As we approach December, and I wake to the first heavy frost we’ve had, I am reminded that winter hasn’t really arrived yet. The cold night is just a reminder of all the things we need to do – very soon – if the coming months aren’t to be a struggle. I’m all too aware that there isn’t enough antifreeze in the solar thermal panels, and that the pipes I connected the other day are exposed, and will quickly freeze if I don’t ‘do something’ with them.

We are in the middle of upgrading our solar generation, which brings with it teething troubles, not least the news from Philip who patiently supplies us with kit, that the cable I have lovingly installed is far too small for the job. Add to that a couple of components that probably haven’t worked properly for months, and the result is that we are approaching the shortest days of the year, with a far from reliable source of light.

Fuel too is uppermost in my mind – this year we were ahead of the game, and the woodstore was filled with tonnes (literally) of split and now well seasoned firewood. Now we are using it in fairly serious quantities, and every visit to the woodstore involves a quick estimation of whether the decreasing pile will indeed last the distance. Of course there are several more tonnes of un-split wood waiting outside under a tarp, but then that requires attention to be diverted from keeping the lights lit. Hmm, light or heat, decisions, decisions. Such is the path we have chosen.

There is something about approaching the darkness of midwinter that brings all these things to the fore. Are we mad doing what we are doing? If live seems difficult then of course it is entirely self inflicted. Just occasionally the conveience of piped gas and no-maintenance mains electricity seem like a really good idea. But take them away, or make them too expensive, and where would we be?

Before the ‘big freeze’ comes, we’ll have a week of yet more hatch battening, of wiring and insulating, and chopping and stacking, so that if the lights do go out, it won’t be ours….Onwards…