Saturday, November 12, 2011

Caught in the Cold

I see from the local news 2,000 people in this area are still without power (The county has only about 21,000 inhabitants year round.). This is the third or fourth time we have lost power in this area, depending on your grid, since Labor Day (beginning of September).

It was one thing being without power in September with balmy nights. It is a whole other thing to be without power when the nights get to 23 degrees Fahrenheit.

I would guess about 1/3 to 2/3 of the area, particularly outside the village use wood to heat their homes. The catch,though, is they use electricity to power the blowers for their central heating systems. One of my sisters has a gas hot water heater, another a gas stove; but both have electric ignition to light the burners rather than standing pilots.

My son says the power company just jury-rigged everything together to get the power back on in September, that the hung up trees and their limbs are out there ready to fall at any given wind or weight of snow.

As I type I have a white pine branch hanging across my telephone's land line. My son and I debate the most efficient and cost effective way of removal, but fear a snapped line is inevitable regardless of its method of removal.

I don't have central heat. Sometimes this is wonderful, but mostly it is a pain. I have a natural gas fireplace in my loft, and it heats that space beautifully without the blower, which I bought separately and have used exactly once.

My main living space has a wall furnace. It has a blower. It cycles on and off and is very directional in it heating. My kitchen has a gas stove with a standing pilot, so there is also always a bit of heat there. The back of the house has the gas hot water heater and dryer, and bathroom. By their very functions, and carefully timed washing, showering, etc. the rear of the house says livable.

So even without electricity, I would not freeze. It is a reassuring thought. Life would get rough, but if I stayed on my toes, I would survive. I have to say though, these power outages affecting a couple million people on the east coast and the small ones here in my own back yard are reminders of how tied into the grid we all are.

After the September outages, I thought it would be wonderful if I had an emergency back up method to generate power for even 30 minutes a day. Enough to run my pump for a shower, a load of wash, to cycle down the temperature in my refrigerator.

I think of electric appliances that would improve quality of life, but are always stopped in my tracks by their price tags and on-going energy use. I have considered how useful a freezer would be to store my garden harvest, but fall back on drying and canning as better preservation methods.

I have spent a considerable amount of time sewing the last few weeks. (My son is amazed at my considerable skill, citing it a worthy skill in the event of what he believes is the inevitable 'Zombie Apocalypse'.) As I have sewn, I have have pondered how my paternal grandmother, an excellent seamstress, did all her sewing on a treadle machine and who taught my cousins to sew entire garmnets without out a sewing machine, right down to a blind running stitch for seams and installing zippers.

I'm not sure the direction we are going, but I am afraid some may be left in the cold.

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