Sepia Saturday – Zero Water, Lots of Snow

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

I live in Austin, Texas, where the summers are long and sometimes oppressive and the winters are short and not bitterly cold.

Congress Avenue, Austin, in the mid 1970s

We are situated on the eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country, so named because … hills. The highest point of the city is Mt. Bonnell with an elevation of 775 feet. The prominent point sits alongside the Lake Austin portion of the Colorado River.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons by Randall Chancellor

My favorite month of the year is April, when the chill is gone from the air and the days are warm and sunny and the wildflowers are in their glory all along the highways and byways of central Texas. In 2014, we had an exceptional landscape of bluebonnets where parts of Lake Travis should have been. The fertile soil of the lake bottom, exposed by severe drought, filled with a sea of wildflowers where water usually flows.

I experienced my first “blue norther” when my family moved to Texas my junior year of high school. I was at marching band practice. It was short sleeves-and-shorts weather when practice started. In minutes, the cold wind was blowing and it was coat-and-gloves weather. Our plants are often confused by the rollercoaster ups and downs of temperatures. It will freeze just long enough to kill, then rise into the 60s, fooling plants to bud, then freeze again. Sometimes we lose the hill country peach crop when a freeze comes as late as March. Impatient gardeners are warned not to begin spring planting until the middle of the month, but are seen en mass at nurseries anyway.

It rarely snows here. Many years pass without a flake – or maybe with a few flakes that melt on contact with the warm ground. If it does snow, it is short lived and the kids must hurry outside to play in it because it will likely disappear within hours, not days.

December 2008

There might be just enough snow to make a grassy snow angel or a tiny snowman. Maybe a few snowballs to throw at a sibling or parent.

February 2007 Snowball fight with Tina

In the event of snow, we take pictures. Lots of pictures.

February 2004 Behind our house

Any freezing precipitation is usually freezing rain or sleet rather than snow, coating the roads in a layer of ice. When we close our schools or have traffic accidents we are the butt of jokes, but really, who can drive on ice? Ice and hills do not make for safe driving, especially school busses trying to deliver children safely to school. So keep your derision to yourself, please.

January 2007 An icy mix

When it snowed on January 10, we thought we had had our winter.

10 January 2021

But no.

Freezing weather returned on February 11. Rain and freezing rain iced the roads as temperatures fell, causing several pileups on major roads. And that awful situation in Ft. Worth! Some power outages occurred due to ice-laden tree limbs falling onto power lines.

But this was just the beginning, as four additional winter storm systems passed through in the span of a week (or so). I’ve lost all concept of time, so I’ll just say we had a 6.5 inch snowfall in Austin and a record 140+ consecutive hours below freezing, including some record-setting single-digit temperatures. The current plight of the entire state is all over the news. Millions with no electricity. Hospitals that lost heat and potable water. Households without running water. Many have been in dire straits. Lives have been lost.

My husband and I and my daughter and her husband have been extremely lucky. She lives near downtown, an area protected from controlled power outages because the state capitol is nearby. My husband and I aren’t sure why we were spared. Half of our neighborhood lost power for a couple of days later in the system failure. All we can figure is that there is a senior living center adjacent to one side of the neighborhood, so maybe we share the grid with them. We have many friends who went without power for 60 hours.

We have tried to be judicious in our use of electricity – turning down the thermostat, using only one light at a time, unplugging what was not essential or being used. We did allow ourselves television and my husband had to continue work from home, as he has been for a year now.

Thankfully spared from losing electricity, we did lose running water. I think today (Saturday) is day four. I couldn’t keep track of time due to the pandemic, but I have truly lost all sense of time now! Fortunately, we have a supply of bottled water, so drinking water has not been a problem. We filled two bathtubs with water before our pipes dried up, so the first day we were feeling ok about our ability to flush. But we began to worry as more and more areas of town lost water and we were told to expect this to last for days. So Thursday we refilled the tubs with snow and yesterday, we worked in earnest to stock up as the snow began to melt. We hope our supply of melted snow holds out. We don’t want to use our drinking water reserve for flushing!

Today, our neighborhood association decided to allow residents to get water from the two swimming pools. And a truck was in the neighborhood to distribute potable water.

I’ll share some of my snow photos with you. Not all of them are pretty.

15 Feb 2021 snow drift on the balcony

15 Feb 2021 view from the front window. Copper plants covered with snow

If you are wondering what’s up with the trees on the left – I yarn bombed them for Christmas and did a change over for Valentines Day.

Befuddled dog wanders and wanders searching for a place to “go”.

The little dog was not as brave. We don’t have a snow shovel, but now have a snow broom that my husband used to try to help the little one venture out.

One of my friends shared the photo below – quite a sight in our neighborhood – the bottom of a hill by the neighborhood park.

Wildlife was also impacted by the weather. A pair of roadrunners live in the greenbelt behind our house. It is fairly common to see roadrunners about, looking for food. Sometimes one will come into the back yard in the heat of the summer to get a drink from the birdbath. On snow days one and two, I saw a roadrunner on our back patio, feathers puffed out, sitting for a bit, then going on its way. That is behavior I have not seen before and I worried about them. Our bird feeder was very popular until it was encased in ice by day two or three. Thursday I found footprints on the front porch (deer?), and as I looked down the length of the porch, I spotted a frozen bird.

The next day, I heard birds hit a window a few times – even though blinds and curtains were drawn. By Friday morning, the frozen bird had disappeared. Only a few small feathers remained. The snow on the porch was gone by then, so no footprints to reveal who had happened upon a meal. A friend in the neighborhood also had disoriented birds hit her window and watched as a hawk flew in, grabbed a stunned bird, and flew away. So it may have been a hawk that cleaned up for us and got a meal as reward.

Thursday we began harvesting snow. My husband took a bucket to the back yard and shoveled snow. I took a bucket to the front porch and harvested the leaves of the copper plants – because I could do it without getting my feet wet. My process was slower, but satisfying.  

Begonia blooms dyed the snow.

I strongly dislike the nandina that are planted around our house. No matter how hard you try to get rid of them, they never die. I’m sure they will survive.

There will be bathtubs to thoroughly clean when this is over.

Friday, my husband shoveled more snow before going to work upstairs. Some of the snow started melting and I was able to collect water as it dripped from the roof. A much easier way to collect snow! A bucket of snow is easy to carry upstairs, while a bucket of water is not!

After days of low light and a chilly home with no running water, I felt as though I was living in The Long Winter and hoped that Pa would take out his fiddle and play for us after another day of harvesting toilet water.

Thankfully the roads are free of ice now, the temperature hit the 50s today, and it will stay above freezing tonight. No one will freeze to death here tonight. Lives will begin to return to coronanormal, as we continue to boil water for a while, broken water pipes are eventually repaired, grocery stores and gas stations are fully open, and schools return to some kind of open. Once again, disparities are on display. A few jerks are too (I’m looking at you, Texas Senator Ted Cruz) … and some official responsibility-avoiders. But overwhelmingly, neighbors, businesses, friends, churches, strangers, and medical, emergency and essential workers have come to the rescue.

Well, I have worked on this post off and on during the day (Saturday). I got a text from my next door neighbor about 10:00 p.m. saying that she had a trickle of water in a downstairs bathroom. So far, none for us. As it is now after midnight, we are on to day five without running water. Her text gave me hope. Maybe tomorrow! We would really like to shower! I usually attend Zoom church on Sunday mornings, but if there is no shower beforehand, I’ll be joining without video this week.

Please sled, ski, or slip on over to Sepia Saturday where you can click on the links to see what others have prepared in response to the prompt photo today.

Pandemic Photo Journal June 7-13, 2020

I am trying a weekly photo journal of my life during this stay-at-home pandemic. The idea is to post on Sundays and include one photo for each day of the week with some text. I may not limit myself to one photo because I have a hard time with rules like that. It seems a perfectly logical thing to do on a family history blog. This is certainly an historic time.

Sunday, 6/7/2020

* Zoom Church
* James Byrd. Tortured and murdered 22 years ago today. Drug behind a pickup in east Texas. Reading this, I am remembering that Rick Perry sometimes used to do the right thing. And that today, in 2020, some in the GOP do not want to vote for anti-lynching legislation unless LGBTQ persons are removed from protection provided by the bill. Of course, some in the GOP do not want an anti-lynching bill at all.
James Byrd. Say his name too.
* Still 91 at 8:15 pm. I’m going to have to start getting up early to walk or just use the treadmill. My post surgery gut requires me to stay home for awhile after getting up in the morning so not sure if I will beat the heat with that schedule either
* Late walk.

Monday 6/8/2020

* ESL Book Club – Last Stop on Market Street. Students really liked this book. Lots of good discussion. Again, a message for living during a pandemic. Gratitude.
* Requested photo I saw on findagrave
* Zoom meeting with team helping an asylum seeker.
* Too hot to walk outside day or night.

Tuesday 6/9/2020

* Zoom English lesson with R didn’t work well due to technology and language barriers.
* Church group book discussion of Me and White Supremacy on Zoom. Good.

Wednesday 6/10/2020

* Got an early start on chores for once!
* More bumps trying to teach R, but finally got in most of a lesson.
* Roasted some wrinkled tomatoes.

Thursday 6/11/2020

* ESL class
* Covid-19 cases sharply rising in Texas
* 45 said that a 75-year-old man pushed down and injured by police was a member of Antifa. This opinion humor piece inspired me to come up with a few of my own signs that your grandparent is an Antifa agent:
She goes for “walks” wearing a handmade mask, large sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to avoid identification on camera.
Think Granny needs that walker? It’s part of her cover as an in innocent bystander. Plus, she can make those wheels spin when she darts down a side street.
(I’m sure I wrote at least one more, but I must have deleted it from Facebook… something about grandpa carrying ketchup packets in his pockets so it looks like he is bleeding when faking a injury.)
* Robert is so gonna vote. Be like Robert!

Friday 6/12/2020

* Worked on blog
* Cooped up with dogs while cable guy was here
* Band-Aid finally decided to make bandages in a range of skin tones.
* Birthday zoom for cousin Dorinda.

Saturday 6/13/2020

* Beautiful morning
* Cleared out some weeds and must have thrown a pen over the fence?
* Used some of the roasted tomatoes to top baked fish. Yummy!

Please wear a mask and limit your time away from home. We are seeing an increase of infections. 

Pandemic Photo Journal May 31-June 6, 2020

I am trying a weekly photo journal of my life during this stay-at-home pandemic. The idea is to post on Sundays and include one photo for each day of the week with some text. I may not limit myself to one photo because I have a hard time with rules like that. It seems a perfectly logical thing to do on a family history blog. This is certainly an historic time.

My journal entries primarily come from my Facebook posts and notes I have jotted in my bullet journal. I’ve gotten behind. Playing catch up!

Sunday 5/31

* Zoom church. Prepped Book Club
* It seems like the country is on fire. Protests taken over by anarchists and far-right folks. Why can’t we let Black people have their voices heard in protest and demonstration without hijacking them? POTUS pours fuel on the fire and then hides from responsibilities.
* Rally at the Capitol sponsored by Austin Justice Coalition was cancelled out of caution.
* Offered some of my books as a lending library for my Facebook friends. There are a couple that I haven’t read or finished. A couple are from high school/college and the yellowed pages prove it. Found more stashed away in other places – Just Mercy! Plus kid lit books.

* I had to get out of the house and walk off some of the feelings. I found so many little signs of joy and care and beauty to lift my spirits.

Monday 6/1

* ESL Book Club – Ferdinand the Bull. Always good!
* Having completed 100 consecutive days of playing piano for 10 minutes, I decided to try memorization. My brain is not on board. The first day my brain was completely confused by what I was asking it to do. Day 4, my brain is still out of its element, but has agreed to try. I chose something that I can play with music and that doesn’t have way too many notes. Or so I thought. In fact, I think it may be something I was required to memorize for a recital and ended up walking off stage in humiliation when I was unable to find my place and continue. Memorization has never been my strength.
* Ready to Wear Orange June 5th. And maybe write a note.
* Listening to voices of church leadership regarding Trump’s photo op today.

Tuesday 6/2

* Late night hosts doing the best they know how. James Corden interviewed Eric Michael Dyson (Tears We Cannot Stop), then it got so emotional as he was talking to one of the black musicians from his show. And the pandemic means there is no adequate means of consoling.
* Glad to see a list of local Black owned businesses to support.

Wednesday 6/3

* Former Defense Secretary James Mattis finally broke his silence.
* Two people have made me laugh out loud today. One by text and one on Facebook. I’m still laughing about one of them. Thankful for the laughs!
* First real outing that wasn’t to a doctor appointment and I got to see the fabulous Cathy! David too! It was like real life. Empty building except for us. Foyer filled with manna bags, food items, books – all there to continue ministry to unsheltered neighbors who arrive for “breakfast in a bag“ twice a week. The church building is closed, but the church is active. I was afraid I might not make it because my rarely-driven car was flashing warning lights all the way there and back. Is my car upset that I have been ignoring it?

* This cracked me up. I walked by this house a week ago and saw a sign for an elementary school student. A few days later, another sign was right next to it, brother evidently decided to be recognized as well. Next time I walked by, the brothers were socially distanced at about 6 feet. Tonight I walked by and had to cross the street to get both signs in the camera frame. 😂  I wonder how they are getting along? 🤔

Thursday 6/4

* Freaking out about the singing at the memorial service for George Floyd. So needed and restorative … but we are in the middle of a pandemic and attendance is already putting them at risk.
* Drew Brees under fire for comments about kneeling during the national anthem.
* Group from church got on Zoom to take a picture of us in orange for for National Gun Violence Awareness Day. We will post the photo on social media tomorrow.

Friday 6/5

* Wearing my orange shirt – at home …
* Trying a much easier piano piece to memorize.
* Worked on masks.
* Dreamboat wants broccoli!

Saturday 6/6

* Got veggie box
* Travis County May 30-June 3 – Testing increased 4%; infections increased 10%. Too early for this to be related to protests. More likely Memorial Day and opening up.
* Finished puzzle. I’m sure M will be happy to have it off the table!

Please wear a mask and limit your time away from home. We are seeing an increase of infections.