There's nothing like ringing in the new year in the dark. Our region was slammed with an epic ice storm a few days after Christmas, taking out trees and power lines in it's wake. It's been over a week and there's still power lines dropping, and outages all over the map. Thankfully we were given a generator last year "just in case". After the first wave of the storm we made sure that it was running, set it up and built it a makeshift shelter, and ran power cords back into the house. And thankfully so, as when the second wave hit, everything was covered in ice and the power went out for a very long time.
The first couple days, we didn't bother to leave the house. Standing on our front porch, you couldn't count to twenty without hearing a tree come crashing down in the distance. We passed the time with a week-long cribbage tournament by candlelight, storytelling accompanied by a sketchpad, and mulling about the property. Our sea can workshop got a much needed cleaning, and we burned all our cardboard and wood scraps we'd been collecting throughout the year.
Day three, we were called out to work. Given that it's been two months without anything steady, we weren't about to say no to an opportunity to make a little loot. The drive kept us on our toes. In order to get off our road, we had to stop the van every thirty feet or so to clear fallen branches from the giant cottonwoods. I kept the van in gear and ready to move while he quickly cleared a path as branches were still falling all around us. It was a slow drive towards town, dodging fallen trees and ice bombs. It was one of the most absolutely beautiful sights i'd ever seen when the sun hit the ice covering everything, the landscape shone like a spotlight party in a chandelier shop.
When we finally arrived in town it was utter chaos. No street lights, cars abandoned on the roadside, power lines downed and roads closed left and right.We gave it a couple more days before our next venture in to town. This time we needed supplies and fuel, so we had our fingers crossed we would find at least one grocery store open whose shelves were not yet cleaned out. I was excited to see that our produce market had it's doors open for business. They like most other places had lost the products kept in coolers after not having power so long, but we were there for the basics. Potatoes and fruit mostly, things we hadn't grown ourselves.
Everywhere we go, we tend to talk to strangers, so it was no surprise that we'd gotten into a full blown conversation about the current situation while shopping for our fruit. We brought up how lucky we were that we lived in a small place, so it was enough to run a generator with a small space heater and a hot plate. If we needed water from the well we could plug in the pump and we're all set. He told us how it felt like going back in time, the kids had fun playing in the snow, and the family actually sat together to play some board games. We talked about how useless all those big fancy homes are without the services running to them, they'd be impossible to heat being so big, and their inhabitants would be better off setting up a tent outside during times like this.
Heating the house was our main challenge. If we don't keep the house warm when it's below freezing the pipes will burst, and we'd have a lot more problems than sitting in the dark. When we met up with the landlord to pay the rent, we were discussing alternate heating options inside the house, and he said he was thinking of propane. I'd mentioned how the stack for the chimney was still installed and it would be awesome if we could put a wood burning stove back in it's place. He'd removed it because he was worried about the previous renters not using it right and it sat in storage a couple years, but we were stoked that he still had it. We were stoked to take it home.
By the time we got the wood burner installed, the power was back on for the most part. It was a couple day process of getting it to working order, outdoor and indoor test runs, building it a pad and getting it in to place, but it was well worth it. We spent yesterday afternoon cutting up and collecting branches from our road that had fallen in the ice storm. it's cottonwood which doesn't have the best aroma coming from the chimney outside, but it burns slow and hot. The cable had come back on around the same time we'd lit the first fire inside, but who needs television when you have flames dancing in your kitchen. We sat with our coffee and tea for hours admiring the heat.
Between not having much work and being thrust into a mini ice-age, this winter has been a very humbling and sobering experience. It's amazing what we take for granted when we have it, and not realize. This experience has reminded me how important it is to be prepared for the seasons and what they may bring. In summer we need to remember to slow down and keep cool, and save as best as we can for the winter [including firewood!]. This coming year we will make different [and hopefully better] choices of our resource allocation, of both moneys and produce. When winter rolls around we have to be keen about being prepared for what ever crazy weather mother nature might bring.
What I've really enjoyed about this winter is the feeling of having gone back in time a century or two, which has been the theme of our experience out here so far. I'd like to continue that trend in as many senses as possible while still maintaining our place in society. It's motivation to become better resourceful as we slide a little further off the grid. The part that's irked me is the lack of funds and our need to be reliant on money. My desire to slide a little further off that grid is strong.
The first five days of the year have been interesting that's for sure. Major triumphs and letdowns, wins and huge losses with impact-full messages, and the year has just begun. This is just the beginning, more to come.. I feel good about this one. Happy 2018 from the cabin on the slough. May 2018 be the best year yet..