the way out here

Coffee at all costs

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 3/3/21

In honor of this being my 50th column of The Way Out Here, it is only suitable that I should write about something that I am extremely passionate about. It’s something that even those who do …

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the way out here

Coffee at all costs

Posted

In honor of this being my 50th column of The Way Out Here, it is only suitable that I should write about something that I am extremely passionate about. It’s something that even those who do not enjoy this outdoor lifestyle can appreciate and understand: coffee.

Many of us here in the Delaware River Valley have recently experienced the power outages that are typical of this time of year when winter is at its fiercest and our resources and preparation are put to the test. My household was no exception when this last major blizzard dropped nearly two feet of snow. We lost power in the early morning around 4 or 5 a.m. and awoke to the natural light filling our house, reflected off the new snowfall outside. For my wife, there was but one immediate and all-important concern to be addressed: How were we going to get our coffee? I chuckled and floated a few ideas by her to set her off on what would become a quest for caffeine that consumed most of her morning.

Obviously, the electric coffee maker would not work. We had a generator but had recently moved it elsewhere, so it was of no use to us now. She suggested microwaving water in order to have hot water to make coffee, but even as the words passed her lips, she realized the similar problem that would be encountered. It was then that I reminded her of the small stove burner I kept for camping in our shed. After giving her instructions on how to find it and use it, I began blowing snow from our driveway. She went to retrieve the burner and gas tank and set up on our front porch, not trusting the unused gas tank in our house. As I made several passes up and down the driveway, I watched her inspect, re-assemble and attempt to light the burner several times over. While it appeared to take the ignition, the flame was hard to see in the outdoor light and we couldn’t be sure that it was still burning as opposed to just releasing gas. Not comfortable with this option, she put the stove away and began to ponder other possibilities. By this time, I had finished the driveway and was beginning to scale a ladder to our roof to remove the heavy snow, which seemed to have been forming ice dams. I watched my wife march with resolute determination from the house to the shed, holding a small sauce pot full of water. Fortunately, we had bottled water on hand, and this was not part of the ongoing saga.

As I continued to shovel, I watched smoke begin to spill from the chimneystack on my shed. She had apparently taken to starting a wood fire in my potbelly stove in order to heat the water. After starting the fire and preparing the pit for boiling, she came outside to observe my progress on the roof. In the meantime, our son, adorned in snow clothing, tumbled over the drifts and entertained our dog by attempting to shovel snow. The dog, of course, wanted to bite the white fluff as it was thrown. After about 10 minutes or so, my wife became impatient with the pot of water and retrieved a lid from the house in order to contain the heat and bring it to boil faster.

Eureka, we now had hot water!

The next step was much more straightforward. We had a French press we rarely get the chance to use; it was immediately employed with the newly boiled water. Having finished the roof, I came inside just in time to see the plunger pressed and the coffee ready for consumption.

The way out here, we may be snowed in without power and unable to do the normal routine, but there is never a shortage of options for the things that matter. For my wife, going without coffee was not an option to be entertained. Had it come down to it, I suspect she could have been seen that morning with a magnifying glass capturing the sun to heat the water in her pot. Fortunately, it didn’t have to go that far. For all you coffee lovers out there, always prep for alternative caffeinating processes. If it comes down to purchasing a wood stove strictly for this purpose, let’s just say I would support the endeavor.

To my readers: Thank you for your growing support over the past year and a half. I truly enjoy sharing my family’s homesteading experience with you and appreciate your many positive responses to this column. It has been a fantastic 50 columns so far; here’s to 50 more!

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