Looking back on (and during) what Texans will remember for a long-long time as Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon or The Great Winter Storm, I kept thinking surely we've been transported to a different time, like the 1800's, and place, like Minnesota. Whether that was the reality or not, did not matter one bit.
Because telling the story to my non-Texan friends and colleagues had them rolling, I decided (actually while on a phone call) that this needed to be a blog post! After all, my story-telling of what ensued That One Time We Moved got so much love from my readers and inspired me to create my most popular printable The Best Moving Checklist Ever.
You'll hear how it all started for us, what happened during the thick of it and what we learned as a couple, farm animal owners and how-the-heck to be more prepared for next time Mother Nature decides to "party hard" at our physical, emotional and financial expense! I hope you enjoy a laugh or two, albeit of course, at my expense.
How It Started
It all started as small-talk between neighbors of this "arctic freeze" that would be sweeping across the country in the next week and me not thinking much of it. Not until my cool-as-a-cucumber-husband had "that look" as he scoured Amazon for heat lamps after having called all the local feed stores only to find that everyone was sold out of anything and everything heater-related.
Luckily I had just picked up groceries because little did I know... round 2 of panic purchasing had just ensued for our town of Spring Branch and neighboring counties!
Once it had settled in that single digit temperatures were on the way, paired with the realization that we, nor our animals, were accustomed to the freezing weather headed right for us, prep mode was underway.
Being new home-owners in our twenties has taught us many a thing... in our married lifetime of eight years we've lived in 2 apartments in San Antonio, 2 rented houses in Boerne and Bulverde and now 2 purchased homes on the outskirts of town. Our first purchased home was a spec home that had never been lived in and we enjoyed that element to the max. Everything was fresh and new, however, our love for country-living got the best of us and we bought the ultimate mint-green fixer-upper in the hill country, where we now live so we could have that #farmlife - complete with Boer goats and Silkie chickens.
We had no clue that a year after getting the place "livable," having remodeled the entire kitchen, all of the downstairs flooring, adding on two offices (one including the Arrange studio) and a list of other repairs and updates... we would experience a worldwide pandemic followed by an unprecedented stretch of weather for Texas. It's fine, we're fine...
In The Thick of It, Literally
We went to bed that first night in mid-February, actually my oblivious-to-extreme-weather-self went to bed that night with no worry that the report of incoming snow would actually come to fruition. And much to my surprise, literally... I woke up rubbing my eyes to make sure that having no power, along with my front yard and road being one solid blanket of snow wasn't a dream... or in the case of the onsetting Snowmageddon, just the beginning of a nightmare.
After piecing together a pathetically inadequate winter ensemble and pushing about 8 inches of snow off the door, I rushed out to check on the goats we had pinned under the house. Random side note: the underside of our partial pier-and-beam home situated on a hill apparently makes for the perfect backup shelter (since our barn for them is open-faced and quite a trek from the house).
The goats seemed fine at this point and throughout the day we would dump a 5-gallon bucket of hot water to unfreeze their "goat water." We thought we were so resourceful to fill the bucket from our master bath since it has a balcony overlooking the area they would stay during the storm. This, was of course, only the beginning of the lengths we would go once we would also lose running water.
Eventually we moved the goat water into their shelter and secured the one heat lamp Kyle was able to find over their water to keep it from freezing while the other lamp we had previously was on the huddled up chickens. These lamps of course only came in handy during the short increments of having power over the next several grueling days of rolling brownouts to come.
Once we knew the animals were as warm as possible, we set out to solve our own problem of keeping our house, or at least a part of it, at a non-freezing temperature.
Something on Kyle's must-have list for our new house was a fireplace and I couldn't be more grateful for it. However, a must-have for said fireplace, is firewood. Our small supply wouldn't last more than a day and of course, by now, it was unavailable to purchase.
Kyle drove his pickup through the neighborhood for about an hour looking for the perfect dead tree and right by the small lake (not to be confused with Canyon Lake), he found just that! He came back with the great news of his voyage, grabbed his chainsaw and hired me as his gathering assistant. He cut, I loaded.
We came home with an entire truck bed full and felt like we had struck gold!
I must admit that as I was heaving chunks of a tree I could barely wrap my arms around, I thought, "I totally get why people had kids back in the day... because, if I had a son to be doing this... well, I wouldn't be doing this!"
That haul lasted us a couple of days and we went out for round 2 on our golf cart due to roads being too frozen to drive either of our vehicles -- needless to say, it took a few trips.
Waiting on Water
We had now done enough physical labor to keep ourselves warm without power just in time to lose running water. By the way, it's important to mention that Kyle is doing all of this with 2 herniated discs in his back that will likely need surgery soon. It's fine. We're fine.
A couple more days in and dirty dishes have started piling up and TMI, our toilets need to be flushed. I'll spare you the boring details of how we gathered storage totes full of snow to melt for the animals and then filter for drinking, cooking and flushing. It was a whole thing.
Sleepless in the Snow
As we neared what would be one of the worst nights with a temperature of 2 degrees, (the buttons on our TV were frozen it was so cold) we had done all we could to keep the animals and ourselves warm and in the middle of the night we debated bringing them in the house (to one of our semi-detached offices) for fear they would freeze to death. We had already failed an attempt to cut up a quilt for goat sweaters, another thing I wished we had pulled the trigger on buying last winter.
I knew it was very possible with this unprecedented weather, that we could wake to headlines of something like, "Texans Lose Countless Livestock Due to Freezing Weather."
However, we resisted the temptation to bring them inside because heaven knows we'd have another round of havoc to deal with. I just envisioned a goat on top of my desk, knocking my computer down and chicken droppings all over my paperwork.
The next morning as I mentally prepared myself to remove dead chickens from the coop and grieve the loss of my pet goats... we were so relieved to find, THEY MADE IT! WE DID IT! THE WORST WAS BEHIND US!
We optimistically now looked forward to slowly-but-surely rising temperatures, power being restored for hour increments instead of minutes and starting to do some more normal things like being able to get on the internet and cooking real meals again.
What We Learned
One of the biggest takeaways was the power of positivity. We've always been big believers in being problem-solvers instead of complainers. Complainers actually drive us crazy!
The thing about Kyle and I is we work VERY well together when it comes to business, but when it comes to physical projects, let's just say we approach jobs from total opposite perspectives.
This made minuscule tasks like securing tarps and carrying hay and feed to the goats all the more "exciting" as we trudged through several inches of snow on a hilltop that comes with great views but also 20-mile per hour winds during this everlasting storm!
And of course, I'm a woman, so "always being right" doesn't exactly breed synergy.
Nonetheless, looking back on the way we tirelessly worked together, for the sake of our animals mostly, without ever once complaining about our personal discomfort... double kudos for Kyle due to his back being thrown out, I am proud of us.
Along with many in society these days, we've been eating a low carb diet for the most part. Saying no to things like cake and pasta.
So about mid-way through the weeklong storm, during the incremental power outages, we decided we would make homemade fettuccine alfredo! While the power was out, Kyle made the dough as I prepped the ingredients for the cream sauce.
We invited his parents over (who recently moved just down the street), wherein his mother brought her famous chocolate sheet cake she had daringly baked while the power was on. We were "living on the edge" and making the best of it.
Because we don't have a gas stove (on the wishlist for the next house), we waited with a pot of melted snow and chicken broth and a skillet of butter and chopped garlic. Once the power came on, it was like living out an episode of Food Network's Chopped as we swung into action to make a delicious meal for 4 that was ultimately enjoyed by all with wine by candlelight.
I'll admit we are a little crazy, but not without arguing we are also good at making great memories.
In wrapping up this snowstorm sauga, I just HAVE to share one of the last, but also funniest, snippets of our Snowpocalypse adventure.
It was the day after when we had power for a steady 48 hours and receiving hopeful messages from the water supply company that restoration was just around the corner.
Kyle's parents sent a text that evening that they had running water. Even though we didn't have it yet I was thrilled to know the days of "wet wipes" and dumping pitchers of water to wash my hair were over! Worst-case-scenario, I could shower at their house.
Although Kyle checked for leaks earlier, we woke to realize one of the main lines was busted!
And because being unable to buy toilet paper during the pandemic, firewood during the snowstorm and groceries during both was not enough... there was now a PVC pipe shortage! Home Depot, sold out. Lowe's, no pipe. Hardware stores, nope. Local plumbers, nothing.
Not only am I married to a hard-working, resourceful and positive problem-solving husband, he's also got "the luck of the Irish." Fun fact: Rainey as a last name evolved from O'Rainey in Ireland.
But anyway, Kyle nevertheless sets out for the handful of pipe and fittings we need and this is when the good Lord shines his face on us and put him in the right place at the right time! He stopped at a gas station where there happened to be a landscape man who happened to have a trailer of pipe that just happened to be exactly the pieces we needed! I would deny it was an angel if the gentleman hadn't refused to let Kyle pay for it!
He brings it home, finds some leftover PVC glue and dried out primer and then proceeds to ask if I have nail polish. I oblige and we head under the house. "Praying hands emoji" that the break was where we could get to it - it was! Long story short, I can now add Plumbing to my resume as I assisted Kyle, but also cut, primed and glued pipe myself! We were down to the last piece needing to be glued only to realize, we had made one of the cuts too short and it wouldn't reach the other connection. We had. No. More. Pipe.
At this point, mind you, I'm sitting in hay and goat muck since this was the part under the house I mentioned earlier that the goats stayed in for shelter.
Here's when just like the snow, I begin to melt... and not in the warm and fuzzy way either.
I throw a small internal temper tantrum and then politely ask my husband, "So if we just leave this one pipe disconnected and reconnect all the others it will only affect the water-hose spigot on the front of the house?" To which he replied, "Right, but if I don't fix it the right way now... I'll never get around to it."
Pretty sure at this point my eyes turned to saucers and I let out a scream, "I NEED A SHOWER!"
Let's just say the message was received and we had running water within the next few minutes!
How It's Going
All of us probably learned a hard lesson on taking certain things for granted and also how wasteful Americans can be - especially when you note how much water it takes just to flush a a dang toilet!
But as I sit here writing, looking out from my kitchen window at the chickens who are now laying, goats who will be having kids in a couple of months (yay!) and the redbud tree in bloom, I can honestly say without a doubt, I learned that we are 100% responsible for our life and that blaming other things or people is a total waste of time.
It's not how or why this happened to us, but it's all about what we choose to do in every situation we face. I cannot fail to mention how much I feel for those who were affected in much more severe ways than we were. My prayers go out to those who suffered true loss. I'm very grateful to have been able to survive when others were not.
I'm also very grateful to have read this book by Jack Canfield and can't recommend it more. It allowed me to lean on it's principles like this one that I'll leave you with:
"You only have control over three things in your life— the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take." —Jack Canfield
P.S. Here's a running list with links to things I had, or wished we had, to be more prepared for this crazy storm. Enjoy and feel free to comment about your experience with that wacky weather or even tips you suggest for similar situations - I would love to hear from you!
Christa Rainey is the founder of Arrange who works with real estate professionals to provide digital interior design solutions for their marketing endeavors. She believes in the value of elevating property listings to attract home buyers by telling the story of a home's potential. Combining interior design principles with cutting-edge technology,
Christa puts her Bachelor's Degree in Interior Design to use along with her 10 years of industry experience to work with and support both real estate brokerages and photographers all across the US - providing them with quality solutions in virtual staging.