I woke Saturday morning to snow and darkness. No power. No satellite internet. The world is very still when nothing is running. You forget how still it can be. No low hum from the refrigerator. No television. No central heat to kick on.
There was noise outside. Branches cracking under the weight of snow. Roosters crowing from roosts they refused to leave. Light thumps against the goat house floor and walls as animals rearranged themselves, nestling together to share body heat.
The phone line was still working, so I could use the old-fashioned non-electric phone to call the power company and report our outage. No panic here. This year, we are second-year farmers. We’re smarter than first-year farmers! We have a generator. We have wood piled up and we have a wood stove. We have food laid in for an army, much of it home-preserved over the long, wonderful summer and autumn months of bounty.
Knowing the storm was coming, I simmered a big pot of beans the night before. I took out the pot of beans and set it on top of the wood stove to heat it up. Banking the fire overnight is still in the learning curve phase. There were hot coals in the bed of the wood stove, though. I struggled a little to start a fire in the cold, cold house.
While winter is difficult, it’s also like the final exam. Without it, how would we prove to ourselves that we had, indeed, become self-sufficient? There’s a certain satisfaction in winter’s hardships. We spend our months of plenty preparing for this very moment. The moment we can stick out our tongues at winter and say, HA.
In today’s sophisticated world, self-sufficiency is in many ways not entirely necessary. In most urban and suburban areas, you can expect power to be restored in a reasonable period of time. Even if it’s not restored quickly, you can expect the streets to be plowed so you can go across town to someone else’s house who has power, or even to the public library. You can find a restaurant with power and buy your dinner. In truly dire circumstances, there are even shelters. There’s a collective joint-sufficiency to fall back on. In the most rural of places, there’s no such thing as road plows and you can expect to be last on the priority list for power restoration. And from a remote farm, there is no going anywhere for anything.
For some reason, there are those of us who leave the collective cocoon of public care, determined to test our grit against the challenge of self-sufficiency. Maybe it’s stubbornness. Maybe it’s arrogance. Maybe it’s the desire to meet and defeat challenge. Other people jump out of airplanes. Some climb sheer mountain faces. Still others race cars. It’s all about testing some deep place inside that the comfortable, secure world today won’t make you test otherwise. For the “new” back-to-the-landers, it’s surviving winter on a remote farm. That’s our airplane, mountain, or race car.
At least that’s what I told myself as I sat in the still, early morn dark after finding the telephone and the power company’s number by candelight. I was cold, still having trouble getting things going in the wood stove. I poked at the fire, made it finally flame bright.
And I felt like a total hero.
This post was written using generator power and dial-up access. I was not able to upload any photos. (Which is why the Daily Farm Photo hasn’t changed and the thumbnail for this post in the sidebar is recycled from last winter.) We have had about a foot of snow. A tree could crash onto the phone line at any time, which would remove that access. I don’t know for sure when power will be back, so generator time for the computer is limited as we need our generator gas for other uses and perhaps more days without power. Hopefully, our electricity will be restored by the time you read this post. I’ll keep you updated if I can. The snow is GORGEOUS! We’re in winter wonderland!