Sunday, November 4, 2012

Surviving Extended Power Outages - Part 2

Preparing For the Big One or 

How to Live Like an American Even When you are Disconnected from the Grid

Let’s all just admit that we like our luxuries.  Yes, consistent electricity and water and internet and entertainment and food are luxuries.  We think they are all necessities but they aren’t enjoyed by a lot of people around the world.  Okay, food and water are necessities.  The rest are not.  You really do NOT need electricity to live.  But it sure makes life not only easier but enjoyable.  I am the first to admit that I love my connection to the world via the internet.  I love my hot coffee, hot showers, clean clothes with minimal effort.  I love these things.  But they are not necessities.  They are luxuries and we need to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that this is the case.

It is November 1, 2012 and I am sitting here typing this on my laptop which is powered by a generator.  Although we don’t have internet at this time I decided to chronicle my experiences while still in the midst of them.

Hurricane Sandy hit us Monday afternoon starting with winds, later adding some rain.  Within 2 hours of the projected start of the high winds we lost power.  The boys had actually started playing board games hours earlier and didn’t even bat an eyelash at the loss of power.  We had the lanterns mostly ready although I must admit that I did not buy new batteries.  When we tried to turn them on they didn’t want to cooperate.  We had not only not put fresh batteries in the lanterns we hadn’t removed the batteries from the last time we used them during the summer.  A little sandpaper, a little jiggling, a little banging and they were all three working.  

I do keep a supply of votives and tea lights on hand to place around the house during power outages.  They are fine for keeping a small light in a bathroom or by the sink but not adequate for carrying around or keeping in high-traffic areas.

Additionally, each of my boys had his own flashlight plus we have a couple of extras that we keep in certain locations at all times.  I keep my LED flashlight in the kitchen on the counter near my kombucha brews.  I keep an emergency flashlight on my antique Singer parlor sewing machine cabinet in the living room though it walks off regularly and is not there even as I write this. 

We do have one hand-generator flashlight that is useful in a pinch should all of the batteries die or no one can find another flashlight which we keep on another kitchen cabinet.  I also keep a flashlight in my car.  Yes, we have approximately 7 flashlights not counting my 22-year-old’s Maglite which is the best flashlight available (I want one eventually).

After a couple of hours we decided to start up the generator.  The main purpose of the generator is to keep the food chilled in the refrigerator. 

I had purchased a desktop LED lamp for jewelry-making and sewing that had made its way to the kitchen for photography purposes a few months earlier.  This light is perfect for running off the generator as it uses very little electricity and is quite bright.  That was plugged in to the kitchen outlet and remains on while the generator is running. 

I had put a pork roast in the slow cooker the night before that we had for lunch.  I had baked for several days and had fresh rolls for pulled pork sandwiches.  For dinner we had hot dogs and my homemade sauerkraut and home baked buns. 

Since we still had internet I spent the rest of the evening on the laptop while we watched Fellowship of the Ring.  Lights out at 11 pm, my 19 year old decided to stay up and keep an eye on the generator while he played on the computer. 

Tuesday morning I woke up around 2 a.m. and stayed up for an hour or so.  I sleep lightly when things aren’t normal around the house.  I made sure the generator was running fine and then slept until 5:30 a.m. when I woke up and turned the generator off after making coffee.  It is a good idea to allow the generator some down time.  The only rule is that no one is allowed to open the refrigerator or freezer during this down time.

Generator back on a couple of hours later I decided to make breakfast for the boys.  Eggs, leftover bacon (I had cooked 1.5 pounds on Monday morning and put half in the fridge), and pan fried toast were amazing, all cooked on the camp stove in a cast iron skillet. 

We had internet until early Tuesday afternoon.  That is when we disconnected from the computers and all started playing board games galore.  First Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit, then Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, then Monopoly, then Cranium, then a 1990’s version of Trivial Pursuit.  We had a routine.  Games during the day and movies at night.  We alternated a Lord of the Rings movie with a Star Wars movie. 

During the early morning hours I read on my Kindle by Mighty Bright, an amazing book light that ended up being a great help to me.  I could place it on a surface and it lighted a good-sized area.  I could carry it around outside and it was better than our little flashlights (still don’t have a Maglite).  I could clip it to a cabinet door or set it on the bathroom vanity. 

After the boys woke up I made egg sandwiches or fried eggs and pan-fried toast which is the absolute best toast in the whole wide world.  The boys snacked on fruit, carrots, chips, and crackers.  The cookies and muffins I had baked on Sunday and Monday didn’t last long, and I will definitely plan to make more next time.

For lunch we had sandwiches or just snacked.  We tended to not be hungry around lunchtime.  Then we would be ravenous around 2:30 p.m.  I tried to encourage the eating of fruit until dinner time but the boys ended up making a late lunch then 2 hours later wanting dinner.  So we just ate a lot within a few hours.

Tuesday for dinner my 19 year old sautéed two onions and then we heated up the leftover pulled pork.  Yummy steamed broccoli and it was a most delicious dinner.  The onions were heavenly.  Next time we need three sautéed onions.

Wednesday we had a routine.  We weren’t bored.  We ate, played board games, I read a lot, and cooked for the boys.  For dinner the boys had hot dogs again and I had fermented veggies, encurdito, carrots and sauerkraut, and gluten-free Mary’s onion crackers.  I read while the boys watched Kung-Fu Panda. 

Here it is Thursday morning and it has gotten colder outside.  We fired up the wood boiler last night and almost blew it up.  Jon remembered that a lever must be turned when there is no power.  Tragedy averted.  I let the fire burn down.  This morning I turned on the oil furnace and it started making crazy loud banging noises.  Oh yes, lever must be turned back the other way.  Good grief this was complicated stuff.  But even with the furnace running it doesn’t seem to be getting the house warm.  So we will need to definitely use the wood boiler tonight.  Lever must go back the other way to avoid blowing up system. 

Our town had 3000 customers power restored overnight.  We were not one of them as usual.  We are at the end of a cul-de-sac in an area not central or close to higher population areas so we tend to be the last to get our power restored after outages.  Still hoping it is restored today.  I projected Friday, so Thursday would be a real treat.

I am looking forward to doing laundry, really cleaning the kitchen, flushing toilets without manually filling the tank, and heat on demand.  I need to make another batch of yogurt for cheese, bake muffins, wash the rest of the dishes that I never finished washing and didn’t feel like heating water to wash.  I want internet service back.

And here is it Thursday night and power is back on.  Internet is restored.  The house is a mess but the heater is on, I have hot water, and I can sleep without worrying about the generator throughout the night.

Next post will be specifically what I purchased and what I used during this outage.  I actually have a couple more items I would like to add to our emergency supplies.

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