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Greenpoint: Power outage offers chance to slow down, reboot

Greenpoint: Power outage offers chance to slow down, reboot

My major concern was keeping the goat milk fresh
Greenpoint: Power outage offers chance to slow down, reboot
Breakfast was an outdoor affair for a few days — and even included a few dandelion greens.
Photographer: Margaret hartley

We lost power for three days last week after that big windstorm blew through.

Trees came down everywhere, and despite thousands of crews at work, major and minor roads around here were closed for days, and the bulk of the area was without lights or water.

My husband decided to look on the bright side. “At least it’s warm,” he said.

He was right. A power outage in warm weather, when the stock tanks are full of rainwater and the deep freeze is full of ice, isn’t much of a problem. I took his cue. “We needed to clean out the refrigerator anyway,” I said, and made my son a milkshake out of the melting ice cream.

My major concern was keeping the goat milk — which comes in every day, whether the refrigerator is running or not — fresh, since without a stove I couldn’t make cheese.

But the chest freezer in the basement worked as a refrigerator. We use it mostly for vegetables from our garden, and as we eat the contents, I put in jugs of water to freeze. A full freezer is more efficient than an empty one, so turning milk jugs into block ice is a good way to save electricity.

It also means that even without power for 74 hours, food in the bottom of the freezer stayed frozen, and I could use the upper baskets for keeping the goat milk cold. The food we needed handy I kept in a cooler in the kitchen, chilled with some of those ice jugs from the chest freezer.

Yes, a shower would have been nice, especially since we were getting good and dirty cleaning up trees, reinforcing fences, hauling buckets of water from the rain tanks and cooking outdoors. We solved our most pressing need — coffee — by pulling out the percolator to use on the charcoal grill. The grill was handy for breakfasts, too, and the smoker became our all-purpose outdoor oven.

We knew the power could be out for a few days, but we also knew it would come back. So we could enjoy the blurring lines between inside and out, the quieter, slower pace. I picked dandelion greens on my morning walks and added them to the omelets I cooked on the grill.

I used to love power outages for the silence, but now everyone runs generators. We have one too, and turned it on for a few minutes a couple of times a day to trick the goats into thinking their electric fence was charged. They learned better. By day two, a few rascals were jumping over the fence.

Still, it was peaceful most of the time. The nights were quiet and dark, and the days seemed longer and my son, forced to be offline, went running several times a day — on the roads, in the woods, home from town when he went to help collect firewood from a downed maple someone wanted removed. He dove into one of his favorite books and spent hours reading — on his bed, on the roof, in the hammock hanging between trees.

I took a book outdoors too, and sat on a stump to read near our new hens. When it started to rain, I went inside and took a nap — another form of peacefulness that comes when busyness is impossible.

Monday morning I took a shower at work, and Monday night I visited neighbors whose power was back. I took my dirty son and some dirty dishes, and came home with everything clean. My husband was cleaning up branches in the yard and there was a light on in the kitchen. The power was back on.

Days later, I find we’re still running a little slower, still keeping the lines between the outside and the house a little blurred. The lights and radio aren’t on as much. My son is still reading instead of going on the computer and has been spending more time in the woods.

Maybe it was the outage, maybe it’s just spring. Maybe it’s just the peace and connectedness we feel when it finally gets warm around here and our living spaces can extend to the outdoors.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on May 27. Reach Margaret Hartley at 2margarethartley@gmail.com or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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