On Boxing Day (December 26th, for non-British types), great excitement followed the appearance of fluffy white precipitation delicately descending from the heavens.

Within seconds, we were staring through the living room window like children (which was, admittedly, easier for the children), exclaiming with delight.

At first, the flakes weren’t big enough to settle. Then they were. Joy and excitement grew as the thin layer of snow on the ground became slightly thicker. And thicker still.

I had a flashback to a hotel meeting room in Minneapolis, January 1997. I was looking across a concept-strewn table, through the window at the blizzard that had just started. ‘Hey look! It’s snowing!’ I exclaimed (which is like saying: ‘What a beautiful day!’ in San Diego). Everyone else looked out and said: ‘Oh, shoot/Jeez.’ (You’ve seen Fargo. It really is like that.)

Which is probably why: ‘Oh Ho – it’s snowing!’ almost instantly became: ‘Oh No – it’s snowing!’

We live in the middle of nowhere, remember? We drive an ordinary car with ordinary tyres. In an area not known for gritters and snowploughs. With several steep roads between us and the animals.

The animals! Frozen rain means frozen hosepipes!

My morning trip to the land confirmed my fears. The chickens were low. The pigs were out. And the horse was almost on empty. The taps were frozen solid and I had almost nothing in reserve. (I have to say, the land looked absolutely beautiful. I must make a toboggan run for the same time next year.)

My complete lack of preparation meant fetching water by car (all the while willing the thermometer to swing back and stay well above freezing), then wheelbarrowing it down the long zig-zag path from the road and across the field. Several times. And a promise not to get caught short like this again.

PS Happy New Year. We’re looking forward to one of the hardest years of our lives, physically. In the first half, we have to build six yurt platforms and covers of between 12 and 26 feet, a 50-metre (yard) access road for the emergency services, toilet and shower facilities, a reception-cum-office-cum-kitchen, drainage and various other things. And all we seem to have time for at the moment is looking after the animals and the children. More on this, later.

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