Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday Farm Photo: The Best Part about Putting Up Hay?


When all that's left to do is admire the view and wait for winter.

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It's always a little discombobulating coming back to the grid after being without power—especially if it's been off for 53 hours. When we lose electricity we pull out the oil lamp and candles and pretend we're camping—which isn't a whole lot different than everyday life in The Shack.

Things outdoors pretty much continue on as usual when there's no electricity, but not much happens inside (and it sure does get dark early in here). A power outage also means there is absolutely no excuse not to head out to the weed-filled garden and get to work cleaning out raised beds (which you've been putting off for far too long).

Our stovetop burners use propane so we can still cook lots of things, but because we're on a well, no electricity also means no running water, and that can get a little tiring after a while (and boy do the dirty dishes pile up quickly). We're very lucky to have the spring so we always have access to water (which we boiled when we ran out of drinking water), and fortunately bales of hay will stay fresh whether there's power or not, unlike the contents of our several chest freezers.

These long outages usually occur during winter ice storms, so worrying about anything defrosting isn't a concern. This time was a little iffy. But thanks to a little cool snap, the numerous large plastic bottles of ice we keep on hand that went into the fridge, the generator we finally borrowed from the donkey peddling cowboy around hour 36 (because ours wouldn't start), and the fact that the freezers were crammed to capacity, pretty much everything except a couple of cartons of ice cream stayed frozen solid.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the neatly stacked foodie farm blog where losing power for an extended period always reminds us of just how much we heart electricity—and makes me wonder if perhaps I should rethink my current thoughts on canning. Except pretty jars of preserved garden tomatoes are one thing, but canned lamb just doesn't sound very appealing.

17 comments:

  1. I live in an area that frequently has to deal with power outtages, so try this idea the chefs at work told me: Always keep a few ice cubes in a Tupperware container in your freezer. When the power comes back on, open the freezer and check the cubes. If they still look like cubes, the contents of your freezer are fine. If they are anything other than pristine, you should either cook (and then freeze) the contents, or throw it all out; the appropriate response depends on how badly those ice cubes melted and how long the power was off.

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  2. Canned meat doesn't sound good to me, but I've had many people SWEAR that canning makes meat really tender and tasty. It's supposed to be particularly good for reducing the gamy flavor or wild meat. I might have to try it if our lamb comes out too strong-tasting for me (they're going away on Saturday).

    But meat has to be pressure canned for over an hour, and frankly, I can think of a lot of other things I'd rather be doing that staring at a canner gauge for an hour.

    Glad your frozen food survived (and you did, too).

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  3. Even though I have horrible allergies, I miss haying! I helped on a couple of farms as a teen and loved every minute of it!

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  4. My rule of thumb about possibly defrosted items: if there are still substantial ice crystals in the frozen item - refreezing is viable. Sometimes quality may be diminished slightly but it isn't dangerous. I am getting canning fever this year - and have absolutely NOTHING coming out of my abandoned garden. :::sigh::: all to the best I'm sure - buying more jars and so forth isn't economically smart at the moment.
    Glad you survived and thankful it didn't occur during lambing season. Rolling with punches from nature is a required skill when you live out of the way. Good to hear from you again - love the hay barn pictures -a place where your cats can truly earn their keep!

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  5. I cannot bee leeve your hay photos.
    Still, I understand.
    It's what you do.
    Kudos.

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  6. Growing up in rural Alabama meant we had to contend with frequent power outages, sometimes as long as a week after winter ice storms. The occasional summer ones spelled disaster for our chest freezer. :-( Glad to know y;all pulled through save for some ice cream.

    And I was thinking: the best thing about putting up hay is...finally being done? :-P

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  7. Long stints without electricity are never fun. I live on the coast and preparing for hurricanes and tropical storms is a summer hobby some years.

    A few years ago after a long stint without power due to a tropical storm (Gaston in 2004), we invested in a generator. Luckily we haven't needed it yet because a summer or two ago it got stolen (unopened and still in the box) from our tractor sheds. And to date I can't make myself come off the cash to by another one since needing it is luckily so few and far between.

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  8. I don't what it is about the power going out, but it makes me very, very nervous. We live in a township away from cities & we're on a well too. I keep plenty of water on hand for drinking but can't flush the toilet & that is a bit disconcerting. I'd like to invest in a generator to be sure that our sump pump will work when we have long periods of rain, like last weekend. (We got about 9" within 3 days here outside of Chicago.) Anyone have any recommendations about getting a generator? I'm up for suggestions!

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  9. The best part about putting up hay..is that lovely rich feeling you get when the shed is full. I get the same feeling with a full wood shed and full pantry...I think it must satisfy a basic hunter/ gather instinct.

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  10. Impressive! That looks like a lot of hard work completed. I would think the best part would be... being finished. So glad you have electricity again, and that you didn't lose all the yummy contents of your freezers. That would be a real heartbreak.

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  11. Canned meat is great for stews and soups - not good for things like lamb chops or roasts. But if you canned some, you would be assured of meat if you DID have a disaster.

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  12. Our power got turned back on after 4 days on Wednesday. Whew, it makes you appreciate electricity! We were lucky that we have an old water pump, so we could still flush our toilet. We didn't have running water for 24 hours!

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  13. So glad you made it through Ike okay and that you didn't lose your frozen summer bounty! I'm with you on the canning, though... I'm in Texas and got smacked by Ike and will *definitely* can next year. (Except for meat and... berries. Wonder if you can preserve un-jellied berries?) :)

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  14. Situations like the one you just went through are the reason we do a lot of canning and installed solar PV panels on our barn.

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  15. Hi. I haven't visited in a while but was doing a Google search on purple basil and your site came up. Love your farm photos.

    Lori Lynn

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  16. I feel so vulnerable when we lose power. It seems to get darker earlier so maybe that's it. I'm glad to hear that you didn't lose too much frozen food.

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  17. Hi Everybody,
    Thanks for all the comments. I always enjoy hearing about your own experiences, including with power outages.

    We've definitely been lucky over the years, and we belong to a really great electric co-op. When there's a problem they have crews out working around the clock (often during terrible storms, sub-freezing temperatures, and other nasty circumstances) to restore everybody's power and did an amazing and fast job this time, especially considering it wasn't one or two big problems, but lots and lots of little ones, many of which only affected a few customers.

    Whenever I called to check on how things were going, I made sure to tell the person I spoke to (some of whom were also without power) how thankful we are for the co-op and the work they do for us. I was surprised when one of the ladies I spoke with said that most people do not have the same attitude - and that a lot of people call up angry and upset.

    Okay, 6,000 homes are without power and they're working overtime and around the clock to restore it - so you're going to call up and yell at them? Not my idea of the right thing to do. : )

    Being without power for an extended period always makes me realize just how important electricity is to our everyday lives - and I'm more grateful for it than ever. It is so easy to take it for granted, but we're very, very lucky to have it. I think the people who don't realize that need to be forced to go without any power for at least a week - while working outdoors all night long in an ice storm. : )

    Hi Laurene,
    You asked about generators. We currently have a Coleman with a Briggs & Stratton engine which Joe has had for 18 years - and he's had problems with it from day one.

    Joe is sold on Honda engines (we have a Honda pump that we've used for years to pump water out of the spring for the animals) so our next generator will have a Honda engine. You can buy various brands that use Honda engines, or you can go 'all Honda' - but that will cost a lot more.

    Right now we're seriously considering this Dewalt generator. Depending on your needs and situation, you can get by with a smaller generator. If you click on that Dewalt link and scroll down the page, there's a whole bunch of really helpful information about generators in general and how to choose the right kind, size, etc.

    The way we look at it, a generator is basically an insurance policy. We've had ours for 18 years, so if you figure this new one lasts as long, that's $100 a year for peace of mind - and the ability to save a couple of thousand dollars worth of frozen meat in the case of a long outage during warm weather.

    Here's hoping we never have to use it - and that you never have to use yours! : )

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