Monday, April 6, 2009

Not nearly so independent as we like to think.

Ahh, a man's home is his castle and nothing befits the dignity and independence of man as the single-family home. We are propertied, with assorted lot setbacks saying to one and all, "Stay back, world. We may not have an alligator-laden moat, but we have the power of zoning regulation keeping our castle free from intrusion by the rest of the world.

And, oh, the coziness of your home at midnight when a snowstorm rolls in. We are safe and secure, and island of warmth in a cold, cruel ... uh-oh.

Hey, what happened to the power? Aw, c'mon. Where's the electricity? Wow, it's dark out there. The whole neighborhood must be out. And man, I think that snow is still whipping in the wind. Oh, that wind is howling now, isn't it? Aw, c'mon, now. It can't really be out, can it

It could. And it stayed out from about midnight last night until 2:30 or so today. In the case of our little house, on top of losing all the light and the electrical items (including our Internet connectivity) losing power also means that we lose our water (well pump) and our heat (igniter and thermostat). In a pinch we can get water from the lake to flush the toilets, but that's about it.

It was already pretty late when the power went out while the storm cranked up last night, so we just went to bed. But when we got up in the morning, it was pretty darn cold. Since I had planned to work from home today because of the storm forecast, that might've been okay. But with no Internet connectivity there was really very little that I could do. So, I called in to work to convert my work-at-home to a day off. Then I grabbed our little battery/hand-crank radio out of the closet, Monique picked up the leftover Sunday papers, and we stayed in bed under about four layers of blankets, waiting for the power to come back. Even Katie the Beagle got into the action. With the house down under 50 degrees, our insufficiently insulated beagle started to shiver. So she got a very rare invitation to the top of the bed, to join us under the covers.

All-in-all, it was the longest power outage we've had since the big East Coast/Midwest blackout of 2003.

Now about this time you might be imagining a lovely throwback to colonial times this morning: hunkered together with the dog for warmth and reading words printed on paper. It wasn't quite as low-tech as you might imagine. After we got bored by the radio, I pulled out my iPod, and we listened to a few NPR Science Friday podcasts that I hadn't heard yet. Hardly the stuff of a genuine return to the 19th Century. Eventually, the rest of the world found us and there were some phone calls (via our landline phone and cell phone.) And then Monique ran out to the Tim Horton's / Wendy's in Walled Lake for hot coffee, hamburgers to go, and newspapers.

Um, I'm guessing the average homesteader on the prairie didn't have that option, either.

But it was a good reminder of how really dependent on electricity our entire infrastructure is, especially our house. We occasionally discuss installing a generator, though it doesn't usually seem all that high a priority. But I can see that day coming, given how unheated and unwatered we are when we lose power in the winter. What I really wished for today was a nifty electricity-generating windmill. With the wind howling the way it was, we would've easily generated enough power to run four houses while keeping an entire pack of insufficiently insulated beagles warm.

1 comment:

  1. This is the first house Rich and I have had that doesn't have a fireplace. I was painfully aware of that the first time the electricity went out in winter. Our new emergency plan involves going to the neighbors- who do have a nice fireplace- if its too cold.

    And maybe adding a fireplace into the mix during future renovations.