Here’s what I woke up to earlier in the week.
It’s a magnificent sight since we are several feet below average precipitation levels and the fires that have sparked all around us have been very unsettling (this March has been the worst March on record for fires in Colorado, with 26 fires, not to mention the several we had within 10-20 miles of us just last week!).
The snow we received wasn’t very much, just a couple of inches, but due to the time of year, it was heavy and wet and coated the trees.
Colorado lives up to its reputation for having light, powdery snow and it’s the reason that you can often discern individual snowflakes and their intricate patterns (if you’ve never seen a real snowflake up close, check out this post from earlier in the year!)
But by April, the snow changes consistency, much like the snow I grew up with in New England. It coats the trees, creates a spectacular scene but can also down power lines.
One of my all time favorite memories is one that happened a couple years ago this time of year. My teenage nieces had come to visit during their April vacation and like most teens of their age, they were attached to their phones, texting non-stop and glued to their laptops. Although a bit dismayed by their tech-zombie ways, I was still happy to have them in my presence.
But you can imagine my surprise when a storm dumped 2 feet of heavy, wet, April snow the weekend before they were to leave and we were out of power the entire weekend. Most people might think this a scary emergency. I thought of it as a wonderful opportunity to get them back to basics.
Truth be told, we made a poor decision when we had this house built and didn’t install a wood stove (what were we thinking?) and are in the process of adding one in this summer. And since we have forced air heat, no power meant nothing to power the furnace. We do keep a kerosene heater on standby for when we have no power and it certainly can heat up our great room (living room/dining room/kitchen is all one room) pretty quickly (we have a very sensitive CO2 detector and it has never gone off and we usually keep the heater on only long enough to warm up a room, then turn it off).
But the saving grace is that our gas cooking range/oven which runs beautifully on our propane tank even when the power is out, so all I have to do is a little cooking or baking and the whole place stays cozy. Needless to say, a lot of bread was made that weekend.
The trickiest part is water or lack thereof. Without power, our well can’t pump water. However, with snow being the source of our power outage, we had plenty of white stuff to melt down to keep our water needs met (but have you ever tried to melt snow? A giant pot filled with snow maybe yields a quart of water, so we had the stove going all day long which brought additional heat to our home).
We always keep about a dozen jugs of water on hand for drinking, so this cooked down water – while perfectly potable – was used to help flush toilets, take sponge baths and keep the pups hydrated.
After 18 or so hours, we knew we’d have to empty the fridge out, so we first put everything on our deck under the cover of snow. Insulated, cold food…check. But after the sun came out the 2nd day and the snow quickly began to melt, we knew we’d have to go to plan B, so we built a snow igloo on the Eastern side of the house and it did a great job of holding together for several days and keeping our food cold.
I thought my nieces would freak – no TV, no computer, no phones on to save battery (we had no idea how long the outtage would last and our road isn’t serviced so we’re at the mercy of our neighbors with their ATV/bobcat plows). But they did great…they didn’t complain, we enjoyed each other’s company and passed the time relaxing, sledding, playing games, reading, napping, and cooking. I remember I even made baked/stuffed shells one night and it was divine to have a nice, hot meal when everything else around us wasn’t working.
Our bodies followed the natural rhythm of the day…we slept in huddled under our warm comforters and went to bed early when hanging out by candlelight just made our eyes heavy. And although my sister (their mom) awaited nervously on the East Coast worried about our safety, we were doing wonderfully in our cozy little cabin in the woods. We were warm, we were hydrated and satiated and all was surprisingly calm. It was the best couple of days I could have spent with my nieces and when the power kicked back on that Sunday night, I was admittedly a bit torn.
It was an interesting “experiment” to see how we’d fare without power and handle ourselves in a storm and I was surprised at how relatively easy it was to do some creative brainstorming and go back to the basics. I was pleased at how well we did, how calm we stayed and how much we actually enjoyed our “down time”
Sure, we could always unplug from technology, turn off the TV and internet for a couple days, but it’s hard to do so when you’re not forced to do so. And while “roughing it” may not be most people’s idea of fun, it turned into such a favored memory and an example of how little you really need to be happy.