Bird dynamics have been FUBAR during this frozen apocalypse. They appear to be much more sociable than in days of yore, flocking together and flying from icicle tree to icicle tree, wondering what in the name of the holy mother is going on. I know they are cedar waxwings because their little wingtips appear to have been dipped in red and yellow paint, and they wear that black mask which conveys a sense of outrage at Nature’s recent shenanigans. Here in central Texas, the old quote of “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink” keeps popping up, as we continue yet more days sans water. Yup, it’s snowing, but we can’t drink that, although we’ve melted 14 gallons of it so far to use to flush toilets. Last week, we filled up some Arizona tea jugs with tap water, so we still have that. I suppose the birds can lick the icicles?
I braved my death by stepping onto our icy front porch to toss them handfuls of hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds out of an abundance of my own grace and mercy upon them. They flew away. Perhaps that’s why we call them bird brains.
We are not doing well. Last Thursday, the ice rained down on my car as I drove my dad to his oral surgery. I had not been near him since the pandemic began, nor had anyone in my car (or home), but anesthesia would not allow him to drive post-op. The frozen rain pelted us as we ran inside the center, which soon informed me that their lobby was closed, and I should sit in my car for the next 30 minutes. I told them I was not going to sit and freeze in my car, and no stores were open yet that morning, so I wasn’t budging. 30 minutes soon turned into an hour and a half. The drive home, stopping for a 30 min wait in the CVS drive-through for five prescriptions, was precarious at best. Friday, we were advised not to travel at all, due to ice.
We got down to zero degrees this weekend. That was a record. It snowed another round. Last night, it sleeted and added another layer of ice on our roads. Our grids have been overloaded, and electric cooperatives were told to begin rolling blackouts. Word on the street is that the federal government would not allow Texas to provide heat and water to its citizens, despite having more than enough energy, due to the amount of pollution that would exceed its environmental standards. If that is the case, they have blood on their hands.
No power means an inability to treat and pump water. This led to boil water notices. And now, nearly a week into this, we have zero water. No water to drip, to prevent our pipes from bursting. No water to rinse dishes or flush toilets or wash hands or give to the dogs. We have a case of bottled water in the pantry, but it won’t last long. I am literally receiving a text from the city as I type, telling us no water will be available before the weekend, if even. That means no showers, no bathing. My husband has filled buckets with dirty snow from the back yard and is melting them on the stove (we are blessed to still have power), so that we can flush toilets at some point. When the temperature increases this weekend, the newsmen have advised us that the water mains will all thaw and break, and to prepare again for no water.
And we are the lucky ones, stuck with roads not drivable, with no trucks to sand the roads, with grocery stores closed or emptied of food. Many of my friends have not had any power for days. DAYS. Dark apartment buildings and subdivisions can look out their windows and see the downtown buildings still lit up, emptied of people, yet warming the offices with heat and lighting the cubicles. Not cool. My friend, Jen, says her apartment has been without power for three days now. Her thermostat reads 48 in her living room. None of them can go warm up in their cars because the garages are solely automatic doors with no other entry. Trapped. Other folks with houses, able to warm up in cars in garages, have chosen not to open their garage doors and died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
We have several unreachable windows 20 feet high, which is great until a historic, unprecedented event that makes you wish for blinds and curtains to block the sub-zero winds and cold. Note the blue garbage bin, which has been out for 7 days now, waiting for garbage men to empty them. Who knows when that will happen? Our trash cans are full.
Poor Houston has 600,000 folks without power. Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church is a warming center, to shelter and feed many of them. But Austin is the hill country, and none of us can brave the icy roads and hills to gather our freezing friends, even if we could. No one has snow tires or chains. Few have 4WD. So they suffer. The millions of dollars worth of wind turbines that used to spew grease all over adjacent towns are frozen solid. Useless. So helicopters using fossil fuels are spraying chemicals made of fossil fuels onto wind turbines made of fossil fuels to de-ice them before tonight’s round of freezing rain hits. And carbon footprint trucks are pulling little hybrid cars out of ditches and saving lives. Green new deal, my ass. The folks who will be dead tonight would be happy for a handful of coal at this point.
This beautiful rye grass was our back yard six days ago. The oak tree was budding, and Roxie was free to spend hours in the sun. If you zoom in, you can see why she was agitated. A possum was hanging upside-down on the trellis. Can you see it?
Today, however, is a different story. Thursday’s ice storm bent the branches of that oak, and it will likely never recover. The cottonwood still stands tall, under a few feet of snow, the most we’ve ever had. My phone said 5 degrees when I awoke. Tonight we will reach a record-breaking one. We’ve dripped the faucets, but many of our friends and family have been without water for days and heat for hours. We are not allowed to travel until next weekend, due to layers of ice. Everything is closed all week. I will have to get creative with the one onion we have. Lentil soup? Tacos? We are down to one cup of milk. But we’ll be all right as long as we have heat and water and each other.
The weather keeps getting stranger and stranger. Last month, I saw more snow than had ever fallen in Austin in my life. This week will be the lowest temps we’ve ever weathered, dipping into single digits. We received a text from the county at lunch, urging folks not to travel for the next several days. The grocery stores are bare of meat, eggs, and milk.
Only days ago, spring had begun its first bloom, and now this.
Our oak tree, which had just begun to bud and stretched over 20 feet into the air, is now bowed down to the grass, branches breaking off every few hours.
Every home in our city has broken branches in its yard.
And our holly bush appears frozen in time, if not weeping from the sudden frost. Strange days indeed.
The diligent ladies here are manning (or womanning) the production line at Wisbech in Cambridgeshire in 1934. In my home, we eat canned green beans about once a week. A couple times a month, I’ll buy the fresh ones and spend an hour snipping the ends and chopping them into reasonable bite sizes, then simmering them in beef broth for several hours. They taste better, but it’s not really worth the labor or the four minutes it takes my men to consume them. We always eat the thicker Italian cut beans, as they are heartier and easier to stab. However, when the holidays roll around, we buy the French Style beans to make green bean casserole because America.
But these British lasses would never have celebrated Thanksgiving and probably never had a green bean casserole in their lives. In Texas, we don’t eat many casseroles; that’s more of a Midwest thang. But I love a good casserole, from spinach to broccoli rice to sweet corn. And I never pass up a side at Thanksgiving. I am an equal opportunity consumer. I don’t even care if the cranberries are cut into a slab of congealed jelly or fresh berries with orange zest and ginger. Either way works.
What about y’all? Are you picky? I’d eat any and all of these sides.
Who’s the most interesting fellow here? The obvious one in dark frames, or the guy taking a pull of his cigarette? It’s quite the crowded counter. Tiny bottles of soda were available for rationing through an entire meal. Honestly, how we did we ever do that? You might also notice that what appears to be a box of Kleenex or napkins is actually a NAB, a square of salty or sugary carbs to compliment your beverage. Of course, NAB is short for Nabisco. And why not indulge? It’s a mere nickel, or as Gary Gulman calls them, “quarter impersonators.” Might I suggest not pairing Oreos with Coke? The sugar crash will be atrocious.