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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Would I survive?

As the outside temperature warms up and as I read about people planning spring gardens; I am reminded of how spring used to be for me..... umm, about 35, 40, or 45 years ago.  Every spring, after about a week of above freezing temperatures, the utility company had what I called "field day" as a multitude of trucks rolled out to turn off utilities.  You could see the trucks going from house to house down streets turning off the utilities in the low income neighborhoods.  People's utilities would remain turned off until we managed to pay the high bill or cold weather arrived again.  People in low income neighborhoods know utilities are not a necessity; they are a luxury.  Since utilities today cost way more than they used to, I expect to see a field day in my neighborhood any time now.  The temperature has been above 50 for several days now.
I keep asking myself, would I survive through the summer if this happened to me today?  Could I survive a summer without utilities as I used to do?  Sure, I could probably get by for a couple of weeks as I did during the ice storm of 2009.

After the wind storm, not long after the ice storm, I did ok too.  Ladybug and I spent lots of time together by kerosene lamp light for three weeks that time.  She was too small to care about anything but warm milk, dry diapers, and plenty of cuddles.

I keep asking myself over and over again..... could I survive as I did back when I fully expected my utilities to be turned off for several months every year?  Could I survive if there were a major disaster here and things wouldn't get back to normal for several months?

Back then, I anticipated the spring event and started preparing for it in January.  I knew I had a couple of months to use up the food in the fridge and to wash then dry as many clothes as I could.  I would stock up on foods that could be cooked using my grill as a strange looking wood stove.  I would get out the cooler I made with triple insulation around it.  Back then there were lots of preparations I did in expectation of long months without utilities. 

Could I survive that way today?  Looking around my house today at first I didn't believe I could.  Too much of my life revolves around the use of electricity these days.  I have a freezer which I didn't have back then.  The freezer is full of food.  I could probably cook a lot of it during a temporary power outage because I have a gas stove.  But what if the gas was turned off too as it used to be done?  I no longer have a charcoal grill or a supply of wood branches to burn in it.  I don't own a pressure canner to can the meats in the freezer.  I'm saving for one but my change jar savings don't add up as quickly as they used to.  Even if I had the canner, my supply of canning jars is very limited.  I have 9 dozen pint jars and a meager supply of lids.

My income revolves around the use of electricity.  Without electricity a quilting machine won't sew.  Sure, I do have my much loved treadle machine.  I could use that for machine quilting if I needed to do it. 
I took a look at some of my non-electric kitchen appliances.  The food grinder is missing the wing nuts to hold it together.  My veggie slicer is ok though.  I still have my cast iron cookware which were and are very valuable for outdoor cooking.  I still have my percolator and some other non-electric kitchen items.

Back in those days I was much younger (of course) and physical labor wasn't an issue.  I could handle washing clothes by hand and carrying heavy loads of tree branches for fire with no trouble.  I'm not so strong these days.  Back then I walked long distances to find fallen branches and carry them home.  Today, I fear the roaming packs of neighborhood dogs so walking to find wood would be out of the question.  Back then I had a very small backyard garden to pick fresh veggies for daily meals.  Today, too many tree roots in the ground and too many overhead branches keeping out the sunlight, which prevent planting a garden.   

Am I a prepper or a survivalist?  Today's buzzwords define prepper and survivalist to refer to someone who believes there is an apocalypse about to happen.  Back when I knew for certain I would have to live a whole summer without utilities it felt like an apocalypse to me.   I thought of myself as a prepper because I got myself prepared for the event.  I thought of myself as a survivalist because I believed I would survive long hot days of summer without a fan or air conditioning while standing over a fire cooking our daily meals.

Could I survive a utility field day as I live right now?  At first I didn't think so but with only a few changes I'm sure I could.  It would take some thought on my part to remember what I used to do in preparation for utility field day but I know I could manage.   If I can find it, I still have my notebook of ideas I used back in those days. 
I would still need electricity to run my quilting machine.  Anybody know how to hook up a Gammill to a treadle?  I can live without a tv and hardly miss it but the internet I would miss a lot.  I like writing my blogs and visiting the blogs of others.   I have enough non-electric items that I could survive.  Finding those items is something else entirely.  Hmm..... maybe it's time I thought about locating these things and listing them on a "find it" list to put into my household manager notebook.  Now where did I put that notebook?  I know it's here someplace.



Anonymous said...

For your backyard vegie garden, check out this webcite. It's above ground. Enjoy. MJ

Anita Estes said...

MJ, what a great site! Lots of ideas started popping into my head after visiting there.

Don't laugh but I had started to throw away a two piece cake pan that's rusted and not holding together well enough to use anymore. I had put it into the trash when suddenly it occurred to me I could use it for a planter. I pulled it out of the trash real quick.

Grandma Mama used to have lots of odd planters around her house. Old tea pots, a chamber pot or two, worn out shoes, old washtubs and that sort of thing. Thanks so much for reminding me of that.

kathi said...

I also was VERY "intense" about all the "what if's".. no power. no electric.. no GAS. no atm's to acess your MONEY in the bank. etc etc. i was NEARLY nutso. GET THE CASH. or GOLD for the "market investments" and the "in the bank" money.. etc. and GET THE EMERGENCY KIT together. cash. water. food. financial records, etc etc. and THEN it HIT me. FEAR NOT. FEAR is NOT the proper motivation for LIVING. yes PRUDENT. and you ARE prudent. we do NOT spend like FOOLS. but we MAY NOT and SHOULD NOT worry ourselves into a "tiz"..
in the words of Bobby McFarren. DON'T WORRY. BE happy. "BE" being the operative word.

FEAR and WORRY are tools of that pesky devil. IF YOU ALLOW FEAR to OVERTAKE you. you ARE doomed. planning. GOOD. planting. good.. WORRY AND FEAR. NOT good.

We read the book. WE WIN. don't worry. be happy. yes. FRUGAL. and READY. but NOT overly concerned. stuff happens. SMILE. RELISH the TIME with THE GRANDS. and just BE.

Anita Estes said...

Kathi, I agree with you. Think.... but leave the worry to a higher power. Actually, I was reflecting on the changes that have been in my life over the years and also thinking about the thousands of people who have lived through major disasters lately.

My utilites are no longer turned off every summer but disasters happen all the time. When a disaster happpens it's too late to think about getting prepared. After taking stock of what I have, I'm sure I could survive a long power outage if I had to.

Vaca Vista Videos said...

Reflections...my my...can't believe those things happened. I can't imagine planning one's life around no electricity. Oh, I can think of the short time frame, but for months on end...oh dear.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful, enlightening, and uplifting stories of your past and present!

Margaret Bucklew

Anita Estes said...


Yes, it is quite different to have lived like that. I count my blessings all the time as I see others struggling with unemployment and learning to live differently than they are used to living. I like to think my past experiences were given to me so I can help and teach those who are "newly food stamp poor" learn to survive these days.

I said it back then, I still say it today..... Utilities are a luxury, not a necessity.