or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the farm

24 Mar

More than two weeks ago I returned from a business trip to Chicago.  I was excited to go to the city: learn a lot, see family and friends, experience a new atmosphere for a while.

This was my first time away since we purchased our home in June.  And I didn’t realize how unprepared I was for the city life until I inched my way downtown through rush hour traffic.

Lessons I learned (the hard way) while traveling in the Windy City:

1. Do not attempt to be charming with the toll workers.

2. In the country, 15 miles = approximately 15 minutes.  In the city, to travel the same distance will require 90 minutes or so.

3. In the country, three inches of snow means you may need to break out your windshield brush.  In the city, people will start using the word “snowpocalypse” and all forward motion from your fellow commuters will cease.

4. It’s probably a good idea to watch the signs in parking garages.  This helps you avoid head-on collisions and driving aimlessly in circles.

5. You look like an out-of-towner,  Always.

But I think the biggest realization for me was how much I missed home.

I missed the quiet and how I can travel to work on the Interstate on not see another car.  I missed how everyone in the parking lot or on the street would strike up a friendly conversation with you.  I missed how you can be running late and still make it to work on time.

I always thought I would live alone in a big city with a bunch of cats.  And sometimes I still feel inadequate to my fancy, big-city friends because we chose to live on an acreage, outside of a teeny town in a flyover state.  But it’s funny how life will deliver you exactly where you are feel most complete.

lane

the homestead at sunset

we survived the polar vortex! just barely.

20 Mar

It’s the first day of Spring!

ABOUT G-DAMN TIME.

As you all know, A and I purchased a home in June 2013.  If we would have known that the following winter would be the coldest winter in over a decade, maybe we would have delayed those plans.

2/20/14 9:30 a.m.

2/20/14
9:30 a.m.

2/21/14 9:30 a.m.

2/21/14
9:30 a.m.

The experts (who really love to name things) consistently referred to the dangerously frigid weather as the POLAR VORTEX.  And like an annoying relative, the POLAR VORTEX stuck around far too long.

The POLAR VORTEX is characterized by, ” a circulation of strong, upper-level winds that normally surround the northern pole in a counterclockwise direction — a polar low-pressure system.”

But in our home, this weather pattern was characterized by a few other things:

1. Propane prices and the resulting thermostat war

My lovely husband has the willpower of a thousand nuns.  Therefore, when the POLAR VORTEX hit, he was prepared to commit to some major changes for the betterment of the family.  He also was immune to my whining.

One of the biggest changes we made this winter was to ration our propane–the source of our heat.  As we live in the country, we are dependent on our 1,000 gallon propane tank to supply us with warmth.  As the POLAR VORTEX took hold,so did a perfect storm of circumstances leading to a propane shortage.  Thankfully, we were able to fill our tank at $1.99/gallon right before the cost of propane started to steeply climb, to a record $5/gallon.

To help us stretch our full propane tank to the end of the winter, we kept our home at 55 degrees all winter.

You read that correctly.

55. Degrees.

And A wouldn’t budge.  Not when I whined about how we were living like the Ingalls family.  Not when I shoved my freezing digits in his armpits.  Not when I wore mittens in the house and glared at him.

His unwavering pragmatism did translate into a propane tank that is still at approximately 40% full as we speak.  However, I would like to thank the inventor of heated blankets and wool socks for keeping me from killing my husband.

2. Our pets took over the heating vents

We only had a bit of warm air that was being released into our home, and most of it was soaked up by our tubby kitty, Tuna.

I have documented his love affair with our home’s sole giver of heat in the following photos, which could be considered an amateur art installation:  Cat on a Hot Tin Vent?

full vent action

full vent action

vent 2

statuesque vent cat

vent 3

this is your cat on vent

vent 4

I LOVE YOU VENT

vent 5

i will share … ONCE

3. Creative heating alternatives

Hamilton Family 2014

Hamilton Family 2014

As I mentioned before, we resorted to Prairie techniques to get us through this Long Winter.

I was not above making my own flannel heating pads as a cheap alternative to using the furnace (which I was banned from touching as we discussed in #1).

I found some cheap flannel fabric at a local craft store (presumably because they thought winter was over HAHAHA it’s never over) and sewed it into a rectangle.  I sewed up (You heard me.  This weather made me FINALLY learn how to use my sewing machine.) the three sides and filled the pocket with rice.  Only two minutes in the microwave turned this little guy into a mighty heating pad–holding its heat for at least an hour.  And I didn’t share with The Boss, which made it even better.

4. Tireless Robe Advocates

If you would have dropped in on our family unannounced in the last few months, you probably would have seen us swaddled in blankets, wearing slippers and almost always draped in our robes.  It was a very cute few months in our household.

For added style points, one or both of us would grab a passing pet and shove them into our robe/blanket configuration for added heat.

5. When all else fails, eat CHOCOLATE

On one night of a terrible, power outage-y blizzard, I decided to make my mother’s incredible Hot Fudge Sundae Cake.  Super decadent, delicious and super simple!  Great for escaping the sad reality of snow mountains piling up outside the windows, but also good throughout the year:

*********************************************************************************************************************

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbs cocoa
2 teasp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tbs oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup nuts chopped if desired
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup cocoa
1 3/4 cups hottest tap water
favorite ice cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees
In ungreased 9×9 pan.
Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt.
Mix milk, oil and vanilla with fork in dry ingredients until smooth.
Stir in nuts if wanted.
Spread evenly in pan.
Sprinkle with brown sugar and cocoa.  Pour hot water over batter
Bake 40 min.
Let stand 15 min.  (if you can stand it)
Spoon into dessert dishes or cut into squares.
Invert each square onto dessert plate.
Top with ice cream and spoon sauce over each serving
9 servings
*****************************************************************************************************************
While the declaration of Spring on the calendar means very little for Iowans, I can only hope the ushering in of a new season gives my family time to finally thaw.  Congrats, everyone–we survived the POLAR VORTEX!
polar-bear-vortex

oh what a beautiful moooorniiiing! you have frooozen piiiiipes!

17 Mar

I am a fan of winter, typically.

But the season this year has just been ridiculous.

For those of you who have managed to escape the POLAR VORTEX this year, at one point it was warmer on MARS than it was where I live.  SERIOUSLY.

But in the past several days, we have finally had a break from these unrelenting temperatures.  Birds were singing, snow was melting … spring was coming!

OR SO WE THOUGHT.

The morning of March 16 dawned just like any other Sunday morning in Iowa.  The Boss woke up far too early to get in some quality XBox time. I woke up around 9 a.m. and settled in to shout at the Morning Edition puzzle while making breakfast.

It was all going to plan.

Taking a BITE out of your ignorance about plumbing!

Taking a BITE out of your ignorance about plumbing!

Until.

I started to do laundry like a good person does on the weekends, when the washing machine began to make some very weird noises.  Since we are used to strange occurrences with laundry, I didn’t think anything of it.  Of course, my husband is much more rooted in reality than I am, so he jumped into action, sniffing out the problem like a crime dog.

Soon, A declared that we could not use any water until further notice.

Immediately after this declaration, I had to pee.  BADLY.

Then, A sprang into action, calling plumbers to fix the issue.

but I found this beauty during my bathroom break, so that goes into the win column. (number obscured to protect the innocent/display my artistic genius)

but I found this beauty during my bathroom break, so that goes into the win column. (number obscured to protect the innocent/display my artistic genius)

I made myself useful by whining about my predicament on social media, where my helpful friends told me to go pee outside.  (Thanks, guys.)

Our plumber told us he would swing by our house after he ate lunch (*&#!) and he arrived three hours later, but not before I made a trip to our town’s gas station for a quick bathroom break (not a country girl yet, guys).

After about 20 seconds in our well-hole, the plumber determined that our pipes had frozen.

You heard that correctly.

After a week of spring-like temperatures, OUR PIPES HAD FROZEN.

Now, our pipes were fine through two bad blizzards (one of which closed the INTERSTATE) and temperatures that dipped to -40 with windchill.

But one week of temperatures that didn’t flash freeze any exposed skin rendered our pipes useless.

It turns out, in a freak circumstance that belongs in an Alanis Morissette song, the deep freeze and snow pack had INSULATED our pipes and kept them nice and snug during the POLAR VORTEX.  When the snow melted and the frozen ground softened, our pipes become vulnerable to a sedate 30 degree breeze and promptly froze.

how is this possible, IOWA?

how is this possible, IOWA?

After a few swipes with a torch (and a hefty price tag later) our plumber gifted us with our water once again, which I used to hose down our dirty dog–who manages to get muddy at the same time that is it possible for our pipes to freeze.

Seriously, it is spring yet?

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