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The S word. October 28, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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S as in snow. We’re still in October, in case someone hasn’t noticed, and should be enjoying the golden days of autumn here in our part of scenic PA. It’s rare that we have snow before Thanksgiving, and usually we enjoy a slow, delicious harvest season and revel in the crisp air, blue skies, and brilliant colors.

Apparently, this year it’s not to be. The front-page story in our local paper announced that tomorrow there’d be rain followed by between 1 and 6 inches of snow, depending on your elevation, followed by a low of 31 degrees F.

Grrrrrr!!! So much for a long, leisurely fall. Fortunately, most of our winterizing was done, but we still had a busy morning here at Hawk’s Haven. We took the last two plants into the greenhouse and turned the thermostat on for the first time (to 55, the lowest the plants can bear). (Many of our greenhouse plants spend the growing season on our deck, and trust me, hauling 50-odd plants across half an acre twice a year is no picnic.) We stored the garden hose and put the Styrofoam faucet protector over the faucet. We put the a/c cover over the outside of the one window air conditioner we possess; we’d already taped bubble wrap over the part of the a/c that’s inside.

Indoors, we stretched bubble-wrap “curtains” across the tops of  our draftier windows, and added extra bubble wrap behind the always-closed half-curtains in the bathroom window and the now-closed half-shutters over the window with the a/c. We have insulated curtains on the windows we don’t bubble-wrap, which also all happen to be double-glazed so cold is an issue but drafts aren’t.

We’d already hauled out our draft excluders and placed them against the bottoms of our outside doors, the mudroom door, and the door of an especially drafty closet. It always amazes us how much cold air those simple fabric draft excluders keep out! We’ve amassed quite an assortment over the years, but for those who would rather not shell out good money for the stuffed fabric versions, here’s a tip: A rolled cylinder of bubble wrap rubber-banded on each end works every bit as well.

Flannel sheets, a down comforter, bedspread, and heavy Pendleton wool blanket keep us toasty at night, even when the bedroom itself is frigid. (Our fleece-lined mocassins keep our feet from freezing when we get up.) And a tiny portable heater in the bathroom makes showers bearable without having to crank up our oil furnace. (We keep the thermostat dialed down to 55 through the cold months, given heating oil prices, so every bit of additional warmth we can squeeze out is well worth it.)

As for the snow itself, our friend Ben has huge Canadian snow boots, and Silence Dogood has her trusty Muck Boots fitted with Yaktrax Pros, steel coils that grip ice and prevent slipping, even when taking out our rambunctious black German shepherd, Shiloh.  One of our snow shovels broke last year, leaving us with a wide, shallow shovel but no deep-shoveled model, so getting a replacement is on our to-do list today.

And should the power go out, we can light our gas stove with matches and cook our meals by the light of Coleman battery-powered lanterns, fire up our woodstove for warmth, and call for repairs from our landline, which won’t go out in a power failure like cellphones. We can check the weather via our battery-powered weather radio, and we have another battery-powered radio for music, news, etc., plus several solar and wind-up radio/flashlights, a wind-up clock, and plenty of books, magazines, games, and the like to occupy us during daylight hours. Once it gets dark, sleeping works for us.

Stocking up is Silence’s byword for bad weather, and she’ll be out today getting a few more staples just in case. We make a point of having plenty of dry, covered wood for the stove, plus kindling and firestarters. We have a portable propane heater and lots of propane canisters to heat the greenhouse if the power fails. We have cases of bottled water for drinking and cooking, and plenty of filled gallon plastic water bottles for flushing and watering plants. (We’re on a well, so a power failure means no water for plumbing or drinking.) We stock up on food for all the critters—cats, dog, chickens, parrot, parakeets, and fish—plus litter for the cats and seed for the wild birds who visit our feeders. For our own use, Silence stocks up on onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and other produce that is best stored at room temperature and requires no special treatment.

Silence is a big believer in cooking up satisfying comfort foods for times like this: cornbread, lentil stew, black bean soup, spaghetti sauce, mac’n’cheese, chili, creamy pasta, roasted veggies, baked potatoes, baked beans, baked apples. All can be easily reheated for delicious, filling, warming meals. She has a whole larder of canned goods, boxed and bagged staples, herbs and spices, and the like, and replenishes them weekly to make sure everything she needs is close at hand. Should we be trapped for however long by snow, we’ll still eat great meals thanks to Silence’s foresight and ingenuity.

Here’s a last tip: Know your neighbors. How comforting to think that they’re there for you if you need a generator or to bunk down for the night or just a warm meal and good company. How relieving to think you could be there for them if they needed you. Community, connection, is what it’s all about, and never more than in an emergency.

Snow. Oh, no. But if it happens, are you ready?

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