Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's a Simple Life

One of these things just doesn't belong. 

We still had fall colors to enjoy, for Pete's sake. Look at those gorgeous golds and yellows on the leaves.

Not no more, sistah.

Once the snow started falling, the leaves got covered and then they fell down, down, down.
The Man had just finished parking the tractor when these tiny flurries came blowing in. He was able to finish mowing the lawn and picking up leaves and mulching the garden for winter before the snows fell.

Only it's not winter. It's fall. And it's barely begun. Halloween was still three days away when this stuff blew in.
When all was said and done, we got about eight inches of snow. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? We had a whole lot more snow than that dumped on us last winter. Eight inches should be cake.

Except it wasn't. This was heavy, wet snow that weighed down tree branches and whole trees. Some of them aren't coming back.

Remember that birch in our front yard? The one we give the stink eye to during any windy, blowy type of storm? 

Not a peep out of that tree. Still standing, tall and straight. I don't think it even lost a branch, maybe just a few twigs.

But the other trees? Not so good. 

Japanese maple? Bent almost in half. Several large limbs torn off, huge gaping holes in it now.

Hemlock tree next to driveway? Let's just say I'm really glad that our cars were parked in the garage or they'd have been buried under the rather large limb that ripped off. Probably would have crushed a roof or two had our cars been there.

Several oak trees in the backyard? Large branches and limbs now lying in the yard. The Man had to buy a chainsaw to clean it all up.
We still had the summer furniture out. Flowers were still blooming. 

This was crazy.
When I snapped this photo, I had no idea that the cozy light emanating from my neighbor's house was going to be THE LAST LIGHT WE WOULD SEE FOR EIGHT DAYS.

I discovered several things during this power outage, number one being that I really do hate camping.

I am not Pioneer Barbie.

I am Electric Barbie. And Shower Barbie. And Flush the Toilet Barbie. And Technology Barbie.
The night it snowed, the Man made lasagna for dinner. He made a delicious sauce to use in the lasagna, with a secret ingredient. 

Red wine. Yum.

The lights flickered while it was baking. We weren't sure it was going to finish before we lost power.

Yes, we figured we would lose power. But we also figured it would be back relatively quickly. Ha.

It finished baking and we got to enjoy it, and even clean up the kitchen and the dishes, before the lights went out.
While the snows fell, and the wind blew, and the trees started creaking, we were snug and warm in the house, enjoying a glass of wine. 


Lights out.

Uh-oh. Find the flashlights. Where'd we put the candles? Where's the lantern?

Brrrrr. It's chilly. Better get some wood and start a fire, just until the lights come back. Surely they'll be back by morning.

Not. As my kids would say.
For the next eight days, we waited for the power to come back. 

It was horrible. The first few days were very difficult. We couldn't get gas because the gas stations had no power. The grocery stores weren't open right away. Entire towns had no power. We didn't open the library for four days. No power meant no heat and no internet.

It was like playing Survivor. Only people were much nicer. 

There was a great sense of community during the week, with many conversations in gas lines, and when the grocery stores opened, in those lines as well. 

We commiserated with one another and offered to share whatever resources we had that others didn't. When the library finally opened, people came in to charge cell phones and laptops. They sat for hours, playing games, keeping warm. Strangers chatted with each other over cups of hot coffee, laughing and sharing tips and ideas for getting through this difficult time. Older women gave younger girls impromptu knitting lessons. Business people used the meeting rooms as makeshift offices, finding refuge from their cold offices in our warm library. 

So much goodwill.

It was some kind of wonderful. 
Life became much simpler, but also much harder.

Water was oh. so. important. 

Keeping our buckets filled was a part time job. We had one of them under a downspout, collecting water from the melting snow on the roof. We used water from the creek in the backyard for the toilets. A neighbor let us use his outside faucet to get clean water for bathing and cooking - it's chlorinated water from the water company. 

Just getting gas and food and other supplies gave me a sense of accomplishment - I had taken care of my family, at least for the time being. I'm sure the Man felt the same way after he and J cut wood for the fireplace, or lugged five gallon buckets of water for the toilets and our baths back to the house.

Bath night was big. We did that every other night. In between, we would search around and find friends who had generators and could offer a warm shower. 

We got a bit dehydrated since we didn't want to have to use the toilet as much. One day, K took a swig out of her bottle of water and said, "That's another flush now. Great."

Basic needs. That's what it came down to during those first few days.

But you know what? 

Life goes on. And we had to figure out a new normal, until the power returned.

We went back to work, and J went to school. K was off for the week. There were so many trees down, blocking lanes, and lying across power lines that the buses couldn't get through. It was dangerous driving during those first days. Cracked telephone poles had people hurrying past, just in case they decided to come down NOW. Power lines lay littered on the side of the road, like pieces of trash thrown out a car window. You couldn't count the number of downed lines - there were so many.
The days were fairly normal, outside of the whole no water, no power thing. But the nights were a bit more stressful. 

For one thing, it gets dark early which makes for a long night. I fell asleep in my chair one night while working my knitted afghan. I had just glanced at the clock and saw it was 8:00 p.m. and then I nodded off. I woke up a while later, feeling like I has slept for a good amount of time. Thinking it must be 10:00 p.m. or so, I started to get up to go to bed when I looked at the time. It was 8:05.

Five minutes? That's it? Boy, time was slow in the evening.

After several days of silence in the long, dark evenings, I finally remembered that the library lends cassette player/radios so I went and borrowed one. I was lucky to find a package of batteries to run the thing. 

We had some {happy} campers once we got the radio. We were sick of our own voices. For the next several nights we listened to some great jazz on NPR. I  also borrowed some old time radio shows from the 1940s to listen to. I don't know what was more fun, listening to the shows or listening to the kids' comments during the shows. I was pleasantly surprised that K recognized Cary Grant's voice.

Cell phones weren't working, phone lines were down. It was hard to reach anyone. 

Sissy was able to get a message through on facebook that she and my brother in law had gone to get my dad and bring him to their house. We visited them several times since they had borrowed a generator and had lights and TV and refrigeration.

It was nice to spend so much time with family, talking with Sissy and P (my BIL) and Dad at her house. Having the kids hang out in the living room with us in the evening. Mom coming out of her room and sitting with us, since it was so much warmer by the fire.

We watched traffic go by. Literally.

It was very exciting to see car lights. Any lights. We checked to see if they were bucket trucks going by, from the power company, on their way to fix our power. 
So much damage. And destruction.

I don't know what a real war zone looks like, but this is how I imagine it.
Remember the lasagna the Man made?

A funny thing happened to that lasagna. 

We had two-thirds of it leftover the day after the storm so I decided to heat it up on the grill for dinner that night. I had the pan on the counter, using a spatula to cut the lasagna in half, getting ready to wrap the pieces in aluminum foil.

As I cut the piece in half, I didn't realize the pan was inching it's way close to the edge of the counter. I made my last cut and watched in horror as the pan tipped off the counter and fell down, down, down into the bucket of creek water sitting on the floor right underneath.

I can only imagine that the look on my face matched the look on the Man's face as we both realized what had just happened.

I grabbed it out of the water as fast as I could, thinking what? That I was going to be able to salvage it?

Nope. Not happening.

The dog got the rest of the lasagna. And was sick all night long.

Oy vey. 
Isn't that an appropriate book to read during a power outage?
I've just about finished my afghan. One more color to add to the end and then I can cast off.


That's been just about a two year project. 

But oh-so-worth-it. I love the colors and it kept me very warm in the evenings. I would spread it out over my lap and knit all evening.
So much smoke from the woodstoves and fireplaces, it caused a haze. 

There was an air advisory issued, gosh Pete. That's some smoky air.


  1. I can hardly believe your handy husband didn't have a chainsaw! He must have needed a better model! As for the never-ending cleanup, I'm spending part of every day outside dragging limbs to the curb - my brother is working, and has little time for it. Some vacation!

  2. What an awesome wrap up of life with no power! We searched high and low for batteries for my mom's radio and finally managed to find some....Music from the radio felt like a gift from above :)

  3. Your writing never fails to captivate me! I teared up reading the part about community and good will! Some kind of wonderful is right! I love the picture of the basketball hoop! All the pics came out incredible!