Um.... *taps microphone* Is this thing on?
If I flatter myself, you may have noticed my conspicuous absence at the start of this month (well, unless you follow my Twitter acct in which case I was jawing my head off). That would be because on Saturday, Oct 29th at about 3pm or a few minutes earlier, a big tree fell across our driveway taking down our power lines and a utility pole and causing the transformer to hit the ground and break open. We were without electricity and running water until Sunday, Nov 6th. The tree blocked egress until the 4th.
The tree in question:
I spent most of my time knitting or trying to knit, so that's the main inspiration for this month's very belated giveaway. This month I'm giving away an emergency preparedness kit. It's not just any emergency preparedness kit, it's a yarny preparedness kit.
Inside, you will find one slightly underweight skein of this yarn - Jackrabbit 4oz in the colorway "Implausible". (I spent the whole week telling myself "this is unreal".)
As well as (not pictured) an emergency light source, some emergency calories, something to get the smell of woodsmoke out of your post-emergency FOs, an entirely facetious "pattern" to knit in the dark, and whatever else I can think to add to the box. This is a seriously plump giveaway, if I do say so myself.
I'm going to let this run a full week, through Sat Nov 19th before I let the randomizer pick a winner. To enter, just comment here with an answer to this thought exercise. How long could you survive (without food poisoning or scurvy) off only the food currently present in your home? Added limiters are 1) no electricity for things like refrigerators and freezers, and 2) no running water so all water needs to be carried in by hand from an offsite tap and heated in a pot on a propane stove if you want it hot. Remember to leave me a way to reach you if you win; a Ravelry id is enough!
Friends of the family lost power for days and ended up visiting a different friend's house each day for food and warmth. For us the reality was too much food rather than not enough. When you have a standing freezer as well as an overstuffed side by side, and over 1,000lbs of vegetables gleaned from a local farm that was scheduled for delivery to local food banks, it's a matter of spoilage and no easy way to wash dishes that cause problems. It was cold enough to make washing dishes in unheated water incredibly unpleasant, but not cold enough to keep food from spoiling.
At one point I was tempted to slather everything with barbeque sauce and throw it on the grill. The mess of it was the main deterrent. I did get reasonably good at cooking rice, however. The key was bringing the rice and water to a boil in a heavy pot on the propane burner and then covering it and letting it simmer over a lit sterno canister for about 30min. Our propane burner doesn't produce a low enough flame for cooking rice, but a can of solid fuel is just right for the slow simmer part.
More nattering about the power outage after the jump.
This was, of course, the result of that early snow that hit the east coast on the 29th. We weren't in the hardest hit parts of NJ and certainly nothing as bad as Connecticut, but living in the woods has its risks. Trees in almost full leaf falling over due to 8+ inches of wet, heavy snow after an unusually wet summer? That's one of them. Except for us and the house down the hill from us on the same line, the rest of the street had power.
So yeah, I live tweeted 8 days and 3 hours without power. It was... tedious and annoying, and being without power or running water was bad too. badum-ching!
We were never in any real risk from anything except tedium. As I mentioned we had too much food rather than not enough. Our barbeque grill runs on propane and it comes equipped with a side burner suitable for cooking in actual pots and pans. We even have a spare full propane cylinder at all times. We had matches, candles, a couple tins of sterno, flashlights, and two solar lamps. We have a massive pile of well aged firewood and the fireplace kept 2 rooms of the house comfortable and the rest of the house at least warmer than outside. Our neighbors are friendly and helpful and offered us more help than we wanted to take (especially since one of our trees fell on a neighbors house, luckily with not too much damage). And I got a new phone since the last time we lost power for days (Hurricane Irene) and so I could at least tweet and check my email.
There was one completely pleased individual that week, though. We've very rarely had a fire going of late years because the smell of woodsmoke ends up permeating everything. So Banquo isn't terribly familiar with fires. Of all the cats, he took to it immediately and proceeded to bask in front of the fire place at every opportunity for the duration. HE thought it was the BEST THING EVER. The other cats were just confused why everyone was spending so much time in the living room, and a few territorial issues turned up when there weren't enough chairs for both cats and people.
We could walk to the post office if necessary so I was able to mail some orders that came in that week. But I couldn't do much more than check my email and tediously peck out answers with my thumbs as best I could. I have an inverter in my car, so I was able to charge the cell phones periodically and get some news. If I'd been really smart I would have ordered an emergency hand crank radio that Sunday and it would have arrived in time for us to use it. As it was, it didn't occur to me to do that until almost a week later when it wouldn't arrive in time to be of use.
Oh, and I'm fairly certain one of the cats brought a live chipmunk into the house on the Friday when it was warm and we had the doors open, because there is now a live chipmunk living in our living room. We've seen it multiple times and it's been taking the food left out for it. We have to find a warm day to upturn the sofa and try to chase it back outside.
Never a dull moment, except for all the extremely dull moments not being able to leave the property except on foot, without the internet except in a very limited way, and not wanting to run down the batteries on the cars to listen to the radio (I requested a song, but they didn't play it *sadface*). One thing, if you're sleeping in a cold house and your bed is chilly and slow to warm up? Put a wool blanket or something down and sleep on top of it. I slept for the whole week on top of my ruana of doom which is wool and alpaca and it would warm up almost immediately and I would actually be too hot in the morning even though I could make my breath fog in my bedroom. Otherwise you've got nothing but a thin sheet between you and a cold mattress that needs warming up.
Partially because I was cold and partially because I was bored, I knit quite a bit. There was the 2 color helical moebius scarf that I can't use for NerdWars because I finished it in October. There was the 4 color helical moebius scarf that I can use for NerdWars because I started it in November. And then there was the moment when I realized that knitting roving didn't make sense as a log cabin blanket, but that a 10st blanket was perfect. The thing about the roving blanket is that the needles are so big and heavy that they can't be ridiculously long. So the length limits how wide a row can get. A 10st blanket is never more than 10st, which is perfect. And because I worked the return row backwards, purling back in reverse rather than turning the whole thing and knitting back, it was a lot less manipulation of what ended up getting really big really fast. Here it is blocking on my car today after I washed it (which, by the way if you ever do this, be careful about the wiper blades, their brackets can have little sticky out bits that can hook the yarn. ... Why are you looking at me that way? Isn't it perfectly sensible to take advantage of such a large and water resistant surface when necessary?). I haven't measured it again so I don't know how much bigger it is.
There's also a blanket I started on the Saturday, but it has no pictures. I knit one entire ball of yarn in one night and then had to take a break. I got about 2in further along the next day, but then power came back and I put it down.
All in all, in the end I missed running water more than the heat and the stove and the refrigerator (and possibly the internet, but having internet would mean having all the other things so it doesn't quite equate). I had my knitting and plenty of booze and a fireplace. Other than the inconveniences, if I hadn't had things I needed to do it would have been downright idyllic. We could have boiled water if there had been enough to boil. Actually, we did boil water daily and filled a thermos to make hot tea/coffee through the day, but I'm thinking more for things like washing dishes and ourselves. We only had enough potable water for about 2 days so it became a daily thing to go down the hill to the other house without power (but with a generator) and get a few gallons of water for necessities. The fish pond provided water to flush the toilets, which is one of those things that one really doesn't want to have to think about when cold and without proper washing up options.
The weather was lovely the whole week once the snow passed. Unfortunately none of us were in the mood to enjoy it. :P Being without power was a psychological issue as well as a PITA. It added a wrongness to everything. It felt like being marooned even though it was comprised of inconveniences rather than disasters, and we started grating on each other a lot. No one's noise to hear but our own, you know?
I did take a number of pictures of "pretty scenery" to document everything. These are pictures I took in the morning almost exactly an hour apart for the first two, and the last about 2hrs later showing the progress of the snow. That last one was about 11:30am, and the leaning tree has been leaning against its neighbor since September. All that rain this summer really did a number on the ground.
A different angle of the leaning tree, just before 1pm for context. It was getting colder so the flakes were smaller, but since the early flakes had been large and wet, the accumulation continued to build up on the leaves, etc.
There were crashes and noises in the woods pretty frequently by 11am, the accumulation was already enough to take down weaker limbs. A few minutes before 3pm, we heard a crumbling crash and lost power. You can see how bowed down everything is by the weight of all that snow. The tree that fell was uprooted, not broken.
It was a big tree, and since it was fouled with wires we couldn't really call in anyone to remove it before the power company sent a crew. Even though power was cut to the line, it's still not something people really want to deal with. The next day the snow melted fairly quickly and I went down for a good look.
There was also this hickory tree with 2 branches that broke but didn't fall. It was bowed over the corner of the house right above the room next to mine. It straightened up a little when the snow fell off, and it's much straighter now that we've had tree cutters in to remove the two broken branches. I think it's interesting that even for something like this that would so clearly damage the house and cause a much higher total bill, the insurance company won't pay for it unless there's damage to the house. No preventative maintenance there!
The power company sent tree cutters on Friday afternoon. Our particular crew was from Pennsylvania and they'd been working all week clearing downed trees. They cleared it enough for work crews to be able to do their job and sent in a report about the situation. On Saturday the power company sent in someone to evaluate the situation so they would know what to send. And around noon on Sunday three big trucks with cherry pickers pulled up our driveway and started figuring things out. We were told they had to stop by 6pm but they'd do their best to finish and have us up and running before they left.
This crew was from Michigan, and they'd been staying in motels all week working on getting people their power back. They travel with their own physical therapist!
Watching them was better than television. They're amazing with a cherry picker. The baskets have every tool imaginable in them, way better than a utility belt, and they can maneuver those things around and over and under things with astonishing dexterity. And watching them replace the pole was fun, too. The truck with the big auger/drill/crane/clamp/thingy does it all. They use it to remove the old pole, fix the hole, lift the new pole into position, tamp it into the hole, straighten it, etc. Go go gadget truck!
They finished at almost 5pm on the dot. We were out of power for almost exactly 8 days and 3 hours taking in consideration the time change that weekend. The longer it went the more fatalistic I got so I was very happy to have my doom and gloom about not getting power back on the weekend disproved. Since we've been without power for an extended period of time twice now in as many months, we're looking into getting a generator for future emergencies. It would keep us in running water and we could cook indoors and use the internet as long as the dsl is functioning, even if only a few times a day since one doesn't run a generator 24/7. It's one of those things that you don't need until you need it, but when you need it you really need it!
And so I am very glad to be back in civilization, even though I never really left it.