Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Defeating The Four Horsemen of the Sno-pocalypse: Winter Storm prep

If you are one of the 100 million+ people who are gonna get walloped with that storm working its way across the country and you are reading this...then you'll share the same relief we had when we woke up this morning with the power still on. Whew!

The local and national news did their best to spread fear, uncertainty, doubt, chaos, and generally whipping everyone up into a frenzy about the oncoming storm. Make no mistake, its a dilly for sure. Have you seen the pictures from space of this behemoth? Wowza! But with the right preparation you can weather a winter storm like a pro.

Snow, blizzards, and sub-zero temps are all part of the landscape here in The Good Land.  But what sent everyone scrambling for provisions was the mention of the Four Horsemen of the Sno-pocalypse:  Ice, Sleet, Snow, and Wind. The combination of ice, sleet and wind are the real triple threat. Add some heavy snow and you can bet you'll be without power at least for a while. Last year we had about 4 days without power on some of the coldest days. Not nearly as bad as the folks who were in the dark for weeks... but it was still pretty bad.

So we spent all day yesterday getting ready for "Ice Death 2011." Generally my essential winter storm check list looks like this:

Baked cookies - check!
Baked bread - check!
Secured extra fire wood - check 
Extra drinking water in containers - check!
Water available for barnyard critters - check!
Easy-to-make-on-the-woodstove suppers ready - check!
Trucks have gas - check!
Books on famous historical warlords ready for reading - check!
Bottle of tequila - goes without saying if you know what I mean...

The only thing we haven't done is run down to our Amish neighbors to warn them that they might loose power. (That joke will hit you on the way home....)

We also made sure that we did all the dishes, washed all the clothes, took showers, and of course made sure we had a strategy for the freezers.

We have several freezers, currently full of fresh and delicious pork. The freezers are really efficient especially since they are full to the brim. But if yours are not its a good idea to fill that extra space with frozen water bottles ahead of time. If a power outage goes on for a couple days we fire up the power inverter on the truck and run it a couple times during the day to make sure everything stays solid.

The only problem we've run into is the bottom drawer-type freezer in the kitchen. Its not efficient at all and is the first to go regardless of how full it is. Because of this I only keep 'non-essentials' in this freezer anyway. If it starts to thaw rest assured I'll take one for the team and eat whatever ice cream is getting melty. Anything else can go in coolers out on the deck (provided its below freezing out there) and/or we eat whatever is in there first. Or even easier, put water bottles outside until they freeze and put them in the freezer (and fridge for that matter).

With a little know how, and the right pans, you can cook just about anything on the wood stove. Today we simmered a beautiful pork stew on our wood burner. Easy peasy, energy efficient, and for whatever reason it tasted extra good.

We like to do ham steaks and easy fry-ups on the wood stove during power outages. Soups, stews, and pasta sauces are all easy to do as well. I got this book a while ago and it has some helpful hints. The only tricky thing is to have a steady heat. My pal, Freemotion, suggests getting a horseshoe as a kind of trivet for your pans so they don't over heat. Might as well get some marshmallows and have s'mores while you are at it.

Don't forget to have an non-electric way to make coffee, lest there be some kind of real panic. A french press or my favorite - a stove top espresso maker will get the job done and keep everyone happily caffeinated. And for heavens sakes, make sure you have ground coffee available or a non-electric way to grind your beans or you'll have a real ordeal on your hands (you know who you are).

If you don't have a wood stove don't forget the barbecue grill for cooking. I've made bacon and eggs in a fry pan on the grill before - as the snow was falling. Its even easier if you have a side burner. But whatever you do, do not bring your grill in the house or garage! Strap on your snowpants and just cook outside. It makes for a good picture and will save you from an almost certain death.

Got candles? Flashlights (with working batteries)?  Lighters and matches? Hand operated can opener? Buckets of water in the bathrooms for flushing? Extra blankets not only for snuggling and the bed, but for hanging on the windows (and walls) if it really gets bad? Is your cell phone fully charged? Did you scour the garage sales for one of those 'old fashioned' plug in landline, corded phones (which will still work if the power is out)? Something to entertain yourself like books or magazines? A Good Neighbor with a generator so you can go and watch cable tv at their house? Check, check, check, and check!

Once the house is secure and you are well provisioned make sure you have everything for your critters. Generally you'll have some warning that a storm is coming so do an inventory on your feed and bedding. Get extra straw to bed everyone down deeply and to use as insulation, extra feed, and make sure you have a water source. Sure you can break the ice in your pond but how about if you fill a 50 gallon trash can (with a secure lid!) full of water and put it in a non-freezing building?

If you have babies, or are worried about the critters, don't over look double bunking the furred and feathered ones. For instance, you can put your goats in the with clucks for a little extra body heat. Just make sure the goats cannot get to the layer mix. This is a solution if you are worried about sub-zero windchills at night. Chances are everyone will be happier in their own digs during the day but if the power is out and you can't get a heat lamp into baby goats - or goats who are babies - its works in a pinch. Make sure everyone has a lot of fresh bedding. I would not put waterfowl in with other stock because they are so wet, just make sure the ducks and geese have a lot of dry bedding, extra corn, and fresh water.

Keep in mind what we learned from the old timers about extreme cold weather care: feed little but often, keep everyone out of the wind, fresh water twice a day, and bed everyone down deeply. Resist the urge to over manage them - given the tools your stock will be just fine. The biggest mistake you can make is subjecting them to extreme warming and cooling. If you bring that goose inside you might have her in your bathtub until spring!

And don't forget about your own safety. Our goat and hen yard currently resembles the ice planet, Hoth. The dogs and I struggled for footing today as we did our chores. Poor little Kai slid down the outside stairs like a rag doll. More than once this winter I've found myself sprawled in a heap on the ice. Fortunately for me Dog#1 knows the command "get over here and get your momma up!"  He stands there patiently, braced, and lets me use him to pull myself up. I'm fairly certain he'd just drag me across the ice if it came to it.

So that's the way of it. So far so good today but I'm watching the radar... it looks like this monster is just about here. Now that we are ready if Nature wants to bring us a big ol' storm then blow you Mother, blow! Whooo hoooooo!

Good luck everyone! Stay safe and warm.


Unknown said...

I already ground my extra coffee. That was the first thing I did :)

Chai Chai said...

Looks like the storm will miss us, about time. I would like a generator but our next purchase will probably be some old fashioned oil lamps.

IanH said...

It would just be my luck to do all that preparedness, then have the storm miss! Is aw shucks a word? :)

Robin said...

We are supposed to have a very bad ice storm tonight with significant ice build up...what ever that means!! They really aren't saying. I'm going to have to check the weather and see if we are supposed to get your storm too!!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

You know it, Java!

CC, good to hear. I think you need a break after all your snow and cold.

Thats what we laugh about also, Ian. But we are the "better safe than sorry" crew.

Hi Robin! How's that sloth going for you? Hopefully you'll be spared - we are right on the edge. Everything was coated with ice this morning - its was ridiculous!

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

Talk about being prepared! seems your in high gear :o)...Perhaps tomorrow the forecast will be Sunny , high in the 80's. hehehe then what will you do :o) I just couldn't resist that.. your post cracked me up with your prepareness :o).

You Can Call Me Jane said...

What a great post. You're helpful and a hoot to boot:-).

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Oh Ginny, you are a pip! If its sunny and 80* here tomorrow I will eat my hat! Until then my plan is to dream of pound cake.

Thanks Thy Hand! I've got my eye on your white bean enchiladas... providing we still have power tomorrow. Good to see you here!

Anonymous said...

It was on the news yesterday here that big snow storm will hit US. I hope it will not be as bad as it sounded.

Robin said...

The sloth is getting a bit better! With all of this bread baking and eating...I'm soon going to be a SLOTH wearing a moo moo!!

We are getting the same storm as you...our part of it is all ice!!

Mr. H. said...

We have been hearing about your weather on the news, hope it does not cause too may troubles for you. Sounds like you are very well prepared...times like this make you glad to have a woodstove don't they.:)

Heiko said...

Weelll sis, I hope I'm not making you tooooooo jealous, but we've had balmy spring sunshine today, sittin' out in the sun, sippin' our beers... slight chill in the air now though as the sun is dipping down. ...and I love to live so pleasantly, live this life of luxury...

Grandpa said...

OFG, would you mind dropping by at The Farm - you deserve an Award!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hi VRT! So far so good here but Chicago got a pounding for sure. Wow!

Robin, me too.. I can't wait to get outside. I tried to do some chores but with these 40mph winds it was just silly. So I'm by the fire. With cookies.

We are lovin' the stove right now, Mr. H. There is nothing like wood heat to take the chill off..and make s'mores too!

Heiko, sunshine and green grass? Not fair, not fair at all!

Hi Grandpa! I'm coming right over

Anonymous said...

Fabulous post! I am printing it out and will keep it handy...and hope I never live somewhere that gets that much snow :) As always, thanks for the laugh!

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