Friday, January 25, 2013

Sixty-One Hours

That's how long we were without electricity this week.  Based on info we got from the electric company's website, our power went out shortly after three a.m. on Sunday.  On Sunday afternoon, they were telling us it would not be restored until Wednesday night, after nine p.m.  The temperature outside was in the single digits, and wind chills were in the negative teens.  Without electricity to run the pump on the wood boiler, the house was not getting heat, and the wind was making indoor temperatures plummet.

DH went and bought a generator within an hour of getting the electric company's restoration estimate.  Four days without power was not an option.  Based on outdoor weather conditions, and the rate the house was losing heat, he estimated that by Monday night we would be having water pipes indoors freeze.  That would be tragic, as we have lots of water pipes with our hydronic radiant heat being in the floors.  Frozen, burst pipes in the floors would pretty much mean tearing the house apart to repair it from water damage.

And so, we did something we don't like to do:  impulse bought a large ticket item.  No time for research, no time for shopping around.  Go to the local big box store, find that they have very few on the shelf, and get one to bring home and power the essentials with.

From about six p.m. on Sunday, until the electricity was restored after four p.m. on Tuesday (yay, 29 hours earlier than predicted!), we fed the generator gasoline (thankfully at the "low" price of only $3.18 a gallon--it jumped to $3.43 on Wednesday!!) so that we could have a working pump (and damper) on the wood boiler, intermittently run the well pump for water, and power our refrigerator and giant chest freezer (which is full of 3 deer, numerous chickens, a couple turkeys, a little pork and beef, and assorted vegetables).  That was it.  Better than nothing, but still not life as normal.

Toilets could be flushed, but the more often they were flushed, the more often we had to cut power to the freezer so the well pump could be run.  So the "if it's yellow. . ." rule applied for three entire days.

Running water for a shower or bath, not an option.  Sink bathing with a wash cloth was all that was offered.  I can't tell you how good that first shower Tuesday night felt!

Most rooms were without electricity so that it could be 'saved' for the essentials of heat and saving our cold-storage food items.  Two of the three bathrooms do not have windows.  Using those two, even in the day time, required bringing a flash light.  When the power came on on Tuesday, the first comment after someone used the bathroom was "I can pee with the light on!!"  Okay, it sounds funny, but it really was a comment of appreciation for modern conveniences.  It really makes you think about the things you take for granted, like light in the bathroom.

Going to bed at night also meant bringing a flash light so you could see to walk up the stairs.  And back down again in the pre-dawn of morning, plus getting dressed, brushing teeth and hair, etc.  Waking up on time meant bringing your cell phone to bed (usually all cell phones stay downstairs at night, not in the bedrooms) and making sure you set the alarm on it.

Cooking was done on the cook top only, so menus had to be reconfigured to serve only non-baked and non-roasted dishes.  We had venison steaks the first night, then a couple pots of soup:  turkey and chili, which not only fit the bill, but also helped heat the house with their long simmering times (from scratch, of course, cooking 3-5 hours each).  Breakfasts were tough, without a toaster.  'Fried' toast (bread buttered then toasted in a frying pan on the stove) is not as good with eggs as toast made the normal way.

Breakfasts and dinners were cooked by the light of two oil lamps, one next to the cook top and one on the island where all the mixing, measuring, and prep work was done.  Dishes were left from dinner until the sun came up the next day, so they could be washed in good light rather than the dim flickering of the oil lamps.

The living room was the one room DH had connected to the generator.  He had to watch football playoffs on Sunday night, plus DD1 needed to be able to use her computer to complete college assignments that were due the next day.  Not to mention being able to charge our cell phones, which were also our alarm clocks!

All in all, 61 hours of no/reduced electricity wasn't too bad.  I got a lot of things done that normally get put off, like the mending that requires hand-sewing instead of on the sewing machine, and decluttering the study.  Several trash cans worth of old papers went into the wood boiler that day!  We read, we knitted, we talked.  We brainstormed ways to make improvements for the next extended power outage.  DH examined which circuits in the electric panel need to be connected to the generator in the future, figuring what their combined load would be and what the generator's capacity is.

Wednesday, it was good to wake up to heat, and light, and the alarm clock beside the bed, and quiet. . . no generator running outside.  Wednesday also meant washing a whole lot of laundry, three missed days of laundry.  Catching up on emails and other internet related stuff.  Refilling the 'emergency' containers of water kept for watering the animals during an outage.  And using the oven to cook dinner!  What a blessing ovens are.

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