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Fifteen degrees on the thermometer
Big Freeze At The Casa de Rurale

Big Freeze of February 2021. We were there and lived to tell about it. Deer sausage was involved.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

I know, it’s been a while again. Still writing for clients. We all had a setback about six weeks ago. Perhaps you heard about it, and perhaps you experienced it. We did, and so did friends.

I’d planned on having this as part of another post, but it’s too long. Let me tell you all about it, with some news first.

Hubig’s Pies Return Soon

You read that right–the famed Hubig’s Pies will be returning sometime later this year.

I wrote about Hubig’s Pies a few years ago, and despite people asking for them, the company and its owners have been struggling to get them back into production. But they’re now on track for the return, 100 years after they first appeared.

Then, of course, the pandemic. They were supposed to return already, but bringing back such a well-loved tradition takes a lot of hard work. If people open up a Hubig’s and turn their nose up, it’s all for nothing. So, understandably, it’s taken a while.

BF will be all over them, I’m sure.  I’ll just watch from a distance.

The Big Freeze

OK, so. . .you want to know what took me so long to write again? I’ll tell you–we all froze over. No kidding. And Valentine’s Day was spent getting ready for the incoming winter storm.

We didn’t get to do our normal Valentine’s Day “dinner and a movie at home.” Sunday was spent making preparations as fast as we could. But BF did bring home something for me, even though he said he didn’t want anything himself:

Chocolate covered strawberries

Yes, they are as good as they look.

Admittedly, they were absolutely delicious, but I ate just one a day.

Single chocolate covered strawberry

Isn’t it lovely?

It seems that someone BF knows through work used to work for Albertson’s, one of the grocery stores in Hammond. She worked in the area that did this kind of thing but now does it on her own. Reasonably priced, he said, so he ordered some and brought them home the day before (Saturday.) He was off on Sunday the 14th–good thing.

Prep Work

We worked it–from pulling space heaters into the house to gathering up flashlights, candles, power banks, and every other emergency thing we have to do. This included washing clothes, dishes, and checking the foodstuffs we had available, knowing what we needed and what to get to prepare. That’s how we spent Valentine’s Day–preparing for the incoming freeze.

Unfortunately, the three IKEA tea light lanterns I had were left behind when I moved here, so we had to be really careful with the little candles. I still have some heavy glass tea light holders and have since ordered some of these Rotera lanterns from IKEA’s website, along with two packages of their tea lights. The ones I bought locally some time ago last about 15 minutes. With hurricane season just a couple of months away and the occasional random power outage, they’ll be well worth the wait and investment.

Fixing The Sweater

A couple of years ago, Simplicity published what I think of as the quintessential winter sweater, #S8738. Made with a sweater knit bought by the yard, this pattern just said “sweater” to me. I’ve made nine of them from different types of fabrics. All but one came from online vendors; the grey waffle knit came from a cut bundle at Walmart. It does get *that* cold here, unlike Houston and New Orleans. And for a freeze, well, you need sweaters, right?

Now I have a total of 16 sweaters. Some of the later ones were indeed made from Walmart cuts, including a black-and-white buffalo check knit that I made into this sweater from Simplicity’s #S9178.

This particular garment was one of the first of the sweaters I made from #S8738 using this fabulous southwestern knit from Fashion Fabrics Club:

Southwestern sweater

Isn’t it AWESOME?? (I love Southwestern prints.)

Problem: because the polyester fabric isn’t very stretchy, the collar was too snug, making it too hot to wear for very long. I had to wait until the weather was cold enough, but even then it was a “heat trap.” Solution: take the scraps and cut a new, larger collar, cut off the existing collar below the seam, then install the new one into the bigger neck opening.

Knowing I would need all my warmest clothes for the next few days, I set out to fix this sweater for good. I had to get BF to help me FIND the scraps, but once he did, I got to work. It didn’t take long. Now it’s more breathable and lets the heat out as it should. It’s one of the last things I did before we went to bed that night.

Monday, February 15

The freeze and storm moved through the entire state of Texas, bringing snow, ice, and power outages into Louisiana. Houston actually got snow, and some parts west of us did, but we didn’t. (Still wishing, but maybe next year.)  I was in touch with a few folks, and they had different stories to tell.

  • Aunt Ruth near Manvel, TX, lost her phone and Internet, and experienced low water pressure, but never lost  power
  • The GER lost power and water, and it got down to 58F in the Funk House/Junk House before Centerpoint restored power to his neighborhood
  • Miss Alice, now living in the Medical Center area of Houston, had power, but her bathroom facilities went out, likely to a broken pipe, and was subsequently repaired
  • RR in Katy, TX, aka “Banana Rat,” was fixing burst pipes at his own house as well as his girlfriend’s mother’s house
  • Neighbor E lost power intermittently, and his sister in another part of Houston lost power four times. Eventually, the power came back on and stayed on, and they were ok. He sent me a couple of pictures of the winter wonderland at El Dorado Trace:
El Dorado Trace Snow

This picture was taken just inside of the front entrance, and the office and clubhouse are on the left side. Farther left outside of the picture is where I lived for 12 years.

Nobody’s going swimming today.

El Dorado Trace Snow Day 2

Ice skating, anyone?

No Water

Water went down because plants had no power to operate, leaving lines and mains to freeze. But our waterworks in St. Helena Parish’s apparently had power, thank heavens.

We did offer Miss Alice, Neighbor E, and the GER a place if they wanted to come, but all declined. Neighbor E waited it out, and was eventually OK and enjoying his favorite hot chai lattes in his own kitchen again. The GER said he was helping out the “old ladies in the neighborhood who shouldn’t be living by themselves.” When I told Miss Alice, she said that he was “doing the work of the Buddha.” Well, he was, and people in his neighborhood are thankful.

Freeze East Of The Sabine

BF was at work that Monday morning and the freezing rain began about 10:00 am. We were up early–I started off with coffee and morning prayers and worked my way up.

Fifteen degrees on the thermometer

This is what greeted us on Monday morning. It stayed this cold for more than 48 hours.

We were out of dog food, and my plan was to visit Tractor Supply before the freezing rain got here. Well. . .first, the truck was literally frozen over.

Frozen-over windshield

That’s not thawing quickly.

I started the engine, but the thick coating of ice wasn’t budging. Just to get into the truck to start it, I had to crack the thick ice on the truck door handle.

Frozen door handle

The door handle was just as covered as the mirror. It had been raining for quite some time.

BF had the same thing on the blue truck when he went to work earlier that morning.

The outside faucet was frozen over too, so I couldn’t get water without turning off the truck. Most of the water on the ground was also sleet or otherwise frozen. Everything was freezing up fast.

I thought I’d use the TS app to order curbside–but the app wouldn’t work for me. Getting to TS before their employees went home was not happening. BF ended up getting dog food at Piggly Wiggly on his way home before they closed up shop.

Then about 10:30 am, the power went out at the Casa de Rurale. That’s when I started chanting for all of us.

Without Power

I made sure my phone was charged, plus the power banks we have were also charged. I was in touch with BF, Miss Alice, and Neighbor E by text, as well as the GER and Aunt Ruth by email. (Turns out the GER recently got himself an iPhone, and texts now. What’s this world coming to?)

I posted on Facebook and Instagram to let folks know what was going on. Well, everyone was in the freeze and doing the same thing. One of the Houston TV stations’ Facebook page mentioned lighting candles for warmth. So that was the first thing I did, putting them all on the dining room table. There is a flashlight or two in every room in the house, including one hanging next to my desk. But without power, candles are the way to go until you can find a way to generate heat. ALWAYS exercise caution with lit candles, especially with pets and/or children around.

BF got calls from the neighbors on both sides, asking if he had power. NO, but he knew about it from Entergy’s phone call and my texting. They worked until about 4 or 5, but BF went to Piggly Wiggly long before they closed and had everything ready for whenever they left the shop.

Pictures Of Winter

Meantime, I took a few pictures to enjoy:

Frosted Holly bush

You have to admit, it does look pretty.

Ice-crusted tree

This is a pecan tree outside the front door.

This green ground-cover plant by the tree didn’t die in the freeze–and it was fine after the ice melted.

Frozen plants

No kidding, they crunched when I touched them.

Social Media

One lady posted this in the official Instant Pot group on Facebook:

Instant Pot Plugged Into Generator

That’s using your noodle!

If it works, it works! I did offer to put the slow cooker or IP on the generator, but BF said we didn’t need to.  But I couldn’t leave this for the Instant Pot post.

This was also posted in the same group:

Instant Pot advice

Others posted these, good now as well as later:

Insurance advice

Plumbing problems? No, you don’t.

Freeze plumbing, part 1

The GER said that a neighbor chased down a plumbing truck just to get a part to fix something. It was that bad in Houston for a while.

And for fun, Neighbor E sent me this one:

Now The Lizzards

There will be a Shutterfly book at some point for all these pictures. We can look at them in the summer when it’s 90 degrees.

BF To The Rescue

Did I mention BF hates cold weather?

So while I was inside with the animals trying to stay warm and watching the temperature go down one degree at a time, I cut some fabric by the open window while there was still some daylight. I had another t-shirt under the sweater. BF told me not to worry–it would be fine once he got home. And it was.

You see, BF has been in this freeze situation before. For such a thing he has a gasoline-powered generator, as well as a camping stove that’s powered by bottled propane. From the minute he arrived and brought everything inside, he swung into action.

First, he went out to the shop and slid that generator across the ice-covered expanse of land, and set it up on the porch, running the cord in through the slightly opened front window. The cold air was kept out with a towel blocking off the opening. With four plugs available, two went to space heaters, one to light. We unplugged one thing to charge our phones, make coffee, whatever. We then went into town to fill up three or four jugs with petrol to keep the generator running.

Deer Sausage

If you’re a veg type, I’m sorry. People go deer hunting around these parts. Deer sausage happens both here and in Texas. In Houston, Neighbor J upstairs used to bring me deer sausage occasionally when he went to West Texas for hunting. The processors added too much jalapeno for him, but I thought it was delicious.

Deer sausage cooking in a frying pan on a camp stove

Deer sausage cooking for dinner. You have to boil it first, then fry it. That’s what he said.

About a month before our epic winter storm, BF had the opportunity to buy some deer sausage from someone who was unemployed and made it for someone who refused to pay for it. I was a bit perplexed when he told me about buying so much, but I just found a place for it in the big freezer. We’ve had it several times since then.

Dinner By BF The Chef

On this night, our dinner was deer sausage and eggs:

James cooking in kitchen on the camping stove

There he is!

I tease him sometimes that he cooks a little something and then prances around like he’s the French chef Escoffier. Teasing aside, shortly after this picture, we had a hot, freshly cooked keto-friendly dinner:

Eggs and deer sausage on a plate

Yes, we were indeed fortunate and thankful.

Light in the kitchen was from a big burly cordless Snap-On shop flashlight that’s to the left of him. It has a heavy, flat bottom so you can set it on a flat surface. The neck pivots up and down so you can get it in just the right place. I can’t find anything similar on either Snap-On’s website or Amazon to show you. There was still a bit of light from outside while he was cooking.

Our camp stove provided some heat, which was also helpful. But it should never be used as a sole heat source indoors.

Of course, BF was puffing his chest out a little, proud to take care of “The Little Woman” (me) in the harsh, cold winter days. He’s done this before and knew exactly what to do. I hugged him a little tighter and made sure I helped whenever he needed me. Miss Alice, The GER, Neighbor E, and Aunt Ruth all got a kick out of the picture, too.

Living And Waiting

BF connected a lamp to the generator so I could do evening prayers and cut more fabric. (I’ve got a huge bag of projects ready to sew now.) I chanted for everyone affected by the freeze, which is such a rare thing in this part of the US. Houston, Galveston, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and every place in between just don’t have that kind of weather very often. Most people aren’t prepared for it.

We had two space heaters in the house and ran them on the generator 24/7 until it was over. One of them was next to the dogs so they could stay warm as well.

In order to add more petrol to the generator to keep the heaters running, BF got up in the cold at 5:00 am, then went back to bed. He also ran the freezer and the refrigerator for a while on the generator to make sure everything stayed cold. Some folks reported putting their frozen foods outside–well, it is a freeze, after all–which technically works. But experts were also telling people it could be dangerous if the food thawed and froze again. We were OK.

The Java Cafe’

The next morning, I needed coffee. So I plugged the kettle into the generator and used a French press:

French press coffee pot with cup and hot water steaming

I had to have coffee, OK?

I also pulled down the old Krups cappuccino machine, which I bought in 2013 and rarely use.

Dusty cappuccino machine

It’s been a while since I used this.

We had milk, so I figured the freeze it was a great time to clean it up, try it again and read the manual, too.

Clean cappuccino machine

That’s better.

I can’t say that it works any better than I remember, but I’ll just have to keep playing with it. I only used it because it plugs directly into the generator.

Thawing And The Return Of Power

Our little enclave finally had power again at about 5:30 pm on Tuesday, roughly 36 hours after it went down. We turned the heater way up, disconnected the generator, and got back to it. The dogs were just so unfazed, and the cat just stuck with BF any chance he got.

Large falling branches coated with ice broke the power lines, causing the outages. ALL the trees had a heavy coat of ice like the pecan tree. The local state DOT came around on Tuesday morning and pushed them off the roads so the utility folks could get through and fix the power lines. I went out for a walk and surveyed the road. I’ll add those pictures in a little photo book.

The next day, we were busy washing up the kitchen, laundry, and tidying up everything that we had to postpone during the freeze. Aunt Ruth said later that her kitchen was a bit of a mess, too.  I couldn’t get any work done for two days, and I’m just now finally caught up, almost. No kidding.

A week later, it was 80F. No kidding.

AmyinHat

Yes, that’s me, just a week later, when the world had finally thawed. We were luckier than many.

More To Come

I made a delicious keto recipe last week. I liked it, he didn’t. But it’s fast and easy, and goes over well if you don’t mention “cauliflower rice” to anyone. The infamous Instant Pot post is way overdue and I think I’m just going to finish it up and publish it, with lots of backlinks.

Spring is here, and that means asparagus and other wonderful things, like basil and making pesto. Oh, I have about two years worth of pesto in the freezer, but there’s no saying I can’t make more.

We’ve tossed about the idea of trying to garden again, but I’m taking it with a pound of salt. I’ve still got some parsley to dig up, and I need to start getting basil plants soon. A full-fledged garden? We’ll see. BF now has an old Ford tractor he bought from someone nearby who doesn’t need it, so that will come in handy. . .IF we garden. Again, we’ll see.

In the meantime, Happy Dining!

 

 

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