January 26, 2013


At last I am beginning to feel the urge once again to write. Our Siberian winter has eradicated the notion of linear time and feels just like an endless experience that has neither beginning nor end, no particular direction nor impulse to change.

We are well and truly decked from all sides by glistening white snow, frozen beyond all hope of making snowballs, the roads compacted by intrepid cars undeterred by English winter angst and hardly distinguishable from the endless frozen landscape that holds us in her timeless grip.

Life goes on here, regardless. Schools and shops stoically remain open and the short days hold few goals beyond keeping home warm and bellies full.

Once our big girl is packed off to school by moonlight, the next two hours are taken up with stoking fires, forcing open the door to the chicken shed to defrost their water and vainly hunt for one or two eggs, throwing a heap of hay out for the sheep, checking the rabbit is still alive and feeding the cats to keep them from scouting anywhere for leftovers and scuffling through our precious trays of fragile seedlings.

The rabbit is now well and truly a house pet with her hutch permanently open and her favourite hideout under the guest bed in the office. She startled the chimney sweep on his last visit, sitting bright eyed under the car and prompting a slightly bemused enquiry as to whether she really belonged...

Chillies, peppers and onions are coming up nicely on our window sills, much faster than they did last year in our town flat. They are the only reminder of life outdoors that will someday return. The compost heap is frozen solid and our outdoor loo (we still bravely visit it shivering under -15° before rushing back into the warmth upstairs) can no longer withstand any liquid...

Our tiled oven upstairs is our saving grace, running continuously on coal for this year, enabling us to shut it down over night and keep the living space above zero. With the woodburner fired up in the main room (where we now all sleep) we can certainly keep life indoors pretty cosy.

Sledging, skiing, ice skating and brisk walking keep our spirits up. When the sun is out - it finally returned after two weeks of continuous grey – the snowscape is truly stunning.

Needless to say, progress on anything is painfully slow. A set of shelves and curved cupboard doors for the small arches are the latest development. They set off the paintwork beautifully and hint at how gorgeous the final combination of wooden floorboards and worktops with the Moroccan-style walls, ceramic sink and double doors into the yard, will eventually be...

We are still awaiting action on replacing the two windows after dithering about costs and materials and gathering quotes to help us clarify the course of action. PVC is by far the cheapest option for made-to-measure windows. Yet we cannot bring ourselves to stoop so low. Quotes for any wood other than pine are at least three times the price... yet we are still holding out for our local carpenter to give us a sympathetic quote. Although a man of few words he has shown a willingness to negotiate and seems open to consider how much we can do ourselves to keep the finances within our reach.

It feels like this is the time when everything is paired down to its' absolute essentials. Rarely a visitor, no unnecessary driving, lots of eating, resting and simply surviving. Next week the winter holidays begin. Two weeks in the middle of February - the natural reaction would be to run off somewhere hot! But for us (with animals to tend and no cash to spare) it is simply a case of sitting it out, making the most of winter sports and nestling down to long evenings by the fire with a good movie.