We live in North Central Texas. It is not unusual for us to get snow, and sub-freezing temps in the wintertime. Even into low teens is not out of the realm of possibilities. My in-laws have enjoyed calling us each winter, asking us how we enjoy the "country cold". HA! Fun fact--I despise the cold. Like, with every fiber of my being. Truly, madly, deeply.
The whole country is aware of--and affected by--winter storms Uri and Violet. And Texas, with our massive infrastructure failures, is at the forefront of the spotlight. Our state is well-equipped to deal with temperatures over 100, throughout the state, for weeks on end. We cool our homes to 30-40+ degrees below the temperature outside. In a typical winter, we have one, maybe 2 days of ice. That's it. Many homes in southern parts of the state don't have central heat. It's completely unnecessary. It's like people up north having central air conditioning--most of the time, why would you have it?? You can ride out a day or 2 in a single area in your home, with fans on, saying hydrated, and doing what you can to stay cool. We can ride out a day or 2 with extra clothes on, sleeping bags and blankets, and if we're lucky, a fire burning in the fireplace. Or we go to work, where the heat is on. Northern folk are not well-equipped for extended periods of heat, especially record-breaking heat waves--just like us southerners are not well-equipped for extended periods of sub-freezing temperatures, especially record breaking snow and ice storms. People can die in both scenarios.
The lowest temperature on record here in our county, prior to this storm system, was 7 degrees. This storm system brought negative lows for a couple nights, and in the single digits--but above zero--for a few more nights. We have had ice on the roads for 8 out of the last 10 days. Rolling blackouts were expected--and people were prepared. But rather than having rolling blackouts--the power was simply OFF. For DAYS. People were prepared for the possibility of pipes freezing. We know to leave our water dripping to prevent this for the day or 2 normally required. Yet, pipes still froze--with water coming out and forming icycles--or froze, then burst, flooding homes and offices. With everyone leaving their water dripping for days and days, coupled with people planning the best they can and storing water in jugs, buckets, bowls, and bathtubs, our municipal water supplies were literally drained. We literally ran out of water.
This has been a nightmare, across the state. BUT, I have observed our community coming together, checking on neighbors and strangers alike, and offering what we have to give. Private businesses are opening to provide what food, water, and shelter they can. Municipalities are doing what they can to provide shelter and security, while waiting for government-run services to be restored. We are leaning on each other for resources and strength. God has provided for His Created ones, the way He often does--not through miracles and signs and wonders, but through calling us out to BE THE CHURCH, just like He has through this pandemic. It has been an amazing thing to watch His Provision.
On a personal level, I have been completely overwhelmed, to my core--by God's provision for our family. I have hit my knees on multiple occasions during the last week and a half, as His ENORMOUS love and mercy envelops me and floods over me. I can't even begin to verbalize, adequately, what He has done for us here. Like, seriously, completely, overwhelmed. I am literally weeping as I type this--that is how in awe I am, rejoicing in His provision.
Anyone who has known me for any amount of time knows I love the outdoors, and that I always wanted to live on a ranch when I grew up.
**side note--Y'all, I could regale you with stories of God's provision throughout my whole life for probably HOURS. Y'all might be bored to tears by the time I'm finished, but I can't speak about God's love and mercy enough. I am so unworthy of the blessings my King has bestowed on me, AND YET He continues to bless me....**
Ok, back to it. Love nature, love animals, wanted to live on a ranch.
I grew up NOT camping. At all. But I just thought all of God's creation was magical. In college, I dated a boy who showed me pictures of him and his family going backpacking in Colorado (Provision). The pictures were spectacular! We later broke up. I was sad. I remember going to WalMart to buy some ice cream and a copy of Cosmo magazine to distract me from my sadness. Well, close to "Cosmo" was an issue of "Backpacker" (Provision), with a front-cover feature piece on Guadalupe Mountains National Park--in Texas. Backpacker magazine. There was a whole magazine dedicated to this thing! I bought it, and just could NOT get over the magical scenery depicted throughout that issue!! The feature article was a route description of the trail going up to Guadalupe Peak--the highest point in Texas. It said the trail was rated "strenuous". I'd never hiked before, slept in a tent before, or carried a crap-ton of weight on my back for any extended amount of time before. But I HAD been in Army ROTC at SFA, which was kinda the same thing, right?? Provision. So, I grabbed an Eagle Scout buddy of mine (Provision), and off we went to West TX. That was an adventure all on it's own. It involved spending a night in my car, tripping over my shoelaces, starting up the wrong trail, surviving 100 mph winds (not exaggerating), and never getting to summit Guad Peak due to a snow storm (provision). I cussed (in my head--I'm not a wuss!) the whole way up that dang mountain. I swore I'd never do that again. And then I woke up in the morning. The view.....It was breathtaking. It was the most beautiful view I'd ever seen in my life, with the clouds down in the valley below, and the sun shining high in an azure sky... I was hooked. Bought all the gear. Went as often as I could afford to go. I learned how to trim down my gear, what comforts I really just don't want to live without, and most importantly, how to gather and sterilize water in a variety of environments. Provision. I also developed an inner strength and self-confidence through backpacking by myself than I would have any other way. Provision. When I had my first born, I took her hiking for the first time at 5 weeks old. I tried to take her camping once at 8 months old, and ended up packing up at 4am. Took her again at 15 months, successfully, until the drive home. When I met my husband (online), what made me even consider his profile was his love of backpacking. I didn't even want to date. I was happy as a single mom. I just thought maybe I could make a friend, we could go backpacking together, and my parents wouldn't worry about me backpacking by myself. Instead, I fell head over heels in love with this man BEFORE WE EVEN MET FACE TO FACE. Provision. Once we were married, we took his 2 kiddos and mine on a backpacking trips at least once a year--backpacking with tiny children is tough, yo! But we did it, because we love it. Having additional children slowed us down some, but not completely. Until #7 was conceived! We've been "grounded" since we found out we were pregnant with our youngest. We didn't even camp for a bit! I tried when he was a baby, bringing him with me to our AHG troop's annual girl-only campout when he was maybe 6 months old. He wanted nothing to do with it. So we headed home. I didn't try again until he was 3. He--and the other littles--did great, and my hope was renewed! I have since added the additional camping and backpacking equipment necessary for our family to get outdoors successfully. Provision. I NEED outdoor time, just like I need air to breathe. Being able to get back out on trails and in a tent has been healing for my anxiety. Provision.
We became involved with Girl Scouts when my first-born was 5. We later transferred from Girl Scouts to American Heritage Girls. During my time with both organizations, I've shared my backpacking knowledge with girls and families alike, while learning how to camp in the process, haha! Provision. Camping is way more luxurious than backpacking! And camping--and backpacking--teaches you such skills as the lifesaving importance of layering clothes, how it's easier to heat up a small space than a larger space (tent in a living room--polar bear camping patch, anyone?!), sourcing and purifying water, and how to cook on a camp stove or over an open flame/hot coals. Provision.
Once upon a time, I owned my own business, creating various bath products. During this time, I also quit my 9-5 job, and began learning how to make everything from scratch. Foods, cleaning products, soaps, scrubs, and bath bombs, experimented with natural solutions and remedies we had on hand for cleaning the house as well as our bodies, you name it. I still make my own laundry detergent--though I definitely prefer Tide pods for our super dirty farm clothes! I also hate going to the store, and frequently buy things in bulk--flour, rice, sugar, stuff like that, is usually purchased in 50-lb quantities. This know-how, and need to bulk-purchase certain basics, proved useful during the pandemic. When there were food and cleaning product shortages, I had supplies on hand, and knew how to make things from scratch. Provision.
We have a lot of butts to wipe in our house. I "subscribe and save" purchase toilet paper from Amazon. We started to run out last February before our next order was due to ship, so I ordered more toilet paper. And then, because I have the memory of a grapefruit, I bought some more when I was at WalMart, grocery shopping one day. So, we had the WalMart toilet paper, an extra shipment of Amazon toilet paper, and then our regularly-scheduled shipment of toilet paper all at the house during the 2nd week of February. A month later, Covid lockdowns hit, and people bought up everything at the store. And here I was, sitting on 3 extra months of toilet paper, ahead of the lockdowns, purely on accident. Provision.
As a kid, I wanted horses and cows. I envisioned myself living on hundreds of acres, in the middle of nowhere. While that is still my dream in my head, years of research and the desire to make things more attainable (baby steps--not a sacrifice of my dream, but a building up of it), led us to purchase our 20 acre homestead that was absolutely and undoubtedly Provision! Really, we hadn't planned on moving until maybe the kids all grew up and moved away. The more kids we had, the further away that looked. Abandonment of our family by Darrin's kids--and yet Darrin's relentless love of them despite their actions--were blessed in the form of bumping up our move by a decade or more. Provision. We started looking more seriously, and somewhere during looking, I thought "hm, goats and chickens could be fun." Literally never wanted chickens until just a few years ago--that's what the grocery store is for. And goats? Why the heck would I want goats?! Because my grandfather raised goats, and all of a sudden, it sounded nostalgic. Provision. Moving to our home, I can't tell you the number of times we have heard "I didn't even know this house existed," (it's right off of Hwy 59, in plain view) or "I didn't know it was on the market," (it sat on the market for a year), or "the old Scroggins place? I didn't know Mrs. Scroggins had moved out" (Mrs. Scroggins is in a nursing home. Mr. Scroggins passed away. The house was vacant for over 2 years before we moved in). I cannot even tell you how much I shudder to think of what the last pandemic-year would have looked like for us, with our 5 feral children, if we were still in our old house in the middle of Suburbia. The thought that God placed this house in our path at just the right moment, for us to move, be settled, and be fairly self-sufficient ahead of this pandemic, is nothing less than humbling. Provision.
We also started a garden, of course, because we live on a farm. You have to have a garden if you live on a farm! I've never been able to grow anything IN MY LIFE, except cactus. No lie. But this past summer, experimenting with the Ruth Stout method, I was able to grow onions, potatoes, and even some lettuce.
We bought some chickens 2 months after moving in, and bought some goats the following summer, for conservation and breeding purposes. We keep buying chickens, because I keep running out of eggs. Now we have so many eggs at times that I'm able to sell my extra. Not only that, I don't have enough eggs to sell!! I had to buy more chickens to produce more eggs to meet the demand of just the people I know! Provision.
The thought crossed my mind, a couple years ago, of raising our own meat chickens, but there was NO WAY I was going to slaughter them myself. I even asked my mother in law once if she knew where to get chickens processed. She told me she'd teach me how to do it. My response? "Ew, no!" 3 years, many YouTube videos, and a food-shortage-causing pandemic later, we raised a batch of 60 meat chickens this past summer for our own consumption, as well as our parents--and slaughtered them ourselves. Provision. To process chickens, you don't need fancy or expensive equipment, but it certainly helps, according to YouTube! A plucker and a scalder are the most expensive pieces to purchase, with the plucker being the most critical. We mentioned to my in-laws that we were raising chickens. Turns out, they have long-time friends who raised and processed chickens commercially for awhile, then no longer wanted to do so. They still had the equipment. We asked about purchasing the plucker and scalder--and those items were GIFTED to us. Guess who gets free chicken for life now?! Provision. Of the birds we slaughtered, we have been able to give quite a few of those healthy, pasture-raised, nutrient-dense birds away to friends and family, and even sold some to those who wanted more. Our original intent was to provide food security for ourselves and family. And yet God has shown us that this can also bring in an income stream, while also providing food security for our community. Provision.
During this winter storm, we prepared to the best of our ability. My greatest fear was our baby chicks dying. They're only a week old, and still need heat. These chicks are for the CSA we just started doing. Customers have already paid for them. If the power had gone out, I'm not sure what all could have been done to ensure enough heat for those babies. I mean, we had a plan, just in case. I'm just not sure how viable the plan would have been. No power would have meant no tank heaters for the rest of our livestock. Their water tanks are shallow, to prevent drowning--because we lost 2 baby goats to drowning 2 winters ago. Shallow water freezes quickly in these temperatures. If our water tanks freeze solid, it's not a matter of busting up ice--it's a matter of having to find another adequate heat source to melt the ice. Lastly, no power would have meant no heat source in our well house to keep our well lines from freezing. If our well lines had frozen, then when the city water also went out for close to 24 hours, our livestock would have had NO water. Thirsty livestock are panicky livestock. And snow only goes so far.
And yet, our power didn't go out once. Our homestead just so happens to be 1.5 miles from a city-owned power plant that didn't shut down during the freeze. Provision.
When the city water had to be shut off (first for a repair, then because of leaky faucets to prevent freezing pipes, and residents suddenly filling up containers to make sure they had water in case of another leak), our community, which still had power at least, no longer had water. We did. Because we have the well. So our livestock, and our family, continued to be fine. Provision. Just no bathing, and we had to wash dishes like we were camping. Which were not new concepts for us, being the outdoor family that we are. Provision.
We have developed strong relationships within our community since moving--local, AHG, and church. We have a friendly relationship with our neighborhood dairyman, who sets milk aside for us when demand is high. He also privately sold us 1/3 of a cow, guaranteeing food in our freezer. He sells meat from his herd anyway, but we got a heckuva deal on cuts of meat that are normally higher priced, because we paid for a straight-up third of a beef--Provision! We have friends who offer us water from their well if we need it, friends we can barter chickens for seed starts, friends who love my children as their own, friends I can bounce my homesteading ideas off of, friends who know people and resources to assist us during a family crisis, a network of homeschool moms, a homeschool-friendly community, a town filled with "good ol' boys" who are happy to help in any way they can, heck, even the workers at Tractor Supply who put a smile on my face every time I'm there--all Provision. We have friends and family spanning from our community to throughout the whole country. Many friends and family reached out to us during this time to check on us. That they cared enough to think about this is Provision.
There are so many things we want to do here on our farm--primarily raising our own food for our own self-sufficiency, while also being a reliable food source (at least proteins) for others in and around our community. I also enjoy teaching and interacting with people. I have been trying to figure out how to incorporate this piece into our farm.
Perhaps a result of the pandemic, and now this Texas-sized Snowpacolypse, is educational
content, classes, and YouTube instruction on survival and self-sufficiency. I already knew that "what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you."--oh wait, not a nightmare for YOU! Hopefully more like a beacon of hope for you, and those eager for greater self-reliance, and less government-reliance! Maybe even be a gift of PROVISION for others!
We have learned SO many lessons the hard way. Nothing has been easy. From heartbreaks, single parenthood, step-parenthood, rejection by our children, dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, and deep depression, financial hardships, miscarriages (yes, plural), going from 2 incomes to 1 income, moves (which were good, but not without stress!), loss of animals, soooooo many failures......... When I talk about God's Provision, I am not saying my, or our, lives have been without trials and struggles. What I am saying is, things that seem so mundane have turned into life-altering blessings. Trials, struggles, and dark valleys of the shadows of death have turned into abundant hope and joy. Failures have turned in freedom. Messes have turned into messages. We've learned HARD HARD lessons, make no mistake. But our Sovereign God has PROVIDED respite, peace, strength, security, hope, and a way. And I am overwhelmed and humbled by His Provision for my family.