January is all about keeping warm in chilly Creuse. This year’s winter started earlier than usual, but hasn’t been too bad overall. However, another cold spell is looming and our woodpile is a bit on the small side now. Two cordes didn’t go as far as we thought. (A corde of wood is roughly 4 steres, with a stere being a square metre. The size of a corde varies according to the region of France you live in!) So we’ve been slicing, lugging and splitting logs. OK, Chris has been doing all three, I’ve participated extensively in the last two, and even nine year old Ruadhri has helped with splitting. We treated ourselves to a secondhand log splitter this year, and it’s a dream come true. Instead of Chris having to spend hours belting the heck out of logs with an axe, and breaking a couple of handles in the process each year, now, at the touch of a button, this wonderful machine does it for us. Awesome. Here’s a picture of Ruadhri at work.
Other cosiness-on-the-cheap tactics are that we all wear an extra layer or two in winter and keep just one room heated all day with the wood stove. We only have the central heating on briefly in the morning and evening. It would be way too expensive to keep it on all day, and unnecessary anyway. We live in the lounge, with brief forays into the cold kitchen to get meals ready.
Long-term, though, we need to bump up our insulation. We thought we’d put plenty of glass wool in, but you can never have too much in this part of France! Chris has repointed the exterior of our house on the north side to help keep the wind out, but with an old building, there’s always going to be nooks and crannies that winter can creep through. The wildlife creeps in too. Shrews and mice skitter across the floor every now and again. The cats studiously ignore them, despite the fact that all three of them are mean mousers outdoors. However, once they get indoors into the warm, they slump into a blissfully cosy coma.
We’ve got to the toughest part of the year. Late January and February tend to drag bleakly by, but spring isn’t so very far away and, when it comes out, there’s warmth in the sun. I was sat outside on Monday soaking it up. But today I’m back in furry boots. A typically crazy Creuse winter.