Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Winter Struck with a Vengeance!

Why It's Fab to be Frugal!

A full week has passed since my last blog post and I have to apologise for that. However, 3 of those days we were without power during some of the worst snow storms people in this area have seen in their life times! This southwest corner of Scotland just doesn't normally get severe winter weather. But I'll get to that in a moment or two.
 
On Thursday 21st March, we had a fabulously frugal outing to the beach. It was a glorious day of sunshine and blue sky, there was a blustery wind but the heat was getting through despite this, especially when cycling with the wind driving us onwards along the roads at a jolly speed. I packed a picnic lunch into the cool bag, loaded it onto the bike and then we headed off to take some photographs for the eco-arts blog.
 
In all, we covered about 15 miles, so everything is within fairly easy reach when the weather plays fair. Cycling along the shore was bright and breezy, then it's a simple case of wheeling the bikes down onto the beach, where it's safe to leave them. Let's face it, Frugaldom isn't exactly situated in the busiest of areas and tourist season doesn't start for another few days. The beach was completely deserted, as it is on most of our visits.
 
We explored some nearby caves, where smugglers may once have hidden their booty. There's local folklore relating to certain caves on this shore having been inhabited by troglodytes - I just love that word, don't you? Now, of course, the cave is nothing more than a bin, filled with whatever has been blown in over the winter. On my next visit here, I must remember to take a rubbish bag and gloves so I can clear the place out a bit. I is such a shame to see it filled with plastic bottles and the discarded waste blown after being tossed out the windows by passing motorists. Sadly, there are no bins within the vicinity, so I'm not quite sure how I'd lug it all to the nearest suitable disposal point.
 
On Thursday night, the power supply must have been interupted because I
woke around 7am on the Friday morning to the clunk of the meter and the whir of the electrics stirring back to life. It had been fairly windy through the night and a friend had even pointed out that the sky looked like it was cooking up a big storm. "Be prepared!" That was the last thing I remember thinking on the Thursday night - thank goodness I took heed!

We have Velux windows upstairs here, but when I looked out in the morning there was not a single thing to be seen - they were completely covered in SNOW! The house was freezing - no central heating here and the electric heaters had gone off due to the powercut - so I grabbed the camera (as one does in such emergency situations) and went out to the front door to be greeted by this! I was able to get online to access some local news but the power went back out before 8am.

That was the start of the snowy weekend that will go down in history for many of the locals here, as they just aren't used to seeing this amount of snow land on their doorsteps: they had no power, no preparation time and many had no emergency supplies. By now, we were blocked in by the drifts. Nobody wandered far on Friday while the blizzards blew and the snow drifts grew.

'Wilbur' was lit and the kettle was on the go constantly for hot water, hot drinks and warmth. I cooked the breakfast porridge on the stove top, boiled a ham and made a pot of soup for lunches, cooked the potatoes, the veggies, fried bacon and eggs... Wilbur has been working 24/7 since Friday morning and I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to be prepared for inclement weather combined with no mains power.
Our open fire couldn't be lit because it has a back boiler that heats the water and radiators - it is driven by an electric pump. Those with gas or oil central heating had nothing because it's all reliant on electrically driven pumps. Those with solar panels and wind turbines were no better off, as these are connected to the National Grid - none are stand alone with power storage facilities.



The road is under there somewhere
Most about here do have camping equipment and generators, so the street ran pretty much as normal with the help of some additional community spirit, but no amount of that keeps the place ticking over when fuel supplies begin to run out - and that began happening when the power failed to return after 48 hours in sub-zero temperatures and high winds drifting the now very deep snow - this was the top end of our road on Sunday.


Several miles away, suppliers had run out of gas and the petrol stations had no power to pump fuel for any vehicles even if they could have reached the forecourts.
Our main road beig dug out at the weekend

All the roads blocked, even the main trunk road that links the Irish ferry port at Cairnryan to Dumfries and then Carisle. It's the Irish-English link route. This A75 Euroroute soon became impassable, with hundreds of vehicles and passengers stranded. The snow ploughs couldn't get through the roads! When the tractors became trapped in drifting snow, it was the turn of the 'big boys' in their 'big toys'.

As I write this, our roads have now all been cleared, leaving massive walls of snow along either side. Feed lorries, fuel lorries and other deliveries have all made it through and things are running relatively smoothly BUT the snow has begun falling again and the temperature has not reached much above freezing since last week. It's beautiful to look out on the white landscape and was especially so on Sunday, when the sun shone brilliantly from perfect blue skies. This photo shows the road we normally walk along when doing one of our circular routes - it was cleared by Monday but that was as far as we could get along it on Sunday. Those on the other side were stuck and without power for many hours longer than us here on the 'main' road.

Food supplies here are always relatively good, wth plenty of longterm items and 2 freezers running. But freezers need electricity and defrosted food needs cooking or using up quickly. I am very fortunate to have my stand alone multi-fuel stove for cooking. My frozen food has all survived despite 3 days without power, by way of packing the free space with bags of snow. The hens and ducks are laying daily, so eggs were shared with neighbours who happily swapped for a few carrots to make extra soup and a couple of packs of firelighters, which are always needed for emergencies.

The power company flew along the route of the powerlines and had emergency repairs done relatively quickly, in my opinion, while our local lifeboat crew down in the village helped countless households to cope. An emergency Facebook page was set up to help snowbound residents of Dumfries and Galloway, although I was unaware of that until I received a phone call from a friend of a relative of an elderly resident within walking dostance of me needing help.

Our roadsides currently look like this, but without the blue sky, as that's now turned to more snow. To get those roads cleared as well as keeping the elderly relatively warm and fed plus help struggling farmers dig out stranded livestock, it meant community spirit was raised tenfold.

Hopefully, we wont see a repeat of this event for a long time, but we are forecast more snow and the odds are heavily stacked in favour of a white Easter.

For now, the crisis has been averted and many have even managed to get out and enjoy the exceptional scenes created by this sudden and very unusual weather event.

Some of us even got as far as to find the time to create some eco-art by the roadside!

I hope you like the Snowcat!


Note to all who plan on following the frugaldom lifestyle:
  • ALWAYS keep your old-fashioned, 'plug into the socket' phone handy. Wireless handsets are brilliant most times but completely useless during power cuts.
  • Don't forget that there is little or no mobile phone signals in remote or rural areas.
  • Keep rechargeable batteries fully charged.
  • Keep candles and matches handy at all times and ensure you have safe locations and holders for them..
  • Keep a stock of long shelf-life, fast cook foodstuffs, instant coffee and dried milk.
  • Ensure you always have sufficient medication, if required.
  • Always keep a plentiful supply of pet and livestock feeding/bedding/supplies.
  • Know where everything is in case it's needed in a hurry.
Frugaldom forums can be found at www.frugaldom.myfreeforum.org

8 comments:

  1. Im so glad that all made it over the weekend, been some scary stories over the weekend, good job you got wilbur up and running i feel very lucky that my kettle is on the stove just because im to lazy in the evenings to walk all the way to the other side the room to make tea.

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    1. I tend to keep the kettle on the stove all the time too, as it alaso saves a little on electricty. But it's dependent on the wind blowing enough to give the stove enough of a draw to boil the kettle. Yesterday it went deathly cam and it never boiled until evening. :)

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  2. We have lost freezer fuls of food 3 times... due to hurricanes, not snow, this past year and a half. We have 2 woodstoves, but you can't cook it all at once, and then how do you then keep it cold?
    Hope you are doing better....I can sympathise! I will never be without a woodstove!

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    1. Oh no, that sounds awful! I am quite glad that the worst we get are a few gales, rain and the occasional heavy snowfall, I'm not sure I'd like being in a hurricane or tornado area, nor would I feel safe on a fault line with earthquakes or within range of an active volcano. (Can you tell I watched a Pompeii documentary last night?) What we need now is a limitless supply of bone-dry wod for the stove and that means dry storage. Hoping to have it sorted for next winter.

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  3. Glad to hear you are okay. I wonder how many people thought of filling their freezers with snow (or even emptying their freezers and putting in plastic containers and burying them in the snow). Hopefully, you won't get too much more snow and that power will be installed soon.

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    1. POwer fully restored and hasn't as much as flickered for the past day or so despite the occasional flurry of snow on and off all day yesterday. :)

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  4. Great you saved your frozen food. Because we have so many extremes of weather here in the Midwest I have a wind-up radio. I have never had to use it, I got it off one of those survivalist web sites. We have radar knowledge of the snow storms and the ploughs/salters at ready and waiting. About two years ago we had five feet in 12 hours. We did have to dig out from that one but by the afternoon most of it was clear.
    Our houses are well insulated and "wrapped" with Tyvek and we we try to make the most of our heat (and cooling)

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  5. Insulation is something we sorely lack here, owing to the nature of the buildings. Sheepswool is being added wherever possible as we progress with the renovation but it's a slow and expensive process.

    We are all so reliant on electricity that it's like being trapped. A friend has a gas fridge but t woldn't do for storing bulk, so we're back to canned and dried foods plus whatever can be grown year round in gardens. Let's face it, that's not much. Thankfully, this power cut came during extremely cold weather but had it occured during gales at any other time of the year, I fear all the food would have been lost.

    I hope everyone else is managing OK, it seems we could have many more weeks of this freezing weather still to come, although it hopefully won't bring snow. Having been discussing this with family last night, I was reminded of the year we had snow in July but I was living over 100 miles further north of here at that point.

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