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Monday, March 5, 2012

Surviving Up North Blizzard, Chapter 1

Friday night it blew in
The storm was due to begin late Friday afternoon, and it did. I put a notice on the bookstore door, OPEN Saturday, March 3, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. WEATHER PERMITTING. Weather did not permit. The writing was on the wall by Friday night.

Temporarily--NO EXIT!
This was the view out our front door on Saturday morning. Our old farmhouse has a metal roof, the temperature was relatively warm, and so the snow was heavy and wet, not inclined to stay on the roof. Instead it slid down to form another layer of exterior wall on the front and back of the house. First order of business, then, was shoveling through the wall. (The good news was that we didn't have to worry about shoveling the roof.) Too bad we'd left the snow shovels "handily" leaning against the outside of the house, one on either side of the door! Oh, well, a stainless steel mixing bowl will do in a pinch. Anything to get through the barricade and liberate the snow shovels from their untimely burial!

Looking back at house, walk not yet cleared
Snow piled up around a house isn't all bad. It insulates the house against the cold outside, very important when the furnace is out. As to the why of the power outage, I refer you to the line below, carrying a heavy load of wet snow, due to freeze when temperature dropped Saturday night. Driveways could not be plowed because roads had not been plowed because trees and lines were down all over the place, leaving 78,000 northwest Michigan households without power. We were only one household among many.

Power line packed heavily with snow
I trudged up the unplowed driveway to take the picture below. The snow was over knee-deep, but, as you see, our barn roof has not yet collapsed. (Yea!!!) Our house is just left of center, barely visible through the branches of the cherry tree in foreground. 

Our rural homestead, far off the highway
So how does one survive without power, far from civilization? Some (like our friend Ken, Ohio writer Gene Logsdon, and many others) do it with wood heat. Our little fireplace, though originally designed for wood, now gives heat from propane gas, and propane also fuels our kitchen stove, so we are able to cook without electricity (though I would like to score a hand-operated coffee grinder before the next time the power goes out). When we woke in the middle of Friday night and realized the power was out, right away David closed off our living room, cozy room, office, and laundry room. That left only the main room we live in all winter, anyway, in the center of the house (with no exterior walls) where the fireplace is, our tiny "Paris" kitchen, tiny bathroom, and bedroom. We bundled up and stayed pretty comfortably warm. We'd filled jugs with good well water before the storm and hauled in tubs and pots of snow to melt for toilet-flushing purposes. We had everything we needed. 

Saturday's chicken in the pot made a second appearance for Sunday dinner, augmented with freshly made homemade noodles. Yes, even in a blizzard! That's when comfort food means the most, after all. But I'm getting ahead of my story by leaping to Sunday. Back to Saturday, kerosene lamps and candles gave us light for reading books and writing letters. At bedtime we continued the reading aloud started before the storm, The Crofter and the Laird, by John McPhee, which let us travel to a small island in the Hebrides after a pioneering day in northern Michigan. That was cozy!

I have many more photographs to share--you won't be getting the whole iceberg even then, only the tip--but this is a beginning, the story of Friday night and Saturday. Sunday the sun came out, and the cold, white winter landscape around our isolated farmhouse was unbelievably beautiful. Those pictures, the most beautiful, are yet to come; today's are only reportage. 

I had something very different planned for the first post of this week on Books in Northport. I'd written about books, if you can believe that. But my guess is that most everyone today is more interested in the storm. Do I guess correctly? How did you weather the weather?


Gerry said...

We ate cold curried lentils and piled on the comforters. Not bad. But a propane stove would be better. Yes indeed.

P. J. Grath said...

Heat from big woodstoves is quiet and even and can't be beat, but we are grateful for our propane. Comforters, yes!!! Lots of 'em! Glad you made it through, Gerry.

Dawn said...

I was worried about you all, as the days went by and no new posts I knew it was a big storm. We got nothing but wind, and though 29,000 people in my county were without power most of the weekend, we were not among them. That would be because last year we put in an automatic generator which has only had one occasion since then to work. If we had not done that I'm SURE we would have been without power this weekend.

Our weather was not nearly so photogenic as yours...nor as romantic. Though I guess romantic is in the eye of the beholder and probably after one day it ceased to be romantic at all.

Glad you're all safe!

P. J. Grath said...

It's story time Up North as everyone shares their storm survival tales! At least five people we know made it out of their cold houses and into Traverse City to take refuge at the Park Place Hotel. It seems the Park Place has (and I didn't know this before) a dog-friendly wing. Wagging tails all up and down the hall! Sounds fun, eh? In Northport, a couple of our friends spent all day Saturday ferrying refugees from their homes to the firehouse, where they could get warm and have something to eat. I'm afraid we were no help to anyone but ourselves, locked in by snow as we were. So far, everyone I've heard about is okay. Am hoping....