We lived to tell the tale.

December 10, 2013 · 6 comments

cabin in the snow // Wayward Spark

It snowed a lot on Friday, and Saturday night was the coldest on record since 1972 (8 or 9° here, -3° in parts of the Willamette Valley). It was fun for a while, but we are more than ready for a break in the weather at this point. (Also, my laptop battery spontaneously crapped out and then revived itself or else I would have had this post up earlier.)

snowy forest // Wayward Spark

On Friday, it was pure winter wonderland at our place.

old Ford in the snow // Wayward Sparksnow in Western Oregon // Wayward Spark

This is part of the last mile of gravel road leading to our house.

snowy forest // Wayward Spark

Our driveway (above) was pretty impassible for a couple days except by sled.

blue heeler in the snow // Wayward Spark

The dog was in heaven. She loves the snow.

not recommended // Wayward Spark

especially “not recommended”

sledding // Wayward Sparksledding // Wayward Sparksledding // Wayward Spark

Henry pulled the kids over to the neighbors’ house for socializing and hot chocolate.

cutting a Christmas tree in snowy Oregon // Wayward Spark

On Saturday, we cut ourselves a Christmas tree. Instead of foraging far and wide, we just took down a scraggly grand fir near the house. It’s perfectly imperfect, and we love it.

cookies for a snowy afternoon // Wayward Spark

Levi’s school’s winter program was on Thursday night before the snowstorm, and it included a dessert potluck after the singing. With that as an excuse, I baked three batches of cookies on Thursday afternoon: Alice Medrich’s “Nibby Buckwheat Shortbread” (via Apt. 2B Baking Co.), Kimberley Hasselbrink‘s “Meyer Lemon Macaroons” (via the Etsy Blog), and Heidi Swanson’s “Thinnest Oatmeal Cookies” (via 101 Cookbooks). My mom made fun of me for bringing “weird” cookies to a school function, but I will tell you that all three kinds turned out absolutely delicious. In the end, most of them were passed over for store-bought chocolate chip crap, but that meant we had plenty of cookies on hand during the storm. Too many, actually. I feel like cookies have been a significant part of my diet these last few days. In fact, I feel like one of my primary cabin-fever activities is eating, lots of healthy snacks like pomegranates, mandarins, and pistachios but probably a little too much of everything else, too.

squash soup on the woodstove // Wayward Spark curry-coconut milk squash soup // Wayward Spark

We didn’t leave our place in a vehicle for three days, but we probably had enough food/ingredients in our house to last at least a month. Aside from cookies, here are a few other things we’ve eaten while snowbound:

Lisa Moussalli‘s curry-coconut squash soup (strangely found via Orangette instead of straight from the source) cooked on the woodstove (see video of Henry splitting a giant, frozen solid hubbard squash here)


Molly Wizenberg‘s baked oatmeal

and I’m seriously considering breaking out the oil for these latkes (via Smitten Kitchen) for dinner today, Levi’s third day in a row out of school.

icicles on a cabin // Wayward Spark

We’ve had cold days and nights in our ten years here (only nine for me). This bit has been the coldest but far from the worst. Through a few pretty bad experiences, we’ve learned how to prepare our home/water systems for below freezing temperatures. Also, Henry seriously upgraded our plumbing a couple years ago to flexible Pex pipes that are less likely to break if they freeze, and he also added more insulation around everything. We did lose hot water in the house from Saturday morning until Monday afternoon, but we always had hot water in the shower (outside), so it wasn’t too bad. (This is where I should include a shout out to Dan of Dan’s Pump Service who’s gone above and beyond to rehabilitate our water pump and plumbing as well as my parents’ pluming on short notice several times over the years. He’s a super competent and nice guy // 541-740-5887)

Speaking of the shower, both Henry and I did shower outdoors on Saturday and Sunday nights when the temperatures were in the teens. After getting down the super nasty icy stairs, the actual showers were pretty pleasant and warm. I’ve also learned from experience that it’s best to bring shampoo and conditioner in to thaw before showering. Did you know that shampoo freezes at a lower temperature than conditioner? Ask me how I know…

All of my canned goods live in cupboards in a mudroom-type enclosed-but-not-airtight back porch, and with negative temperatures forecast, I was pretty worried about them freezing and shattering. We ended up leaving the door from the house to the back porch open during the coldest days and nights which sucked a lot of hot air out of our living space. Fortunately, our woodstove is kind of oversized for our little house, so we just threw extra quilts on the beds at night, and all the people and all the jars of jam stayed plenty warm.

We burned a lot of wood.

I wasn’t too worried about the goats. They’re big and warm-blooded enough to be able to tolerate really cold temperatures. At night, I locked them inside the barn and gave them extra hay to eat and burn calories for warmth. The chickens, however, were being totally stupid, standing around knee-deep in the snow not eating or drinking much even though we made plenty of food and fresh water available. When it got dark on Saturday night, at least ten chickens were roosting completely exposed in a blackberry thicket instead of in one of several cozy coops, the goat barn, or the tractor shed where they’d at least be a little protected from the extreme cold. We considered trying to round them up but figured it was nearly impossible with how wily they are. We left them out and crossed our fingers. On Sunday morning, I expected to find a bunch of dead, frozen chickens, but lo and behold, it looks like everyone survived.

We did finally make it to town yesterday. I really needed to mail out packages (Thanks so much to everyone who’s ordered cutting/serving boards and honey!), and we were also running low on gas for the generator. It was a little hairy getting down the hill in my Forester with chains on, but we lived to tell the tale. I hear tell that there’s freezing rain coming our way in the coming days, so we may just stay home for a while longer.

greenhouse // Wayward Spark

Henry was up every 2-4 hours during the coldest nights, stoking the fires in the big greenhouse and checking on the spring-fed irrigation system that was spraying many of the citrus trees. He harvested most of the fruit before the storm rolled in (more on that soon), so mostly he was just trying to protect the trees themselves. We’re still waiting to see if there are many losses, but things look promising, and this may be just the cold-hardy variety trial we needed to weed out a few of the more tender trees.

frozen satsumas // Wayward Spark

I hear this cold front will be moving eastward in the coming days, and much of the rest of the country is already experiencing extra frosty/snowy weather. I hope you are able to keep warm and healthy during this time and for the rest of the winter. Take care!

On a random note, Volume 7 of Pure Green Magazine is out, and it includes an interview/profile of my family with gorgeous photos taken last summer by Yossy Arefi. It’s pretty weird/cool to see our family of hillbilly weirdos in a schmancy lifestyle mag. 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Misti December 10, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Well, I feel like an overprotective mother worrying about my citrus and it barely dipped below freezing here in SE Texas. I hope yours make it through.

Stunning and magical photos of the snow, but I’m sure it might not seem that way having been through it all on the other end.


Mia December 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I knew it was cold since I have a few friends who live in the Klamath Falls area. But you had cold. And I am really surprised that the store bought junkie cookies were what everyone wanted at the school. But it also says a lot about society and not getting the wonderful flavors of home made cookies. And now I want to make those oatmeal cookies. Stay warm


Kara December 11, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Fancy schmancy hillbilly weirdos! Your last line seriously cracked me up. Love reading the snow adventures!


Alison Fennell December 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Ok Camille – call me an armchair dreamer but this is my favourite type of post of yours – where I get to hear the real nitty gritty of life hunkering down with nature at its rawest. Thanks for such an interesting story about your life out there in the wilds – and glad to hear those chickens and your goodselves survived- Alison


Google.com December 21, 2013 at 10:13 am

Asking questions are truly nice thing if you are not understanding something completely, except this post presents fastidious understanding even.


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