Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Roughing It - Part 2

March 3:

And then it began to snow....

.... and snow....

.... and SNOW...

Sometime in the night the power lines went down beneath the heavy snow-laden branches of our neighbor's trees.
Wrong Turn

We woke around our usual time of 4:30, lit a fire in the wood stove, and fumbled for some candles to light. Lined up across the mantle, they looked cozy and inviting, but were very poor light to read by, and dawn was hours away. I set the tea kettle on the wood stove, heated water for instant coffee and sat in cozy silence as we waited for daylight to show us what we already knew: Snowmageddon had HIT!

Ha ha ha! Don't you love that word? I always think of those poor, unhearty souls living in Indiana who shut down the schools with any snow accumulation over an inch and scream, SNOWMAGEDDON!

Yellow House

Colby, of course, stubborn soul that he is, who never misses work on account of weather, though he drives over an hour each way in blinding blizzards at times, shoved his way out the door, down the road, and off to church. Where he was met by the few other stubborn, like-minded souls and they "fellowshipped" since there could be no service without a (stuck-in-the-snow) pastor. Or piano player. Or... members.

We had cold cereal for breakfast, ran water into jars and pitchers until the pressure was gone, and toasted bagels on the wood stove. Buckets of snow were brought in to melt so we could flush the toilet.

Corner Post

We read books, drew pictures, played in the snow, dug out more candles, filled the kerosene lamp, and waited for the power to return. I finally found the connector for my car phone charger and I was really excited that I'd still be able to at least make a phone call! Turns out smart phones are not that smart out here in the sticks if you don't have wifi. But a dumb phone is better than no phone! Except for the part where I had to leave it in the car to charge so it was like having no phone. Hmm.

Colby went outside with the kids in the afternoon and built a snow fort, complete with long, winding tunnel and a roof above their heads.




Late that afternoon we went for a drive to see the snow. (And take pictures of old barns, of course!)
Fry's barn

White Barn

As the sun went down and the light waned, we pulled into a gas station to buy a couple of gallons of drinking water before going home. They were the last two jugs available and more customers were coming in behind us asking if there were more in the storage room! The lady in front of us had 8 gallons of water that she was buying, and all around us we heard stories of power being out, people without heat, families trying to find rooms at hotels, though several of the hotels were without power themselves.

We went home very thankful for our wood stove. Not only did it provide enough heat to keep us warm and safe, but prevented us from having to spend money on hotel rooms or generator fuel.

But we did have to figure out how to keep everyone warm while we slept.

In this old, old house, there are original floor grates that bring up warm air from the living room to the girls' room and Joshua's room. The forced air heating ducts were not added until much, much later! The floor grates were covered up when the forced air system was put in, but when we installed the wood stove 4 years ago we opened them back up so we wouldn't have to use the forced air to keep the kids warm in their rooms. The nursery, however, is completely disconnected from the forced air and has no access to the heat from the wood stove. We have always needed a space heater in there for the winter months. An electric space heater.

There was really no place warm enough in the house to have her sleep without being bundled up, so I layered her clothes and zipped her into her Patagonia sleeveless bunting, socks and uggs, jacket, and wished she would keep mittens on her little paddies. We did this every night we were without power, and except for the night she wet through every layer of clothes, she woke up warm and happy.

In the evening Colby brought out his guitar and played Dixie, One Tin Soldier, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound, until the children fell asleep sprawled around the living room in front of the fire.

March 4:
Sunday morning we slept in.

No point in getting up just to strain our eyes at the tiny little letters in books in the dim light.

The flannel sheets felt good. The house was quiet. We dozed, and I tried to remember the last time I'd slept in till 7. I think I must have been sick and unable to fully enjoy it as it should be enjoyed now and then. The fading darkness eventually called us out of bed, and again Colby built a fire and this time I set the stove-top percolator above the newly lit flames and waited for the smell of coffee to wake me up.


I mixed up some pancake batter, fed the fire, and cooked pancakes on our frying pan on top of the wood stove. Note to self: buy a cast iron fry pan. Why don't we already own one of those things? Actually, the pancakes turned out fine, even without a cast iron pan to use, and the kids gobbled them up without complaint.

We brought in buckets and buckets of snow to melt, which turns out to equal about few teaspoons of water when it's all said and done, or so it seems when all you do is bring in buckets of snow and wonder where the water is all going.

The refrigerator was beginning to warm up so I emptied the produce bins and Colby filled them with snow. We shoved them back in place and for the rest of the power outage, the snow in those bins did not fully melt. Nothing went bad. Of course, it helped that our laundry room was completely unheated and the milk, silk, and eggs went out there to stay cold!

I gathered, melted, and heated enough water (FINALLY!) to wash my hair with over a bin set in the bathtub. It felt good, but it was no hot shower!

Ah, well. Pioneer women never got hot showers, bathed once a week, and they still felt human! I can DO this!, I told myself.

We spent the day once again reading, drawing pictures, playing in the snow, and holding a teething baby. Two teeth broke through that day. A molar on top, and an incisor on the bottom.

In the afternoon Colby went up to town and bought the missing parts (rather than drive back over to the city) for my stove, and by evening I was able to use the new gas cook stove to feed us, and heat water for washing dishes, counters, and faces.

More than anything else, it was that inability to wash my hands, grab a warm washcloth to wipe the baby's face and hands, and scrub off the table with that grated on my nerves. I kept a kettle on the stove with water specifically to dip a cloth in and clean with, but it never felt very clean to me, always a little gritty, though I think it might have been more mental than actual.

Once again, night fell cold and dark around us, seeped into the farmhouse, and we lit our candles and kerosene lamp. Colby drew out his guitar from its case in the corner, and I sang while he played. The children sat silent until their eyes grew heavy and we slipped them off to bed. Without night lights, without story tapes to listen to, without fuss, without fear.

We sat in the warm, steady glow of the kerosene lamp and wondered how the week would go. In the 10 years we've lived here, we'd never had the power out for 48 hours! Now it seemed as if it could go on at least that much longer, if not more. The night was growing colder; by morning it would be 10 below zero.


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