Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Learning to Cope with Nature's Fury!

It seems all I blog about lately is the weather. But that seems to be the major news in my world, so here I am doing it again. Over the weekend, dire warnings began appearing on the Weather Channel and on my weather radio. A major ice storm was on the way to my neck of the woods, and a lot of ice and sleet is to turn the woods into a magical but treacherous wonderland! Major power outages and dangerous driving conditions are a possibility. But so far, it hasn't been too bad. Of course, this major ice storm is to be around until Wednesday afternoon, so we're not out of danger yet.

The worst winter I experienced in these beautiful Ozarks was in the winter of 1983. My first winter here. So I thought I'd post a little article I wrote about that winter, when I was a regular contributor to Suite 101. So here it goes:

Learning To Cope with Nature's Fury!

I moved to the Ozarks in the sweltering heat of August, 1983. I was a city person looking forward to a new life in this beautiful, ancient hill country. Staying cool was foremost on my mind then; winter was out of sight, out of mind. Besides, everyone had told me that winter in the Ozarks is very temperate.

I moved to these lushly wooded hills and hollows because one can still find real seclusion here. The fact that the area lacked smokestack industries, major population areas, and the laws or regulations that go along with industrialization were all deciding factors in my move here. This was a place where the air and water were still clean, and where most people still had an appreciation for their surroundings.

That first fall here was magically beautiful, and I explored the countryside in an enchanted state of mind. As I drove down winding country roads, I was bedazzled by the display of vivid color at every bend. Russets and gold’s of oaks and hickories dominated the forest, while the vibrant red, crimson, yellow and rosy tangerine of the shorter understory trees positively glowed. I saw many deer, wild turkey, opossum, fox and coyote, and felt privileged to be here, witnessing all this beauty. Meanwhile, my two ex city dogs felt they were in dog heaven now, while the ex city cats hid under the bed most of the time, terrified of this jungle I had transported them to.

Being an economy minded person, I planned to heat my little log
house with wood that first winter. But I had no idea how much wood I would need. The rank of split oak, stacked neatly in the woodshed, looked quite sufficient to me.

My water source was a bubbling spring, equipped with a shallow water pump, a neat device that enabled me to have pure spring water gushing from my faucets! There was a large garden plot, too, where I planned to grow many vegetables. And there were several outbuildings, soon to be the home to a various menagerie of domestic animals. Yes, I remember thinking as I rambled through the woods and fields, life was almost too good to be true.

When my then nineteen year old daughter Andrea, arrived from the city for a visit, on December 15th, we were still in the balmy fifties. Soon, we trekked to the dark green oasis of the cedar woods to find ourselves a Christmas tree, and picked out a ten footer. We spent the next day decorating it and baking cookies for the holiday, and I was pleased with the idea that I was providing my daughter with a memorable country experience. But Nature had something even more memorable in mind for the both of us!

December 16th started out innocently enough, with a steady downpour of much needed rain. But then, an icy wind began to blow from the northern pine woods, and the temperatures began to plummet. Soon, the rain turned into freezing rain. As we hurriedly built a fire in the wood stove to keep warm, we noticed there was a sheet of ice forming all over the yard and trees. Large red pines began bending as if they were made of rubber, from the weight of the ice, although the oaks held their ground and remained straight and stout. Electric lines snapped from the weight of the ice, too, and soon we would be in the dark, on top of everything. So much for the temperate winters everyone was telling me about, I thought, as I looked out the glass door with a worried expression.

However, Nature wasn’t done with us yet, and she began dumping several feet of snow on top of the ice. Then, the temperatures plummeted even further, reaching dangerous levels by the time darkness descended. As we went to bed, we didn’t know it yet, but our survival skills were about to be put to a severe test!

By the following morning, the pipes were frozen. And in the following few days, the wood pile got dangerously low. A call to wood cutters in the area brought a curt, "I can’t deliver wood in this ice." Then, even our food supply got pretty low, and Andrea and I had to spring into action.

Twice a day, we began trekking to the spring, at the bottom of the field, carrying plastic jugs, and wearing six pairs of socks and no shoes, to get our water. It was the only way we could navigate on the ice. We began collecting sticks, wood chunks, old roots, and just about anything else that would burn, to replenish our wood supply. Then, finally gathering all the courage we could muster, Andrea drove us the fifteen miles to town, to replenish our food supply. It took us five, slippery, scary, cold hours, but we made it. Since the strore was out of just about everything, canned soup, warmed on the woods stove, was on the menu for the holiday. But we were together, and that was what was important. We even sang Silent Night, in the glowing, candle lit cabin, while Dobie, the dog, tried to sing along with us.

Andrea left our icy world on December 26. She made it back to the city on a wing and my prayers, able to tell her friends about her two week stint as a pioneer woman. I struggled on by myself, although the dogs tried to help as much as they could; tried to help me find some fun in all this adversity, at any rate, and they even succeeded. I couldn't help but laugh at some of their antics in the ice and snow.

On the first of January, 1984, the sun came out. The lights came back on. Balmy temperatures warmed up the region again. Within a couple of days, the ice melted. The pipes thawed out. Wood cutters offered their services again. And, I, a newly seasoned country woman, drove to town and bought myself a little chain saw. I vowed to never again to be caught off guard by another temperate, Ozark winter. And I never have been. Nature's fury taught me well!

I hope you enjoyed the tale about my first winter in the Ozarks. Four years later, I sold the log cabin way up in the woods, and bought a new place in a somewhat more inhabited area, where I still live. And this morning, we have snow and ice. Help!

Thank you for reading. I hope you're all well and safe and warm. Or nice and cool, if you're lucky enough to be in a more tropical climate.

Blessings from the icy and snowy woods!


Patti said...

Stay dry and warm Ms. Renie!! We are under a winter storm warning here in east texas today thru tomorrow.

Granny Annie said...

Oh Renie, thank God you had your daughter with you to share that first ice bound crisis. I read every word and knew the underlying fear that you both had to experience. It looks like this is going to be another one. We had ice all day yesterday and heavier ice still this morning. We are set with our emergency gear but dread the impending power outages. Hope you and yours fair well this time.

Carol said...

Renie.......it's soooo good to hear from you again!This reminds me of the quote"only the strong survive". It also reminds me of the ice storm of 94 in Tennessee.
23 days with no power or water !
Never again I pray!Great story!

Hootin' Anni said...

I loved this story of your first winter in the Ozarks. Wow...kinda scary too. A miraculous survival story.

bennie and patsy said...

Loved to hear your story, we can survive. I know I have gotten soft in my old age and would whine a lot if it happend to me now. Still sleeping in shifts. Hugs

Nancy said...

Oh, Renie, what a great story and so beautifully written! Glad your daughter was there with you during it all! Isn't it amazing what a person can do when put to the test? You should be so proud of yourself! I know it had to be kind of scary to be in a situation like that. And you bought a chainsaw....you are a very smart woman, Renie!

I have been up all night reading blogs down my blogroll, and they were to get like 3 inches of ice in Arkansas! It started last night, and the electric was flickering even then. I hope you don't get it that bad. I see on the Weather Channel that it is to hit western NC, and that could actually affect us here in Upstate SC. We shall see! If my power goes out, I do have gas logs in my fireplace...if I can remember how to light them! LOL

Stay warm and stay safe! Let us know how it is there in your neck of the woods....looking forward to some more beautiful pictures, too!

Love and ((( HUGS )))

Sharon said...

That was a great story and I enjoyed it so much.
It is amazing what we can do when put to the test. This proved what a strong woman you truly are.
We are getting more snow today but this time we did not get the ice.
It has snowed here everyday since Friday and we have gotten about 6-8 inches. I am so ready for SPRING!!
God bless

Michele said...

Hi, Renie!

That sure is a pretty picture - as always. :-)

Hope you've been doing well.

I've been worried about you! I've emailed you several times, but have never received a response. I'm hoping my emails went through? Life sure is chaotic and busy, so I understand if you just haven't had time to respond.

Just wonderin' how you're doing these days...

Take care and God bless!

*smiles and hugs*

Sandy said...

Wow, wow, what a story Renie. I can't believe what I just read and how daunting this all must have been. I really enjoyed your writing but good God...I'm so glad you lived through that. Six pairs of socks!! and no shoes!!!

I hope your weather doesn't get this bad again.

you write so well.

Brenda said...

Hi Renie,
Your story gave me a good feel for what your first winter there was like. It was nice that your daughter was there to share it with you. It made for some good memories for the two of you. I hope your visit with your son was fun this past weekend. I always enjoy your writing. Did I tell you I bought the magazine with your article about the coat in it? It is really nice to have it on my coffee table.
Have a great day!

ancient one said...

Your pond looks lovely with the snow all around. I can take snow so much better than ice. I hope your storm doesn't last until Wed. You be really careful and stay warm.

Margaret Cloud said...

This was such an interesting story, what a way to become a seasoned mountain woman. Here we have had no snow to speak of lately, but it is so cold. Thank you for coming by and be safe.

hippo chick said...

Oh Renie, this is such a dear and precious story. You are such a trooper to have weathered (LOL) that and still remained in the woods.

They are saying we will get 6-12 inches of snow tonight and tomorrow. People are acting like it's "such a storm". Where is their sense of adventure. I can handle anything if I have electricity. We had two ice storms in my adult life and I wasn't very upbeat about being without heat and light.

I'm so happy to read a post of yours. This one was great.

~hippo hugs~

Gramma Ann said...

Dear Renie,

I enjoyed your story of survival. Reminded me of a winter in Dec. of 1974, I believe, I and my 5 kids were snowed in with no electric and no wood stove for 6 days. My husband was stranded in town, helping bring people into town who were stranded on the Interstate. Needless to say we had a wood stove by the next winter. Now when the electric goes off we move to the camper, it is heated by a gas furnace.

It's funny, but when we have to make do, somehow we manage.

Have a great week.


Lorilee said...

Hi Renie,
Thanks for dropping in Cackleberry Cottage. I only have 3 chickens. I started with 3, but a bobcat got one! I actually live in a subdivision at the edge of town. I have been getting 1-3 eggs each day now. It is pretty warm in South Texas. I have heard we are expecting some cold weather. One forecast is a low of 27 but the other is well above freezing. Nothing like your December experience in the Ozarks!

Linda said...

I loved reading your story about your first winter in the Ozarks. We got 3 or 4 inches of snow last night and another inch or 2 today. It's beautiful!!!

Deborah Wilson said...


I'm glad to see that you are posting again - I haven't been posting either - just needed a little break from the blog.

It sounds like winter of '83 was a real challenge. But thankfully you had the experience and/or knowledge on how to survive those conditions - even if you did misjudge the wood needed!

I'm glad that you posted this - it may be helpful to someone in the future that may find themselves in the same situation.

My uncle, (the one who now lives in Florida), a few years before he moved from Georgia, he stopped using his fireplace. Instead, he bought a wood stove. It worked much better. Except for the two back bedrooms, it kept the whole house warm - something the fireplace was unable to do - even after he had blowers installed on each side of it.

hippo chick said...

Hey Renie,

It's really snowing here in UPstate NY today. I'm READY for the warmth of Nevada.

~hippo hugs~

Lakeland Jo said...

we are just being plagued with fog here

Old Lady Lincoln said...

A very nice story, a memory your daughter will long remember and you to. I hope you won't have any more winters like that one. Hope you are close enough for help if needed. Our one daughter and myself cleared our driveway and walks today. Thank goodness a neighbor came by with a plow on the front of his vehicle and plowed away the big snow the city plow left at the end of our drive way. Otherwise we would still be out there trying to dig out. Everything has been salted, and I'm sure daughter will be driving 30 plus miles to work tomorrow and granddaughter will be going back to school. I'm glad you and daughter were safe during that ice storm. I bet you keep plenty of canned food in your pantry now.
Hope you have a good rest of the week. I'm hoping we don't get anymore snow this week. In fact I can do without any for the rest of the Winter. LOL Hope your family in Cleveland is getting along ok, they really had a snow I believe last week. Thank goodness we didn't get what they thought we would. We're about 221 miles from Cleveland.

Nancy said...

Hi again Renie,

I have 3 awards waiting for you on my blog! I am passing them on to all my readers, so please drop in grab them.

I see Arkansas got hit hard. One of the bloggers I read is without power but they are doing okay. Must be cold, though. I think we will all welcome Spring!!!

Hope you are okay where you are. Let us know...we care!!!

((( HUGS )))

Adeline said...

Wonderful winter shared with ur daughter.... I'm sure the love will keep you both warm and cozy....

Bren said...

Wonderful photos - THank you for sharing. Warm Wishes from my Midwest Garden.

Jmkdreak said...

Oh what a memory! brrr, I still get cold thinking of it. We ended up with a wild turkey because the store had no others left!
Cant wait till your power is back on and you can blog again and watch tv and have LIGHTS!


Red said...

glad your ok. I guess I will refrain from posting the pic's of the dafidills that sprouted.

Hugs, keep warm, miss you

audrey` said...

Please keep yourself warm, Renie (((HUGS)))