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.