When You’re Feeling Powerless: Preparing for Power Outages

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It was the second time my power went out in one day. The first time was at two in the morning when a nearby fuse or transformer blew causing a power outage. Other than the backyard solar light glowing, the entire neighborhood was cast into darkness.

A few hours later, our power was restored and the bedside clock started blinking. The sun wasn’t up yet, but the house soon became alive with overhead lights, bacon on the stove, a hot shower, and the screech of my ironing board as I unfolded it and plugged in the iron.

After my husband left for work, the computer and TV abruptly flickered off on its own, and the room was silent again.

I sat in the dark and wondered at the cause of the outages and why I felt so helpless. For years I had been stocking up on candles, oil lanterns, and imagining life without electricity and instead of feeling prepared, I was paralyzed and rooted to my couch.

Although I had grown up for a season in a one room cabin without utilities or indoor plumbing, the bulk of my experience was volunteering for several years at an 1800′s living history museum.

Once or twice a week my family would put on our pioneer clothes, load up the car with supplies, and spend the day on the prairie cooking from a wood stove or open fire, sewing, reading books, and fanning our faces from the front porch.

We learned to appreciate the hard work involved in gardening, collecting firewood, and cooking and cleaning from scratch. With no electricity and running water, it was a sun up to sun down type of existence.

By the end of the day, we were anxious to return to the 21st Century. Walking into our modern day home we were greeted with air conditioning, plush furniture, computers, TV, fast food, the refrigerator, microwave, the faucet, and a toilet that flushed—it was pure luxury.

We endured the primitive lifestyle and 100 degree weather because we knew it was temporary. After an exhausting day on the farm, we’d reward ourselves by stopping off at the convenience store or drive-thru for an ice cold soda pop.

Preparing a quick dinner at home with ease, I was thankful for my generation. But at the same time, the bouncing back and forth into the 19th Century was a nudge to not take my privileges for granted.

Using history to empower the future

I gradually started making some changes at home. I wanted my kitchen functional like our ancestor’s had been. This meant no more decorations taking up needed shelf space because it looked cute, or placing all my dependency on an electrical cord.

I replaced the self-cleaning electric range for a gas stove and oven.

My high efficiency washing machine was traded in for a heavy duty top loader and I hung a clothes line.

When my new dishwasher broke, I reverted back to the old fashioned way of washing by hand.

I exchanged my Teflon skillets for heavy duty cast iron.

I continued using my automatic coffee machine, but kept the stove top percolator on standby.

No more reliance on electric can-openers, or noisy food processors. Although I loved my electric wheat grinder, I purchased a hand-crank just in case.

Imitating our ancestors who prepared for emergencies and the change of seasons, I too took advantage of the seasonal sales at the farmer’s market and grocery stores, stocking up on bulk and dry goods, canning my own soups and meat, and taking advantages of the holiday clearances.

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