in, and it gets a bit nippy; my first job of the day is to get the fire lit 🙂
In saying that, with all this cooking and baking I’m doing the kitchen stays nice and toasty and I have a decent view out of the window when I’m busy cleaning up MY mess 🙂
I wish I’d have taken the pictures yesterday when the sun was shining, although that may have been a false representation of what the weather is normally like ‘up north’ Maybe once I’ve finished sprucing up the garden I’ll get a few more shots, rumour has it that the sun may shine again later this month.
As you may have noted in my last post I was due to catch a plane last Monday, which I managed to reach on time; the weather in Poland remained subdued and I was more worried about the snow at my destination. Thankfully the snow in Manchester had pretty much disappeared on my arrival and although the air steward said I might have trouble crossing the border to Gods own County, the trip with my nephew was safe and without incident; arriving around midnight to a warm wood fuelled living room and a glass of red wine; fantastic !
Now I know I might have pushed up my carbon footprint for the year, but when I saw a return flight for £62 I just had to take it; I’ll offset the damage done with my composting toilet in the summer 🙂
It’s just about a year since I was last here visiting my sisters and nephews and it’s great to be back, there is also a good chance of finding a little bit of work to fund my visit and maybe even put a little bit a side; with the added bonus of the glorious Yorkshire countryside. Unfortunately the baggage restrictions have left me without my camera, but I managed to get a quick snap of my new backyard on Wednesday morning with my sisters happy snapper before the battery went flat. I plan to take more once I get out and about a bit more.
Oddly enough it feels colder here than in Poland, I’m guessing because of the damp in the air; where Poland is a very dry cold, does that make sense? I checked in with friends back in Poland and they said they had a meter of snow on Thursday, so maybe I’m better off here.
As I said it’s great to be back seeing family, but with all the catching up I have suddenly found myself not having the time to blog as often, I’m sure that will change soon; I can feel the urge 🙂