Posted by: morrowsl | March 2, 2021

Hibernation

It’s almost amusing to think of “winter” in N. Texas as anything even remotely resembling winter. We typically get a little ice and maybe a dusting of snow, then the sun comes out and it all melts and we go right back to our normal ridiculously warm weather.
When I considered how I wanted to chronicle the weather and experiences that came between February 13th and 21st, I almost didn’t write about it at all. Compared to so many others, family included, our week was relatively mild and uneventful.

But, the news media tends to cover only those stories meant to elicit intense emotional reactions. Fear, horror, anger, sympathy, empathy, sadness, grief, shock. Sometimes joy, bliss, excitement, love, gratitude. The numbers game is tied to the feels for sure.

So much the last few years has been focused on the negative. And, it is hard to write anything about that week without including the negatives. Still, I have always believed that every experience, good and bad, is meant to bring knowledge. Stick your head in the sand, sit at home on the sofa, keep to yourself enough, and you will wake up dead someday without having ever lived at all.

No thank you.

And so, here is how I’m looking back on Snowzilla 2021.

Friday, February 12, 2021:
A month ago, when our oldest daughter, Sheli, set up her move from a rented apartment to a rented house, the determining factors were money and time. There was no possible way to know that freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and power failure would ever enter into the equation. She had a plan and we all knew what our parts would be. But nothing ever really goes to plan.

The nasty weather that was supposed to hit the day before the movers were coming got stalled out somewhere and was rescheduled for two days after the move. Still, moving day dawned cold and windy and none of us was really looking forward to being out in it. We got a good start and managed to have most everything moved by 5pm. She would have a long weekend to unpack and sort and place and settle.

Saturday, February 13, 2021:
My mother’s 96th birthday. I woke up in gratitude, as I usually do when Lou comes to mind, that she didn’t have to live through the COVID-19 pandemic. I am convinced that, with her monthly lab and oncology appointments, she would have gotten sick and died alone. I have had that same thought every time I hear or read about someone losing an older family member or friend.

Because of the dire weather predictions, we knew we needed to get a few things done before the snow flew. I opened another bale of straw for the girls to scatter around the coop floor and wrapped the outside north-facing wall in a double-folded tarp. That, along with the tarps that wrap the outside walls of the run, would offer the best wind break I could manage.

I’ve written a lot about supplemental heat and why I don’t use it. This week in particular would prove me out. A power loss means a loss of supplemental heat. If your birds have come to depend on that for warmth, instead of being acclimated to the weather, they have no means to make the correction in body heat and they will suffer. It could possibly kill them. I let the chickens heat the coop.

Mike brought a load of firewood up to the back porch and I filled the seed feeders and put out suet. Then we went to town to stock up on propane, diesel, feed, and some last minute groceries. The line for propane was about twenty minutes long. The grocery was showing signs of a run – no milk, no bread, but LOTS of toilet paper!

The snow started in late afternoon. I went to bed thinking maybe The Delkus was wrong.

The Delkus is never wrong.

Waiting in line for propane. This was the last place locally to have a supply.

Sunday, February 14, 2021:
Happy Valentine’s Day! I’d told Mike at the grocery the day before that he could stop eyeballing flowers. I wanted candy! We both got something we like.

The outside air temperature, according to our inside/outside thermometer was 16 degrees Fahrenheit. We still had power, so it was 70 inside. We hadn’t built a fire for the same reason. No need to heat a warm house. We had, however, started dripping all the cold water faucets in the house as well as the apartment.
Mike had the dragon going in the shop to keep the apartment pipes warm. We’d started the propane heater in the greenhouse and plugged in the heat lamp in the pump house.

I made a breakfast casserole thinking it would be an easy way to feed us both. And cookies. Because, cookies are always good. And because, after about eighteen months of being without a cookstove, we finally decided on one and it had been delivered the week before. And it has a huge oven that cooks really evenly and its door shuts completely and nothing comes out burned!

Sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast casserole. SO pretty!

The snow had slowed, then stopped, by mid-morning. In the early afternoon it started again and was coming down heavy. Mike made a last minute decision to go in to top off the propane and diesel. He was back before full dark. We checked the outbuildings, tucked the chickens in for the night, and settled in to watch tv.

Monday, February 15, 2021:
The power surges started Sunday evening but we still had power when we went to bed. At 2:30 I got a text from Sheli that she was without power. So were we. Ours came back on an hour later, then went off again and was out the rest of the night. It did come back on for a short bit around 7:30. That was the start of the rolling blackouts, but we had no way to know that as we got absolutely no notice that what had been a “might happen” situation had become a reality. Sheli’s power never came back.

The outside temperature at 9:30 a.m. was 19F. Indoor temps, after not having power much of the night, had fallen to 58F.

When I’d dressed for the move on Friday, I put on a pair of pajama pants under my jeans. I did the same now, adding a pair of sweatpants over the jeans, two pairs of socks, two shirts under a flannel shirt and quilted jacket. Two toboggans, a lovely cowl my friend Jenn made for me last year, gloves, and my trusty boots Sister gave me when we first moved to Remote. I was set.

We did our rounds, checking propane tank levels and thermometers. The greenhouse was forty but there were already signs of plants freezing. Nothing to do but hope for the best. The shop was chilly so Mike started a fire in the wood stove. The dragon runs on electricity, so it would only be coming on if the power returned.

The chickens were grouped around the coop door, refusing to step on the snow. I brought an armload of straw up from the barn and scattered a pathway to the feeder. They still wouldn’t come out, so I broke a cardinal rule and moved the feeder into the coop. Normally, I wouldn’t do anything to entice rodents into the space where the girls sleep. Rats will chew on chicken’s tail feathers while they sleep. But I needed them to eat. Their water was frozen, so I hauled water from the house in a five-gallon bucket. This would have to be repeated several times daily until the thaw.

Our cell signal, already weak, now disappeared entirely. Any text we sent out sat in the queue, unsent. We weren’t getting texts either. And then, with a sound like a slot machine hitting a jackpot, our phones would both start clanging with text alerts. We’d read them, compare notes, write replies that would, once again, sit unsent. This was our communications for the week, except those times that we were in town.
During one of the mass information text sessions, I learned from Mustang Sally Neighbor Girl, who is married to Detective Neighbor Boy and now lives in the house sold by Director Neighbor Girl and Captain Neighbor Boy (who are building down by the lake) that our power was coming on every couple of hours for fifteen minutes. I hadn’t noticed a pattern, but became hyper aware of it once informed. I began to plan my actions around the short periods we would have power.

Darkness descended and I opted for bed. We hadn’t built a very big fire and the room wasn’t getting any warmer. But we had good blankets and two cats on the bed. And I usually just nap in front of the tv most nights anyway.
Mike came to bed a bit later, unable to get warm. He was shivering and I had a moment of sheer panic that I might not be able to help him get warm. Eventually, our body heat, combined with the heat from the cats, warmed him up enough to sleep.

Based on our limited information, we knew Sheli was still without power, our son’s family was experiencing rolling blackouts, our youngest daughter and Sister still had power.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021:
My nephew’s birthday. I wouldn’t even realize this for a couple of days. My calendar was non-existent now.

Outside, we’d hit ZERO degrees. Inside the house it was forty-three. I tried to light a fire, but I totally suck at them.

Once Mike was up and had a good fire going, we discussed how best to commence. Captain Neighbor Boy had indicated he would be going to town for propane so we’d find out if there had been a resupply. In the meantime, we needed to move more firewood closer to the house at some point in the day.

I had started heating water in several vintage metal coffee pots on the wood stove. Having hot water for sponge bathing and washing dishes went a long way toward keeping me sane. I also made our bed every morning, as much to get the covers straightened out as anything. And I swept the floors. Those things kept me warm, but also kept my mind on the importance of being busy.

Heating water old school.

We spent time playing Chickenfoot or cards. Normally, we’re both so competitive we end up pissed off at each other. But we both knew we needed to keep busy.
Each time the power would cycle on, there would be a little “click” of the thermostat before the ceiling fans or fridge motors would come on. I learned to listen for that click and act immediately to make the most use of the short time we’d have power. The coffee pot was filled and ready every morning. Mike had pulled our “Mr. Sock” heat packs out of the drawer and those stayed in the microwave when not in use. Mr. Sock became Mike’s constant companion. I tucked it under a blanket around his shoulders.

Bundled up against the cold and whipping me at Rummy.

Tuesday, the sun returned after being hidden by clouds all day Monday. This probably did as much to improve our spirits as anything. The cats lounged in sunlit patches on the rugs. I warmed my feet in those same spots or turned my back to the light coming through the windows.
The little birds came in huge flocks to eat from the seed feeders and fight over the suet. I was able to charge my camera battery enough to start using it and spent quite a lot of time marveling at the number and variety of wild birds we have at Remote.

Sheli’s power came back on around midnight Tuesday. Initially, she was unaware, but eventually she did get the information that she needed to be boiling water.

Our power did not come back. Neither did our cell service. Luckily, we are on a well. As long as the pressure was good, we would have drinking water.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021:
The temperature outside came back up to 20 degrees, much to my delight! We were out of firewood near the house, so that was the main objective for the morning. My plan was to just pull my garden wagon down the hill to the wood racks and haul up a couple of loads. It would take me some time, but it would be good exercise, and I’d be warm. I was on my second load when Mike took the little Wheel Horse down to get a bag of corn for the deer feeder. The incline from the barn back to the house was almost too much for the Wheel Horse, so it was decided that the blue tractor was needed. Several cranks on the key revealed a dying battery. So, door number three was using one of the two little Ranger trucks we knock about this place in. Over the hill came “Walker Red.” We emptied one rack of wood into the truck bed and Mike took off over the little hill to find a good spot for turning around. Remote is mostly trees, especially in the back of the property, so navigating is difficult without snow and ice on the ground.
I wondered, as I watched the tail lights disappear over the hill, how long I should wait before following the tire tracks. There are a couple of (sort of) paths leading from the house to the lake and back. But the one he was forced to take was little more than a deer track that hasn’t been driven in several months. I opted to keep an ear cocked in that general direction and finished up my chores. I was just coming up from the chicken run when I heard him, slipping and sliding along the path we generally walk to the lake. When he passed by, he looked like a teenage kid out for a joy ride in the snow in Dad’s old truck! I just had to laugh.

Now we had an ample supply of wood just outside the back door. It can’t stay there, of course, since snakes like to hang out in the woodpile and the hot tub is mere steps from where we’d made our stack. Come warm weather, I’ll be relocating it right back down the hill.

We needed to make another propane run. Captain Neighbor Boy had spent two and a half hours in line on Tuesday. I was worried there wouldn’t be any to be had. Luckily, the supply truck was on site when we got there.

Waiting in line for fuel, I checked and sent messages, but I also read our local news. It was horribly depressing to read about the people who, desperate to heat their homes, had been asphyxiated in their attempts. One child froze to death in his sleep after coming in from playing in the snow and going to bed in his unheated home. An elderly man died, sitting in his car, trying to retrieve an oxygen tank.
Our power was cycling on for about half an hour now, but still only every couple of hours. Even so, we had a good stove and plenty of wood. We might lose everything in the greenhouse, but the pipes in the apartment would not burst again (as they did in 2016 when we first moved here) and we were making it work. News from the family and neighbors was encouraging. We were all making it work.

We came home to a warm fire and were able to heat our dinner in the microwave. We went to bed grateful.

Thursday, February 18, 2021:
Woke to blessed heat! Based on the clock on the cook stove, the power came on about midnight and stayed on. I started the coffee and spent some time sipping and savoring the warmth.

Outside, the new snow had covered all our dirty tracks from the days of trudging around the property. And revealed the presence of a few “visitors” in the night. It could have been a domestic cat, we have seen a couple of different ones around lately. But it could just as easily be a bobcat, since we know they live out here. There was a trail leading from near the shop, around the chicken run, and up the hill toward the feeder. That makes me think bobcat as well, since a domestic cat would likely hang around where there’s a source of heat, like the shop.

A perfect imprint.

Mike took a long-awaited long shower. I spent time drinking coffee and watching birds. Our cell service was still really spotty.
Around mid-morning a text came from Sister that her husband had had a seizure around 6pm the night before and then her pipes had burst. They had had power all along, so no idea what caused the pipes to give when they did, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. They’d turned the water off and were figuring it out. A friend in S. Texas had burst pipes and a huge hole in her kitchen ceiling.
On the news, the governor and lieutenant governor were pointing fingers and vowing to “get to the bottom of this.”
One senator decided that a family vacation was in order, even as his constituents were freezing to death, literally.
The negative, it seems, continues even if the ability to hear about it is removed.

By Sunday, the sun was shining and the air was warm. The snow was gone and I was knee-deep in dirty laundry.

Outside, the chickens seemed to say, “WHAT freeze?”


Responses

  1. Wow! What an ordeal! So glad you’re on the other side of it! Hoping your sister and her husband can get to health and “normal” life again!
    Big hugs 💜


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

The Trailhead

Life and death and sleeping on the ground

Trailhead Arts

Useful and occasionally irreverent fabric art

just ponderin'

life's wHeirdness and wonder

Insane for the Light

A guided tour through a blindside divorce

Rose's Cantina

The world as I view it

The View from Here

The world as I view it

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: