A Long Winter’s Nightmare

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

I didn’t mean to be away this long, but nature, in the form of an ice storm, had plans for me.

We were off the grid for five days. The first day was fun: we fired up the Coleman lanterns, thawed some lentil soup from the freezer, mostly stayed out of the refrigerator, kept current with weather conditions on a battery operated radio/alarm system supplied us by Vermont Yankee so we’ll know when the nuclear power plant blows up, and did more reading than we usually get to do in a week.

We heat with a wood furnace that has an electric-powered blower; without electricity you can’t run the fire very hot or you’ll destroy the furnace. But we have warm clothing and a down comforter, so we weren’t in any danger of hypothermia (that’s supposed to be a big hazard for old people, of which we are two.)

It was like wilderness camping, except that we had our own beds to sleep in.

The worst part was that the phones were down, too, making it unlikely we’d be able to get help if we needed it, and the inch of ice on our steeply-sloping driveway made it even less likely that help could get to us if we were able to make our needs known.  Still, we treated it as a vacation day.

Days two through five weren’t that much fun.

Obviously the power is back on and the phone working. So, to make our lives complete, snow started falling at noon yesterday (Friday) and we’re told it wil continue into Monday morning.  And we haven’t even reached the winter solstice. That happens tomorrow, and days will start getting longer — slowly at first, then more quickly from day to day.  If this is a hint of the winter to come, I’m going to be a pretty unhappy puppy by the time spring gets here (that would be in the first week in May.)

So far today, I’ve twice shoveled a path up to the henhouse. I need to do it again before it gets dark. The chickens are good about breaking through the ice in their water bucket up to a point, but eventually, the freeze always wins. Despite the cold and dark, they’re still giving us about half a dozen eggs a day (there are 16 laying hens) so it’s only fair that I give them water and feed.

This whole time of silence, I’ve been thinking of the things I want to say to you. If the power lines stay up, I’ll be back tomorrow with some thoughts. If  I haven’t posted by 2p ET Sunday, please send out the St. Bernards. A small cask of rum will be much appreciated.

I hope you’re warm and safe, not fretting overmuch about whether you bought the right gifts, nor running up a huge credit card bill that will take the joy out of giving when it’s time to pay the piper next month.

Bask in joy,


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5 Responses to “A Long Winter’s Nightmare”

  1. Welcome back!

  2. One word for that electric furnace fan: solar PV panels. 

  3. I know how you felt!  We went 9 days in NH in my area without power and many of my friends are still waiting.. the snow accumulation is outrageous as well.

  4. To Oh that: We moved here from the Massachusetts coast intending to live as independently as we could manage and, specifically, to get off the grid.  That was nearly 25 years ago. Photovoltaics are still too expensive for us and even if we could afford PV panels, the payback remains 20-25 years, same as when we got here, and we don’t have that much time left. You’d think manufacturer’s development costs would have been earned back by now and prices would have come down, but it doesn’t seem to be that way.

  5. Michigan has lost power tonight.  Seems like this is a more than usual occurence lately.  Taking on what it takes to get even partially independent as individual families and the struggles, including the financial ones, would be a great post.

    I enjoy your writing and would love to read your perspective on the subject of individual energy independence!

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