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Winter in the Country

Feb
8


On our second day without power, the snow was light in the morning, just floating bits of fluff carried on the icy air. The phone line was out most of the day yesterday–and we have no cell service at our farm–but the satellite internet was back. (I can upload new photos. Yay!) We are very isolated in these circumstances. No power, no phone, no cell service. No close neighbors. We are on a 40-acre farm in the remote boonies. The way out across the river is flooded and the way out over the dirt/rock road is covered in snow on top of mud.


I don’t mind the isolation and hardship. This is the life. You can’t get this in the suburbs, people! It’s not easy, but it’s so awesome. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and its self-sustaining accomplishment. Plus when I walk through the house at night in the dark carrying a hand-dipped taper to light the way, I feel very Jane Eyre-ish (and I know my degree in English was so worth it–sheesh, give me something, I don’t have a mall). I live on a farm and I love it.

We have plenty of gasoline for the generator. We still have water–we have extra tanks at the house. Our well is far away down the hill in the meadow bottom so we have extra tanks to regulate our water supply at the house. This serves us well during power outages. Not knowing how long the outage will last, we’re conserving.

The children aren’t here. They had planned to spend the night at different friends’ houses Friday night after school. That turned into the weekend and they are now at my cousin’s house. He has power. They can’t get home, and they are well taken care of and more comfortable where they are–and they can get to school. I am snow-bound with 52.

I cooked bean and egg burritos for breakfast and we made coffee. The hum of the generator is a constant accompaniment to life, background noise to the slow beat that the world seems to take on when electricity goes away. I knitted.

And I had the right size needles! I tried a dishcloth again from the dishcloth sampler book. Lo and behold, for the first time ever, I wasn’t making a mutant dishcloth. The gauge was right and my stitches were even and pretty. I could actually see the texture of the pattern emerging–correctly. (This is a honeycomb pattern.) I can knit! I’m still the slowest knitter in the world and I look like a monkey when I’m at it, but I can knit. It was my first real moment when I had a sense of accomplishment in knitting.

(Don’t even ask how long it takes me to do just that much.) I was going to teach the hens to knit but they were busy producing eggs.

(People often ask if I wash my eggs. Yes, I do. These are fresh-gathered eggs–some are clean, some not, depending on where the hen decided to deposit them.)

It had rained so much before the snow started Friday evening, we were already flooded in. The river has gone down some since, but the ford is still impassable.

Boomer: “Giant Puppy, we have discovered a new land!”

The sheep are always eager to be fed. They are two-ton balls of heavy fluff. They will knock you down when you’re carrying food.

Jack is always slow, deliberate, assuming nothing other than that everyone better get out of his way.

He is JACK. He doesn’t need to rush.

Jack: “I have arrived.”

Jester is…..

Jester. She thinks deep and carries a big horn. (Or four.)

Sweet, sweet Annabelle. The sheep have never accepted her. She is not a sheep. She is a dog! She hangs with Jack because he doesn’t like sheep, either. He lets her be one of the cool kids with him.

The real dogs like to go down to feed the sheep. It’s very exciting! We’re taking a trip! They must tag along.

Boomer runs along the fenceline barking at the sheep. He is so brave–from the other side of the fence.

The Cotswolds have been growing their long curly-crinkly wool for me. Another month or so and we will shear them and then I’ll be back to my hand-spinning, which I only began to learn last year and was distracted away to other pursuits. I need to work on it again, get better at it. Hand-spinning is simple yet difficult. If I can learn to knit, I can learn to spin. I will perservere. The Cotswolds have made such lovely curly-crinklies for me, I must! I want to knit and crochet with my own wool.

My car is parked at the bottom of the driveway, as it has been for over a week. I’m hoping the ford will go down soon as there’s no way I’m going over the road for two miles in this mucky, wet, snow over top of mud. It’s supposed to snow again tomorrow…. Spring, wherefore art thou?

I made beans into chili to eat with tortillas by the light of hand-dipped tapers. Have you tried homemade flour tortillas yet? They are so easy and so good. I make them in two dozen batches and they keep well in the refrigerator. I was so glad I made them right before the power went out.

Then I knitted whilst listening to generator-powered TV.

It’s winter in the country and all is well.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on February 8, 2010  

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  1. 2-8
    1:19
    am

    you have ALL the fun, get to it on those dish cloths I want a few.

  2. 2-8
    1:44
    am

    :purpleflower: :sheepjump: :snoopy: :sun: Hey Suzanne!!! I’m SO sorry you have no power!! You have a very hearty spirit, though, and will be fine! I’m impressed with your good cheer! We have 3 ft. of snow here, too!!!! Friends just shoveled me out!!! Enjoy! Try to stay warm!! Power is coming SOON!!!!!!!!!! :hissyfit: :shroom: :clover: :clover: :clover: :clover: :clover: :clover: :clover: :clover: :clover:

  3. 2-8
    2:04
    am

    How sooo very wonderful, that 52 is stranded with you….in your childless, candle lit, cozy abode, in the middle of the woods. Snuggling in front of the wood stove eating homemade flour tortillas. Sounds like heaven to me.
    Congrats on the knitting progress. I noticed that some of your stitches are ‘crossed’. If you try to remember to wrap your yarn around the needle, in the same direction every time, you will either achieve all ‘straight’ or all ‘crossed’ stitches but either way…you’re doing a great job.
    stay warm/ dry/ fed/ happy

  4. 2-8
    2:16
    am

    There is only one word to describe when the power goes out….PEACE! Embrace it, enjoy it….because all too soon normal will be back!

    Beautiful pictures and the knitting is coming along great!

  5. 2-8
    3:17
    am

    Beautiful pics. Enjoy the warmth and peace of your home.

  6. 2-8
    4:37
    am

    One of my goals is to figure out how to hook a laptop up to a stationary bicycle so when the power goes out, I can use pedal power to read “Chickens in the Road”.

  7. 2-8
    5:00
    am

    I’d take your [generator powered] “hardship” any day of the week.

    You did a spectacular job of making sure you would be comfortable come any scenario and I am glad you and 52 are enjoying it.

    Take care and enjoy!

  8. 2-8
    5:40
    am

    Stranded with 52 – eating homemade tortillas….life is good for you. Best of all your knitting looks awesome!

    Hope your power comes back on soon!

  9. 2-8
    6:40
    am

    My goodness, the Old Farmers Almanac is calling for snow in your(and my) region until April….won’t spring be a welcome relief? By the way order your garden seeds early…the media is reporting they are in short supply because of the cold, wet weather last year, plus the fact that Europeans have had to get there seeds from North America because of their weather last summer and autumn. I ordered mine this weekend.

  10. 2-8
    6:45
    am

    I love the pictures of the dogs in the snow. We got 30 inches here and Truman, my basset hound, refuses to go out. It’s too cold for his peepee.
    Your knitting inspired me to get busy crocheting, which I love, and I made several things. Check out my blog for photos. http://www.lifeofadailypainter.com And thanks for keeping us inspired!

  11. 2-8
    6:47
    am

    Life in the country. Isn’t it wonderful?! Great job knitting! I knew you could do it. Bet you can’t wait to start spinning your own yarn. You’ll have to do what I did…learned to knit, then spin, then weave. I wanted to create a project from scratch. Grow the wool, spin it, weave it, wear or use it. DId it all but actually grow the wool. I’ve always wanted to have sheep. Glad to hear all is well.

  12. 2-8
    7:03
    am

    Love the first picture. That is just crazy looking. lol. Sorry you do not have power. But so nice you can snuggle in with 52 with no kids around. And both of you taking care of the animals.

    We are pretty much homebound yet. And the weather man is calling for more snow. I have to take the 4wheel drive out to the store or have my dh take me later. It all depends if he has work to do at work today. He might end up being home again too.

    I am working on knitting a dishcloth also. I learned a new stitch!! I was so happy about that. lol. Dishcloths are small easy projects to learn to knit new stitches. Plus you will have something pretty and useful to use. Its a win win. And if you mess up a little no one will know. :) You are doing dishes with it. :)

    Keep warm and safe. Give all those critters an extra cookie.

  13. 2-8
    7:05
    am

    Do you wash your eggs when you collect them, or just before you use them? I don’t wash until I’m about to use them, in order to keep the “bloom” intact so they stay fresher. But sometimes eggs hang around here a while. Maybe you use them up faster than me!

    While your isolation looks lovely, I am a worrier and I know I’d have a hard time relaxing and enjoying it! I like to know there’s a way in or out in an emergency!

    Hope your power is back soon.

  14. 2-8
    7:08
    am

    I think it sounds lovely and romantic, being snowed in with your sweety, all toasty with the wood stove, munching on tortillas…….

  15. 2-8
    7:09
    am

    It’s nice to see the sheep upclose again.I’m glad youre all comfy and cozy,you planned ahead and worked hard for it to be so! And, you’re kniting! I have to say I’m glad IN is just on the outskirts of the Winter Storm Warning tho,we only get a few inches at a time and the snow only lasts a few days so far! :wave:

  16. 2-8
    7:13
    am

    I want to spin your wool, too!!! Will you be selling any?

    I’m actually going to be teaching beginning spindle spinning at the Kanawha County libraries starting in March.

  17. 2-8
    7:18
    am

    I don’t mind when the power goes out. It’s so cozy with the wood stove going and the oil lights burning. I love your recipe for homemade tortillas. You have my mouth watering for them now. I like the pattern you are knitting.

  18. 2-8
    7:23
    am

    Suzanne, I’m curious: what does 52 do on these snowed-in days?

  19. 2-8
    7:29
    am

    I’m sure many of us understand and appreciate your life! Many great photos in this post, but the next to the last with the candles is magnificent! It must be neat to knit with your own wool. Such sweet critters.

  20. 2-8
    7:36
    am

    What a wonderful little vacation you’re having….(well, besides taking care of the animals, but you love that anyway!) No kids, snowed in with 52, no pressing issues so you can pay attention to your knitting, candles lit all around……. Old man winter is just trying to prove to you all the things you can do. He keeps taking away your electricity just to make you work on it!

    Hope you’re back with the electricity world today! :heart:

  21. 2-8
    7:45
    am

    In one of the pictures it looks like one of the sheep is laughing at Boomer. :lol:
    It amazes me how you have just the right words to describe life on the farm. Makes me want to learn how to knit and I definitely want to learn how to spin!

  22. 2-8
    7:48
    am

    What a difference experience makes, eh? I remember last year and how challenging it was when you were snowed in….you have done a wonderful job preparing….

    Love the pictures and the story…what a wonderful life you have fashioned! Now how would your kids do being snowed in? I think mine would have been stir crazy! When they were little snow days were such a thrill, but I really had to push them out the door this weekend. We got about a foot, but suffered no power loss or really any inconvenience. We were plowed/shoveled out by noon.

  23. 2-8
    7:53
    am

    We just finshed a 10 day run with no power. I’m so ready for spring to arrive…hurry up Spring! Ours was an ice storm & it was a doozie. I’m curious, how do you store your gas for the generator? Our generator sure was eating through lots of fuel….we learned many lessons and we are trying to figure out a way to do things better….shiver, “next time ” we are without power….which I hope is avery long time from now….I really LIKE my washer & dryer RUNNNING..lol

  24. 2-8
    8:27
    am

    Yeay Suzanne!!!…your knitting looks wonderful! I hope your snow goes fast so you can drive your roads again and cross your river. We got snow here in our part of Kansas…they said the other day we were to have snow till Tuesday but I think it may have stopped. It’s definitely a ‘winter wonderland’ out there so I’m heading out with my camera soon. May as well enjoy it as there’s nothing we cn do about it. Enjoy your day! :hungry2:

  25. 2-8
    8:44
    am

    The knitting looks great! Perseverance pays off.
    You have such a wonderful place and a great assortment of animals to keep you company, along with 52, of course.

    I would LOVE to be snowed in for days, as long as I had enough supplies. It sounds like a quiet and peaceful life, an ideal arrangement.

  26. 2-8
    8:48
    am

    Suzanne,
    Have you ever thought about writing historical fiction? What a great book there is to tell about your area of West Virginia! You could start with the generations before you locating there and the hardships and joys of their life. You could also include why many of your people left,and what brought you and your family back to complete the circle. Of course it would be historical fiction so you could put your imagination to work to develop the characters and their individual lives. Just a thought because I know you write books and I would love to read a book or a series about all of that.
    grace and peace,
    julie

  27. 2-8
    8:48
    am

    Gald to read that u are fairing the storm well. I’m learning how to use a smart phone; this am i was able to read you home page for the 1st time.

  28. 2-8
    8:49
    am

    Snowed in with 52 – how romantic! Enjoy!!!! :snuggle:

  29. 2-8
    8:59
    am

    Betty–chop wood. :)

  30. 2-8
    9:16
    am

    I think it all sounds quite wonderful….you have everything you need!! I love snow days for the opportunity to relax a little, keep the world out and play with what makes me smile.

  31. 2-8
    9:19
    am

    Serene and idyllic, no one can ever have a better life. The sheep are so pretty, looking forward to seeing your creations from their wool!

  32. 2-8
    9:34
    am

    According to studies, unwashed eggs will last in cool temperatures (like a root cellar) 6 months or more with no noticable change in quality. Soon as you wash the bloom off, that time drops to a few weeks. Just some info! :)

  33. 2-8
    9:41
    am

    mmmmmmmmmm sounds like a pattern here-snowed in with 52 and no children……….love it!!!!!!!!!! :sheep: I know -I know- :happyflower: you still have chores..but…..knitting looks great-photos wonderful as always!! have a great day!! rain :sun:

  34. 2-8
    9:58
    am

    It’s 33 degrees in Panama City Florida this morning but the SUN is out!!! I haven’t seen the sun in weeks.

    Your knitting is looking good to me! Way to go!

    All the animals looks so wet…LOL That snow is cold looking.

    Deb

  35. 2-8
    10:26
    am

    Suzanne, You are like the pioneer woman of the 21st century! It is so inspiring to read your posts. Just heard the power is out in half my little town so just in case, I filled up the bath tub! I have bottled water to drink but need water to flush toilets!! Hopefully it won’t go off here. I hate being cold, it’s the worse! I do have a fireplace but it sucks all the heat from the rest of the house. I’ve thought of getting a wood stove insert. Hmmm. I used to knit when I was young. Maybe it’s something I should try again : )) We had a hoar frost this morning when I got up. I was out getting photos at 8 am. I’ll post some later. You need to have an Etsy shop and sell those little wash cloths!!

  36. 2-8
    10:28
    am

    How lovely! I could use some “peace in the valley” right about now. Enjoy your quiet time. Cate

  37. 2-8
    10:41
    am

    It sounds so peaceful and lovely. Enjoy. :sheep:

  38. 2-8
    10:57
    am

    BTW, Suzanne – –
    Your kids are fine – – We are feeding them store-bought Pop Tarts, DiGiorno’s frozen pizza, Cheezits and chips. Tonight, we will probably have Hamburger Helper (the store bought kind). LOL :lol:
    When Weston came back yesterday, the 3 teenagers (your 2 and mine) went upstairs and played Wii right over my head while I was trying to sleep for night shift work! :grinch:

    They are great to have around. We’ll try not to spoil them too much! :yes:

    :heart:

  39. 2-8
    11:19
    am

    Your dish cloth looks fantastic! YAY! For you!
    It does sound wonderful to be snowed in. You have everything there you need, except for the kids. The animals have everything they need. All is well.

  40. 2-8
    11:22
    am

    Sounds like a romance novel in the making to me. Stranded in the boonies with 52 and no power or phone…hmmmmm

  41. 2-8
    11:23
    am

    It sounds very cozy there on the farm :sheep: Warmth, water, good companionship, delicious food, friendly critters…and knitting (good on you…it looks great! I knew you could do it!)…what more could a body want?
    Enjoy your isolation while it lasts :sheepjump:
    I do hope your road conditions improve soon though.

  42. 2-8
    11:39
    am

    Congratulations on winning the knitting battle! I knew you could knit because there is no “give up” in you. The pictures are wonderful. We have some smow (about 1-1/2 inches) but I am afraid the prediction of 6-8 inches was someone’s pipe dream. The high country here in Colorado has really been hammered; one ski area has over 283 inches of snow. Enjoy the solitude with 52.

    Euni in CO

  43. 2-8
    11:59
    am

    Beautiful! Doesn’t it feel good to be so self-sufficient? You have learned so much since last year. You should feel very proud of yourself. Enjoy being snowed in!

  44. 2-8
    12:19
    pm

    I just discovered your site – loving it! Am going to bake your Over the Top cinnamon buns as soon as the weather breaks and I can make a dash for the store! (for cream of tartar)

    That’s a long time without power. We, too, are relatively isolated on our acreage in the country, so we also have to be prepared.

    No power means no well, as a rule, but we recently discovered an amazing old well on our property that doesn’t freeze over, so we no longer have to store extra water for the critters, yay!

  45. 2-8
    12:48
    pm

    52—you get the “Man of the Snowstorm” award for sure. We all appreciate all that you do to keep our Suzanne happy :snoopy:

  46. 2-8
    12:52
    pm

    Hey, that 52 is a household treasure! Lucky you, Suzanne!

  47. 2-8
    1:25
    pm

    52- *Simply* You are a keeper. :yes:

  48. 2-8
    1:40
    pm

    So glad to see 52 speak up here! I hope you both take advantage of some of the time you’re stranded together – it can’t all be about chopping and splitting and stacking and feeding and cooking and…and…??? :hug:

  49. 2-8
    1:43
    pm

    oh wow those sheep look great,would love to spin me some of that.
    52, you rock dude!
    Enjoy, the spring will be here soon enough, then the real work starts
    anni

  50. 2-8
    2:17
    pm

    Awwww 52 – we thank you too for all you do for Suzanne. Yes she works very hard with her farm, family, cooking, baking and blogging for us – keeping the forum going…..both of you are a part of my day every day.

    Suzanne – “52” is a keeper!!!!!

  51. 2-8
    2:56
    pm

    I was going to comment in support of 52, but I read the rest of the comments and he has beat me to it – twice. What I was going to say is:
    I suspect 52 is busy tending the fire in the wood stove; tending the generator (which S. can’t start if it should stop); chopping and carrying firewood up all those steps to the porch; heaving ‘n tote’n bales of hay for the sheep and all the other critters (which would take several hours in that deep snow); checking on pumps and water supply; and looking forward to coming inside to the warmth and one of Suzanne’s wonderful hot meals! Suzanne, working with wool (spinning, etc.) seems to me to be a wintertime, cold weather project. I think I couldn’t do it in the warm weather with my sweaty hands. I bet next winter you will be into the wool projects and excited over learning more. Brings to mind Tasha Tudor. She had sheep and spun and wove her own fabric and made her dresses in the pattern of past eras, suitable for her 1830’s New England lifestyle of peace and self-sufficiency.

  52. 2-8
    4:02
    pm

    Your knitting looks great!

  53. 2-8
    4:23
    pm

    I’d love to be stranded in a place like yours!
    I’d read and read and read and read all day long. Well, after the animals were fed and the fire tended to and supper was bubbling on the wood-stove. But after all that, maybe I’d just nap instead!

  54. 2-8
    6:18
    pm

    No power… no children… fresh tortillas and a house alone with 52? :airkiss: Sounds perfect to me. Where can I sign up for the power outage. Actually we’re having lots of snow here right now so I should bite my tongue.

  55. 2-8
    7:04
    pm

    The best part about snow days at my house in WV is when I go to work and school teacher hubby works on the basement remodel. Insulation, drywall, mudding, sanding, paint, wall built, two doors installed, and the dog stays warm in the house supervising. This has been a great year so far! :happyflower:

  56. 2-8
    7:32
    pm

    As Midwestern small-city dwellers but in an 1858 Italianate house decorated appropriately, when our power goes out (at least once a year), we are ready with oil lamps and candles, too. Some years ago when the children were little, the power went out on a stormy winter school night. There was still homework to be done so the 3 kids plunked themselves on the floor by a fireplace to use the light and enjoy the warmth. When the electricity came on a couple hours later, they were actually disappointed! Now young adults, they still remember that evening of “magic”, as well as others, and couldn’t imagine living in a modern house without the character, mystery and OPPORTUNITIES of an old home. I’m envious of your farm adventures…

  57. 2-8
    7:46
    pm

    How Sweet! I love it when 52 comments. Enjoy your snowed-in selves! (Woo-hoo!) I’m glad you are so well prepared for the outages and being stranded. You’re awesome Suzanne!

  58. 2-8
    7:50
    pm

    …Oh, so sorry. 52 is awesome too and I’m glad you have each other!!

  59. 2-8
    8:01
    pm

    I love that last shot of Coco and Boomer…such symmetry..big and little! :snoopy: :snoopy:

  60. 2-8
    8:09
    pm

    I love your photographs! I’d forgotten how different wool breeds are in comparison to the meat breeds common here. Your Cotswolds look a little different from our Hampshires and Suffolks.

  61. 2-9
    12:10
    am

    Okay…let me get this straight…your snowed in with…
    Heat, great food, no minors under foot, 52 who is not only hot looking but also seems understand about things needing done like wood splitting and maintaining the gernerator, knitting to learn or not….I’m having a little trouble working up some sympathy for you her girl. :lol:

    Here in Southwestern Michigan we are due to be hit with a good size snowstorm. Storm warnings out for all of Tuesday and Wednesday. Could be up to 9 inches of snow. You know what that means in this neck of the woods….plan to leave early so you have time to get to work on time.

  62. 2-9
    3:54
    pm

    Your Cotswold’s have the sweetest faces!

  63. 2-10
    7:50
    pm

    We LOVE power outages, but for totally different reasons than anyone else, I am sure. Both hubby and son are linemen, and all those outages mean lots of extra much needed money for a lineman! Son did work for 42 hrs. staight with no sleep and almost no sitting down 2 weeks ago, so it IS extremely grueling for them. If you see linemen out working, take them a treat (especially something warm)~they will love you forever!

    You are getting there with your knitting. You are right where I was a 1 1/2 yrs. ago, and now it is all I want to do! WARNING~you keep at it and you become extremely obsessive about it. I do all sorts of other crafts too, but there is nothing as addicting once you get the groove going on.

  64. 12-5
    7:58
    pm

    We got a tease of flurries. Send some snow to me…I love it. I know you do get kinda use to having problems with power. Summer storms, wind, snow and ice the only thing that does rest is the power company it seems to make things a little tougher on the farm.

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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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