Anyone for groundhog stew?

Groundhog Day is upon us and all I can say is that furry rodent better not see his shadow or I’m going to whip me up a batch of stew.

Groundhog Day is upon us and all I can say is that furry rodent better not see his shadow or I’m going to whip me up a batch of stew.

Of course I’m bluffing. It would hardly be right to kill the messenger. Especially when the messenger isn’t even aware of the message.

My foul mood is simply a result of weeks of wild weather. For two months it’s felt like we’ve been stuffed in a snow globe, shaken silly and tossed in a dryer on the cold cycle for good measure.

I’ve lived in the north all my life so I am used to snow. And I’m used to the cold. But never have there been so much of both at the same time for so long. Usually it’s either cold and calm or warm and snowing. Minus 30 with a foot of snow is hard to take.

And I miss the sun. We’re usually famous for our winter sunshine. Even a 40 below day feels bearable when the sky is blue and the sun is transforming snowdrifts into sparkling prisms.

I love the odd snowstorm or cold spell, especially when we don’t need to go out and no one needs to come in. There’s nothing like cozying up to the woodstove while the winter winds howl.

A day or two of that is kind of nice. A month or two and you start to go a little loopy.

And then there’s the nemesis of our country living — our cistern. For those of you blessed with city plumbing, wells or ponds, a cistern is simply a huge culvert tipped up on its end and buried into the ground with just the top foot or so breaking the surface. A metal lid fits over it with a hole big enough to fit a hose. It holds our only source of water and needs to be refilled every few weeks.

When you live in the country you take very few natural resources for granted, including the most precious one of all: water.

Conserving becomes second nature. I never start up the washing machine or dishwasher for half a load. If I’m running the water until it gets hot, I’ll run it into a bucket to take down to the chickens. Or to water plants. Dripping taps are quickly fixed.

The timing of ordering a load of water can be tricky since you pay by the truckload. A truckload can fill the cistern from bone dry to the brim so the emptier it is the better the value. But if we let the cistern get down to less than half a meter we risk having the water fall below the intake hose which causes all kinds of horrible happenings. Ask me how I know!

Usually I wait until we’re at a meter to put in my order. Then when I spot the water truck coming our home turns into water world. For 15 wild minutes I revel in using up as much water as I can before the cistern is filled.

It’s sort of like being on a diet and then finding yourself inside a room full of your favourite foods and the calories don’t count.

The washing machine goes on, the dishwasher starts up, the mop pail is filled, containers are topped up for watering plants and if there are any family members around, they are sent off to have a shower or bath whether they just had one or not.

But what happens when your cistern is sitting at a meter and a half and they’re predicting a winter storm and blowing snow? Should you splurge, phone for a load of water and be safe, or hold tight and risk the truck not being able to get through?

These are the things that keep country life interesting, especially in a winter with endless weeks of wild weather.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. Catch up on past columns by visiting