Homestead Journal: We’re Snowed In.

January 10, 2017

We’re going on five days snowed in on the homestead. We didn’t get a ton of snow, but the 9-10 inches that we did get was enough to prevent us from being able to make the winding drive through the woods to the main road. As the sun has popped out here and there it has melted some of the snow, but overnight temperatures in the single digits have turned the puddles into sheets of ice too treacherous to attempt to drive over. The kids and I will be hunkered down here at home until the ice melts and the driveway is passable again.

My husband, who had planned for the snow, parked his truck at the top of the driveway and hiked home so that he would be able to get out again. Currently we are full time caregivers to my grandfather, so it was important that one of us was able to get back to him after our weekend home. He will stay with my grandpa in town until I am able to get my SUV onto the main roads, and then we will trade places so that I can take over the caregiving duties for a while.

The kids have enjoyed playing in the snow, sledding, building snow men, having snowball fights, and playing in their pallet playhouse, dubbed the “snow castle”.  Little Elias, who will be six in a few months, played and played until his cheeks were so red and his fingers so frozen that he finally tearfully gave in and retreated indoors. His misery was quickly lost over a cup of homemade hot cocoa.

Yesterday, while the kids played, I cooked wheat berries over the wood stove for a hot cereal lunch. The warm, chewy grains sweetened with chopped apples, golden raisins, and maple syrup was a welcomed treat to the hungry children.

It has been a full time job staying on top of the pile of wet winter clothing shed at the door every time someone comes in to warm up. A half-dozen pairs of boots, wool socks, and gloves, hats, coats, snow bibs, long underwear, and sweatshirts are constantly being placed by the fire to dry. The large floor drying rack is full of wet clothing, trays with dripping boots sit by the stove, and cold gloves are clothes-pinned to a line hung across the fireplace mantel.

Keeping the fire going has also been quite a chore. This house we live in must have terrible insulation. It gets so darned cold! Every two hours I’m loading more wood into the wood stove, doing my best to keep the chill at bay. Overnight is particularly difficult. My husband, Jerry, stuck plastic wrap over all of the windows in the house, which helps, but it still gets so cold inside once the sun goes down. Last night I nailed a wool blanket over the back door to help block the cold draft that was coming in. I have the kids sleeping in sleeping bags, with box fans blowing from the living room down the hall toward their bedrooms to circulate the hot air from the stove. On super cold nights we pile mattresses in the main living area and close off all of the bedrooms to keep warm.

The chickens seem to be doing alright. Before the storm blew in, Jerry wrapped the windows and door of the chicken coop with thick plastic, and filled the interior with fresh straw. He also experimented with putting a bottle of salt water in the chicken water to keep it from freezing… a trick he’d read somewhere. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. The two liter bottle of salt water didn’t freeze, but the bucket of water it sat in froze around it, trapping the bottle in ice. We’ll just have to continue refilling their waterer with hot water every morning. The chickens will venture out into the snow, but I have to rescue them and return them to the warmth of their coop when their feet get so cold that they seem to freeze in place and they refuse to take one more step, even as the sun is going down (which is when they always return to the coop). So far none of the hens show signs of frost-bite on their combs.

Right now the house is a cozy 72* and smells of pumpkin pie, which is baking in the oven. We’ve been fortunate that our power hasn’t gone out in the storm. Usually we lose power as soon as ice forms. We have the generator parked under shelter behind the house, and lots of water bottles filled, just in case. And of course we have plenty of food. The solar panels aren’t getting any charge from underneath their blanket of snow. We’ll just have to wait until the sun melts it off.

The kids are getting a little stir crazy when they’re indoors. We don’t have cable or internet or gaming devices to entertain them, though we do have a DVD player to watch movies on when we get desperate. The kids have mostly been playing with their toys, reading books, pretending the clothes basket is an airplane, and cutting up colorful seed catalogues making collages of flowers and edible gardens. We all look forward to gardening season.

Speaking of gardens, I’m regretting not wrapping our young fruit trees before the snow came in. It has been on my to-do list since fall, but kept getting pushed off. Hopefully none of the trees will have damage to their trunks.

I love the way everything looks when covered with fresh snow. Especially the fir trees. However, I can’t say that I like the cold. I’m grateful we don’t live in an even colder climate. Our winters are typically pretty mild here in the southeast. Hopefully it will be cold enough to kill the larvae of bothersome garden pests.

This evening I was putting the chickens up for the night, my snowboots crunching their way through the frozen garden, when I took notice of the Jerusalem Artichoke patch. A few dead stalks are still poking up through the snow, the only evidence that anything ever grew there. I suddenly felt comforted knowing that just underneath that cold, white blanket lies a food source, still perfectly harvestable. I need to be more intentional about growing food that can stay preserved in the ground overwinter, just in case we should ever depend on it.

Anyways, I think I’ll go grab another cup of coffee. I’ve been drinking way too much lately. I said to myself that I’d quit drinking it starting at the beginning of the new year. That lasted about two days. Wintertime is no time to quit drinking delicious, hot coffee when you’re used to waking up to it each morning! Maybe I’ll quit in spring when dandelion root tea will be in season.

It’s supposed to warm up tomorrow. Maybe we’ll be able to venture out. Until then, I’m grateful to be safe in a warm, dry home full of love, laughter, and good food!

About Kendra 1132 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

14 Comments

  1. Ah, the good ol’ days!!

    Being snowed in, sledding, building igloos, hot cocoa and popcorn, tingling fingers and toes, making snow angels, hauling coal and wood for the pot-bellied stove. Brothers, sisters, cousins, all stretched out on blankets on the living room floor after a full day outside.

    And there was also trudging through a couple feet of snow with no boots, and hauling water a couple hundred feet from a pump well to the livestock, as well as digging through the mounds of drifted snow to find just a few ears of leftover corn stalks to feed the cows.

    We had no indoor plumbing, and no electricity, but I wouldnt trade the life experiences for anything. Tough times can make for tougher people, and memories that last forever.

    You, Little Girl, are making memories and teaching your kids things that they will never forget. God job!!

    P.S. Actual temp at my Aunt’s in northern Montana today was 24 below zero. I got nothing to complain about. Now I will go have a cup of tea…after I put another couple logs in the fire.

    Thoughts and prayers!!!

  2. We only hd about 2.5-3 inches of snow and we didn’t get out. Hahaha!! Can’t imagine as much as some people have. Your picture looked so pretty.

  3. Hi neighbor! I see you said you are wrapping your fruit trees. I’m going to be putting in a sizable orchard this year and am going to need to wrap mine next winter, how did you wrap them? I’ve read a few different approaches but not sure the best way yet.

  4. Kendra, I LOVED reading your snow storm adventures (and solutions) above. I would love to know how you make dandelion root tea from scratch. I do think it’s the closest in TASTE to coffee so in that way it’s satisfying but I’m going to paste a great drink recipe that might give you an energy “kick” to make up for the lack of coffee if you decide to quit. I pasted the article in it’s entirety (from Sacred Science) below:

    We’re right smack in the middle of winter here in the northern hemisphere and I thought it would be fun to share an ancient winter tea recipe from the high mountains of Tibet.

    This simple and potent beverage is revered in the “The Land Of Snows” for its mood-lifting effects, especially during the doldrums of the cold months – which get pretty darn chilly.
    The main ingredient in this tea is a cactus-like plant called rhodiola that somehow manages to thrive in the harsh altitudes of Tibet and Siberia. Once you try it, you’ll understand why this herb is used across northern Europe and Asia to boost strength, vitality, and overall happiness. You can actually feel its effects within moments of drinking it 🙂
    Rhodiola belongs to a unique class of plants called adaptogens, which are cherished in traditional medicine for their ability to restore, protect, and balance the body’s internal functions. This mountain-dweller has been shown to enhance focus and memory, raise energy levels, improve sexual function, and alleviate symptoms of depression.
    In the recipe below, we’ll be using Rhodiola’s barky root to make a delicious, cinnamon colored, and highly nourishing tea. Here’s how!
    Tibetan Rhodiola Tea
    INGREDIENTS
    4 tbsp. rhodiola root (available at health food stores or online)
    1 quart water
    1 tbsp. honey, optional
    1 wide mouth quart jar (a mason jar is perfect for this)
    1 fine mesh strainer
    PREPARATION
    • Place roots into the jar.
    • Bring water to a boil, then cool slightly.
    • Pour water over the roots, cover loosely and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes.
    • Strain into cups.
    • If you are adding honey, wait until the tea has cooled a bit first.
    This is the perfect beverage to enjoy on chilly mornings for lasting energy that warms your body from within.
    Stay curious (and bundled!),
    Nick Polizzi
    Director, The Sacred Science
    ________________________________________

    • Lizzie, thank you SO much for sharing that recipe!! Sounds amazing. No, dandelion root tea doesn’t taste anything like coffee. But it’s good to drink as a spring detox. I’ll have to look through my herbal books to find the recipe. I’m sure there are plenty online as well. 🙂

      • Hi, couldn’t help but take notice of this recipe! I am going to try adding it to my dandelion root, chickory root(now this has a similar taste to coffee and has health benefits too :), and organic chai tea mix, which I also add just a touch of organic Swiss filtered decaf coffee beans, and see how it tastes 🙂 My body doesn’t handle caffeine so well, but I love the taste and smell of freshly ground coffee! So, my reason for posting is maybe this mix would be feasible for you to try if you want to quit caffeine? Maybe you could start with 1/2 the amount of regular coffee beans in the mix and work your way to the decaf. Or even use the rhodiola with the decaf coffee beans in the mix to begin with and see if you feel that energy.

        Thank you Lizzie for the recipe, and as always blessings to you Kendra and your family 🙂

          • No, I have not heard of that, I love to try anything “coffee” , and will definitely look it up and give it a try. I love to make different blends of herbal teas, and this “coffee” blend has been my latest barista attempt……lol….anything hot and frothy is great on cold winter mornings. Thank you.

  5. Kendra, what kind of firewood do you guys burn? I know my husband keeps back a stash of locust for cold snaps. We usually burn ash as there are many to be harvested before they rot since being killed by the Emerald Ash Borer.

    • We burn what we can get. Mostly pine, oak, some walnut and some cedar. The pine burns so hot and fast it goes quickly. We try to mix pine and hardwood so that it burns hot but lasts a little longer. I’ll have to see if locust is available here. I’m really not sure.

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