Being prepared for anything is an important part of living theÂ American dream.
As I have always told my little children, “There are two ways to learn something; the hard way and the easy way.”
The weather here in Oregon and specifically well know to me, Willamette Valley, can change so very dramatically in the winter.Â Truth be known, the spring and fall can catch you off guard as much as a sneaker wave at the coast and sometimes it can be just as dangerous to experience.
Two days ago, I was applying some aloe to my slightly sunburned cheeks and nose after a long weekend birthday celebration crabbing on the coast.Â Today, I write this in between rounds of snow sledding down the slopes of the hills in above the vineyard and getting us all back inside to the warmth and tasty-coziness of our home.
Two years ago, however, this past late December, we learned the hard way about how quickly the weather can change out here, and how dangerous not being prepared for such change can be.
It was five days before Christmas when we giddily woke to about two inches of snow on the ground.Â We sort ofÂ bundled up and grabbed our saucer, hit the back porch and the bump that was to my small children, a huge hill.
Squeals and laughter bounced off of the slope on the far side of the seasonal creek, loaded with its blackberry brambles and Douglas fir that split block number one, Pinot Gris and block six, Pinot Noir, here on the vineyard.
Snow play was all fun and games until my son decided to make a snow angel—face down.Â His rosy cheeks were beginning to look bluish and I called it, to take him inside, warm him up and Google frostbite.Â Seriously.
I overreacted to the sight and feel of my boy’s skin because that’s what I do when it comes to my children, and I make no apologies.
While the phone call to our pediatrician made me feel tons better, the sudden power outage did not.
With everyone cozy back inside sipping the cocoa I had made earlier, we turned our attention to the new batch of snow beginning to fall all around us, making it feel like we were in the center of a snow globe.
It is very, very quiet out here except during harvest when we have the propane cannons regularly blasting to scare off the birds from devouring the ripe fruit that hangs intoxicatingly and heavily on the grape vines.
In this moment however, with even the electrical hum of computers and refrigerators silenced, the quietÂ was so profound we were stunned into joining it to see if we could hear the snow flakes stack up on top of one another.
With the first candle lit evening we learned what things we normally enjoyed, like an evening show or movie,Â were fun to live without.Â Instead ofÂ watching “Elf”, I read our favorite Christmas tales and daddy played guitar while we sang Silent Night.
Brushing our teeth and rinsing with bottled water while looking in the mirror by flashlight was spooky but fun.
The other things done in the bathroom proved to be a mini nightmare, as we rely on the electricity-powered pump house down by the creek to supply the water to allow for toilet flushing and bathing.
My husband collected buckets of snow and brought them into the bathrooms to melt, so that we could do what we needed to do. This quickly became a daunting task and by next morning I tried to limit our beverage intake until the power was restored.
Creature comfort number one I really didn’t like being without was coffee.Â Â Number two,Â a warm bathroom with a toilet that flushes.Â Number three, a hot soapy shower.
I missed the coffee much less by bed time on our second night, and replaced number one with warmth of any kind – as the stored heat in our home was now gone.
This experience gave new meaning to the term “all bundled up” as we layered our clothing, donned ski caps and masks, gloves, scarves and double wool socks and slippers.
This is what we wore to bed, all four of us in our bed, itself dressed with flannel sheets and triple down comforters.
It was really cold.Â The snow was followed by freezing rain and then more snow.
A trek down to the pump house the next morning revealed the cause for our loss of electricity.Â A large branch from an old tree had succumbed to the weight of snow and ice and in its descent met with the power line, taking it to the ground.
Grateful for cell phones, and frankly the only reason I even own one, we called in this emergency situation.
Back up at the house, my husband took on the bitterly cold and slippery project of attaching the chains to the tires of our mini van while I gathered up the kiddies and loaded them into the warmed up vehicle.
The normally fifteen minute drive down our gravel road into town took twenty five, with stops to move more large branches and avoid more downed power lines, call to report them and hope with all my might that new branches and/or trees wouldn‘t fall as we passed under them.
It was nerve wracking to be sure and had me chanting out loud a Louise Hay affirmation, “We are divinely protected and safe at all times.”
On Christmas Eve, Eve, we loaded up at the market on things we really needed, filled up on gas and used the restroom.
I called my sister who lives at a much higher elevation an hour away from us and closer to Portland, to check on my sweet baby nieces. Fortunately,Â because of their timely generator purchase and three fireplace home, multiple cords of wood and even though their power was also out, all was cozy.
We neither wanted to attempt the drive up the mountain to my sister’s home nor wonder when we might be able to travel safely back down to risk the extended invitation to go and stay with her family, so I expressed my gratitude and love, quickly hung up and turned off my phone to conserve the battery and we headed back to our home.
It began snowing again on the way back to the vineyard, and again renewed the safety affirmation.
Turning to look in the back seats, I decided to take a cue from my children, remember that this was Christmastime and lighten my heart.
The beauty of all of nature covered in white, from the 150’ Fir tree to the mistletoe decorated oaks creating their own ornaments, sunk in to my soul and gently encouraged fear and self sorrow out.
It was brilliant out here. Â Quite an indescribably magical wonderland really, that I am fairly certain not many people on this earth are blessed to experience, no matter what time of year.
With my improved attitude and redirection of overhauled emotion, I sat up straighter in my seat, dressed in my usual smile face and resolved to make the best of our current situation.
Like an answered prayer, we received a phone call from a professional that had done some excellent work for the winery, and although he couldn’t make it out today, would do everything in his power to be at our place around noon on Christmas Eve.
The evening of December twenty third was spent in a hotel in Salem, as it was just too cold in our home and the buckets of ice weren’t melting quickly enough to meet the toilet flushing needs of four people.
Christmas Eve afternoon’s experience was dicey out there at times, but our wonderful, miracle-working electrician climbed his very tall ladder and with my husband’s help, repaired the power line and restored our home’s electricity.
Nothing short of amazing, was the delight over the act of pre heating my oven to bake cookies for Santa then…whip up some cinnamon rolls for our special breakfast — with coffee.
There were a whole host of “take away”Â lessons for my entire family from this living the American dream in the country experience —
1. We now own a generator and have a five hundred gallon tank of water stored in the garage.
2. There is now a stock of the usual suspects in the world of supplies, including some propane for the camping stove occupying space where some folks park their cars.
3. Our membership to the enormous bulk grocery items market has been renewed and we use it wisely.
4. I preserve all that I can from my garden, which we doubled in size this past spring, and I bake and freeze sweet and savory goods as often as possible.
5. Although I still only have my cell phone for emergencies, we now have a car charger for both of the phones.Â I also make sure my computer and phone are fully charged when I have even the slightest inkling that bad weather may be coming our way.
6. Due to the lack of dish washing water available to us, I also vowed never, ever to let the dishes pile up in and around the kitchen sink, that last time, created such a hideous and smelly pile of disgusting-ness by the end of the ordeal.Â I also eventually forgave myself for having chosen to play outside with my children in the snow two years ago, over doing the breakfast dishes of yore.
7. We always bundle up and don’t let our bare skin come in direct contact with the snow for any prolonged periods of time, and if we break this oh-so-important rule, then it’s inside until summertime for all small children.
Above all, I believe I learn the most from my mistakes and I am extremely grateful to be here and speak to the 20/20 hind sight point.
While not the hardest thing anyone has ever learned, I am delighted to have had that winter’s uncomfortable, difficult experience so that I could have this year’s joy-filled experience.
Remember that ‘to be prepared is half the victory’ when living the American dream and my “grape life.”