There is a pinch in the air, the kind of pinch that makes you gasp and out comes the first sign, your condensed breath, smoke like, hanging in the air.
You watch it fade into the night and you know that summer is over and that autumn is struggling to hold on. Winter is on the way. For most people that means reaching for the boiler controls, turning up the radiators and plugging in the electric blanket. At Pig Row we don't have those luxuries, there is no gas, at present no radiators and the electric can cut out over winter. One of our neighbour's greeted us in the height of summer, two years ago, when we first looked at the house, he said 'buy candles, chop wood early'. We thought he was barmy back then, the summer was high, the wild flowers filled the fields, the cows lolled over the stone walls with friendly, eager to please horses next to them.
Then we experienced our first winter...
The image here was taken by my heavily pregnant wife (the photo went onto to win and be shortlisted for a number of awards such is the talent of my wife even with swollen ankles and backache). We were snowed in for five weeks, our larder ran bare, I struggled through snow and howling wind to bring back cans. In the quiet between snow I chopped wood and watched my hands turn blue against the ash handle of our camping axe. The axe was too tiny, too lights and paltry. Since that first winter I have invested in good wood splitter that lands with satisfying crack on each dried log, a heavy headed axe; the kind of axe that would be found in the pages of Little Red Riding Hood. Even now, as I watch my breath turn to smoke in the cold air, I can hear my neighbour's chainsaw, my neighbour's axe, my neighbour's wood thwaping against each other as they land in neat piles by the back of his house. I have three tons of wood to chop, I have bags and bags of kindling to go through and like our second christmas at Pig Row, we will be ready for the snows, we have candles, we have the simplest of things that we all take for granted, warmth and food.