January on the Homestead
I woke up this morning at about 7:30am, and went into the kitchen to find all four kids sitting at the table helping themselves to a bowl of homemade granola. They were trying to be quiet so as not to wake me or their daddy. I looked out the kitchen window to find the ground outside covered in several inches of snow. Large white flakes mixed with smaller, faster-falling particles were drifting to the ground, promising more accumulation throughout the day. Jerry wouldn’t be going to work. There’s no way he’d make it out of our long, off-road driveway.
I slipped my rubber shoes on, grabbed a thick winter coat, and went outside to see what kind of snow we were getting. The entire world seemed to be silent, except for the sound of the icy snow falling through the trees in the woods like little pebbles. Icy snow. Power outages are sure to follow. Although we’re partly off-grid, we still have some preparing to do in case local power lines go down. In the wintertime we remove the hand pump from our well and rely on the electric submersible pump. If the power goes out, so does our running water. Worst case, we could put the pump on the well, but that would be as a last resort. Really, who wants to stand outside in the freezing cold pumping water?
Back inside, Jerry kept us all warm and toasty with the wood he worked so hard to gather and split throughout last year. I sat down to a hot cup of coffee fresh from the percolator, and enjoyed a few slices of turkey bacon before getting a load of towels and washcloths into the washing machine while we still had power.
My first priority was to give everyone baths or showers, and to make sure all of the dishes in the kitchen were washed. Anything water related must be a priority today. This includes preparing lunch and dinner ahead of time so that I could get all of the pots and pans washed up and out of the way early. Jerry filled the homemade Berkey water filter, filled the pot on the stove with water, made sure the animals had water in their bowls, and filled ten 2-liter bottles to the brim. This should get us through a day or two without power.
Jerry also got the playroom ready for us to bring the kids’ mattresses in if we do indeed lose electricity overnight. Although we heat with wood, we rely on fans to push that hot air back toward the children’s bedrooms. Without the fans blowing, only the main living area, which is the center of the house, stays warm. When the power goes out we pile mattresses into the center of the home, block off the rest of the house, and enjoy camping around the warmth of the wood stove. The kids think it’s great fun. You can be sure that excited giggles and chattering will last late into the night.
I put a venison roast in a cast iron dutch oven with a little water, sliced onions, and carrots, allowing it to slow cook over the wood stove throughout the day. This quick and easy dish would provide a hot, nourishing meal this evening regardless of our power situation. I always save the tips and peels of onions and carrots in a Ziploc bag and put them in the freezer to toss into homemade beef or chicken stock. Later on, I used the liquid from the pot to make a gravy by mixing in some arrowroot powder.
For fun, the kids and I hung a mesh bag (from store bought citrus fruits) holding a suet bird seed cake outside on our cherry tree limb. We thought it would be fun to see what kinds of birds come out to eat from it. Lots of little brown birds were hopping around in the snow, but none discovered the treat. Later on I decided to move the bird seed to hang from the fence for fear that a hungry raccoon might come along and try to yank the feed off the tree, breaking the young branch.
Mid-afternoon the neighbor boys rode up to our house on a 4-wheeler and wanted to know if our older kids wanted to ride around and go sledding. Titus, who is now a robust eight year old boy, was eager to get out and have some fun. Jada, our pre-teen, preferred to stay warm, and snuggled up on the couch with a blanket and a book.
The youngest two children kept themselves busy playing computer games and dragging out every toy and article of clothing they own. They begged to go outside to play in the snow, but I preferred to keep them indoors for today. It was just so wet and icy out there!
I continued washing clothes until all of the indoor clothes racks were full, and drying by the fire. Then I spent some time purging more unneeded things from the home, filling a box to take to the consignment store. Being stuck indoors during the wintertime always prompts a huge decluttering and purging spree as I begin to go crazy trying to manage all of the stuff we’ve managed to accumulate throughout the year. Is this what cabin fever looks like?
We never did lose power. Tomorrow we’ll get more snow and our day will likely look the same. There will probably be snowmen and hot cocoa involved.
It’s a good life.