The end of our first winter off grid

Well, we seem to be through the worst of the winter! The weather has turned beautiful this week and although next week is not so good, we’re not going back down to really low temperatures.

I’m very glad we choose to live off grid in Spain rather than the UK or Ireland! We’ve had some really tough days and weeks – storm Gloria in January saw plummeting temperatures and days of rain – and we had it better in Almeria than many parts of Spain. Apparently this is the worst winter for decades! For me to be able to work we had to run the generator – luckily we bought a new one a few months ago as Rog needed more power than we can get from the solar panels for his power tools, but it’s pretty efficient so doesn’t cost much to run for 4-5 hours.

The thing we have struggled with the most is the damp – it makes it colder in the house than outside, and that’s been difficult on the days I work. We’re only 1km away from the village, but we’re generally 3-4 degrees colder here because we’re close to the river – amazing what a difference that makes – we arrive in the village looking like we’re ready for an arctic expedition and they’re all there in just a sweater! We do get some looks 😂

The weather inland is different to down on the coast – we’re at an altitude of about 500 meters here so it’s generally cooler here, which is s blessing in the summer!

At the start of the winter we had a good stock of wood – but it wasn’t enough. Luckily wood isn’t expensive here as most houses have a stove or fireplace, and so we could go to the wood yard and fill up the back of the car for €25 and that would see us through a couple of weeks. We have done a bit of scavenging too for free wood but as you can only take fallen wood, you’re limited to what you can take, and it tends to be too green to burn – it would be ok to store away for next year though. Only on the worst days do we put the fire on in the daytime – we try to keep it for the evenings. It’s cold in the mornings, but a hot shower, getting dressed and getting on with things is the best way to to deal with those!

There was a point where I started looking at gas heaters but we were put off by (a) the cost to buy and run and (b) we already have 2 gas bottles in the house and 1 outside – if we had another one inside we would invalidate our house insurance! If one went it would be BOOM 💥 Yea, think we’ll stick with the log burner!

So wearing the right clothes is important – thermal layers became a necessity for me for most of December and January, as I do tend to feel the cold more than Rog does. Early nights with multiple hot water bottles also helped! To save electricity we don’t use the lights, only when we’re in the bathroom, and so bought some solar lights that we can charge up in the day to give us a couple of hours of light in the evening. Couple those up with some candles and it’s been absolutely fine. When you only have solar power you sometimes have to make a choice of what you can use! We like to watch a film on the cold nights and now have a tablet that we can charge up in the day so then we have enough electricity in the evening to have the WiFi on – it’s all just a bit of a balancing act! Come the summer we’ll be back on the roof terrace for the evenings.

But I do feel like I’m toughening up a bit – I couldn’t have imagined a winter in the UK with no heating other than a small wood burning stove – I used to reach for that central heating button without a second thought! I do think we’ll be better prepared for next winter – a bigger stock of wood for one, and I’ll be asking Father Christmas for some new thermals!

The thing is, there’s two months of winter that are cold, and two months of summer that are really hot – and the other eight months are just really comfortable. I think we can live with that!

So now we’re looking towards spring – lots of work to do outside – we have loads of seeds to plant in February and March so we can start to become more self sufficient for our vegetables, and the trees are starting to blossom and the bees buzzing. The birds are back to sing to us in the evening and life is good!

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