Sunday, 10 January 2010

Food shortages. Weather. Oil, gas. Cabin fever and the way forward...

Photo: Giant Winter Spinach in our courtyard under snow...

A friend of mine came to lunch last Monday. She ended up staying three days. The roads just weren't safe enough for her to travel back. In our city (and the surrounding villages) we are hardly ever visited by such extreme weather conditions.

All of us are suddenly reminded of existential matters. Have we got enough food in? Enough fuel? Is the heating working alright? Can we afford the extra money we have to spend heating our houses?

We've spent time and money in the last few years making sure our insulation is up to standard. We continue to reduce our carbon emissions. Warm Front loft insulation. No double-glazing yet. Due to the age of our house, the damp course had broken down so we had to prioritise spending on an air-brick damp-proofing system. It takes at least six months to kick in and until it does, we're limited in what we can do in the house.

We investigated solar power to replace our boiler, but we don't have a water tank in the loft so a system like Solar Twin is not feasible for us at the moment. We installed an A-rated energy efficient Worcester boiler five years ago. Our chimney is not big enough for a wood-burner so we still have our coal fire too. A great comfort in this weather - it is helping the house to dry out - but as far as carbon emissions are concerned, of course we're going to have to get rid of it at some point. Not this year though, we've missed our (finance and tolerance level) window to get the work done. I'm secretly glad as it is so cheery right now. But coal deliveries are to say the least, uncertain at the moment. I'm comforted that we have several possible sources of of heating.

The houses on one side of our street have a good covering of snow on the roofs. (Showing that they are well-insulated). On the other side of the street there is no snow on the roofs at all. The heat loss must be considerable and the insulation poor.

A journey to the local shops has been difficult here. The pavements were frozen for a long time and even in Doc Martens you're risking a broken arm or wrist if you fall. (And I did - thankfully not serious). These issues are particularly critical if you have a disability. Buses in to town were never very reliable but at least the main roads to town are cleared and you see buses now.

When you go to local shops you face the problem of shortages. Particularly fresh fruit and vegetables. Bread deliveries to local shops are also an issue. I've started using the bread maker again.

Then there are the schools closures. Our school was only closed for a day, but most of the schools in Cheshire are still affected by the weather. I understand there is worse to come. I'm thinking that the shock waves of this cold snap will continue long after the snow and ice is gone. Deliveries will be behind. Businesses losing money.
I can only guess at the havoc all this has brought to some people's lives. At the school gate I talked to a mother-to-be. She's booked in for a Cesarean section next week. From a neighbour I heard that all non-essential operations have been cancelled at the hospital.

We don't run a car but all this still makes a difference to our daily routine. The school-walk (or bike) used to take me half an hour maximum. At the moment I'll be lucky if I get away with two hours per day. I'm self-employed but I dread to think how people are managing if their employers refuse to pay them. We go outdoors when we can, but I'm sure like me, many parents find it difficult to keep children amused in such adverse weather conditions.
So what's the good news? Last year an Anglo-Saxon peasant instinct had prompted me to set aside a storage area in a cool room of our tiny house. Here's the link to the blog post and the picture. We'd bought most essentials in bulk and stored them. Our 'pantry' is coming in to it's own now...
The chutneys I'd made the year before last (!) have stood us in good stead for snacks and to spice up some meals. We'd bought a sack of potatoes back in November which is still going strong and we have some 'Golden Wonder' home-grown stores still from last year's harvest. We also have plenty of home grown garlic. Home grown onions were used up last November.
We have plenty of leeks too, but I can't harvest them as the ground is frozen solid. The Giant Winter Spinach is ready to go and will start growing again in February or March. We're going to start raising seedlings again in late February. These can stay in the small greenhouses in our courtyard until the weather is good enough to plant them out. We'll be able to start harvesting Rhubarb and Asparagus for the first time this year.
I'm really looking forward to the spring. In Year Four of our allotment the soil is improving all the time and I'm getting more confident as a no-dig gardener. Looking forward to sharing some of my plans with you all...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments here. Thanks.