Friday, January 19, 2024

Friday Food: Even Without Running Water

Had take-out been an option for me, I would certainly have taken it this week. Since it's not, however, this is what I did . . .


Short version: Sausage, leftover spaghetti, carrot sticks with ranch dip

Long version: We had a lot of spaghetti left from Wednesday, and A. had taken the child who didn't like it on an adventure, so we finished that. I supplemented that with the last package of smoked sausage from the freezer, and the last of the ranch dressing to go with some carrot sticks.


Short version: Elk stew, cheese, garlic bread

Long version: I was making bread this day, and had been planning all day to make pizza with some of the dough. But then we got home from an extensive cleaning session at church that involved putting away all the boxes of Christmas decorations and . . . I just didn't want to deal with pizza.

The way I make it is a lot of work, and I didn't want to do it. So there.

I had made the stew in the morning, thinking I would eat it and then would have it for another night, but instead I made garlic bread with some of the bread dough and served that with the stew.

Good thing I hadn't told anyone I was planning on pizza. They would not have been pleased with the change in plans.


Short version: Ham, rice, black-eyed peas, frozen green peas, pots de creme

Long version: While digging through one of the chest freezers last month, I came across a container of black-eyed peas I had made several months ago. I considered using them on New Year's Day instead of making another pot of them, but I decided to save them for some other time.

This was the time. 

The ham was one I had bought around Christmas when they were pretty cheap. 

Oh, and I should note that when I make the pots de creme now, I leave out the extra sugar entirely. The chocolate chips provide all the sugar it needs. In my opinion, anyway.


Short version: Leftovers, granola, bread and butter

Long version: This was the day I came home from work to find no running water. I had been planning on making cornbread to go along with the leftover ham and black-eyed peas, because there wasn't enough rice left for everyone, but I didn't want to dirty the several dishes used to make the cornbread. 

So instead I microwaved two potatoes, chopped them up, and fried them along with the ham while it was re-heating. 

A couple of kids had granola and yogurt after dinner, too, and they all had bread and butter.

I forgot this night that I had paper plates stashed somewhere for camping, so we used regular plates. But from the next morning on, we used paper plates. I hate paper plates. So floppy and annoying.

Good eggs, bad plate.


Short version: Tamales, cookies

Long version: Still no water, still didn't want to make a bunch of dishes. I had taken out some cube steaks to thaw, but decided the better option would be to steam the extra tamales I had frozen on Epiphany. 

After washing an entire counter's worth of dirty dishes earlier in the day with about two gallons of water carried in buckets and boiled on the stove, I was very motivated to conserve dishes as much as possible.

We had grape tomatoes, grated cheese, and lettuce to top them with, along with salsa, hot sauce, and the last of the sour cream. A nice dinner, although one I would have preferred to have saved for a night when I didn't have a lot of inclination to cook, instead of using them on a day when I was home and had the time. Oh well. 

I did make cookies earlier in the day, but I make cookies so frequently that I knew I could do it with minimal dishes. One bowl, one measuring cup, one spoon, and one pan. They were chocolate chip-peanut butter-oatmeal-almond cookies, and they were much appreciated. Worth the four dishes.


Short version: Bull and potato skillet, frozen peas, tamales, granola, cookies

Long version: The chunk of ham that was in the refrigerator when I went to work was not there when I got home, so I had to figure out something else to do with the several potatoes I was microwaving and planned on frying with the ham. Luckily, I had a small bag of processed bull meat in the freezer, so I used that with the potatoes instead, also adding some already-cooked onion that was in the refrigerator, garlic powder, paprika, chile powder, and shredded cheese.

To fry this, I used the big cast iron skillet I had used Monday for the ham. I never washed it, and I just used it again. And didn't wash it. Again. This is called "seasoning." Ahem.

I also didn't wash the smaller skillet I use to fry my eggs in the morning since, um, Monday. Whatever. It's just butter in there.

The bull and potatoes were all eaten before the basketball player got home, but I did have some leftover tamales. Good thing, because he ate FIVE tamales, and then used his milk cup to eat some granola (dishes conservation!), and THEN had a big piece of bread with peanut butter.

An impressive showing. I foresee a growth spurt and another round of buying shoes and jeans in my near future.


Short version: Cube steaks, potatoes, carrots, brownie

Long version: Third use for the big cast iron skillet that I hadn't washed the night before. I used it to brown and then simmer the cube steaks in a tomato sauce. When the cube steaks were mostly done, I put some sliced carrots and potatoes in there with them and baked it until everything was tender.

An all-in-one sort of meal.

And then I really needed to wash the skillet. And I could! Because we had water! YAY. I even washed the egg skillet. Going crazy with the power of water.

The brownies were a very last-minute decision, since the oven was on anyway to cook the potatoes and carrots. I thought it would be nice to have something celebratory for our great water triumph.

Let's check in on the contents of my refrigerator, shall we?

Lotta cheese, not much else. Good thing I have to go to a basketball game today in a town with a grocery store.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Water, Water, Every Where

This morning I dropped down into our water meter hole to fully dig out the meter and the pipes leading to it, so we could put the hair dryer directly on the pipe there and maybe thaw whatever ice was causing the water blockage.

I had to do it because A. is too big. Even I could only do it by squatting while I cleared the dirt. Ow.

The hair dryer duly applied, A. checked the outside tap after a few minutes of heat. The pipe for this runs underground directly from the meter and doesn't share any pipe with the indoor water. It hadn't been running, either, which is what made A. think that maybe the problem was in the meter set-up.

But when A. checked it . . .


As A. so drolly remarked, having water on our property outside the door brought us up to the level of a more prosperous third-world country. My response to that was the level I was hoping for was one that would enable me to shower in my own house.

This was not to be yet, though.

Still no water indoors, which meant some other frozen spot under the house. Those pipes are a lot less accessible, and anyway we didn't know where the problem was. We just left the space heater going under there, and also set up our big box fan to blow the 50-degree outside air under the house.

I was hopeful, but still really wanted to take a shower, so I actually drove 18 miles roundtrip to the school to take a shower at noon. Worth it.

At 1:30 p.m., I was sitting in the living room when I heard the glorious sound of running water. We had left the tap in the kids' bathroom open, since it had had a steady slow drip all the time. What I heard was the water rushing out of that open tap. 

I ran to the bathroom, confirmed the running water, and shouted "WATER!" to A. in his office on the other side of the bathroom wall.

Then we went around checking all the taps in the house and found all of them were running.

The first thing I did was a load of laundry, because it's almost 60 degrees today, and will not be this warm again for some time. I don't know if it will dry all the way on the line in just a few hours, but I can always finish drying it in the house overnight.

The next thing I did was a load of dishes in the dishwasher.

The water is running, and all is right with my world again. Amen.

Still No Water

Unfortunately, it appears the pipes under the house are frozen. The main part of our house is a trailer, so there's a lot of "under the house," and of course, under the house never gets sun. I've noted since we moved here that anything not in a direct sun takes forever to thaw or melt, so that's not great. 

That means that this is day four with no running water. While this is annoying, there's always the positives to consider. So let's make a list, shall we?

1) We can still get water in buckets from the village well house. A. and the biggest boy have been hauling that water with the truck every day, some for the animals, some for us. This means we can still use the toilets, brush teeth, take a sponge bath as needed, etc.

2) I know how to brush my teeth, take a sponge bath, do dishes, etc., with very little water. We used to run out of water with some regularity at Blackrock, so I know it can be done.

Dishes waiting on the water to boil.

3) Now my children know how to brush their teeth, etc., without running water. I don't know exactly how this will be applicable to their future lives, but I'm sure it's benefitting them in some way. This is what the childhood development experts like to call "grit," right? Sure.

4) This happened during the school week, so the children can avail themselves of school toilets, drinking fountains, and lunch. 

5) We still have electricity and heat. Lack of water frequently comes with a storm that takes out the electricity, too, and that's a really big bummer. 

Anyway, A. put a space heater under the house to help things along, and it's going to be over 50 degrees today, so fingers crossed for water soon.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024


The whole country is in the midst of what the media likes to dramatically call an arctic blast. We are no exception. Our forecasted low for tonight is one degree below zero.

It was eight degrees Sunday morning, with a heavy layer of rime on all surfaces.

This happens every winter here, but this year, it got us. I got home from work yesterday to find all our water pipes frozen.


It's kind of funny that it happened during the day instead of overnight, but that's when the wind picked up. It was 10 degrees with about 20-mile-an-hour winds by the time I got home, and A. doesn't really run water much when he's home alone.

But more importantly, the bag of wool we use as an insulator where the village water connects to our house had been removed at some point during warmer weather and never was put back.

Thus, frozen pipes.

This is the first time this has happened to us here, and while it is a bummer, it's not as dire as it could be. The village well house has a tap in it, so A. went up there and filled five-gallon buckets of water for the animals and us.

He asked me last night before he did this where he might find lids for the buckets, so the water wouldn't slosh out of the buckets and into the bed of the truck while he was bringing them home. I knew I had seen a couple of lids in the pasture, so I went out in the frigid night with a spotlight to find them.

I found them, but they were frozen to the ground. 

So fun.

I did manage to pry them up with a hammer, though. With the other three lids we found, A. got 25 gallons of water. Ten of those were for the animals, so he brought three buckets into the house for flushing toilets, etc.

Part of the "etc." is washing dishes. Much as I dislike waking up to a messy kitchen, I just didn't have it in me to do it last night. But this morning, I have the water sieved and starting to heat on the woodstove--to be brought later to the actual boil on the propane stove--so I can have one pan of soapy water in the sink for washing and one pan of boiling water for rinsing. 

Also on and by the stove: Cube steaks thawing for dinner and two gallons of drinking water from the Honda thawing out.

Doing dishes this way isn't ideal, but it's not going to get above freezing until tomorrow afternoon, so the odds of having running water until then aren't great. And we need the utensils if nothing else. I do have paper plates, but I do not have plastic utensils. 

The very cold weather has also frozen the outside drain line from the furnace, which I discovered this weekend when I woke up to a 50-degree house. This has happened before, so we knew to disconnect the hose inside the furnace closet and let it drip into something on the floor. 

The white casserole dish was the biggest thing I could find that would still fit under the hose. I use the measuring cup and plastic jar to empty it out when it's really full so I won't slop it all over.

The furnace really only runs at night, because the woodstove heats the house during the day. That dish can't hold all the water that drips from the furnace at night, though, so I have to get up once in the night to empty it, lest it over flow all over the floor.

Also, a little PSA for you: I had no idea that the condensate liquid from furnaces and boilers is toxic, but it is. I was going to give some to the dogs before A. stopped me to tell me it's really dangerous. I thought it was just water condensed from the hot furnace and cold air, but it's not. I'm sure glad A. knew this.

None of this is particularly fun, but it's temporary. After tonight's very low low temperature, it's supposed to get to the mid-forties tomorrow afternoon. And the next day is going to be 50 degrees. So we will thaw out. And it would be much worse if we couldn't get water anywhere, even in buckets.

So tell me: How are you weathering the blast?

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Snapshots: Blizzard Conditions

Monday we had a blizzard of the sort that is described in The Hard Winter. At one point, we couldn't even see the sheep barn 40 yards away. 

I didn't take any pictures of the blizzard itself, but I got some of the aftermath.

The wind created some very interesting drifts of snow, while leaving other areas scoured down to bare earth.

This was not shoveled, it just ended up like this from the wind.

You can see that by the fence the ground is visible, while back closer to the house, there's a four-foot drift.

In addition to ferocious winds and snow, we had some pretty intense cold. This meant solid water troughs that had to be literally chopped out to reach the liquid water for the animals.

I use this old adze, which allows me to chop the ice while leaning over the fence. That way I don't have to climb over any fences.

Amazingly, we never lost power during this storm, which meant that our Internet never went out. And that meant that my children could do their schooling at home.

They do not like this. I don't like it either. My dining table always looks like this on these days.

A table covered in computers, with the bonus of wet outdoor apparel drying all over the place.

We haven't had much more snow since that day, but the cold has continued. This has made it challenging to get washed clothing dry, thanks to my lack of dryer. I have found, though, that if it's even just under freezing with sun at some point in the day, the clothes will get mostly dry during the day, and then I can hang them around the woodstove at night to finish drying. This way I don't have drying clothes in the way while we're all in the kitchen and around the woodstove all day.

Nocturnal drying.

Hanging up wet clothes when it's fifteen degrees with wind really builds character, though. At least, that's what I tell myself.

This has been an extended period of very cold weather, but it's supposed to start warming up Wednesday, and Thursday we have a forecasted high of 50 degrees. Crazy New Mexico winter, as usual.

There you have it! My (arctic) life, snapshotted.