Prepping for Polar Express 2021

Frigid temperatures (for Oklahoma) have been with us for a week. We’re looking at 10 to 12 inches of snow this weekend with below zero temps. Extended cold weather for weeks is new for us. It was our native Will Rogers who said, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it’ll change.”

However, dramatic and severe weather events are expected; deadly tornadoes, daily earthquakes, extended droughts, devastating fires, and the dreaded ice storms. We’ve learned to be prepared for anything. Yes, there is still those who make last minute runs to the grocery store to stock up, even if it’s going to be just a little snow event, which is gone the next day. Because we live in a rural area with a large household, we can’t wait until the last minute.

Heat

Frigid weather with ice, always a possibility, means losing electric is always a concern. In 2011 we lost electric for 14 days. Because we have a gas welder/generator, we kept power without any loss of food. Having a supply of gasoline to run the generator is important if we’re unable to get out on the roads to get more . We have propane heat and a stove that does not require an electric start. We know we’ll stay warm and can eat hot food.

Water

We’re on well water that depends on an electric pump. An automatic heater is kept in our well house to prevent frozen and busted pipes. I would love to have a hand pump but we have a very deep well and it’s not practical. I keep a supply of water stored in our storm cellar for short term outages. We also fill up our large bathtub if it looks like the electric going out is a real possibility. This will get us by for a day but with 9 people, rabbits and chickens, we’ll have to hookup the generator.

Animals

This is the first year I’ve put egg laying chickens in a movable pen that includes a small chicken house. I’ve raised broilers on the pasture but they were only out for less than 5 weeks during early summer. I don’t have a source of heat available to the pen. Their house has a door that we can shut at night and this does help but it means we’re going out to the pasture every morning and night to open and shut the door. Right now it also means several trips to break ice and provide drinkable water. Next year a traditional pen needs to be built before Winter. Laying pellets and scratch is bought in bulk and stored in 50 gallon rubber barrels.

Food

Because we’re a hunting family with land nearby, we’ve been blessed to put venison in the freezer each Fall. I try to stock up on other sources of meat during the year when I find a sale. We’ll also raise a steer or pig occasionally to add to our freezer. This Fall we killed the roosters from our baby chicks we purchased in the Spring. Tougher than hens, the roosters make great chicken and dumplings! We have a good supply of canned fruits and vegetables.

I don’t care for the taste of powdered milk but Gossner Foods Foods produces boxed milk that is shelf stable for at least 6 months. I really like the taste and it prevents last minute runs to the grocery store when we’re out of milk. Dollar Tree sells this in their stores for $1.00 a quart or $12 a case online. I order online and have it delivered to their store for free shipping. During most of the pandemic I was unable to order online. Recently I noticed it was back in stock and purchased 2 cases that I picked up just in time.

Neighbors and Family

Last minute calls were made to our “city family and friends”, who don’t always live by the weather, to make sure they are ready. Many were, some weren’t. Most of our neighbors have been out here for years and are prepared. Some are living pretty thin and need a little more help. We’re a community and try to help each other. Even though my nearest neighbors are a mile or so away from me in all directions, I know them so much better than I knew my next door neighbors in town.

It’s not a totally perfect plan. We get lazy and put things off, but we have the basics in place. Then we trust the Lord for the things we did plan and the things we forgot.

Sudden Beauty and a Whole Lot of Fun

It’s Sunday morning, December 13th and we woke up to a very rare thing in Oklahoma, SNOW! Snow has a way of covering the ugliest things with a pristine white beauty. It has a calming tranquility that insists all work be put aside and enjoy the view.

No need to worry about using the storm cellar right now, except for extra storage!

But, for children, it means snowball fights and building snowmen.

Plotting the Battle and A Snowman in Progress

One Brave Hen Ventures out and The Summer Garden Put To Bed

You can tell from the pictures that we were not ready for winter. Cushions left on outdoor furniture, garden tool on hen house, trellises and tomato cages still in the garden. My son told his wife Sarah when clean clothes were still on their bed at night, “Could you move your good intentions?” Our “good intentions” got left out.

The Children Love It!

One of Oklahoma’s notorious ice storms has hit and covered the state. It has a beauty to it but it can be deadly, both to the unprepared and to the prepared. In 2007, a bad ice storm hit leaving us without electric for 14 days. Fortunately, we have a generator and was able to get gas to run it.

Adults went into action getting out candles and stored water. Chickens and rabbits still had to be fed and watered so the children bundled up and took care of the rabbits and John took care of the chickens.

Fortunately our heat and cooking is from propane so we were quite comfortable. Sarah put on a large pot of Hunter’s Stew. I settled in with a real book I recently ordered on disaster preparedness of all things! This storm along with the pandemic showed me some of the holes in my preparedness plan.

When the lights went out, the atmosphere became a different place. Think Little House on the Prairie. My 8 year old grandson announced he wants to live without electric when he grows up. The rest of the children, ages 15 through 6 decided to play the board game, The Settlers of Catan. Normally homeschooling, their local school was out, so they enjoyed the day off too. No requests to watch television or play with electronics, just children gathered around the kitchen table playing a game of strategy. Without lights or electronics, choices for activities become simpler. Life slows down naturally.

Our day without electricity ended pretty quick, thanks to our local electric co-op linemen. I want to keep the peacefulness just a little longer.

Slowdown on the Prairie

 

We awoke this morning with an unexpected blanket of snow on the ground. Once again Oklahoma and God has provided an unexpected weather change. Yes, it has been very cold the last couple of days (for Oklahoma) but the weather man predicted just a dusting.

When the ground is covered in snow, everything seems to come to a stall and there is a quiet reverance on the prairie. John says it’s God’s way of saying, “time to slow down”. Cows still have to be fed and ice on the ponds must be broke for watering. But, once that’s done life goes at a much slower pace. A hearty soup can be put in the crock pot and with a pot of steaming coffee one can relax with a good book or just enjoy the view.

 

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View from our West Windows

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Winter Playground

 

Recent Rains Have Us Kickin’ Up Our Heels!

It’s been dry for so long.  We’re enjoying the recent rains.  In past summers the drought and extreme heat killed pasture grasses forcing us to put out hay for cattle in August.  Shortage of hay drove up prices from $25 to $100 and up per round bale.  Ouch!

Praise God, it’s October and the cows are still enjoying green grass and children are happily playing in mud puddles!

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.” Isaiah 55:10  NLT

 

 

Turkeys and Tornadoes Calling

Last week and through yesterday the weather reports were indicating that we had a very high chance of experiencing severe weather, including large hail and tornadoes.  It’s April, nothing unusual for Oklahoma.  A few weeks back, I had cleaned  our cellar. Tornado Season Has Arrived! My son and his family of 5 would be joining us since they don’t have a storm cellar.  So I rearranged the cellar the day before to make sure there would be plenty of room for everyone along with our 2 dogs.  I decided to order pizza so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning since predictions were indicating the storm could arrive around 5:00pm.

Earlier in the day I went to my BSF bible study thinking everything would be under control when I came back home.  Best laid plans. While I was gone, John was cleaning out a drainage ditch so that the heavy rain expected would flow through.  It began to thunder which caused some turkeys to begin gobbling.  Any loud noise will cause them to announce their location.  If I hear thunder, I automatically think “lightening, I’m done, in the house!”  But, the sound of turkeys and it’s turkey season, mean’s go get the gun for John!

When I came home, the proud hunter had a turkey that probably weighed about 25 pounds! John knows I do not clean fish or any wild game, just cook.  So he dressed and plucked.  Then it was my turn.  I’m only thinking about how am I going to cut up this turkey, find room to hold it until I can decide what to do with him and in enough time to get to the cellar!  I cut him up like you would a chicken and put the pieces in a large stock pot.  Fortunately, John’s small ice box in his shop was available to keep it refrigerated until the next day.

turkey

 

My plan is to make turkey jerky with one of the breasts, crock pot the legs and one of the  thighs for turkey pot pie and I’m going to try canning the other breast and thigh.  Wild turkey is much leaner than ones you would buy at the grocery store.  Turkey jerky is very good and I’m expecting the crock pot and pressure canning will produce a tender meat.  I love chicken that’s been pressure canned.  It actually improves the flavor.

His beautiful feathers will be used for a display that will include red cedar.  This will be a gift for my sweet daughter-in-law who loves these displays along with the European deer mounts John makes.

 

So all turned out well.  We did make a trip to the cellar.  Some high winds passed over with only one broken branch of my crepe myrtle bush and a lot of turkey to eat!

Tornado Season Has Arrived!

Spring on the prairie means the arrival of wildflowers, blue birds building nests in the boxes we built, new baby calves and in Oklahoma, Spring also means the arrival of tornado season.  We do have tornados in every month of the year.  I have seen very destructive tornadoes in December.  But our main time of the year is from April through June.  Because Spring has arrived early this year, I am preparing early.

We are fortunate to have an underground cellar next to the house.  It would be nice to have a safe room in the house.  We have an older home that we added a cellar after the F4 tornado in Moore, OK on May 8, 2003. Moore was devastated on May 20, 2013 by an F5.  F5 is the maximum rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. There were 24 deaths and 212 injuries. Sadly 7 of those deaths were at an elementary school.

Even though Oklahomans have got used to this as part of our life, tornadoes are serious business.  Being prepared and knowing what to do during a tornado is a must.  We live in a rural area where there are no tornado sirens blasting to warn us like there are in the towns and metropolitan areas.  Fortunately, with modern technology and improved weather forecasting, it’s easier to keep a heads up to deadly weather.

I recently cleaned  our cellar to make room  for my husband and I, our 2 dogs, as well as close neighbors who sometimes join us, along with my son and his family when they are visiting. It does get a little crowded sometimes!  This picture is before cleaning!

The cellar is used to store canned goods, extra water and important papers.  It’s also a good storage area for potatatoes packed under straw.  The cool consistent temperature underground is ideal for food preservation.  I’ve never had a potato go bad this way.  When I find a good sale, I can stock up.  Last year I experimented with pumpkins and green tomatoes in the same manner.  The pumpkins looked good for several months but when I tried to blend the pumpkin meat it was dry and stringy compared to the freshly picked.  The tomatoes did ok, but I should have floured and froze them for fried green tomatoes, yum!  I had a busy garden season and was over run so I got lazy. Other items in the cellar not shown:  folding table, folding chairs, emergency weather radio that can be ran on batteries or hand cranked, plastic cups, several gallons water, snacks and coloring books and crayons for the grandkids.

Before we had a cellar, we would go to the central location of our home without windows and have a mattress handy to keep protected from flying objects.  Fortunately, we’ve never been hit but have had some scary weather close by.

tornado cloud
This was behind our home in 09/2015 but was not a tornado (I think!)