December 2009 Chickens in the Road Newsletter

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December 2009 Chickens in the Road Newsletter


*Story: Winter’s Fury
*Kitchen Extra: Wooden Spoons
*Embarrassing Photo of the Month: The Power Outage Kitchen
*My Favorite Thing Right Now: This Picture
*Recent Highlights: Italian Cream Cake, Winter Encounter, Homemade Fire Starters, and More
*Sneak Peek: Cheese Wax
*Blast from the Past: Over the Hill and through the Woods

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*Story: Winter’s Fury

Tens of thousands of people were out of power in West Virginia for up to a week and even more in some areas. We were out of power on our farm for a solid week, right through Christmas Day. It was an experience I’m not likely to forget, and may relive the next time that much snows happens here. We had a foot of snow and while other parts of the country receive more snow on a regular basis without it wreaking such havoc, it is a disaster here. West Virginia is one incredibly wooded state, and the type of trees we have here can’t take the wintry weight. They bow under it and crack apart.


Above-ground power and telephone lines everywhere plow their way straight through trees along the roads.


All day long, the first couple of days after the snowstorm, every time I walked outside I heard the sounds of creaking, groaning trees…..and loud cracks and crashes as they fell. The sound of trees crashing is the sound of power and telephone going out. This tour of the aftermath was shot a week after the storm. These are fresh-fallen trees on the hillside above our meadow bottom. One of those trees took out a power line.


Fallen trees not only take out power lines but block roads. Whoever is the first out the road has to cut their way out.


Or stay home.


In some places, trees are still in the road.


These photos were taken along the secondary (hard) road off our rock/dirt road. It’s not that road crews won’t come, but in a storm aftermath of this magnitude, they can’t be everywhere at once. This is why people drive around here with chainsaws in the backs of their trucks.

A power outage is no fun, but it doesn’t have to be miserable. This is just the beginning of what is expected to be a very hard winter across the country. If you don’t have a generator already, go get one now if you possibly can. The worst time to try to buy a generator is in the middle of a power outage. I heard some stores were answering their phones with, “Hello, we don’t have any generators.” On the other hand, many stores ordered them after the storm and should have them in now–so go get one. If you have a generator already, test it and make sure it’s operating properly and lay in gasoline.

Other necessary basic supplies include candles, matches, disposable plates, cups, silverware, flashlights, and batteries. If you have a wood stove, get plenty of wood stashed, and make sure your propane tanks are full. (Check your propane grill tank supply, too–a gas grill is great for cooking during a power outage.)

If you know a storm is coming, fill your bathtubs and even your washing machine with water to use for non-drinking purposes. Fill up every container you can lay your hands on for drinking water or buy bottled water if necessary.

If you don’t have a generator, don’t let your food spoil! Put food in ice chests outside–it’s cold! You can also fill large bowls with ice or snow to put in your fridge and freezer. Keep your freezers full, by the way–a full freezer holds its temperature longer than a half-empty one.

And don’t forget to put a chainsaw in the back of your truck.

Or stay home!

*Kitchen Extra: Wooden Spoons

My favorite Christmas gift this year was a set of old wooden spoons from my mother.


You don’t see people using wooden spoons much anymore, though they are still handy. Wooden spoons have a thicker back to the bowl end than metal spoons, allowing you to truly stir rather than almost cut your mixture. Wooden spoons won’t melt if left too long in a frying pan like plastic, and even just the feel of them in your hand is nicer. These wooden spoons came from two of my great-grandmothers, my grandmother, and my mother, and come with a rolling pin and a display holder to hang them on the wall, which I think is nifty though I really want to use them.

My mother polished them, though, so I would feel guilty using them, and truly they are family heirlooms. The name of the family cook who used each spoon is printed on the backs of the handles. I have a few wooden spoons of my own, but they aren’t very sturdy. Not nearly as sturdy as my great-grandmothers’ wooden spoons. They knew how to make stuff right back then. I’m going to start looking for some good wooden spoons. Strong, sturdy wooden spoons meant for real cooking.

Like cast iron, wooden spoons are for passing down in the generations.

And this collection is missing one thing: MY spoon.

*Embarrassing Photo of the Month: The Power Outage Kitchen

Another seriously tragic revelation.


During our week-long power outage mixing bowls and pots and pans had to wiped out, scraped out, re-used. Nothing could be washed. Dishes piled up everywhere. Bottled water got in the way. I love to work in a tidy kitchen, so this was a nightmare.

*My Favorite Thing Right Now: This Picture


Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with that week-long power outage, but right now? I’m with Boomer.

*Recent Highlights: Italian Cream Cake, Winter Encounter, Homemade Fire Starters, and More

In the barn, you’ve got to see Clover’s Tiara, an update two and a half years later on The Dashboard Cat, and not an ending but only still the beginning of my attempts to keep ducks in Little Duck Mine. Find all my cute farm animal stories here.

It wasn’t all holiday treats in December! Try Georgia’s Italian Cream Cake and my Pear Ambrosia and if you have trouble slicing homemade bread, study my tutorial on How to Cut Bread. Don’t miss a thing in my kitchen! Get all my recipes.

See how hard I tried to befriend Winter and how Boomer ruined it in Winter Encounter, Winter’s subsequent backlash in Reflections from a Snowswept Morning, and tales from the resulting week-long power outage in Back from the Snowy Beyond. And you can’t miss The Farmhouse Year in Review 2009! See all my country living stories.

If you have a wood stove, find out how to make Homemade Fire Starters and you can also see me make Corn Husk Angels and Twig Stars. Check out all my other posts in crafts.

Watch me Digging Horseradish and Garlic in the Snow then see all my garden stories.

*Sneak Peak: Cheese Wax

It’s all about the wax.


I have a cheese press, but as of yet, no cheese. (Want to make a homemade cheese press for next to nothing? See How to Build a Cheese Press here.) Ordering the cheese wax was the hold-up. In fact, figuring out that I needed to order cheese wax was the first hold-up. A re-read of the farmhouse cheddar directions after I bought the milk and was ready to get started had me stopped in my tracks. Cheese wax by itself isn’t that expensive, but I knew when I made an order, I wanted to get some other supplies, too, so that I could combine the shipping costs. I used some Christmas money to make an order this week. A shipping order including cheese wax. I’m excited! I’m really going to make cheese soon! Farmhouse cheddar first, then more. I can’t wait to get started. (I put the two gallons of milk I bought for the cheese in the freezer. So no one would drink it. IT’S MY CHEESE MILK. The day my order arrives, I WILL HAVE THE MILK. One has to be on top of these things when there are children in the house or you think you have a milk and NO YOU DON’T.)

FYI, I get my cheesemaking supplies here. I use the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll.

*Blast from the Past: Over the Hill and through the Woods

See me drive over the snowy hill and through the wintry woods to help Georgia bake pumpkin bread then become sidetracked and lost in my love for the old farmhouse.

Revisit the old farmhouse with me in Over the Hill and through the Woods. I promise you, it’s worth the trip.

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