Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Power-Free: Day Three

It's been just over 48 hours since the power blipped off here at Chez Brown.  The first two days, in addition to no electricity, we were also without cell service, which means no phone calls and no internet.  Our cell service was restored last night, and my daughters were ecstatic.  They are fine without electricity, as long as they can charge their devices (cellphones and laptops), but being cut-off from their friends and the world was frustrating for them. 

It was a little annoying for me, too, given that we made the conscious choice to cut our landline (which provided internet and phone service - even when the power was out ... as long as the phone lines were intact) for a mobile internet service through our cell phone provider.  To be paying for the service, but unable to access it, was a bit frustrating. 

Anyway, that's all fixed, but it looks like we might still be without electricity for a few more days.  Our neighbor stopped by a few minutes ago.  His family owns a local hotel, and he, his wife, and their children were staying there.  He offered to bring some ice to me so that I could keep the stuff in my refrigerator cold.  While he was here, he told me that the power company was saying we might have power back by Saturday.  Today is Wednesday.

Which has me thinking, quite a lot, about needs and wants. 

My daughters and I have had some very interesting and insightful discussions these last few days.  Most importantly, we've all recognized that our modern lives are heavily dependent on electricity.  The constant rumble of someone's heavy-duty generator is a testament to that fact.  I mean, to not even be able to do without electricity for a couple of days.  People lived without electricity for hundreds of thousands of years, and we modern folk can't even do without for a couple of days.  Heck, for some people, even a couple of hours is an emergency.

I guess my family and I are fortunate.  I mean, I've kind of built a lifestyle out of thinking about and preparing for this type of event, and really, the only issue that we haven't solved is how to keep our frozen stuff frozen. 

** And as I was sitting in my quiet house, listening to the neighbor's generator rumbling, and typing out this post, the electricity came back on. 

We were power-free for a total of fifty-one hours.  We didn't die.  I did dishes and laundry.  I mopped the floors.  I made coffee.  We enjoyed dinner by oil lamp with delicious hot meals prepared on the wood stove.  We stayed warm and clean.  Basically, we went about life as usual, with only a few modifications. 

Two days is not a long time to live without electricity, and as I said over the entire course of this (non) event, the only real worry was the stuff in the freezer.  In fact, that's the only thing for which we were ill-prepared.

When the power came back on, I opened the refrigerator.  It was still cool enough that I wasn't worried the food inside had spoiled.  The big freezer where all of the meat is kept is still frozen solid, which means we didn't lose anything in that freezer.  The freezer in the side-by-side did not fare as well, but most of what was in there was berries.  I emptied the smaller freezer and turned the temperature down as far as it would go. 

Today's task will be making Freezer Berry Jam. 

If the power outage had been longer, the big freezer might have thawed, too, and now that we know most of our other needs are met, even without electricity, the only worry now, is to do something about the freezer issue.

We have two choices:  1.  don't put things in the freezer (which means that we would lose the option of roasted chicken in the winter); 2. purchase an off-grid system to keep the freezer running when the grid is down. 

I'm hoping that Deus Ex Machina and I will make the commitment to the latter choice, and purchasing something like this Goal Zero Yeti 400 would rectify the one weak spot in our ability to be off-grid. 

And we already have a solar panel that should be enough to keep it charged. 

What's even better, though, is that the price of this power station, even if one adds a panel or two (and one doesn't have to have solar panels, as it can be charged on grid-power, and then just used as a back-up when the power goes out), is comparable to a gas-powered generator, at a much lower cost to operate.

These two days have been a great exercise for us, and the end result is that I can feel how close we are to truly being off-grid.  The freezer, the water heater, the washing machines (both dishes and clothes) and the "devices" use so little electricity that we could provide it ourselves.  It would take some organizing.  With only 400W of power, we wouldn't be able to run the washing machine(s) and the freezer at the same time, but the reality is that none of them NEED to be running at the same time. 

We live in a set it and forget it world, where we are do totally dependent that too many of us feel that life without the grid is unbearable, but we don't have to be that way.  We have choices.  So.  Many.  Choices.

And if it sounds like I'm admonishing us all - including me and my family - I am.  We are complacent, and yes, a little lazy.  We take things for granted, too much.  It's just too easy to glide through life, flipping switches, and being secure that when we do, something miraculous will happen. 

Electricity is magical.  But it's not a necessity.  

These last couple of days were a good reminder of that fact.  My goal, now, is to appreciate every second of grid power I have, while I work diligently to power my house down to the absolute necessities. 

Hmm ... maybe I'll turn off every outlet, except one, and practice plugging and unplugging things.


No power?  No problem.  Wood stove s'mores ... a great way to spend Halloween ;).

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