It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets… No, that’s not quite right.  Let’s try again

A screaming comes across the sky. Huh?

Elmer Gantry was drunk. Go away Elmer and sober up

In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. Oops – wrong season

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. You need some therapy bud…

This is the saddest story I have ever heard. Fairly accurate but a little too much drama

We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. Oh yeah – we’re closer

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Okay, that’s closer still

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Yes – found the perfect title!

And so went my search for the perfect blog title.  For those among us that are a little curious, every italicized word above is one of the 100 most famous lines from a famous book and no, I’m not going to tell you which one.  Look it up (or as we say with tongue playfully inserted into part of the cheek,  LMGTFY.)

This winter, we had a low temperature of 9.5 degrees, low wind chill of -10.5.  Pipes froze that had never frozen before and we have been down to 15 degrees previously.  In spite of running (running, not dripping) our faucets we still had frozen pipes (and consequently no water to the house) as did a whole bunch of others in the hill country.

Having no water was quite a shock for us since John thought he had all of the pipes well insulated (they actually were!)  Jane made a run to our little mini-market/gas station in Harper and bought all ten of their gallon jugs of distilled water (all that was left) so we could at least flush the toilets.  (Question: how many jugs of water does it take to flush a modern toilet? Answer: almost two one gallon jugs or about $2.50)

The next day without water, Jane made a supply run to a larger city and bought 15 of their 16 gallons of water.  We also bummed some water off our new neighbors.  (The next morning they were without water!)

John dressed for cold weather

Toasty warm in insulated overalls

John was well equipped for a hard winter at least for winter wear.  He bought insulated overalls last winter and while in Iowa last summer, bought a surplus Swiss military cap that covered most of the head/face/neck.  He found out that even the ‘normal’ insulated gloves don’t work real well after 30 minutes or an hour out in 10 to 15 degree weather.

The daily routine for three days was:

-get up from bed and wipe your face down with a damp whatever and brush teeth, etc

– have breakfast (we tried to have breakfast at our one cafe in town, but they didn’t have water either and were closed)

– John suited up and went to the barn to take care of the animals.  Break up ice in the tanks with a 20 pound T-post hammer, distribute alfalfa hay and corn for the antelope and the pet deer. Refill the barn cats food bowl

– repeat most of the above steps at noon and end of day

– eat the evening meal

– refill the kerosene heater (adjunct heat for our little house)

– prepare for bed – wipe face and body down with a baby wipe.  Ah, what a refreshing shower

To take care of Buckaroo the pet axis deer, John had to carry a propane torch with him to thaw the gate latches to open Buck’s pen.

The irony of all this is we always thought of the motorhome as our ‘emergency’ house – it has a diesel

Ice on the inside of our metal framed windows

Ice on the inside of our crummy metal framed dual-pane windows

generator, water tank, etc.  Problem was the water tank on the coach was empty. Very bad planning not soon forgotten (maybe.)

By the time we thawed out with warmer weather, there wasn’t much water left in the animal’s water troughs since John would break up the ice and scoop it out with a hay rake.  By the end of the great freeze, there was only about 4-6″ of water left and John was getting really concerned we would not have water for the animals if this deep-freeze continued and he continued to throw out the water in ice form.  By the third day it was getting stressful since we were not equipped for this sort of weather and our routine had been dramatically interrupted.

Oh, that first day of the arctic blast, we had rolling blackouts (the media called them “brownouts” – when you don’t have electricity for 20 or 30 minutes out of every 60 minutes, that sounds like “blackouts” to us.  If it was a “brownout” wouldn’t you think that instead of 220 volts your house is usually supplied with you would have 195 volts?  100 volts? 50 volts?  Duh!)

Sassy the Corgi eating ice from the stock tanks

Sassy the Corgi eating ice from the stock tanks - this is after we thawed out

Our portable kerosene kept us well supplied with heat, and it didn’t matter that we did not have electricity since the pipes were frozen.  No reason to power the well and house water pumps.  (John will buy and install a standby generator for the house after this experience.)

We try to learn from our experiences and John decided there was a better way to provide ice-free drinking water for the animals in freezing weather, so he ran electricity to Buckaroo’s water tank and one tank in the barn for the other animals for a floating tank heater.  The floating heater will turn on at 40 degrees and keep the water from freezing.  Problem solved.

For the frozen water pipes, John installed three heat cables (by the pump house and water storage tanks) and added a new electrical outlet on an outside wall of the pump house for the heat cables.  Since we’re now significantly better prepared for very cold weather, we probably won’t have a winter like this for many more years.  However, water in the stock tanks does usually freeze over at least one or twice each winter, so that reoccurring problem is now mitigated.

God Bless and thanks as always for keeping up with us!

Jane and John