Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter, ahhh, bring it on!

Howdy All,
Well, we survived what I'm sure will come to be known as the "Great Ice Storm of '08". Thursday night, our power went out at about 10:30, which came as no great surprise to any of us, I'm sure. I knew we were in for the long haul with that mess, just no way around that. It wasn't until the next morning that we could see just how bad it was. We could hear trees cracking and breaking all around us, we have woods 20 feet from our house, and it was intense. We prayed that the majestic old oak, that's about 15 feet from our house and quite old, would be able to withstand the pressure and weight of all the ice. It did lose some of it's older branches and all the young birches surrounding our house went ass over tea kettle and were bent over in the road making it impassable for a time. Beautiful, though. Everything glimmering and shining in the sun that made a welcome and brief appearance on Friday for awhile helping to free some of the trees from their icy straight jackets.

After we did not get power back by Friday afternoon, we went digging through our camping stuff and found what we needed. Luckily, because we are on town water supply, we did not lose running water since we don't have a well pump. I was also able to cook thanks to a propane stove, and we used that to heat the kitchen from time to time as well. About 7 years ago, when Ames was going out of business, I found in their clearance section a little propane heater. This was really designed to heat small spaces and can even be used in a tent. No open flame, no carbon monoxide problems. And the little workhorse runs like a champ for 8 hours on one of those little Coleman canister tanks. So, we had propane lanterns from our camping gear, the little heater that saved us, running water and ability to cook. We did okay. The heater was not making it balmy in here by any means, but it did get it up to the low 50's most of the time. We just moved it floor to floor, wherever we were spending our time. The other item that saved us was the little emergency LED lights I bought at Sam's Club earlier this year. I saw them and thought they were a great idea. They come on automatically if the power goes out, have a little rechargeable battery in them and they were just wonderful. Because they are LED, they don't use much power and the kids were able to have their nightlight for 3 nights before they ran out of juice. And for those of you who have young children, you KNOW how important that nightlight is to their sanity. Especially when there's no other light anywhere around them. Those little lights kept the monsters at bay most of the time.

It was bizarre in that it felt like the world was standing still for some reason, like time had stopped and we were reluctant to leave our house. One reason was that we really felt like we needed to stay to keep the house warm. The second night we didn't have power, it was down to about 10 degrees outside, so the little heater was having a challenging time keeping up with that. And we couldn't leave it running unattended, we just didn't feel that safe about it all. After 5 days of no power, well, let's just say I was feeling the frustrations of a frontier wife. Getting a little tired of boiling water to wash dishes, and wearing so many layers of clothes and blankets to try to stay warm enough and the aggravation of having to throw away hundreds of dollars worth of food in the fridge and freezer was getting to me. I have mentioned to you in the past that I'm a coupon crazed shopper, so to see all my hard work tossed in a garbage bag raised the blood pressure up a few notches.

Not having power for 6 days truly helps you see some things. One is, we're completely and totally spoiled with modern conveniences. Our lives are so easy compared to less developed parts of the world, and certainly easier then the generations who've come before us. Lucky and lazy is what we are. The next thing it helped me discover is that my kids are not as addicted to tv as I feared they would be. They could have cared less about the fact that it was not on, didn't even ask about it. I think they were enjoying the differentness of it all and having Mommy and Daddy's attention so much since we couldn't do much else. We played plenty of board games and hung out together and it was nice to have that family time together. Another thing I discovered is that the woodstove that's been sitting in our living room for 2 years unconnected is getting connected in 2009. This time would have been so much less stressful for us if we just would have had adequate heat. We've got the stove, we've go the wood, the piping is our main problem. It will cost us $2,100 to get the piping for it and we've just not got that laying around. But, perhaps I can save enough with coupons this year to make that happen. I've got to, we live in New England for crying out loud. Some form of alternate heat is just good sense.
Something else that I learned is that there are angels all around us. Our neighbor, who is on another grid then we are got power back before we did. He came over on the last night we didn't have power to ask if we wanted to use his generator. At that point, the $800 worth of food in the freezer in the basement was on the verge of trouble and so I jumped at his offer. Music Man had to rewire the furnace so that it would have a plug (which I'm ever so thankful he can do, he's just amazing with the stuff he knows or can figure out, it blows my mind sometimes), and we got heat and cold in their appropriate places and the food in the freezer was saved and we were warm. Our neighbor delivered the generator (no small task, they weigh a ton) brought cords, let us know how to get the plug supplies if we needed them as the hardware stores had been out. Even offered us 15 gallons of gas to run it. All this at no charge, just because he's a nice man. Wonderful to live in a neighborhood where we will take care of each other when push comes to shove. He and his family were our angels that night because we were tired of being cold and stressed out from it all and in that moment, it would have been hard to find a better kindness then that.
I am also so very thankful to the men and women of the power companies. We had crews come from all over the northeast, NY, Conn, Penn, RI, and even Canada come to get us up and running. This was no light feat, let me tell you. We were a mess here, folks. Roads blocked off, trees on lines all over and I told you it was 10 degrees and windy and they were all out there getting it under control, fixing it up and never getting thanked at all. Truly nameless heros to all the people in our area. We did not get power back as soon as some, my sister only lost hers for about 10 hours, but we got it sooner then others. It was so comforting to know that we would get it back eventually if we were patient. We would get it back. That's really something if you consider places in the world where the power goes out and they have no hope of restoration, like Iraq. We knew we would eventually and that's due to the people working the frontlines in the cold, snow and rain, leaving their families behind, making the sacrifices to help others out. Those are angels and heros in my book.

Other angels in those days included our families that offered us a warm place to stay once their power came up, hot showers and a place to go to divert the kids attention from it for a while. Their prayers, even from a great distance for the ones that could offer only prayers, were a comfort for us. We're thankful for the kindnesses we received from so many places in our lives, it was amazing.

The other thing it helped me realize is that solar is the way to go. We'd have lost it for a short time if the panels were too covered with snow, but we could have cleaned them off and been on our merry lives. Solar, wind, it's gotta be done. In our "forever house" we know we'll have solar. Wouldn't it be great if everyone had solar and not only is it totally emission free, but it's here for us just about every day. Amazing and something to think about, huh?

Wishing you warm homes and angels of your own, ~Peacemom

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