Something you need to know about us Brits: we really don’t cope with snow.
We have had a lot of snow over the past week and if the forecast is anything to go by, there’s plenty more to come. And it’s cold. The coldest spot in Great Britain this week has been Altnaharra in northern Scotland, where it dropped to -20˚C earlier this week. Yes, I know there are colder places on the planet, but for an island nation used to basking in the mild flow of the gulf stream, even in the depths of winter, temperatures like this are, as they say in Glasgow, pure Baltic, man.
The bad weather has caused me a few problems this week too. We were due a pellet delivery today; this has not arrived, seeing as the last three miles of road to our house is covered in hard-packed, polished snow. The shed contains just 40kg, the last two remaining bags from our delivery of Puffin Pure Premium. Right now, we should still have at least 10 days’ supply left, but the weather, as well as preventing a new delivery, has also encouraged us to turn the heating up.
After trying, and failing, to arrange an alternative pick-up point for my delivery (the pallet lorry got pulled off the road somewhere near Dundee last night and never even arrived at the depot this morning), I set about trying to buy pellets, in person, from any of the apparently huge number of suppliers that now exist in Scotland. This proved a fair bit more difficult than you might have thought.
First, I’m afraid it’s another black mark in my book for Balcas, which seems to have a habit of listing people on its website as retailers when they are nothing of the sort. I eventually gave up phoning people whose contact details were not obviously a business of some sort, or where only a mobile number was given. Having been encouraged to believe that the number of Balcas Brites stockists was on the up, the reality appears to be that in my part of Scotland, the only practical source of bagged Brites is Perthshire Biofuels at Dunkeld – though they are sadly not close enough to me for me to visit and collect pellets myself.
With a great deal of help from Puffin, and Arbuthnott Wood Pellets in Kincardineshire, by 9.30 this morning I had a list of suppliers of their products to call. Owing I think to the bad weather, it took the best part of an hour before anyone at any of these suppliers actually answered the phone (I told you, we as a nation simply don’t cope with snow!) but eventually I got through to one of them.
It’s time to let you in to a secret: Arbuthnott Wood Pellets manufactures 6mm dia. pellets and sells them in 15kg sacks as Hot Stovies. These are designed as wood pellet heating fuel. But they also sell exactly the same product, in different packaging, as horse bedding. Now, I know what you’re thinking: higher moisture content, risk of impurities, all the other reasons why you would never put animal bedding pellets in your stove. Well, I have it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. The manufacturer of Hot Stovies warrants that the only difference between its bedding pellets and its fuel pellets is the packaging. The different packaging is used mainly because animal bedding and domestic fuel attract different VAT (sales tax) rates.
Thus it was, this afternoon, that I cautiously ventured out down our iced-up road in my trusty Suzuki Jimny (small but very agile, especially with low-ratio engaged) and visited a supplier of animal feeds, bedding and other items on the southern fringes of Glasgow. Alexander William & Son sells Hot Stovies in horse bedding packs, and for administrative reasons has to sell them at the higher VAT rate, but they kindly gave me a discount for a volume purchase (poor Jimny was straining under maximum load by the time I was done packing it).
This is the first time in three years that I have successfully bought bags of wood pellets at retail, a fact I expect will surprise readers in many other places wood pellets are used as fuel around the world. They seem to be widely available everywhere but here.
On the bright side, at least I now have a list of places within reasonable driving distance of my house where I can go and collect pellets should I run low on supplies – hopefully in our larger, family car rather than the tiny Jimny, weather permitting. And I now have a new brand of pellets to try in my stove and review for this website. That write-up will be on the way over the next few days.
I just have to wrap myself up and go and unload them from the car now. Brrr.