Back in Action!

You might not have noticed that we were out of action, but we were.

The record-breaking nor’easter that hit New England this weekend knocked out our electricity from 8pm Saturday until sometime while we were at dinner tonight (Tuesday). It got down to 51F inside our home. We usually keep it cool (62 during the day, my husband pushes for 58 overnight; I push back), but 51 is still rather chilly.

Back in North Carolina, there was an ice storm that left us powerless for a full week. It was quite a bit colder then, and our apartment had awful insulation. After two days, we could see our breath inside the apartment. We showered at my husband’s work, and I was glad to get back to my job, where I could buy cafeteria food. I was a vegetarian then, but by that point, even I was thrilled with the fat back they cooked with the green beans (good old Southern cooking). I wouldn’t eat marshmallow Peeps, but for some reason pork in my greens wasn’t an issue. (And that is not euphemistic.)

After the ice storm, we vowed that we would retain the lessons we’d learned while the electricity was out. We instituted a weekly tradition called “Cat and Candle.” It was a Sabbath of sorts during which we used no electricity except what was necessary for heat and hot water and to cook meals. In reality, I guess we just turned out the lights, lit candles, drank micro-brewed beer, and tossed fake mice at our cats. Even so, this lasted only about three weeks before we were back to taking electric lighting for granted.

During this recent power outage, we made similar vows.

“This will change everything,” we declared.

“Now we realize just how unsuited our suburban dwelling is for unfavorable weather conditions. We shall remedy this posthaste,” we further declared.

“We’ll run a gas line and get a gas stove. We’ll install a pellet stove in the place of one of our fireplaces. We’ll stop relying on our freezer and start preserving food by canning, fermenting, salting, and dehydrating,” we decided.

“At the very least,” we compromised, “we’ll look into getting a generator so we don’t freeze if this happens in February.”

This all happened during a time when my kids and I were listening to an audiobook (in the car) about Laura Ingalls and her family traveling by covered wagon through Wisconsin and Minnesota over snow and iced-over lakes, fording swelling spring creeks, and camping out every night.

Listening to these stories put things into perspective.

We are not pioneers. We know that by this time next week, we’ll be complaining about slow internet connections and how far we have to drive for organic produce.

All weather-related lessons will be lost.

Even now, as the house warms and I hear the electric grind of the garage door opener, I feel the discomforts of the past several days receding. I try to alleviate my guilt by telling myself that the pioneers who suffered much more extreme privations would have wanted me to take for granted basic comforts. I bet they would have loved to complain about the free wi-fi at the coffee shop up the street rather than have their survival depend on how much wood they cut (with an axe they made themselves).

But what can I say? We are Americans.


  1. Cathy Trahan · November 2, 2011

    Glad you survived. Pellet stoves use electricity, just in case you decide to get one! They are so efficient at burning that you need a fan at the top of the chimney to draw the smoke out of the stove. We got a generator for that very reason – to run our pellet stove and a humidifier next to it. I felt the days without power was like dry camping with port-o-potties. I would rather be at a campground than in my home though.


    • CJ · November 2, 2011

      Well, good to know about the pellet stove. One more tick-mark in the “pros” column for a generator.


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