We got hit with the biggest snow storm this area has seen in years, decades even, this past Friday, just after my last post. Expecting the 3-10″ forecast, we weren’t too worried. Hindsight being 20/20, we should have been. We were slammed with 17″ of snow and lost power for 4 1/2 days. With that came a very swift, rather challenging at moments, crash course in off-grid living.
Our well is equipped with a mechanical pump. When the power fails out here, we lose water access, as well. I’d worried that might happen, so I filled the tub about a quarter of the way full on Friday afternoon. We also had nine 1-gallon jugs of water in the basement. The rest of our water usage came from melting snow. We’d gather up large mixing bowls and add it to a stock pot resting on our wood stove. That melted snow was used to wash dishes, flush toilets, provide water for the chickens, and in washing faces and brushing teeth.
Fortunately, we have a wood stove. I feel for all of the folks who had to stare down nights that dipped into the teens without fireplaces or wood stoves to gather around. We also have propane fuel, used in our furnace, hot water heater, and stove. While the first two rely on an electric current for ignition, the stove only needed a match. We were able to cook food, boil water-hell, I even made butterscotch pudding! On day two, we emptied the refrigerator and freezer, placing everything in coolers left outdoors. I pounded the cooler containing frozen items into the snow, padding it an extra layer of frozen protection.
On day three, we teamed up with our neighbors to chainsaw down a large amount of fallen trees that blocked the driveway. As we live about 1 mile from the road, this was no small feat. Finally, though, we cleared the road, only to find that we couldn’t get our car safely down from the steep knob we live up on down to the level portion of the driveway. We’re hoping the sun will melt the snow enough today to either make it passable, or we’ll recruit a wrecker service.
Lessons learned along the way include:
-I really need some snow boots.
-How could we have gone this long living in a rural setting without a transistor radio?
-We’ll take to buying firewood in late spring/early summer from now on, as the longer we wait to buy it, the more likely we are to end up with unseasoned wood that is extremely difficult to burn.
-Our pantry should be stocked with two weeks worth of water, animal food, and non-perishable items all winter long. We did good, as it was, but we can do better.
-If any snow AT ALL is called for, we’ll move our cars down from the knob and out to the road in advance.
Being snowed in doesn’t really bother us. We’re home for days at a stretch as it is. Being snowed in, without power, with firewood of seriously questionable quality, and without a radio, or proper footwear on my part, was a hard lesson in preparation. Living in the country requires certain things of a person, certain expectations. If you intend to enjoy the beauty and solitude offered by a rural life, then you’d better intend to be ready for the less than idyllic moments, as well.
On the upside, I learned not just ways to be more prepared, but ways to be more conservative in my energy use. I learned just how much water is required to make a toliet flush and how much goes into washing dishes by hand. I became acutely aware of all of the other electronic conveniences I’ve come to rely on.
I also learned, though, that there are worse things to do on a cold winter’s night then sit beside a toasty wood stove, playing Rummikub with my husband, while sipping on egg nog and listening to the Vince Guaraldi trio play the entirety of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on public radio. There are certainly far worse things.