08 October 2011

There is a distinct bite to the winds now, Autumn is here and shouting that Winter is not at all far behind. We are going like gang-busters trying to get things done around the house and gardens to have the house ready for what all predictions say is going to be a winter at least as severe as last year if not more so.

Now, last year just after what would have been Thanksgiving Weekend in the US, our area of Scotland was hit by heavy snow and a huge drop in temp that lasted until late January. The snow melted off just enough for our wedding guests to make the drive to our wedding-just. The temps came up enough for people to be comfortable, but in essence Scotland slogged through a deep freeze that began in late November and continued until late February.

And 'they' are saying this winter will be at least as bad. At least-which means it will likely be colder, earlier, longer than last year. I'm reviewing instructions for homemade snowshoes and I'm not kidding about that. There is an art to good snowshoes, I learned a little about it when I lived on Kodiak Island, Alaska in the mid Seventies. Snowshoes are wonderful both for getting around and for working off the pounds. (And my doctor wants me to lose at least two stone, and would be thrilled if I managed to make that a full thirty pounds loss)

So Paul is going through his checklist for essential repairs that have not already been done (it's been a busy summer since I got back from the States, and he'd already been busy while I was gone this spring), and I am going through every article of winter clothing and bedding we own.

Now, things are of course done a bit differently in the UK and it's been interesting to see how very different things can be! I mentioned in an earlier post that the amounts of food one buys in the shops are much-much smaller than what we are used to in the US, and now I'd like to bang on about the clothes washing machines.

Paul came with an under counter front load Hotpoint clothes washing machine capable of washing a 6kg load (6x2.5=15lbs of laundry in one load) but it really works best if there is no more than 10-11lbs of wet laundry in that poor thing.

Which means even if I could force the double and queen sized duvets in the machine I would burn it up and have a very cross husband to contend with.

Laundromats, places I avoid like the pest-and-plague ridden horrors they were in North GA (the owner shut off the hot water, now I ask you how the heck you are supposed to sanitise anything in cold water, and yes, bedbugs and lice were a constant problem in the schools...) are not something easily found in Scotland market towns. Everyone either has a clothes washing machine, or they take everything to the cleaners.

Including and especially duvets.

But not us.

We ran a bubble bath for the first duvet, sized double, and took turns agitating (read kneading, it was incredibly hard on the back and I think the king sized one is going to be snuck down to the cleaners), soaking, rinsing, agitating, and then using body weight to press the water out of the duvet and hefting it out to the back garden where it dripped for a full twelve hours, and then was hefted back into the house when the sun went down. Still wettish, I draped it over my lovely tower airer (drying rack) and it took four days to dry.

Because in Scotland, a top loading, large capacity washer is considered an unconscionable affection and display of conspicuous consumption. They are wasteful-use a lot of water and electricity, but in the process you get a hell of a lot of clothing and bedding washed.

My mother had an American top loader in her home near Manchester, England, and growing up I did think it luxurious whenever we visited her but that was because at our house on the desert of Southern California, my sister and I washed all of the family clothing and linens in a huge cauldron every Saturday morning. We had a portable wringer that we attached to the cauldron and my job was to feed the fabric through it while she cranked the wringer, then pull it out of the cauldron into baskets until she could refill and reheat the water for either more washing or more rinsing. I'll never forget the day my dad brought home the wringer washing machine, my sister sat down on the front porch steps and cried for an hour with joy.

There were a lot of reasons I liked visiting my mother in England, the laundry was one of those reasons. Until I met Paul I hadn't been to the UK since the Princess's wedding, and so it's taken me a while to figure out that there were HUGE differences between England and Scotland!

Tumble dryers, better known in the US as a dryer, are also something of a luxury, and the only people who have them are either middle-class with young children, or rich people. Dryers use an incredible lot of electricity. (Yes, Mum had one of those, too)

Of course, they also would come in VERY handy in the damp climate of Scotland, but that is not something my husband is quite prepared to buy into. In the months when the wood stoves are not burning it takes DAYS to dry anything if the sun isn't shining long enough to get things dry on the clothesline.

Which it wasn't for most of the summer.

I begged him to go get the free kitchen wood stove a friend offered us because I knew that bad boy would have a fire going year round (my husband loves my cooking and baking) and I could have a ceiling hung drying rack, oops, I mean airer, that would have solved my drying troubles.

But the cost of the wood outweighed my need for clean and dry laundry.


We took delivery Wednesday of most of our winter wood supply, and it was a bit pricey. I understand my husband's position on this topic-I try to wear long janes, socks, undershirts, heavy shirts, and thick pants to stay warm. We are on a fixed income and have to be careful.

We had a forecourt (driveway) full of beautiful wood and spent most of the Wednesday last afternoon stacking it in the garage. The log store is taking longer to finish than we figured because it's been raining more than it hasn't been, but when finished it will sit just outside of the back door for quick and easy replenishment of the stacks next to the stoves.

I baked a huge lot of chocolate chip cookies. These are not the same as chocolate chip biscuits as they are called here as I used a Betty Crocker recipe-if you bake with an American recipe it's called a cookie and is an important distinction apparently. LOL, I made Southern Biscuits for my husband one morning and he told a friend I'd made him cookies for breakfast.

Actually, what I made him were scones-not a cookie the way we think of it, but what Southern Biscuits are called in Scotland.

But only if you use a Scottish recipe can you properly call them scones.

Jeez. When I visited my mother they were called crumpets!

Scotland is an educational experience in many ways:)


  1. Do they have natural gas or propane clothes dryers in Scotland? If so, they might be worth checking out.

    Or you could try hanging some lines in the house. If he has to keep dodging wet clothes, maybe Paul will become a bit more understanding about a dryer.

  2. Hiya! Yes, natural gas and propane is available here but the price, already unreal, is set to skyrocket this winter. We are trying to go off-grid as much as possible and had our connection disconnected last Autumn.

    We saved a huge lot of money, over £600, we were quietly flabbergasted. The wood stoves are wonders, if I can hang laundry on the airer in the same room a stove is burning in, the laundry dries for free in less than two hours.

    We pay for the wood once, and get several things from the price-dry clothes, hot water, heat and light, and I'm learning to cook with cast iron pans atop the stoves. Our stoves aren't kitchen stoves, so it is something of a trick to learn how to use them for cooking. But once you do, I have to say food tastes better. I think it's because it takes a while longer, but the extra time is worth it. Electricity is nowhere near as expensive as it is in the SOuthern US, but every pence counts:)


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