Monday, August 17, 2009

sandgate black out

We had a power outage in rural Southern Vermont tonight. A lot of homes (2200 was the word on the street) around my area shut off. I was outside with Finn when it happened. It was nearly dark and I was hosing down some water buckets when suddenly the hose stopped? I went inside and noticed the fan was off, the fridge was dead, the cabin dark. I instantly worried I was late with the electric bill but then heard the hum of a neighbor's generator over the hill. Sandgate was dark, but a bulb in my head lit up: the grid was down.

Too many people needed air conditioning in NYC, or that was the rumor anyway. We did get an email at work saying (just in case!) of any surges in use in New York—we'd shut down to compensate. Some weird back-alley handshake between power companies. We were also told this hasn't happened in ten years. I guess we were due.

There are few people as prepared for a power meltdown as a homesteader. Even a part-time homesteader like myself is pretty ready for a night off-grid. I shrugged and went outside to put the goat away. Then I went inside and fired up the oil lamps and candles. I turned on the hand-crank radio for some news. VPR was running a special on the muskrat. I did the nightly farm chores by lantern—bobbing past the solar lamps drilled into the dirt all around the farm. Those little driveway lights are great for chicken coops and around the sheeps' fence. Tonight my little empire was well lit. I dined on some cold (but filling) dinner and drank one beer to enjoy it and relax before they all skunked. To cool off from my labors, I simply stopped moving. Letting my own body take over and regulate temperature as an animal should. Soon I was comfortable in the cabin.

People run from heat into air conditioning like corpses running back into the morgue. If you just stop running around, be still, wear something lighter and drink something colder—you don't have to depend on the air to condition you. You can condition yourself. If I'm still hot and bitchy I I think about January and smile. I was sitting with my back against the fireplace some of those nights, burried under piles of quilts and sleddogs. A little heat in August is okay. It made the tomatoes happy, at least.

I threw on a light sun dress and sat by the lantern to read. I surrendered to the circumstances, and happily so. I was engrossed in my book (The Kesslers were helping their Nubian goats kid for the first time. I'm still reading Goat Song) and then suddenly the power slammed back on right after the first twins dropped. I was shocked back into 2009 like a punch in the jaw. Damn. I was really enjoying 1892 for a little while there...

22 Comments:

Blogger icandy... said...

What a wonderful place to visit!
Hugs,
Christina :)

August 17, 2009 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

a nice evening indeed. I now daughter and hubby freak when we have long power outages. Me? Like you i grab a lantern, a blanket if it is winter, and then knit or read. I can get them to pull out board games or the deck of cards. But they are so dependant on electricity at home. I admit 2 decembers ago two weeks before xmas we were without power for 7 days. This did hurt as we were supposed to host the holiday party, cooking, etc...and aside from the ton of snow and downed trees adding to it ... it got cold. We now have a generator for when we lose it after a certain number of hours.... summer time i can easily handle it!

August 17, 2009 at 11:04 PM  
Blogger djp said...

Haven't had a power outage in a while. But I did enjoy them when I was still living with my parents: in the winter-which is when most power outages happen in Quebec- it meant that we'd all hunker down around the wood burning stove and cook dinner, just like camping but in the comfort of your own home!
Silly New Yorkers and their air conditioning! Sheesh! Montreal is almost as hot and sweltering as NYC, and while most people do rely on the A/C, I prefer a cold shower when I get home from work, putting on light&clean clothes while still partially wet, and lying down on the couch with the cats. It only keeps me cool for a short while, but by then a breeze is blowing through the windows, and I'm asleep on the couch dreaming of a dinner that won't get cooked til 10p.m.!

August 17, 2009 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger Karen Sue said...

I have a generator now, because they happened too frequently and lasted too long for the $$ in my freezer. I don't really mind if I just have a little bit of juice to keep the frozen froze. I like book time with no reason to do anything else...or sometimes puzzle time in the winter. I curl up with a blanket most anytime, too, so that's OK. I thought about a few more solar lights as a few of my old ones are refusing to light this year.

August 17, 2009 at 11:48 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

In the three years we have lived at this home we have been without power for a combined total of about 2 months. We have gotten used to it. It got a bit crazy last December here in NH. By day 7 we shipped the kids off to friends homes who had gotten power back while hubby and I kept the pipes from freezing and the generator running.

I chop and split about 6-8 cords of wood every year to heat our entire home, so heat was no prob. Keeping good food frozen is my only issue after heat.

I do agree that people are getting a bit to dependant on AC. I see alot of my friends pumping the AC all day and night to keep the family cool. I kinda figure that if your not a senior and you are of decent health than you should just suck it up and deal.

Rock on with your book and candles. Its gonna be another hot one in the morn.

August 18, 2009 at 12:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep a small kerosene lamp on the kitchen counter ' just in case', know exactly where the matches are and can find them in the dark. I haven't had to rely on the lamp for a long time, but I often light it just for the heck of it! Like to keep the lights low anyway-even the newer bulbs bother my eyes, so a night light in nearly every room keeps me from bumping into things or tripping over the cats! I also don't have A/C at home but as I'm writing this at work, I'm shivering because the A/C here is too much. You'd think I'd remember to bring a sweater! Am ready to go outdoors and greet the heat and humidity that is southern Wisconsin! Arwen

August 18, 2009 at 12:04 AM  
Blogger ammamcp said...

Love your picture. I lived in Richmond, VA when Isabelle hit and didn't have power for a couple of weeks. Interesting experience. My least favorite part was having to use the portapotties circling the hospital when I was at work!

The first night there were no generators, no city sounds. It was awesome! You could hear the river 6 blks away.

It's a good thing periodically, I think. Makes me grateful and keeps me mindful about being prepared, now that I'm back in earthquake country!

August 18, 2009 at 1:42 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I remember power outages in rural New York (Otsego County) where I grew up on a dairy farm. These were the days my father valued having seven boys that he could muster together to hand milk 85 cows! Kerosene lamps, lanterns...these were always at the ready, you never knew. Eventually we grew up, moved on and my father bought a generator. Now retired with the farm sold, my father loves to tell the grandchildren (and great g-c) about life on the farm. I still enjoy hearing the stories too, relating to some, treasuring others. That's why I enjoy reading about your adventures, it's a reminder of my upbringing and somehow pacifies my own secret longing to return to the way it was.

August 18, 2009 at 2:34 AM  
Blogger Greentwinsmummy said...

I am stunned on the power companies way of thinking?? high usage should be switched to rationed usage,not remedied by turning off some other area completely??! My brother in New Zealand often has power cuts,they have hydro electric so low dams,low power. They get warned & told which evenings its going to be out on,with streets taking turns.
To think you have an area of society slurping all the units as fast as they can & nothing being done to guide or show them maybe its not the best thing to do & educate them on how to get used to being hot,is mind boggling :oS

As you say,when its hot,slow down,plan more,alter behaviour to eat later,chores in the evening etc & likewise when cold,rather than reach for the heating or cooling systems :o(

We have a large generator here as to lose our 2 freezers of home grown food would be a glum thng indeed & as yet I dont have the knowldge to do it or the money to buy such staggering amount of kiner jars we would need.This makes the freezers very precious indeed.

Theres something lovely about power cuts tho' brings out the child in me :o)
GTM x x

August 18, 2009 at 5:57 AM  
Blogger Karen L R said...

I just got back to "civilization" in SW CT after 6 weeks at our place in VT. After eating homegrown and local food all summer I ventured into the local Stop and Shop here. Huge store, not much "real" food and it was FREEZING in there. So depressing on so many levels.

We do not have AC, and sometimes in late August I wish we could have some relief, but we tough it out for a few weeks and then it's fall...

I don't mind power outages too much, my only worry is the freezer and I do miss the well.

I continue to enjoy your postings, Jenna.

August 18, 2009 at 7:07 AM  
Anonymous Nikki said...

I love the peace and slowness that comes with no electricity. When the hurricanes blow in and the power goes off, we use the generator for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. That keeps the cold stuff cold and provides access to our well. Other than that, I'm a dab hand at fireplace cooking!
The sudden onslaught of noise when all the normally unheard stuff comes back on feels like a punch in the gut, but with nearly six straight months of southern Louisiana summer, I am also grateful for a/c ... if only because everything mildews in the humidity without it.

August 18, 2009 at 7:25 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I like it too when the power is out (sometimes). I can't imagine taking it away from a whole group of people to serve another group of people - ugh. :)

Down here, no A/C kills. Oh, and spoils all of your food insanely quickly, as Anon said.

August 18, 2009 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I'm not against AC in every situation! But in New England the average night is in the high 50's and days rarely hit the low 90's... A Texas spring at best!

August 18, 2009 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

Here in FL, I gotta have A/C. I do keep the house near 80 during the day while we're at work though. If we didn't run the A/C daily, the house would be mildewy since it's so humid. However in winter we make up for it. The thermostat is set on 60. You're cold? Chop wood, build a fire, put on a sweater, grab a cat. Thanks in part to you, Jenna, I'm looking at some land further north, so maybe in a year or so I can reduce my footprint some in summer.

August 18, 2009 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger spinyurchin said...

I think you have reached that magical point in your life when you get to say, "I shrugged and went outside to put the goat away. "

August 18, 2009 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

We keep an oil lamp out on the table on the deck year round. There’s nothing like writing in your journal or reading a book on a warm summer night while the crickets serenade you and a light breeze cools your skin. Last night I was kept company by the hooting of an owl. It sounded like a great horned to me. After a few days without power in the winter I have to admit I enjoy showers a lot more, (we have a well so all the water has to be pumped out of the ground) not having the bucket brigade to flush toilets and a new appreciation for the popular bumper sticker here in California, “Kill Your Television.”

August 18, 2009 at 11:47 AM  
Anonymous kandy said...

i absolutly love power outs! the 3 weeks of no electricity during the ice storm are still fondly remembered. as for the freezer food...our tree smashed car (4 inches of ice covering a tree gets rid of the dead lmbs real fast) wraped in a tarp made a great freezer :-)

even now in the burbs, i get a grin, giggle and light up the Aladin lamp (great garbage find that pumps out a wopping 60wats) while my husband bemons the loss of computer time.

you get to actually talk, read, cuddle, quilt. and with no background hum of electricity, ringing phones, tv and, in the case of the ice storm, cars buzzing along the road (too slipery even for cars! yah)

no hydro? bring it on!
kandy

August 18, 2009 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger Lorri said...

It's amazing how peaceful it can be when all the electric hum is gone.

Power goes out, we light candles and grab handiwork, and talk. Wonderful. We do have an oil lamp and some candles, but not enough. I need to stock up, then work on, say, having occasional no-electric nights. For fun.

August 18, 2009 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Conny said...

Thanks to you and your blog writing, I finally got around to getting a hand-crank radio. The only time we seem to have a power outage (here in the city) is when someone hits a pole with their car (2-3 times a year).

I love the silence of a power outage. It's definitely a "jolt" when the power comes back on.

August 18, 2009 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Sarah Lee said...

I used to feel the same exact way. I laughed at people and their air conditioning - but then I moved to the hot, arid West and every summer I suffered from heat exhaustion. It's taken me a long time time remember how to keep cool (wear a big hat!), and to avoid the heat exhaustion (stay out of the sun and drink tons of water!). I am now laughing at myself, because I'm realizing that I need to wean myself back off of A/C. Today we've had it off the whole day, so I'm proud of myself. It's been a strange, cool August.

I've worried about the freezer thing too in power outages. But then, I reread this wonderful article about drying your food - it doesn't take any electricity to store! I don't know much about drying, but it's another homesteading skill I'm planning on tucking under my belt. Yeehaw!

August 18, 2009 at 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Florida, you can't get cooler by just stopping, and getting into lighter clothes. You can't get cooler by getting clotheless. There are a few people that may be able to take the Florida heat naturally, but not a Vermonter born and bred, and not even my Florida native husband.

August 19, 2009 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

Air conditioning, one of the things I can live without. This summer has been so cool, I'd love some hot weather -- and so would my tomatoes! Too much air conditioning makes me sick, too much of a change is hard on the body.

August 20, 2009 at 11:49 AM  

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