Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

One Week Without Electricity

Hello Readers!  You may have noticed that I have missed my weekly posting; and for good reason...we had no electricity!  A derecho storm blew through much of the Appalachian area on June 29th and left hundreds of thousands without electricity and some without water.  Thankfully we still had water.  I describe in detail how we coped during this power outage.  Many of the things mentioned below we do on a normal and semi-normal basis to be resourceful with our electricity usage.

This had to be the most stressful part of losing electricity.  In general we keep our refrigerator and freezer moderately full and only open it on an as-needed basis.  We don't just have a hankering for a snack and stand with the refrigerator door open for minutes while deciding what to eat.  When the power went out, we only opened the refrigerator 4 times in 2 days.  By day 3, the milk was just starting to cool off.  By the end of day 2, all of the leftovers were gone in the refrigerator so we began eating items in the freezer.  At the end of day 2, all of the meat was still frozen solid.  The homemade ice cream had turned to liquid but was still very cold and actually hurt my teeth when I drank it. Halfway through day 3, a friend of ours had received electricity, so we packed up the remaining items in the freezer and refrigerator (including condiments) and kept them at her house.  With a small cooler and reusable ice packs, we brought items home to eat for the rest of the week.  I think the meat would have lasted until day 5.  The only items I ended up tossing in the woods because I was unsure if they were safe to eat was a half jar of spaghetti sauce, an open container of soy milk, and a half jar of mayonaise.

Keeping the House Cool:
We seldom use air conditioning; in fact, we have only used it 3 days all summer, and that was Memorial Day weekend when we had friends visiting to replace the barn roof.  While the temps have been in the 90's outside this past week, our downstairs never went above 80 and the upstairs above 85.  What did we do?  At night we opened all of the upstairs windows and a few downstairs that are safe to leave open in case of a prowler.  At 6am when I woke up, I opened up all the downstairs windows if it was cooler outside than it was inside; and by 7, all of the windows were closed.  A blanket was draped over one of the south-facing upstairs windows to keep the sunlight out and another window had its curtains closed.  Just like the refrigerator, we only open the outside door unless we need to and we consolidate our trips outside.  The basement was probably another 5-10 degrees cooler but we didn't spend much time down there because that would require flashlights and batteries.  By 10 am we were usually done with all of our outside chores and would sit in the cool house for the rest of the day.

Hot Water:
This probably was easily solved...use a garden hose.  We have 3, lead-free garden hoses strung across our yard to water the garden; and when filled with water all day long, the water is literally scalding by noon on a clear day.  We used the sun's energy to heat the water and enjoyed a gentle breeze while watching the bees pollinate the clover in the yard.  We used my homemade castile soap and had a fun time spraying each other with the hose.  The hostas behind us also appreciated the drink.  This is something even town residents could do...just wear a bathing suit!  For washing dishes we heated a pot of water over the fire when we cooked our food.

Cooking Food:
This was a no-brainer since we go camping.  We have a small fire pit in the backyard so we cooked all of our meals with fallen dead branches that fell in the storm.  To reheat leftovers the first 2 days, we used our solar food dehydrator.  As far as having enough food, our pantry is more than stocked.  

Overall, going without electricity for a week wasn't that bad for us.  If we were like some people without electricity and water, then I'm sure this post would be a bit different.  The thought of not having water made me realize that when our well is fixed, we should make sure that it can manually be pumped in case of a power outage.

Throughout the week we heard generators running at the neighbor's houses and couldn't help but wonder how efficient they were, what they were mainly used for (refrigerator vs. hot water vs. computer, etc.), and how much it cost, not to mention the environmental footprint they make.  Jon and I don't have any intentions on getting a generator because we managed just fine without one.  If it were winter, our fireplace would provide heat; not to mention we kept our house at 34 degrees while living in Laramie, WY for a year when we were poor college kids.  I think a little bit of sacrifice is good  for everybody.  Plus, who wants to wait in line at the gas stations who had electricity...some of those gas station lines were literally a mile long with traffic controllers; and they limited usage to $20.00 per stop!

At the end of the 3rd day, the water heater no longer gave us warm water.  We took this opportunity to empty the water out of the water heater to get all of the sediment out.  It is recommended that a house does this once each year.  From the picture below you can see all of the sandy-looking stuff that came out.

In one week, the garden exploded with ripe produce: beans, cucumbers, zucchinis, and beats.  Just when I had all of the canning supplies packed in boxes and ready to take to my friend's house to process, we received electricity!  I was relieved to do this at home; but it did get me thinking more about expanding our food drying and cellar options.  Now that we have a basement and land to construct a cellar, I would like to look into this more.

On a side note, one thing that did happen during this week was 3 bottles of Perry (sparkling pear cider) blew off their corks!!  We think they are still carbonating which we expected would happen since we had to bottle them early because of the unexpected move across country.  It was a bit of a mess down in the basement...imagine cleaning up the mess on the floor using a flashlight.


Linda July 9, 2012 at 8:12 AM  

Glad the preparations worked out for you guys. We also survived pretty well here in West Virginia also.

Phoebe July 19, 2012 at 10:31 PM  

Good job being resourceful!
I spent every winter of my childhood here on the Homestead with at least 2 weeks per winter without power. It's not so hard if you are expecting it. I have a passion for my pantry because of it.
Do think about a generator though. You have a little one to keep safe and using it wisely can make all the difference. You may not be able count on a neighbor next time.

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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