Old Man Winter

I’ve had my share of winter now, and then some.

Up until Monday the weather had been quite mild, and almost spring-like in the past week or ten days. There hadn’t been a flake of snow. On Sunday it was 70°F (21°C) here at Schloss Bodissey.

All that changed late Sunday night and early Monday morning. The temperature had dropped steadily during the night, and the rain changed to snow. When I got up at 8:00 in the morning, there were near-blizzard conditions outside the window. The snow looked like it was wet, and the wind was whipping the pine trees back and forth. The lights flickered a couple of times, then came back on.

After I ate breakfast, I turned the computer on and was about to post a message about a possible outage. Unfortunately, as soon as the machine booted up the lights went off again, and stayed off. The computer is on a UPS, which gave me enough time to close everything and shut it down properly.

And it kept snowing hard. In the afternoon, when it finally quit, I went outside and measured it: 10.5 inches (27cm). So I was snowed in, and without power.

Two modest-sized trees had fallen in the yard. I could see one small tree (a dogwood, as I discovered later) canted over across the driveway a little ways down. Not too bad — I could deal with that one. It wasn’t until the next day (Tuesday), when I walked down the driveway, that I discovered that the way was completely blocked by fallen pine trees, some of them quite large. I don’t have a chainsaw, so I was stuck here until I could round up some help.

The phone was still working on Monday evening. I called one of my stepsons in Richmond to let him know the situation. The next morning, when I picked up the phone, the line was completely dead. So I was without electricity, without a phone, and had no way to get out.

I walked down the driveway — detouring through the woods at one point to avoid a deadfall of little pine trees — to the main road to talk to one of my neighbors. Her electricity and phone were out, too. The poor woman lives in a double-wide with no non-electric heat. Fortunately, she has kin just down the road, and said she could stay with them if it got too bad. I was relieved to hear that, since she’s in her eighties, and there was no way I could have got her back through the woods to get warm in my house.

I was somewhat better off here, because I have Dymphna’s gas cooking stove. She bought it more than ten years ago after we went through several ordeals like this one, and she made sure to get one with no electronics — it doesn’t even have an electric connection. When the power goes out, it works just fine.

I devised a system where I kept three large cooking pots filled with melting snow on the range, set on low heat. That provided nice radiant heat in the kitchen. I was able to keep the room at 64°F (18°C) during the day, but it went down to 57° (14°C) at night. In the bedroom it was somewhat colder — about 56° during the day and maybe 52° (11°C) at night. I put the heavy comforter on the bed. It was chilly, but not unbearable.

I was able to fix myself hot meals, and had tea to drink. I spent a lot of my time during the daylight hours collecting snow in different pans to replenish the supply in the pots on the stove. When dusk came I lit four or five candles in different places, and used a little flashlight to get around.

So that’s how I dealt with situation until today. It was an ordeal, but bearable. The hardest part was the long night — about fourteen hours without meaningful daylight. The condition of my eyes renders me unable to read by flashlight or candlelight, so there was nothing for me to do except tend the heater pans on the stove. It was intensely boring. I slept a lot, but there are only so many hours you can sleep. I spent long hours lying awake in the bed under that comforter.

Just after midnight this morning I was awakened by a banging on the front door. It was my stepson, who had driven all the way from Richmond to check on me — he was worried because he’d been trying to call me, and got no answer. He drove down the driveway as far as he could get, then followed my footprints through the woods around the deadfall, and walked all the way down here. I was totally surprised and gratified that he was looking out for me. But there was nothing he could do to help — if I were to go back with him to Richmond to stay at his house, I would have had to turn off the heater pans, and the water pipes under the house would have frozen. So I had to stay here. He walked back to his car and drove all the way back to Richmond.

This morning I woke up to more of the same. I’d heard from my neighbor that the power company was estimating that our electricity would be restored by Friday — which might have been over-optimistic. I braced myself for a long siege.

At noon I walked down the road about a half a mile to consult with another one of my neighbors, who has a chainsaw and a tractor. He agreed to help me. We worked together clearing out the fallen trees. The chainsaw was indispensable, but the tractor did most of the work. He’d make just enough cuts so that he could move the debris out of the way with the bucket on the front of the tractor. The deadfall was the worst part — it was in a narrow, tight, heavily wooded section, and took a long time to clear.

But it got done — I am officially able to get out, and will do so tomorrow.

When I got back to the house I was amazed to see the lights in the living room back on — the power had come back on a couple of hours previously. The house was already starting to warm up. What a relief!

And the phone was back on, too. My theory is that a major switching box shut down after having its electricity supply cut off for so long. With the phone came the Internet, so here I am, able to tell my story about the Great Blizzard of ’22.

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Being out of action for so long has left me a real backlog. I haven’t even looked at my email yet — I dread to think how much of it there will be. And I have a lot to do here in the house to clear up the filth and detritus of three days without power. I’m running a load in the dishwasher right now. And some of the meat in the freezer has gone soft enough that I’ll have to deal with it. I have a package of pork chops out — they’re the most sensitive, so I’ll cook them tonight.

I’ll keep approving comments, and do my best to put out a news feed before midnight. Bear with me; I should be back on an even keel within a couple of days.

27 thoughts on “Old Man Winter

  1. Good to hear from you again. I was getting worried as you normally give advance warning of bad weather to come. We are getting ready for our next winter storm with up to 20 cm of snow here in Vancouver also. Not your typical West coast weather either. Global warming, hahaha!

  2. Glad to hear you’re OK. When your feed went dead and with the news all about the storm I developed a modicum of concern.

  3. A pair of 10K BTU heaters with 15-20 gallons of Kerosene are really handy to keep around for emergencies. They will keep a small house comfortable, a larger house habitable, and you can cook as well. Some years I scarcely use them for more than helping out the heat pump on a rare single digit night, but they have seen me through 2 ice storms, and a couple of extended power outages.

  4. Hey, good to hear about you, Baron. It was strange that there were no new posts and no comment approvals for days.

  5. Good to hear from you! I was starting to think something bad had happened to you. Right now, in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, Australia, it it only 84 degrees indoors, and only 47% humidity, but once the clouds clear away, it will be much hotter. And it’s been so rainy this season, I’ve been able to get to the beach only once.

  6. We, too, have long ago established disgusting weather. This nasty frost is minus 25-30 Celsius. I refuse to leave the house. I’m cold.
    This Nordic man brought me here many years ago, so he goes to the store himself and on other things!
    Schnauzers don’t do as well as I do, and this Nordic man takes them outside and throws them into a snowdrift to do their doggy needs.

    Previously, we had a Japanese car that would not start in such cold weather. Now a French car. The northern man says that the French reformed after 1812 and now take the Russian frosts seriously.

  7. Glad to hear you are OK. What a saga!

    Civilization is as close as your reliable power source.

  8. Ned, I am so glad to hear that you are ok. You have a lot of people that care about you and were concerned. God bless you, my friend. Happy New Year, and thank you for all that you do!

  9. That was quite an adventure, Baron. Glad things are OK now.

    Here in my rural Ontario home I have a woodstove which provides heat and a cooking surface when needed. Granted that it’s a ton of work (cutting our own trees, splitting, transporting, piling, cleaning out ashes, etc. – which mostly my son does for me) but it gives me assurance that when Hydro One Ontario goes down in an ice or wind storm I’m ready. The woodstove idea is along the lines of Dymphna’s gas stove, but a bit more old-fashioned.

  10. Please accept my heartfelt apologies for not having warned you about the incoming storm system. I follow The Weather Channel rather closely. They had published a warning and the map of a significant storm system that was coming from the Ohio Valley, up over the Appalachians, and then down to the Virgina Coast. You would have had at least two day’s notice. We’re praying that you weren’t injured and that you will be able to fully recover.

    • Thank you. I wasn’t injured at all. Despite my age, I’m blessed with good health (except for my eyes), so that the long walks through the snow and all the hard work with shoveling, moving fallen trees, etc didn’t do any damage.

      • Your very welcome. Here is the description from Ebay. There are many selling this same item. “5 Lens Magnifying Glass LED Light Head Loupe Jeweler Watch Bright Magnifier.”
        I just saw some for under $13 with free delivery. God bless you, and stay warm.
        PS. I remember reading that the old French “Voyageurs” and mountain men continuously simmered a pot of stew through the entire time they were established at a camp; adding whatever game they shot or trapped as it was brought in. This kept the stew free from spoilage and it remained safely edible for long periods of time. I won’t vouch for the taste but it came to mind when you said you kept pots of water heated during your power outage.

        • Sorry, wrong reply spot. Mine is several
          comments below. I should have used the glasses myself.

  11. Darn climate change. Please remind me, again. Which way is the climate changing today? It gets confusing.

  12. Good to hear that all’s well with you.

    This prompts the thought that if there were a truly major disaster (pick your own), people outside the major population centres would be better placed to survive, the more so depending on how far they were off-grid.

    We city folk do better when it’s a “minor” disaster, as with the severe weather in the UK a few weeks ago; it was some of the people in the more sparsely populated areas in Scotland and the north of England who were without power for several days.

  13. So glad to hear that you’re okay! There were many inquiries about you all over the online community.

    We are like you as far as having a propane gas cooking stove, but we also have one of the greatest inventions of all time- a multi-fuel boiler that can burn either wood or oil.

    We also have a good generator so we are prepared for blackouts.

    Hard to be believe that we live in a suburban NY town just 50 miles north of Manhattan. Yet I always say, we have more blackouts than I used to have when I was drinking.

  14. I lost freezer power on a lot of different meat once. I caught the outtage before the top items softened too much and shifted the lower still frozen meat to another freezer. The part thawed, I either turned into a huge pot of Texas (all meat) Chile or cooked well in the easiest way in either the oven or the stovetop to “reset” the refreeze clock and froze that for later reheat and eat.
    I found inexpensive (less than $15.00) headwear magnifiers on Ebay that have a set of interchangable lenses from 1x to 3.5x and a superbright built in LED that lets old weak eyes read tiny print
    or examine an ingrown toenail with ease. It uses 3 AAA batteries
    and remains bright for an hour or so. They look like some kind weird eyeglasses out out of Starwars but work great. My wife who has diabetic vision issues absolutely loves the things. I hope this helps.
    Wishing you all the best.

    • Thank you for the information about eyeglass magnifiers. I’ll see if I can track down a pair online.

      • I mistakenly replied at another comment above this one. It lists the glasses description as found on Ebay.

  15. Good to see that you are doing ok and weathered the storm ok. For your fallen tree’s, Milwauke makes and excellent electric chain saw that is lightweight and will zip through trees and branches will ease. This is what I keep in the truck since I have a mile long driveway and often times get a tree or 5 across the road, otherwise the Stihl comes out to play for the really big stuff like a white pine or 100 foot popples.

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