Thursday, 21 January 2016

Winter Shows Its Teeth

Just when we might have been getting a bit complacent, and hoping for a short lived, mild winter, it arrived in full force. Those early bits of snow, which we had at the start of the year, were nothing by comparison. Being a 'Brit Abroad' I seem to have developed a slight fascination with the weather. One of my first tasks each day, once we have finished the housework and sorted the animals out, is to log on and check out the weather forecast. So with my normal coffee, I had noticed that we had three days of snow to look forward to, as time moved on it became two days, and then back up to three again. So we could safely say that snow was expected, just not how much would fall. Then it arrived one evening, the first flakes dancing in the street light in the lane outside. The wind began to blow them into neat little piles, but nothing to get too concerned about. Those bits of snow from the start of the year had all but disappeared, and the frosts had frozen the ground, so this fresh stuff did start to pitch.

Throughout the night, and all through the next day the snow came down continuously. When we woke up, everything had a thick blanket of white laid across it. The dogs were quite eager to go out and play in it, the cats were a different matter. The snow was deeper than they are tall, but they seemed quite happy sitting on window sills, watching me dig yet another trench for them to get up under the barn. Sirius, our bad tempered sawn-off dog, was quite happy doing an impersonation of a snow plough. Nose down and trudge forward, clearing a path for Fenny and Polly. Their water trough was frozen, but fresh warm water soon took care of that. So with the animals sorted out, trenches dug, logs brought down, and the fires lit we could actually sort ourselves out. Well, we could have done but at that moment the power went out, and for the rest of the day it was on and then off again. Thermos flasks were filled with boiling water during some of the on times, and using the gas rings on the oven we managed to feed and water ourselves. Somewhere in the village a power line came down, and due to our location and the amount of snow no one could come out and fix it. Fortunately we were not one of the houses affected by this, unfortunately our village Kmet's house was.

So we have spent days with cats and dogs snoring and steaming in front of the fires. Which is fine, until I have to feed more logs onto the fire, and then they seem very reluctant to move. Once the fire is banked in again, the dogs want to go out and play in the snow again. Why can't they make this decision before I have to step all around them. So over a period of about 36 hours we had almost 2 feet of snow fall. If wasn't the dry powdery stuff, but the wet clumpy version. The type of snow which brings down branches, and possibly the power line too. Every couple of hours I was back outside clearing my trenches again. For those first 36 hours nothing moved in the village unless it was on foot.

Everything looked like a winter wonderland, with the surface of the snow largely unbroken. Since the snow finished falling we have had a couple of days of sunshine. So the snow has glistened and sparkled. It's own weight starting to compact it all down. We have even had a slight thaw, which has caused some of the snow on the roof to melt and drip from the eaves. This in turn leads to icicles forming, not so much the icicles of doom from previous years, more like the fangs of fate. They do look quite spectacular when the sun shines on them. I was going to get a photo of them today, but the sky has turned a pale grey, with no hint of sunshine.

The sunshine on the snow might make everything sparkle, and it might cause a slight thawing possible, but we also have the night time temperatures to take into account. Where things have melted on the paths and other trenches, and then refrozen overnight we now have our own skating rinks, -19C seems to have that effect. So these paths and trenches have now been dusted with ash from the fires. That might give some extra grip, but it does mean that there is an increase in grubby footprints being trailed indoors. Taps are left dripping overnight, to help prevent frozen pipes. Anything with a rechargeable battery has been boosted, mainly because we never know when the next power cut might happen. Torches and candles have been dotted round the house.

It looks like we have to wait until the middle, or end, of next week for those night time temperatures to start to creep back up again. Although things have been a wee bit parky, we haven't managed to break any records yet. Mind you, we do still have February to look forward too. Even though a tractor has been round the village with a plough blade on I have no idea what the main roads are like. Maybe I will have to make one of my winter forays into town on the village bus next week, but much can change in the space of a week.


Monday, 4 January 2016

Looks Like Winter Might Be Here

Welcome to my first blog of 2016, and I would like to wish you and you family a very happy and healthy New Year. Hopefully there were no sore heads through over zealous celebrating, and that things have settled down now that we are a few days into 2016. Here in the village there were the usual fireworks, but due to the chilly night air they didn't seem to go on for as long as usual. The animals seemed quite happy about that, especially as the fireworks seem to get louder each year. We entered the New Year the same way as Christmas, with no snow, but keeping an eye on the forecast we were due some.

We woke up on New Year's Day to a white garden, fortunately it was just a heavy frost. By midday the sun had dealt with most patches. It was even quite pleasant in the sunshine once you had managed to find shelter from the wind. On the 2nd, a countrywide weather warning was issued, the snow was about to hit us. Once again we had a frosty start to the day, but still blue skies and sunshine. Unfortunately the pleasant weather didn't last, and from about lunchtime onwards the clouds began to build and the sky darkened. Shortly after dusk the first flakes of snow could be seen swirling in the glow from the street light outside. They were so small that I didn't really expect it to mount to very much. Yet, with the way that they were being blown, I could see a possible problem with drifts if the snow actually started to pitch.

So when we woke up yesterday morning, we found that it had snowed throughout the night. It hadn't really amounted to much, the roofs of houses had a slight covering, and even in the garden blades of grass could still be seen. Was this what the severe weather warning was all about? Admittedly, it was somewhat chilly, with the thermometers hovering about the -11C/-12C point, and the day didn't seem to warm up at all. The little, bitty, flakes of snow seemed to increase in size as the day progressed. The cats and dogs wanted to go out and play in the snow, but they also wanted to stay indoors near to the fires. Maybe at some point someone could invent warm snow just to keep them happy. With the fires banked in, and Net doing the fire monitor and stoking duties I wrapped myself up like the Michelin Man and armed with the snow shovel started clearing paths.

Now you might think that the cleared paths would be for me to get backwards and forwards to the woodpile. The animals have different ideas. They want paths cleared from various doors to up under the barn, over to the studio, another so that they can get to the wall and investigate the barn next door, to their eating areas, to their summer 'bedrooms', and down to 'poo' corner. Only once those had been dug was I permitted to clear the paths and steps for two legged people. Sometimes I do wonder if we spoil these animals maybe a bit too much. Even once the trenches were dug, the snow kept constantly falling, and the wind was blowing it back in to fill the trenches. At least once the initial trenches were made, I then had a guideline to follow, and with it being fresh snow it hadn't compacted at all so was easier to shift. Compared to other years we have still not had a great deal of snow, but with it being a constant yesterday I can officially claim that I am already bored with it, and I am looking forward to Spring.

Despite having the fires lit, we still ended up with a minor problem. After tea last night the washing machine was put on, and we didn't really think any more about it. The kitchen was warm, as was the little lounge, water came out of the tap when required so no frozen pipes. Yet the washing machine decided that it wanted to try flooding the kitchen. This morning I found the reason why. The waste pipes run outside along the back wall, and they are insulated. Well, all apart from one bit that the dogs try to use as a back scratcher. The insulation from there seems to have been worn away, and inside the drainpipe was a nice block of ice. It can only have built up from us having dripping taps, which help prevent water pipes freezing and bursting. So the washing machine was trying to pump out water, and the water wasn't going anywhere outside so decided to have a tour of the kitchen. I wouldn't mind too much but we have had lower temperatures in previous winters, and have never had this problem before.

Looking at the 10 day forecast the weather is set to warm up, so maybe the winter will be a very short one this year. At the moment we have reached the dizzy heights of -7C. The only problem being that, whatever thaws during the  day will tend to refreeze at night. Which will make roads and paths into skating rinks. I shall being doing the same as our neighbours are scattering the wood ash from the fires on the road and paths. It does seem to help give an extra bit of traction, and also treated areas seem to thaw faster. I just hope that everyone remembers to check for nails and bits of metal before they scatter their ashes.

This afternoon I had a wander round the village getting a few photos as I went. As you can see the snowfall is nothing compared against other years. The tractors have been out and ploughed the roads, leaving that lovely layer of ice there for the unwary, but with care, we are not isolated this year. I'll still be treating myself to trips on the village bus though, it wouldn't be winter otherwise. It also means that I am forced to speak Bulgarian, with getting tickets and nattering with neighbours who are also using the bus. It might not sound a lot, but every little helps. At this time of year it can be an easy option to remain in your little domain and not actually see anyone from one day to the next. It seems to be a village sign that, if there is smoke coming from the chimney then everything is OK.

Well that seems to be the first blog of 2016 done and dusted. Very many thanks for your support over the last year, I have just realised that the blog articles have been accessed over 150,000 times now. None of which would have been possible if people decided not to read them, so my heartfelt thanks to each person who actually reads, or shares, these blogs. I hope that you have a wonderful New Year, and that it is everything that you wish it to be.