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How We Are Surviving Snowpocalypse 2010

Arborvitae. It is snowing. Again. Snow, then freezing rain, then more snow with a vengeance that promises to keep on all day through to midnight. This is on top of the batch we got last Saturday. Philadelphia got 28.5 inches though round these parts it seems we “only” got about 17. It was enough to give the arborvitae quite a beating, even though we brushed and shook the snow off them as soon as possible. That snow last Saturday was light and fluffy. This batch is wet and heavy and the arborvitae are sad, sad, sad.
arborvitae.JPG
Arborvitae, you will recall, are supposed to be upright, hedge-like critters. Not waving their evergreen arms all about in frantic desperation. Yet this is what ours look like after another round or two of cleaning today. Less than two hours after this photo was taken, they were once more laden with snow and drooping nearly to the ground. Mr. Z cleaned them off yet again, but alas, by the time he was done with his third commando sweep of the driveway and cars, it was the same grievous story. We hope we have given them a fighting chance, and that they will rebound in a sprightly manner this spring (assuming the deer don’t browse anymore of their lower branches). Neither of us wants to go out to shovel, scrape, and brush off arborvitae one more time but it looks like we are going to have to. And maybe more than one more time.
Yet these are minor travails, and things could be worse.


Power Status. In last Saturday’s storm, Mom’s assisted living home lost power and I was beside myself with anxiety all day. All of us children were snowed in – no one could get to her – and I wasn’t sure what would happen to her. Fortunately for her and all the other residents there, the power came back on late in the day on Saturday, and heat and hot meals were theirs once again.
My brother has not been so lucky. They’ve been without power since that Saturday storm, and today’s second wallop will not help. Fortunately for them they have a very good fireplace, a propane stove, and a resourceful son who scavenged up a generator for them to use.
Car Logistics. One sister reported an intricate chess game with cars in the parking lot at her apartment complex, as the facilities crew worked to clear most of the lot last Saturday. The combined efforts of residents and crew got the job done.
Mr. Z has played his own game of car chess, choosing a new position for his car in the driveway last Saturday pre-storm, and then migrating mine as well yesterday pre-storm, to optimize snow removal around the cars. In the end, there’s still a freaking ton of snow to be removed. I just glanced out the window. Damn you, Snowpocalypse! How did those folks in Buffalo not completely lose their minds when they got eight feet in 36 hours????
Other Historic Snowstorm Tales. Mom tells me there was a really bad snowstorm in the 1950s. Dad went to work in the mine and came out at the end of his shift to discover the snow. He borrowed chains from someone – this was the era before snow tires – and put them on his car (imagine, after eight hours in the coal mine) so he could get home. The drive was not long but involved traversing some serious hills studded with wicked curves. By the time he got home the chains were worn out.
In the aftermath of that storm, the main road leading into town got plowed, but some of the roads in town did not. Mom remembers the men of the town banding together to shovel out the “Schoolhouse Hill” road, the one that leads up and past the elementary school in town. She also remembers “Butcher” who ran a store just outside town, coming up into town in his truck, with boxes he had packed with all sorts of foodstuffs, just whatever he thought people might need or want, going around town and telling people to choose what they needed out of the boxes. He kept records of what each family took and added it back to their accounts at his store for them to pay up later. Again, this was in the days before big chain grocery stores, when people shopped more frequently for their meals. Even now, in that area, to get to a largish grocery store with a big selection of items, it would be a twenty-five minute drive from my mother’s house. There is a small grocery store with a limited selection (and very poor produce selection) about a 10-15 minute drive away.
Snowpocalypse Food Choices. Several family members report “pot of chilli” as a favored Snowpocalypse survival meal. One friend reported dinner out at Busboys and Poets* which was open for Snowpocalypse Round One due to putting up their employees in a downtown hotel.
Last Friday I was in a grocery store to pick up a few items and thought “hey, it might be fun to make chocolate chip cookies while we’re snowed in this weekend.” Apparently, so did everyone else within driving range of my grocery store. Every bag of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips was gone from the shelves. I had to purchase the store-brand “organic” semi-sweet chocolate morsels. Which, I can report, still made fabulous chocolate chip cookies, especially since I made them with butter, and threw in some walnuts, too.
While in the extremely crowded grocery store, I crossed carts with a bitterly unhappy looking man next to the deli counter, who locked eyes with me and snarled, “I thought I was going to to be the only person here!” Presumably he thought that, because we were shopping at 8:30 a.m. on a Friday morning. (He probably drove all of 5 minutes to get to that nice big fancy grocery store with its lavish produce aisle, and yet he lamented that he did not have the place to himself.) But, my good sir, I wanted to say, it is the Friday before the SuperBowl AND before Snowpocalypse! What did you expect? Alas, he made a sharp turn and grumped his cart out of sight before I could utter a syllable.
Speaking of the SuperBowl, I roasted a turkey for the big game, a tasty bird I had in my freezer since last November, purchased at the farmer’s market and put on hold when the family decided on plans for Thanksgiving that didn’t involve me cooking. We enjoyed the meat and mashed potatoes and stuffing with gravy, and the leftovers (twice), and I’ve frozen some meat for later use, but the real joy of a turkey, as most good cooks know, is making stock. This time I used a recipe published in the Philadelphia Inquirer last fall. I broke up the carcass and roasted it in a 425 degree oven along with an onion, carrot, and celery rib or two for an hour. Lay down some olive oil in that roasting pan first or you’ll be sorry. Stir the carcass around a bit during roasting. Transfer the whole mess to your stock pot, pour off any fat from the roasting pan, then deglaze with some brandy and 2 or 3 cups of hot water and add to the stock pot. I used two of those little airport sized bottles of brandy for the deglazing. In the stock pot, throw in a few bay leaves, some sprigs of fresh thyme if you’ve got ’em or dried thyme if you don’t (I used a teaspoon or two of dried thyme), about 15-20 nice peppercorns, and a 1×1 inch peeled, sliced piece of fresh ginger. I added about 14 or 15 cups of cold water and slowly brought the mess to a boil then simmered uncovered for just over two hours, with occasional stirring. You’ve gotta take out the big chunks and then strain through a fine mesh sieve and then cool. This yielded about 10-12 cups of the richest looking, best tasting stock I have ever made in my life. The bird was from Pikeland Pastured Poultry and, like the chicken stock I made earlier, there was essentially no foaming with this stock. Pikeland’s birds are amazing. I cannot wait to eat the soup I will make from this stock and I just grieve that it only yielded 10 cups of stock.
But no soup tonight. Tonight we eat leftover chilli. Too damn tired after all the snow. Which, as I look out my window, is STILL falling. It does pretty things to trees, though.
snowy tree.JPG
As long as it does not make them come crashing down on your power lines. Fingers crossed for everyone out there to stay warm, cozy, and well fed till this is all over.
P. S.:
Wawa. Neither snow nor sleet shall close local Wawas. Because you just gotta have your Wawa sub.

*The name refers to American poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in the 1930s, prior to gaining recognition as a poet.

  1. DRK
    February 10, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Sorry about the snow; it is pretty, it is fun for awhile, but then it’s just a slog…
    I used to do this with my young yew bushes; try gently tying up your arborvitae with stockings or string. That way, the snow can’t weigh down the branches as much. A tip from when I lived up north! Just be sure to untie it and let it air out after a thaw.

  2. February 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    It is a shame what the every-50-years-or-so snow storm can do to the trees. Good luck digging and thawing out!
    Arbor Vitae: v v v v
    Spruce trees: ^ ^ ^ ^

  3. SKM
    February 10, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I’m glad your mother is snug and warm. Here’s hoping your brother’s family hangs in and gets power back soon.
    I’ve been in Dallas caring for my folks, but I got back to Pittsburgh in time for the beginning of Snowpocalypse. We got 20 inches on Friday/Saturday, and we got about 3 more today. I put up some pictures on Monday, when my internet connection was restored.
    We have another round of snow removal from car and deck ahead tomorrow *shiver*.
    All my best to you and your trees!

  4. February 11, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Ouch. Your snowfall from this one storm is about 2x our annual rainfall. I don’t know how you all do it. Btw the houses that can barely be seen on either side of the shrub look really elegant and unique. Anyways, wishing you a warm and dry weekend.

  5. Peggy L
    February 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Good luck with all that snow! We have not gotten quite as much in Blacksburg, but still a lot, and a lot more than usual. The stock sounds great!

  6. tinfoilhattie
    February 12, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Sympathy from a bit south of you – with DC area’s snowfall exceeding Buffalo, NY’s, this year!
    However, we haven’t yet had the joy of freezing rain. Ugh. Poor arbor vitae.
    More snow expected Monday. Sigh.

  7. Endor
    February 12, 2010 at 10:05 am

    “Sympathy from a bit south of you – with DC area’s snowfall exceeding Buffalo, NY’s, this year!”
    *look out her office window facing Lake Erie* MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAA!!!!! TAKE IT, TAKE IT ALLL!!!!!
    Buffalo, btw, doesn’t get half as much snow as our reputation would have people believe.

  8. February 12, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I am seriously never leaving Arizona. I even avoid Flagstaff during the winter.

  9. bluefoot
    February 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    As a former long time Buffalo resident, I have some old snow-related habits that I can’t seem to shake.
    The car chess problem is always worked out well in advance – it even determined which apartment I ended up renting in Boston, even though I was apartment hunting in the summer.
    I always keep at least one bag of chocolate chips in my freezer, because baking is one of a blizzard’s great pleasures. Related to that, I tend to keep a baseline amount of rice, dried lentils and various other things that I can cook if I can’t get to a grocery store for a few days.
    It sucks, but I always stay ahead of the snowfall. I rarely let more than six inches fall before I’m out there shoveling again. Though I do remember one Christmas in Buffalo where we got snow much snow, by the time we got to the end of the driveway, we had to start over again. This went on for about 12 hours.
    But the biggest snow survival tip I can give, which makes it easy to get by in Buffalo in the winter, is to help each other out. Helping to shovel, pushing cars that get stuck, sharing supplies, running errands for your neighbors if you’ve got a truck/snowmobile/skis/snowshoes/killer hiking boots, giving out hot drinks (or warm choc chip cookies) to the people who are shoveling when you can’t, letting your neighbor run their sump pump off your generator if the power goes out, etc – all these are pretty typical Buffalo.

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