Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hunkering Down, with Recipe

Really. This Indiana monsoon weather can stop any time. Any time. After a huge storm completely flooded out many Indiana residents last weekend, including these poor folks in Franklin, Mother Nature whipped up something awful again Monday night.
I was at work when the sky went black and rain and heavy winds blasted out of nowhere. I contemplated picking the kids up early, but learned that the nastiness had already ripped through the part of town where they're in daycare, so waited out the storm and left at the usual time. On the way to pick them up, it was clear this was no normal Indiana rainstorm. Tree limbs were everywhere, and a tree had fallen on one of the apartment buildings behind their daycare center.

Driving the kids home, I noticed block after block out of power. Most traffic lights were down, and all of us rush-hour drivers had to relearn the art of taking turns at each intersection. I picked up McDonald's for the kids (so sue me), not knowing whether we'd have power, or even a house, when we got home. Two blocks from our house a huge tree, complete with its root system, had just toppled down, miraculously missing the house on the same lot. It looked like the hand of God had reached down and flicked it right over. Across the street from our house, a big tree had cracked in half and lay in the road.

Our house was powerless, but intact. The boys ate their happy meals; I fed Sylvia. Phil gathered up no-power supplies like flashlights and candles, and then drove my freezer supply of breastmilk to a friend's house who hadn't lost power. (This is the curse of breastfeeding; the first thing you think in any crisis is "What about the breastmilk???!!!")

As night fell, the realization of a TV-less night started dawning on Tommy and Max. I explained to Tommy that we didn't have any power, and he would say, "Well, then go get more power." Like I could pick it up at Target, along with some diapers. So I suggested we learned about a family who lived before TVs even existed, and pulled out my second-grade copy of Little House in the Big Woods. I love this book. I've probably read it five times as an adult.

We started reading about Laura and Mary and Pa and Ma preparing for a long winter: butchering, salting, smoking, braiding, harvesting. A few pages into it, Max was riveted. He would say things like, "Don't read any more! I have to go to the bathroom!" Then he'd come back and we'd continue on. The next morning, the house still powerless, he woke me up early to see if we could read more. We sat together and ate generic Mini-Wheats without milk and read, just like our forebears.

Today the electricity's back on, so in honor of campfire cooking, I made ranch beans in the slow cooker. These are protein-packed, relatively inexpensive, pretty yummy, and largely made from ingredients you likely have on hand.

Slow-Cooker Ranch Beans

1 pound ground hamburger
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 15-oz. cans baked beans
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Worchestire sauce
1/4 cup catsup
1 Tbsp. prepared mustard

Brown the hamburger with the onion. Add this, as well as the rest of the ingredients, to a slow cooker, and cook on a low setting 8 to 10 hours. Enjoy after a long day hunting.


Frugal Urbanite said...

I LOVE the Little House on the Prairie series. One of my fears is that I'm going to have a little girl and she's going to hate it.

I have to buy a new set of the books because I actually managed to read my (softcover) copies to pieces.

Anonymous said...

Whew, glad to hear you're all ok. Didn't realize you had another storm Monday. By the way, Mark had 2 to 3 feet of water in his basement on Saturday.

Shouldn't be too long before Max can start reading those books. Great idea to whet his appetite.


Hooked on Houses said...

I had no idea it was so bad in Indy! That's scary. I'm glad you're all okay!

Loved Tommy's insistence that you should "get more power, then."

I bought Lily the Little House set of books for her 6th birthday and we've been working our way through them. It's interesting to re-read those stories with "adult eyes." Maybe I mentioned this to you in an earlier conversation, but as a girl I never fully appreciated the risks they took or how vulnerable they were. Caroline was one brave--and easygoing--woman! I wouldn't have lasted ten minutes.

One thing I didn't remember was how many animals are killed and butchered in the books. My daughter the animal lover isn't so keen on those parts. I admit I've started skimming over some of the hunting scenes... -J

Amateur Tightwad said...

The Little House books are the best, aren't they? I begged my parents for them for Christmas back in second grade, fondled them lovingly, read half of them, and then ran out of steam. I never actually finished the series until I lived in New York, and read the rest of them on the subway going to work. (Paints quite a picture, doesn't it?) Julie, like you I never really thought about what a life-or-death life it was. I also didn't realize how politically incorrect but set in the times some of it was -- like Pa doing a minstrel show. I also didn't realize until I was an adult that the family died out; Laura is the only one of the kids who had any kids, and her daughter never had kids and died many years ago. So without the stories, this amazing family would be lost to history. I'm glad the next generation, like Lily and Max, are getting to enjoy their adventures.