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The Whos Down in Whoville

Dec
26

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(Little, all tangled up in Christmas wrappings.)

For me, the holidays are so much about baking, it’s difficult to separate the two. Holiday = baking. Baking = holiday. They are that intertwined.

I had to survive a holiday without baking. At least, not in my oven. Luckily, I already had all the Christmas tree cookie ornaments made. But cookies to eat? There wasn’t much of that or anything else baked. NO PIES. Our power went out early in the morning on December 19, just as I was preparing to launch full-force into baking, for our holiday here and for gifts. NOT TO MENTION PIES.

Anyone who has been without power for an extended period knows–it’s a different world. Your life takes on a surreal perspective. Even with a generator, it’s not “normal” life. You survive and take care of your food stores and your animals. You can’t just up and head for greener pastures–a motel or a relative’s house–for the duration. Everything is difficult and there is a survival mode that takes over. Certain accustomed basics go by the wayside as if they never existed. Standards change. True necessities rise from the rest. And you find ways to make things happen that are special to you.

I was determined to not let the week-long power outage defeat me. I experimented with some alternative baking. (I honed the art of wiping out and scraping out mixing bowls to re-use because I couldn’t do dishes. We had water, but it was carefully rationed.) We have a wood stove, a gas grill, and a gas stovetop. I tried biscuits in the wood stove.
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Our wood stove isn’t cut out for baking. I would love to have a wood stove that was one of the real old-fashioned cooking wood stoves, but we don’t. It works well for simmering chili and beans on top and heating water or coffee.
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Baking? Not so much. I burned the bottoms of the biscuits. I just couldn’t figure out a way to set it up in there so that 1) the biscuits would actually bake but at the same time 2) not burn on bottom. (I even set the pan with the biscuits inside a cast iron pan with a rack, but it still didn’t work right.) Some type of real baking rack setup would help, but the direct fire under the biscuits is what burned them and our wood stove isn’t large enough inside to really avoid that problem.

I made a second attempt on the gas grill, which worked out much better only I baked them in a glass pie pan, due to the dearth of clean dishes, and the glass pan exploded, taking the biscuits down with it as it shattered. I WASN’T MEANT TO HAVE BISCUITS. I was successful baking pizza on the gas grill. I didn’t burn it, nothing exploded, and we had pizza for dinner two nights.
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Our gas grill has four burners (plus a side burner).
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To bake in the grill, first I’d heat the grill to the temperature I needed.
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Once it reached the right temperature, I turned off two of the burners and placed the baking pan over them so as not to bake over direct fire. It took twice as long to bake anything as normal, but this method avoided burning the bottoms. (Baking a cake here.)
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Christmas Eve dinner without an oven was ham, corn, green beans, and no biscuits, by candelight.
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But we had cake (Pictured here the next day, in the light.)
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The cake took FOREVER to bake (at the right temperature) in the gas grill. Obviously, there are major differences in baking inside a gas grill than baking in an oven because the right temperature didn’t get things done in the right time. Even keeping the cake pans away from the direct fire underneath, the bottoms were overdone. Not burned, just tough, from such a long bake time. What I ended up doing was slicing off the bottom of each cake layer. I made the cake twice because of that and had four thin layers to work with after slicing off the tough bottoms. I made a double batch of butter cream icing (no electric mixer! real old-fashioned here–hand whisking) and the cake turned out delicious. I MADE A CAKE. Under the most trying of circumstances. We had Christmas Eve dinner WITH DESSERT.
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Morgan asked if it was sugar cookie cake (because of the thin layers). Hmm. That sounds like a good idea! I crushed peppermints to scatter on top and called it Christmas cake.

We had a lovely Christmas morning, and as I look back on it now, I can’t see anything in my memory relating to power. I just see my children. As a late breakfast, we had bacon, eggs, and crullers. Crullers are fried, so it made a suitable sweet bread replacement for biscuits, which I didn’t want to attempt again. A fried bread was so much easier to deal with and I was still worn out from spending an entire afternoon baking that cake on Christmas Eve. The crullers recipe comes from my great-grandmother’s cookbook, so it seemed fitting for our truly old-fashioned Christmas with no electricity.
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In a seeming Christmas miracle, on our seventh day without power, the electricity came on just as I finished frying the crullers. It stayed on for about an hour. We spent the hour restarting the well pump and getting water up to the house. I got the dishwasher loaded–but didn’t have time to push the button to wash them.

The power went out again. One hour. That’s all we got.

We waited hours then finally gave in and hooked up the generator again. I was a little depressed. I read half a book then did some knitting and worked on my outage attitude.

In the second Christmas miracle of the day, the power came back on in the evening. I AM SO BAKING BISCUITS THIS MORNING.

IN THE OVEN.

By the way, do you know how nice it is to turn the light on in the pantry instead of searching for things with a flashlight? I want to turn the light on in the pantry every day for the rest of my life. IT’S MY NEW PASSION. That, and opening the refrigerator door WHENEVER I WANT TO.

A number of people have asked to see my entire Christmas tree.
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Yeah, that’s Dookie, the farm shih-tsu down there.
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It’s difficult to take a photo of an entire Christmas tree because you lose all the detail.
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But here it is! (As entire as I can get.)
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(That’s a corn husk angel on top.)

Happy holidays!

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on December 26, 2009  

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  1. 12-26
    1:21
    am

    I’m so glad your power is back on, but I think you did an amazing job without it! These memories are what you and the kids will be telling your grandkids about. The time goes by so quickly, once they leave the nest, it’s these memories and the love you share that will be important.

    Thank so much for sharing your life and family with us! It’s one of the best parts of my day!!

  2. 12-26
    1:41
    am

    I have some recipes that I got during my kid’s outings with the Scouts. I will type them up and email them if you want. I think there is a tip about putting a pie tin in a dutch oven upside down and then baking your biscuits. We even baked cake in the dutch oven and made an omelet in a bag.

  3. 12-26
    1:52
    am

    This is a website that I have used in the past. Broken Kid still likes cooking like this and even makes us cook his hamburgers the way he got them in Scouts. Pizza Burger – Hamburger patty and pizza sauce placed on a piece of foil and made into a packet. We cook it right along with the rest of the burgers on the grill and he loves them.

    http://www.scoutingweb.com/scoutingweb/program/CookingOut.htm

  4. 12-26
    2:48
    am

    I hope your electricity stays on! I’ve been there, done that many times. Your tree is wonderful and it sounds like you had a great Christmas. There are little camping ovens that might work on your wood stove – you might even be able to make your own. Also, I have a friend that bakes all kinds of stuff in a cast iron dutch oven.

  5. 12-26
    3:27
    am

    hi you can get new wood cook stoves,from several web sites just type in wood cook stove and go from there.they are pretty high.mite find one at a estate sale or action.but have someone with you that is familiar with them the fire box can be burned out and you wont even know it.you can also pick up a dutch oven that way you can bake biscuts at least with the wood stove you have.good luck

  6. 12-26
    3:34
    am

    Flapjacks were a fried version of biscuits with the ability to roll around ingredients making a great portable meal. When our last range died we purchased an electric-free range. And I love it. We lose power often but now can have full meals in spite of that problem.

    You did really well. Good for you. What confidence you must have now!

  7. 12-26
    4:31
    am

    You might want to see if you can find a cast iron spider to bake in at least that is what we call it it is like a dutch oven/ with legs

  8. 12-26
    4:35
    am

    I am so glad you have your electricity too…it is something we take for granted far too many times. We taught school without electricity last April…and wow…had to resort to the ‘old fashioned’ textbooks and notebook paper!! The students also learned how they can entertain themselves with some games and human interaction. We certainly made a memory.

    Oh, yes…we love to make pizza on the grill…even when we don’t have to!!

    Have a Happy Holiday Weekend. ~Natalie

  9. 12-26
    5:27
    am

    We went without power for nine days when Hurricane Isabel hit us a few years ago. I have never seen people wig out so bad. We just rolled with it [and granted - it WAS summer time, so it was a whole different spectrum than losing power in winter] but I have to say we have the most fantastic memories of living without power for over a week – the kids were little and we just had the best time.

    One of my favorite memories is the grill a thons we had [the neighborhood] because all of our freezer goods were thawing. At night you could walk outside and although the neighborhood was completely black each driveway was lit up by the grills – and we all walked around and sample whatever our friends were cooking. It was a food fest for a couple of nights.

    You and the kids did a great job preparing for this and seem to have enjoyed the endeavor! That cake looks tasty, nicely done.

    Merry Christmas Suzanne! All the best to you.

  10. 12-26
    5:37
    am

    All I can say is WOW. You make a power outage look fun! You inspire me to be a more productive. My New Year’s resolution is to get my many uncompleted projects done in 2010. I wasted so much time. Thanks for your beautiful pictures, you have a great camera.

  11. 12-26
    5:46
    am

    Thank you Suzanne, for a year of uplifting messages and pictures here – you’re a treat and a blessing, God bless you and keep your family, home and hearth safe through the coming year! :hug:

  12. 12-26
    6:02
    am

    If baking is a necessity for you then get your hands on an older gas stove that doesn’t have the electronic ignition. The kind that starts with a pilot light. You can turn off the pilot light to save energy, but still light them with a match or one of those stick lighters used for barbecue grills. Hook it up in the basement or somewhere out of the way. My parents put the old gas oven in their finished basement years ago when they remodeled and put in an electric stove in the kitchen. The old stove worked great for power outages and as an extra oven for big holiday gatherings. My Mom was able to serve both ham and turkey that way.

  13. 12-26
    6:23
    am

    I’ve never lived anywhere with true power outs (2 days is the longest I’ve ever experienced and the occasional ones before that were more like a few hours). I really admire that you could both survive and still make the holidays feel like the holidays. I also have to agree with the first poster about those being the stories the grandchildren will hear about someday :)

  14. 12-26
    7:37
    am

    You’ve been through it! But your tree is beautiful, and you have your health and your children and it seems you’re happy — so much more than so many.

    I hope you get your biscuits, and maybe a couple of lazy days not having to worry about everything!

  15. 12-26
    7:43
    am

    Wow, I am impressed with the cake. It looks delicious, too.

    I second the comments regarding the dutch oven. I’m an avid camper and if you look online for baking while camping recipes (there are a lot of them) many of them call for a dutch oven, although there are other methods as well.

    It sounds as if you managed to make lemonade out of lemons, though. Pizza without power? And crullers? You did a great job of adapting to a situation that would have driven most of us crazy.

  16. 12-26
    7:45
    am

    I wonder what putting the biscuits in a cast iron dutch oven, putting the lid on and putting on top of the wood stove would do??

    You did great…….experiments, that’s what life’s all about. That’s crazy business with your glass pan exploding!! WOW!!

    And maybe this was all about you taking time out and slowing down for a minute…….you’ve been crazy busy for a while now, you were given a forced time out. Without electricity, you would have been crazy busy still……….. {silver lining of a cloud} ;)

    So glad to have you back with us! :heart:

  17. 12-26
    7:52
    am

    This has been an awesome week (to read about, I’m sure not quite so much to live)!
    But you have to admit, you are self-sustaining!
    That is something that so few people are. I believe we all try, but how do we really know unless we have the boundaries tested!
    And what a gift to have been with your family during this!
    All I can say is, WOW.
    You really are my hero!
    Welcome back! And happy holidays!

  18. 12-26
    7:59
    am

    Ah, just think of the memories years from now when you all look back and remember the Christmas without lights. Kudos on the cake! Well done.

  19. 12-26
    8:06
    am

    Wow you look like you had a wonderful Christmas even without power. I am not sure if I would do nearly that well. Good job. Hope your power does not go out on you again.

    Try finding a cast iron dutch oven. Walmart has them usally. I know you can bake in them. Look up dutch oven cooking on the internet.

  20. 12-26
    8:31
    am

    That is the most mouth watering looking cake I’ve ever seen in my life.I’m sitting here drooling. Your tree is amazing.YOU ARE AMAZING!

  21. 12-26
    8:52
    am

    I’m so glad you have your power back after such a long time. You certainly met the challenge with flying colors. I can tell you love a challenge :) You made it into quite a learning experience. Good for you! The cake looks delicious.
    As for that one hour tease with the power back on….oh, I can just imagine how you felt when it went off again!
    Thanks so much for showing us your beautiful tree. I too kept hoping for more pictures of it. You did a wonderful job.
    Your Christmas sounds warm and happy despite the difficulties. Happy holidays to you and your family, Suzanne. May you enjoy a peaceful time of love and joy. :hug:

  22. 12-26
    8:56
    am

    Suzanne, Happy to hear your electricity is back on. I know it had to have been frustrating, but you weathered the storm beautifully and made fun memories for your kids. They’ll never forget Christmas 2009 with no power.

    Thanks for sharing pics of your tree and the cake on the grill.

    Happy Holidays!

    Susan

  23. 12-26
    8:59
    am

    I used to make flap jacks all the time on top of the stove. You make the bread batter just like biscuits only add a little extra water to make the batter pourable. Then you cook them like pancakes. You could maybe do this on top of the woodstove.
    That was a heck of a time for the power to go off AND stay off. But you survived and did well. The memories will last a lifetime. And you are teaching your kids how to survive when times are tough.
    You definitely had an old fashioned Christmas.

  24. 12-26
    8:59
    am

    My son and his family are currently in Northern Minnesota for Christmas and in the second day of a three day storm. Powers off and on, snowed in, and I am sure that they will remember this Christmas as being the best they ever had. (They are from Central Florida) Your and your children will have wonderful memories of this Christmas. With a little ingenuity we can do anything. Even bake. Love the tree.

  25. 12-26
    9:01
    am

    Glad you are back Suzanne. I don’t know if Debbie from Memphis lived here in the early 90’s but we lost power for 8 days due to an ice storm. My kids were little and we played a lot of I Spy, went to bed early and survived without tv. Our saving grace was being able to manually ignite the boiler in the basement and let convection warm the water in the radiator pipes. If you are warm and have a grill you can get by. From the looks of it you did much better than get by–you thrived. Glad to have you back–love the pictures.
    Mary

  26. 12-26
    9:09
    am

    Your holiday actually sounds so nice and peaceful. In today’s world, that’s a miracle in itself. Poor Clover must have been beside herself with no cookies!

  27. 12-26
    9:13
    am

    :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman:
    :woof:
    Suzanne–you have certainly become a complete new age pioneer woman.
    Even though you had to do with out many of your favorite Christmas foods, this is a Christmas you will all remember, and your Christmas cakes is as nice as any I have seen.
    It shows how planning ahead and hard work pays off.
    I know your Christmas was lovely. you were all together, warm and cozy and well fed, your animals all have good sturdy shelters and beautiful candles glowing-it looks perfect to me.
    Thank you.
    JO

  28. 12-26
    9:21
    am

    Beautiful cake and tree….!!!

    Try baking biscuits on top of the stove…
    Sometimes when we just want a couple of biscuits, I use a small (skillet) pan..mix a little dough-batter and don’t heat the electric oven…

    I’ve made “catheads” (big biscuits)many times on top of the stove in a skillet…just make your dough drop-biscuit consistency, (sometimes called drop biscuits) but not thin like pancake batter….Drop in a greased skillet…cover and letum’ bake…turn over and lightly brown the top….they are grrreat…shapes of biscuits look like catheads…lol..We make these on a grill when camping or have a power outage, too…
    But, don’t have your grill on high flame….low to medium works for me…

  29. 12-26
    9:21
    am

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Yes, we’ve had a couple of extended times without power (a week or so each time). We cooked in the fireplace – though slow, it was great. What we disliked was that darkness came very early, even with candles. Your Christmas looked lovely.

  30. 12-26
    9:26
    am

    Suzanne I have been following your blog since the old farm house days and I am living my meant to be country life vicariously through you right now.

    I must tell you that you have inspired me greatly throughout your country life journey and your preparedness this year has blown me away!

    I am determined to accomplish more this coming year because of you. I have read through your power outage posts and have realized that you do even more than I realized (and what I realized before was tremendous), and I know I can be more productive and accomplishing with my time. Thank you for the inspiration you have given me!

    I am toasting your accomplishments with my coffee as I type! Cheers!

    Kelly

  31. 12-26
    9:37
    am

    Congratulations on getting your power back. I have done biscuits on the top of a gas stove in a cast iron pan. What I did was put the pan with the biscuits in it over the lowest heat and cover the pan. When they were starting to brown a little on the bottom, I flipped the whole mess over and continued to cook them until they looked the same on the other side. They weren’t the same as oven baked, but they were really good. Hopefully you never need to try it.

  32. 12-26
    9:39
    am

    You made it through, tough pioneer lady. It’s a good thing WNY didn’t get the snow. My family was still shopping on Christmas Eve. BLLLEEEECCHHH!

    My husband is super jealous of all that snow. Right now its raining here. In Buffalo, land of the big snows. Can you believe it.

    Glad to hear that your Christmas was a good one, even with no biscuits.

  33. 12-26
    9:50
    am

    So glad your power is back on! We just got some flurries for Christmas day but it’s cold!

  34. 12-26
    9:58
    am

    Suzanne… When I was an active Girl Scout Leader, I took several classes in outdoor cooking. We did all of our camp cooking either outdoors over an open fire, or in a cabin fireplace. The pan that we used for “baking” we called a “spider”. Basically, it is a cast iron dutch oven with feet on it. And we never baked over flame. What we did was throw some charcoal briquettes in the fire, and let the fire and charcoal burn down. When the charcoal was white around the edges, we put the spider with its food contents off to the edge of the fire on top of a small pile of briquettes. Then we piled briquettes around and on top of it. The spider and coals functioned like an oven at around temperature 350 f. I’ll bet you can use the same technique in your woodstove, even with wood if you let it burn down to coals…

  35. 12-26
    10:02
    am

    The longest we have been without power is four days, it wasn’t caused by weather. We weren’t closed in at home, we could get to the store, so we did a lot of letting the store keep the food cold and we went down and bought just what we needed for the day. Cooking was all done on stove top, because I have a gas stove and we could light the burners manually.
    II feel so spoiled every time the power is off. I yearn to flip a switch, watch all the commercials on TV and dance to music from the radio. Do you know I never give any of those a second thought when the power is on? I am sure we all do that!

    BTW…Your christmas tree is so beautiful. Your adventures exciting. Welcome back to the world of electricity!

  36. 12-26
    10:16
    am

    Yeay Suzanne….you made it!!! What a great memory this will be for you and especially your children. One day down the road they will be passing this story along to their kids…about how they survived Christmas the ‘old fashioned’ way. Sounds like you still ate good despite the bicuit problem and your cake looks delicious! I love those dried orange slices and the way the light comes through them. Thanks for all the fun and giggles and especially for just being there for all of us. :hug: :hungry2:

  37. 12-26
    10:59
    am

    Hooray!! What an amazing story. I’ve been following you since the slanted farmhouse days too, and remember the no-aluminum foil crisis last winter… and now to see you get through this week long power outage AT CHRISTMASTIME no less with such a great outcome. I’m so happy and proud for you! I’ll bet it will be one of the Christmases the kids never forget, and tell their own kids about someday, not because of the power outage, but because of how great you made it for them! :) :heart:

  38. 12-26
    11:15
    am

    Congratulations on surviving the blackout!

    Here’s a way to make cornbread without an oven. You need a 9 inch cast iron skillet and a 9 inch or slightly larger cast iron round griddle. Grease then both and put them on the fire until the grease is smoking hot. Pour your corn bread batter into the skillet and invert the griddle over the top. Turn the fire down way low and cook for about 15 minutes. Holding them together, turn over so the griddle is on the bottom. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes on the same low fire. Lift off the skillet, and there you go. Perfect cornbread.

    Well, truth be told, perfect cornbread if you are Granny. If you are me, it will probably take some practice to get it right. Back when Granny was living with us, and was standing there coaching me, it was pretty good. Now, when I try it on my own it’s OK, but not evenly done.

    I don’t know if the technique could be adapted for biscuits.

    Julia

  39. 12-26
    11:28
    am

    Wow, a genuine Pioneer Christmas! I am sure it had lots of good points to it, and it’s a Christmas to remember!! But am glad you can wash your dishes in the dishwasher!

  40. 12-26
    11:56
    am

    Suzanne

    What a beautiful Christmas tree and the cake looks delicious.
    Have you ever tried fried biscuits? My mother-in-law would sometimes fry biscuits on the stove. I was amazed the first time I saw her fry the biscuits. It’s not hard just add a thin layer of oil to a skillet (cast iron the best)and fry them. They don’t rise as high as baked biscuits, but they will rise. The best part is a delicate, lightly crunch crust. Just try to keep the heat about medium.

  41. 12-26
    11:58
    am

    Your tree is absolutely beautiful! While the power outage caused disruption in your Christmas baking think of all the memories that were created for Christmas 2009. Maybe not terribly happy memories right now but in years to come I think the edges will soften and it won’t seem so bad. Your cake looks perfectly delicious. Wishing you many, many blessings in the new year.

  42. 12-26
    11:59
    am

    The tree is beautiful!! As for the cooking challenges look into a few souces (web or book) that focus on colonial cooking techniques – I think you need one of the cast iron pans that has a lid for holding coals!

  43. 12-26
    12:26
    pm

    Sounds like you ‘done good’. I think attitude is the most important thing in these situations. We were without power for 13 days a few years ago after an ice storm. Some people just totally couldn’t handle it and drove away til they could find some place with electric! The rest of us just did the best we could, and you do just fall into a new routine of survival. Anyway, I couldn’t ever get biscuits to work either, but I was able to fry eggs or bacon on the wood stove top, as well as bake a chicken. I’ve since read that if you can make a metal tent of some type, and have the bottom of the pan slightly off the stove top, that you can make things like biscuits or cookies. You’d have to have a pretty good fire going though. I was trying to use up as much stuff out of the freezer/fridge as possible so I tried several different things. Also wanted to thank you for the tips on cutting homemade bread. I rummaged around in my utensils drawer and found an actual bread knife I forgot I had, and waited til the bread was cool and it cut perfectly. Thanks!
    Tammy

  44. 12-26
    12:40
    pm

    Beautiful tree and beautiful memories.

    Glad your power is back on, though!

  45. 12-26
    1:19
    pm

    Looks like you had a lovely Christmas! You did GREAT with no power!!

    Suzanne, I made your overnight cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast! I made them the night before and cooked them up in the morning (and boy was I thankfully to have them already prepared!!) and they were a HIT! Everyone loved them! I made some cream cheese frosting to go with… YUM!!!

    Thanks! A new Christmas tradition thanks to YOU!!!

  46. 12-26
    3:03
    pm

    I agree Suzanne, you have to bake on the holidays! The cake you baked on the grill looks FABULOUS. We are due for a new grill this year – I’m going to make sure we have the best one for baking possible! :happyfeet:
    I love watching you progress from year to year and seeing your competence level consistently rise. It gives great hope to me for my future farm.

  47. 12-26
    3:28
    pm

    Ack the blogger ate my post. I bet you remember this Christmas over many others. You really are totally selfsufficient. No way would I have attempted baking a cake lol. Love the pic of Little.

  48. 12-26
    3:53
    pm

    :shimmy: YOU ARE A TROOPER!!! And your family!! I do not think this Christmas will ever be forgotten for you guys!! YUMMO to your cake. You are my hero…Inspiration!! I do not know if I could have survived!! lol
    Hugs Granny Trace

  49. 12-26
    4:48
    pm

    That’s what we did when our power came back on after 17 days without….I turned every light on in the house and left them on for several days….it was a wonderful feeling. My major ordeal was washing clothes – had to heat water up and then wash and rinse in the kitchen sink. Then dried the clothes on the makeshift line on the deck.

    I can just imagine the stories you have to tell us in the next few days. But most of all I am just glad you are back and running full force – getting your life back in order.

    Glad to have you back Suzanne and your blog!!! You are a treasure to my day!

  50. 12-26
    4:56
    pm

    Beautiful tree!

  51. 12-26
    5:25
    pm

    LOOS TO ME LIKE YOU STRUGGLES THROUGH JUST GREAT…THE CAKE LOOKS SO YUMMY! HOPE ALL GETS BACK TO NORMAL SOON! HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR TOO! Come say hi :D

  52. 12-26
    7:09
    pm

    shewww…our electricity was off from the 19th thru the 23…so grateful for electricity…..but we had a wonderful CHRISTmas as well. <3 :sun:

  53. 12-26
    8:04
    pm

    P.S. Thank you Suzanne for the pictures of your tree, I’m one of the people that asked for it. GORGEOUS! AND THE CAKE…..You out did yourself! Blessings to you and your family for 2010!!! :heart:

  54. 12-26
    9:08
    pm

    When I lived in the bushes of Africa, we built our own little oven. It was four pieces of old metal welded together into a box shape and a “rack” inside, and a door. We would take charcoal and heap on top and just keep them burning like you would for a grill. It would bake from the top down, but we made cakes, bread, and anything else one might want and have ingredients for. If you stick little legs on it to set off the ground, the charcoal could go under as well.
    You’ve done yourself proud, though, to weather the storm. It can only continue to improve your self-will to survive without electricity. It can be done! Nice Christmas tree, too.

  55. 12-26
    10:20
    pm

    I knew you would have a wonderful Christmas even if the power didn’t come on…the cake looks delicious, by the way!! :snoopy:

  56. 12-26
    10:43
    pm

    Lovely tree, so glad you have electricity back on. Your cake looks delicious. :snoopy: :snoopy:

  57. 12-26
    11:02
    pm

    Kudos to you Suzanne! So impressed by you….not just surviving all these days without power, but thriving! And at Christmastime to boot! Once again you are such an inspiration to us, just by being YOU and struggling through whatever in your special way. As so many have stated, what amazing memories for your and your family – just think, every year someone will start the conversation: “Remember the Christmas with no electric and Mom made that great CAKE???!!!” That being said, fingers crossed the power stays on!!!!! Happy New Year to you all!

  58. 12-26
    11:40
    pm

    Suzanne,
    I’m surprised no one has mentioned baking in a toaster oven. You could do that while you had your generator running. Toaster ovens don’t take a lot of juice to run. Not the same as a real oven but beats the grill. Cookies, cornbread and biscuits do OK in a toaster oven. In wee batches. Worth a try, you know this wont be your last long power outage. Other then the baking woes and water rationing you are pretty durn well prepared for remote WV winters. I think the idea of buying an older gas stove for the basement is brilliant. Shame I just junked one that worked fine.
    Leslie, who is so glad not to live remote anymore! LOL

  59. 12-26
    11:58
    pm

    You remind me of my childhood, when I spent many winters at my gradma which I used to call “Buni”. On severe days like these, I remember us melting snow on the woodstove, to get water for both cooking and washing ourselves….Oh, how I miss her! she made the best of the worst, always!

  60. 12-27
    1:52
    am

    We didnt have any power for a short time either. We returned to the camping days and fixed the biscuits on the grill by wrapping them in foil. Give this a try, it might help.
    Glad you have power again.

  61. 12-27
    2:19
    am

    I have just found your blog, and am loving your writing. It was great to see how you made the most of your situation with the power being out. Moments such as this can make us truely appreciate all the comforts and luxuries we have in our every day life. Can you imagine raising a family of 6+ with no power, no running water, etc. as so many of our ancestors have done? Wow!

    It looks like you had a truely beautiful Christmas Eve, enjoying the true blessings of the holidays!

  62. 12-27
    5:38
    am

    I’ve got the answer to baking without power. Build an outdoor wood fired beehive oven!

  63. 12-27
    7:41
    am

    Great tree. I’m betting you will remember this as fun in a few months :-)

    With my old house, an electricity outage was basically nothing, the hot water heater, stove, burners, and heating system were gas, and I always have lots of candles sticked up. The only problem was the refrigerator.

    Now I live in my old family home, and everything except the cooktop depends on electricity either directly or indirectly (pump for gas heated hot water heating system.)

    If I were building a house from scratch, I’d sure keep power outages in mind. I’d try to be off the grid as much as possible, too.

  64. 12-27
    11:36
    am

    I’ll tell you my Dad’s secret (he’s long gone) for camp cooking bisquits on the stove top. In our case it was an old two burner butane stove with exposed everything on cast iron feet. It was at our antique former quansit hut cabin in the woods that had electric but no running water or toliet… just an outhouse. I’ll take a photo of the old outhouse for you if I get up there again. The cabin roof is falling in now. Some VANDAL destroyed my Dad’s old handmade brick BBQ (it was huge with a chimney) made in 1950 something by him, George Zoeller, and his best friend, Joe K., a polish bricklayer.

    Anyway, he had a two sided omelet pan (plain steel not cast iron). He put store bought bisquits into one side, squeezed together. Cooked them on top of the stove. When he thought one side was done, he flipped it over to cook the other side. That might work on your old wood stove.

    Say, I need to start a blog about my memories of growing up in an urban place (San Antonio) but spending many weekends at the ‘cabin’ at Medina Lake. I’m going to do it SOON. THANKS for the inspiration. Love following you on Facebook too.

  65. 12-27
    11:47
    am

    Your cake came out beautifully…you have more of a pioneer instinct than I do…I would have sat and read the whole time the power was out!

  66. 12-27
    5:02
    pm

    Hey Suzanne,
    About baking biscuits over a wood fire.
    I saw a Paula Deen special where she had a guest from Colonial Williamsburg. He cooked biscuits in a dutch oven. One of those 3 legged cast iron pots with a lid. It was interesting to see how he heaped hot coals on top of the lid of the dutch oven. Might want to check it out. I bet a cookbook from Colonial Williamsburg would have lots of great tips and recipes for cooking over a fire and you could make them work in your woodstove!

  67. 12-27
    7:00
    pm

    I didn’t leave a comment yesterday, because it was early and I wasn’t sure I wanted everyone to read what I had to say…..if someone comes along now, it will be because they are a serious follower….I hope.

    We live in the country and about every three years or so, we have a lengthy spell without electricity, usually due to an ice storm. We’ve done without for as little as three days and gone as long as two weeks….depending on the amount of damage in the surrounding area.

    I can identify with all you went through. We have had successes like your beautiful cake and we have had some burnt offerings, like your biscuits. It is always interesting, sometimes even fun!

    As I was reading your blog last night, I couldn’t help but wonder how Miss “Good Mood” California would have coped? These are the kind of times, when our true selves emerge….in the way we handle adversity or times that are difficult. Do we make the best of a situation that is beyond our control or do we pull the covers over our head and hide?

    Suzanne, I really admire your spirit and your realness (is that a word?). You have made all of our lives richer because you are willing to share the reality of LIFE. If you ever stop calling your blog “Chickens in the Road” you can call it “LIFE 101″. Thank you for being yourself.

  68. 12-27
    8:14
    pm

    Thank you, Cheryl!

  69. 12-27
    9:23
    pm

    You poor thing! I know what that’s like and it’s not pleasant. You are right about priorities. They change completely without electricity. I am glad you survived!

  70. 12-28
    5:15
    am

    You may find that some Scout website help with baking. When I was being trained to be a Junior leader, we went out for the weekend camping. We baked a cake in a cardboard box – lined with TIN FOIL! lol
    We used charcoal briquettes for the heat. And yes, we put the charcoal in a pie tin IN the cardboard box. Here’s a website on how to do it:
    http://odcooking.pragerfamily.net/boxoven.html It even has pictures of how to do it.
    This one is a step by step tut.
    http://safelygatheredin.blogspot.com/2008/10/how-to-make-cardboard-box-oven.html

    Also, here’s what you want to know about Dutch Oven cooking by a friend of mine:
    http://www.dianthomas.com/a-dutchoveninbackyard.htm
    http://www.dianthomas.com/c-dutchoven.htm
    and a book she wrote about roughing it “easy”.
    http://www.dianthomas.com/products.htm – about 1/2 down the page is where the video/books for “Roughing it Easy” start.

    By the way, snow is…FROZEN WATER. Melt it and you have…WATER. lol I scrap off the top 1/2″ and don’t go all the way to the bottom of the drifted snow – so I don’t pick up any dirt. Anyplace that hasn’t been walked on, peed on or show bird dropping is ok to use – unless you live in a HIGHLY polluted area. Even then, the pollution gets knocked out of the air by the early snowfall. By the time it’s 3 or 4″ deep, you can remove the top 1/2″ layer and then used down to about 1″ from the ground. We do this and make snow cream. It’s a layer of snow in a bowl, then a layer of sugar, then a layer of cream/vanilla. Repeat layers a couple of times and then stir it well. You want to just moisten the snow, not drown it in cream. YUM! YUM!
    Unfortunately for us, it’s not snowed enough to make this in about 10 YEARS. :no: :hissyfit:

  71. 12-28
    6:06
    am

    :snowman: :woof: :snowman:
    Well said Cheryl, I so agree. It would be intresting to see how that would play out! A real comedy!

    JO

  72. 12-28
    10:19
    am

    beautiful tree.. I am so impressed with how you coped with no power. I hope you get to have biscuits every day of your life and turn the lights on too :)

  73. 11-28
    10:22
    pm

    Did Isabelle (or isabell) come your way by chance? I remember we had to eat cold food for a few weeks after isabell (sp?) hit , man that was a pain in the hiney :hissyfit: .

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....



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