A day without electricity

I spent most of yesterday in the dark. When I say “dark” I don’t mean to imply existing in a “clueless state” but rather actually physically sitting in darkness. My rural area experienced a massive power outage yesterday, which left about 1000 people without electricity.

The day was an interesting exercise in how dependent I am on all things power driven. Without this utility I couldn’t use my phone, cook my food, do my laundry, freeze or refrigerate my perishables, see my sofa, stay warm, watch TV, boggle my blog, flush my toilet (I have a well), or partake in a simple cup of tea.

powercord.JPG

Without power my regular day and evening activities were greatly altered. Rather than spend my time washing clothing, cooking, and blogging, I ate raw foods and read a book outside. I also interacted directly with my neighbors. Without the use of telephones, we went door-to-door sharing news on the outage and sharing flashlights. I got to know my neighbors better and enjoyed their company.

Later in the evening my “better half” and I donned head lamps and played endless card games of cribbage. We must have looked pretty silly wearing these crazy battery-powered head lamps, but we had lots of fun trying not to blind the other with our light sources. We also went to bed early, and got up earlier this morning feeling refreshed.

This whole experience makes me think, how much of our lives do we spend on useless power-sucking activities? Activities like watching hours of television, gaming with that Wii thing, or surfing the internet without purpose. It might be an interesting exercise to try living a day with your family pretending to be powerless. Try going through your day without the lights, without the television, and without all things electrical. You may just be surprised how much you learn about each other, how much fun you have, and how much money you save.

You may just discover that living without power is kind of empowering.

Your two cents:

  1. Sara May 25th, 2008

    I think going to bed earlier is one of the biggest changes that comes with a power outage. I think a lot of folks would be better rested and more relaxed if we simply couldn’t keep the lights on so late. As for me, I found it was really hard to eat without power; I never realized how few raw foods I keep around the house.

  2. Jill May 25th, 2008

    I always get a kick out of power outages…but then, I’m on city water and can still flush. The first thing I do is bathe while the water in the heater is still warm. Leaving the fridge closed is my biggest challenge.
    I cook on a charcoal grill, or in winter over a sterno can stove on top of the now useless electric stove (window open for ventiliation of course) or go to a friend who has a wood stove.
    I should try a day without power now that I live in an apartment in town! I think the lack of fans would be the challenge here. We’d end up in the street just to keep cool.

  3. Frugal Dad May 25th, 2008

    Interestingly enough I wrote just today about items to have on hand for natural disasters, power outages, etc. You are right, it is amazing how “dead” a house feels with no power. It always reminds me of the luxuries most of us take for granted.

  4. shiny May 26th, 2008

    wow! I did a tv free week a while back and realised just how much time i waste with the ‘idiot’ box on.. living alone means I would put it on for noise, then just waste time watching it…

    same with the net.. same with other electrical items.. crazy!

    when i was little i would devour books.. school holidays were spent going back and forth to the library.. it’s pretty sad we have lost these simple pleasures..

    great post x

  5. Hayden Tompkins May 27th, 2008

    “It might be an interesting exercise to try living a day with your family pretending to be powerless.”

    That’s part of the reason that being in a hurricane was so much fun. It was camping, an adventure in your living room. As a Floridian, I mastered things like getting out a flashlight and pointing it at the ceiling so the whole room is illuminated.

    Glad you had a good time.

  6. CindyS May 28th, 2008

    It’s funny, back in the day before TV and a/c, people used to sit out on their front porches and visit with their neighbors in the evenings. It was a time to socialize and relax while catching a cool breeze. Now it’s unusual to see anyone sitting outside or dropping by to say hello and share the news. We are all too busy sitting in front of our tv while the artificial arctic blast of our a/c provides a breeze. Is it an improvement? I know if I turn the A/C on I don’t want to go outside and neither do my kids. It’s like walking out into an oven.

  7. NtJS May 28th, 2008

    This is a great post! What a great way to reconnect with the non-cyber world.

  8. Rachel @ Master Your Card May 29th, 2008

    I always feel completely lost without power because I am almost physically attached to my laptop! Of course it has a battery but that does not last long and without the router working there is not much use in having a laptop! I guess all my work is online and without it I feel almost useless.

  9. Marci May 29th, 2008

    Seems like we get 3 or 4 days – sometimes all in a row – without power during winter storms here on the north Oregon Coast. One day is no biggee anymore – and as I was formerly from Florida (30 yrs ago)- ie, Hurricanes, I was already prepared for it.

    I do miss internet(email from family) but that’s about it. I don’t have TV anyway 🙂 And one phone is NOT an electric phone – so I can always use the phone. (Cell phone coverage was out for 8 days this last big storm – now THAT WAS hard to take )

    When I remodeled my home last year, I made sure to put in a woodstove with a flat cooking surface. During the outage, the family was over for a nice venison- barley- veggie stew on the woodstove. And omelets/bacon for breakfast – cast iron pans are the only pans I own anyway. Also heated water there for washing, and in the evening, there was some light to see by.
    We were warm, cozy, and had full bellies 🙂

    Electric was out 8 days in places here twice in the last 2 years. And we ALWAYS lose it 24 hours several times a winter due to wind storms. After 3 days we are borrowing/juggling generators for the refrig and freezer – but I guess it’s just not so bad as we are used to it and prepared for it.

    And yes, it is a good family time – reading, games, and story telling. Time with grandkids – stories about ‘the old days’. And any home with a woodstove and/or a generator is full to the gills with company (from homes without) until the electric is back on. Hot showers available via generator at the YMCA 🙂

    Makes us grateful for when the electric IS on, but leery of trusting it too much 🙂 It’s NOT a for sure thing out here!

  10. Bill May 31st, 2008

    I was reading one book, by Ragnar Benson, IIRC, about how his family runs a diesel genset one hour/day (consumes about one liter of diesel/hour) to provide electricity at his rural home.

    During that hour, everything happens that requires electricity – deep freezers cool, water is pumped from the well to the 1,000 gallon water tank up on the hill, etc.

    That’s the way most of the world lives, utility electric power only a few hours/day.

    He did have a 1,000 gallon propane tank and woodstove for heating/cooking, and I believe some propane-powered lights (no mention of a fridge, but propane-powered fridges are available)

    If I lived as rural as he does I’d have a genset as well, and a large fuel tank (at least several hundred gallons) for it.

    Though I’d also have a small battery system to run modest loads like lighting, since I’m not fond of open flames inside the house.

    I only use battery-powered lighting in the house during power failures, no candles, and especially no liquid-fueled lamps inside!

  11. Marci June 1st, 2008

    For Bill –
    Is the Ragnar Benson book the “Live off the Land in the City and Country” book?? I see he has a LOT of books published and that’s the only available at my local library, and I have put it on hold. I need more info on this. His Survivalist books look interesting also. Thanks.

  12. Erica June 5th, 2008

    As much of a computer geek that I am, and considering how much time I spend on the internet during my day, I find that I never miss it when we’re on holiday or camping.

    We actually do not watch much tv anymore as it is. (But is related more to the crap that it’s loaded with nowadays) Only exception is hockey. 😉

    I would probably not have a hard time living with minimal power. Except for the fact I make our family’s living by programming all day, and I need my computer and the internet, or the paychecks stop flowing. so from 9 to 5 i need the power. 🙂

    If I can figure out how to power only the office and kitchen and nothing else then maybe I can get away with it.

  13. Alli November 19th, 2009

    Following Hurricane Katrina, my pledge was to encourage everyone, everywhere to have a 72 hour emergency kit PACKED and READY! Propane, candles, canned, etc. are in most homes BUT when it’s sink or swim, life or death, rumble, rock and roll, grab your Emergency Kit and go. Thank you, Squakfox, for giving me a forum to say this.

  14. Jules June 8th, 2011

    The power goes out here with a remarkable frequency (at least once a year) and our Internet craps out from time to time as well. Luckily our toilet still flushes and the gas still works, and we have lots of candles, oil lamps, and a petroleum stove for winter. We’ve learned to keep the fridge and freezer doors closed, and to always know where the matches are.

  15. dave July 20th, 2011

    living without hydro is no big thing for me , as i do a lot of camping and have gotten use to not having hydro ,
    as for refrigeration , i unplugged my fridge last year , i live on canned meals and dry meals ,, i also unplugged my stove , as it uses too much hydro to boil water ,,
    i do have for emergencies a propane camp stove with extra propane bottles, plus kerosene lamps and kerosene heaters for those winter days that i lose my hydro due to winter storms, also i have a good supply of natural vitamins ,
    so living without hydro dosent have to be a great loss , it also gives you time to catch up on reading , doing cross word puzzles ect , being wih freinds ,
    and you need a good supply of bottled water , plus water for sanitary purposes , it can be done , i do it ,
    the world dosent end without hydro , you realise that you found a part of you that you lost because of it

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