Nine days ago it started snowing, on a Saturday. It fell steadily for days on end. By Monday we had big drifts of fluffy, white snow. Enough to build snowmen, to sled, to build jumps, forts and tunnels.
It covered my half-planted orchard, and my dreams of summer.
It frosted the mulberries and wild huckleberries.
It blanketed the cottage garden.
It filled the woods with the heavy stillness that only snow can make.
And then Tuesday the ice storm came and that stillness was broken by the constant sound of cracking branches and falling trees.
This was once a clear driveway as far back as you can see. In 24 hours it was full of fallen trees. And then the power went out on Wednesday. It continued to snow steadily until then.
I spent most of the daylight hours thawing animal waterers and doing farm chores, busting buns to get everything done by dusk. I boiled water on the wood burning stove to wash dishes and rags to clean udders at milking time. On the campstove I cooked rooster and dumplings, rabbit gumbo and corn biscuits, pancakes, bacon and cobblers from thawing fruit.
We played Yahtzee, Cribbage, Scrabble and Go Fish. We read The Long Winter by kerosene lamp and to warm up, took turns hand grinding flour.
To save the lamp oil we went to bed early. After a few days we fell into a routine and this new life began to feel normal. Disconnected from electronics and instant gratification I watched my children begin to play differently with each other. I saw more imaginative play and more conflict resolution. Despite the stress of trying to get everything done during the short window of daylight hours, it began to feel almost like a vacation. Our neighbor came over for breakfast and dinner most days. We had time to sit and talk to each other.
And then on the fourth day the power came back on and a part of me was sad. But not the part that had worried about predators finding my animals without the electric fence on! It’s obvious to me why we have less time these days, and less engagement with our immediate families. We’ve created situations where we need to leave the house for long hours to hold down jobs, too many engagements for children, and when we are together we are all plugged into different electronic devices.
We’ve decided that each Saturday we will turn off the lights and electronics at dusk and spend time together as a family, studying each other by candelight.
We also decided that since we had become acclimated to a frigid internal house temperature, we are lowering the thermostat from 58 F to 54 overnight and 57 during the day. The bad news? We are out of dry firewood. My secret is two pairs of long Johns. Since we’ve been keeping the house cold I no longer dread heading out in the dark to do animal chores.
Some other things I learned last week:
Goats don’t like head lamps.
Chickens that roost in trees can freeze to branches but they are otherwise incredibly hardy.
Old roosters taste amazing. So much so that I’m thinking about taking up caponization.
I’ll be taking down a lot of trees as soon as I can afford it.
How about you? How did you fare in the storm? Did you learn anything surprising?