Between Storms

The Puget Sound region got hammered by what they were calling a ten-year windstorm late last Thursday night/very early Friday morning. But we were hit by a pretty bad windstorm earlier this year, and by several last year. We still have tens of thousands of people in the Puget Sound region with another wind storm on the way tomorrow. So far, though, we have been lucky: only Saturday and Sunday were really cold by regional standards.

Climate change, anyone?

A few posts from now, I will consider what people can do as citizens together when dealing with sustained outages.

Now I will note only that once we were supposed to expect to function without power for only a few hours; now, it seems to be wise to be prepared for several days. This means, whether winter or summer, having several pallets of drinking water on hand, and plenty of batteries and candles. But it also means adjusting your mindset.

Once the power went out, we didn’t open the refrigerator very much: once in the morning, once at night. I think we opened the freezer once. Water and juice were kept cold on the back porch. We heated water for tea on a propane stove, while Philip made a run to the store for charcoal (Kingsford Matchlight charcoal in the black bag is far safer than using lighter fluid and works as advertised) and long matches. Outside doors and windows were kept closed: if we felt we needed air, we went outside, especially when the sun was out. However, on Saturday evening, we began storing food in the car and on Sunday, I drove to the stable party with a trunk full of food. Taking advantage of the cold nights to preserve food meant that we lost only a little: some half-and-half, odds and ends of salad dressing and maple syrup, that sort of thing.

We ate high calorie foods, especially protein-rich ones, in order to fuel the body to stay warm, and in the mornings, when the house was the coldest, we drank several cups of hot tea each, to generate internal warmth.

Washing was in a sink of water, while minimizing parts that were exposed to cold air. For some reason I do not understand, we had hot (or at least very pleasantly warm) water all the way through from the water tank, although certainly not enough to shower. It did help motivate us to stay clean, though! I found it interesting that on Sunday, not having showered since Thursday, I decided I would shower at the gym on my way to the Christmas party at the stables. I felt that this was something I should do, rather than what I needed to do. That was when I realized that although this was getting old, I was also getting used to it.

We read and wrote during daylight, rather than fuss too much with candles: open flames can easily cause fires and we had no glass hurricanes for the flames, no looking glasses to reflect their light. We slept a lot to conserve warmth, but a bed warmer, to put coals in from the grill to warm the bed, would have been nice, because even in pajamas and socks, it took us a while to warm it up. Even with Abigail, our cat, to help. (She has always slept between us, but on Saturday and Sunday, both of which were very cold nights, she slept underneath the covers.)

While we had a propane heating stove in the living room, I was very leery about using it for more than an hour or two. Instead, we wrapped up: Philip in a down jacket he calls his dumpling coat, me in an old mink coat I’d bought very reasonably, because of its soft, beautiful fur. It turned out that we were absolutely right not to trust the heating stove in the living room: Philip had had it on for about three hours, when I noticed that my head was feeling achy, an early warning sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. He noticed the same thing, so we turned it off and in a few minutes, our heads cleared.

Monday we regained power and I began to cook most of the food in the freezer: the shrimp we ate last night and tonight, the beef was stewed yesterday, while the two chickens were smoked, with some applesauce stirred into the water to flavor the smoke. Tomorrow, I will finish turning the meats into a variety of soups and stews. Along with the lamb, and the Cornish game hens, which never seem to have even considered defrosting, that should take us into the New Year.

We’ve decided that we need a car adaptor for the cell phone, just in case we loose the land line again, as well as electricity, and we also plan to buy ice to help keep the refrigerator cold, if (when) the power goes out again.

Which it may well do later tomorrow.

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