Living off the grid

You’ve probably imagined it, or at the very least talked about it. Perhaps you’ve even played a game like, “Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse”. It’s the idea of becoming “independent” and surviving on less while you test your skills and learn to “make do” with less technology. It’s a fun exercise to talk about, but after
last week, I can tell you – it’s not as much fun to live through.

You might have heard, we had some winter weather in the Seattle area. While not the storm-of-the-century it was predicted to be, this one packed a whallop. The snow was bad enough – because we don’t get that much in this part of the country, so we don’t have mass resources. I lived in a town in upstate NY with around 3000 people, and they had 4 huge snowplows. Plus the county plows, and the state road crews. People there knew how to live through blizzards.

People in the Pacific Northwest are not that prepared. After all, it’s silly to spend a lot of money on equipment you might not even use, (last year we didn’t have any snow). But, when bad weather happens here, it really, really happens.

And after the snow came the ice storm. With trees cracking from the weight of snow, which meant that power lines went down, and many, many of us lived without electricity for days. At the same time, at our house we lived for 24 hours without water, because our hot water heater developed a leak. No cable, no internet, no stove, no heat (except for our woodstove). Living off the grid.

This can be fun for approximately 24 hours. The first day is an adventure. We’d made a huge pot of chili the night before the storm. We heated it on the woodstove and chowed down on homemade bread I’d baked to go with it. A feast, and we were so proud to have expended so little energy to make it. Well, it was only day one.
By the third day the novelty had definitely worn off. We played an endless game of Monopoly, read, snuggled under our Pendleton blankets, toted in wood. We were lucky to have a gas generator, but we needed that to run the refrigerator during the day to keep our food from spoiling.

I could connect to the internet with my smartphone, and my new Kindle Fire is backlit so I read several great books. So while we weren’t totally cut off, it felt so quiet, and dark. And kinda lonely.

When the electricity popped back on, we actually danced around the house. When the cable reconnected, I believe there was giddy joy. It’s not that we couldn’t survive, but we realized that we are 21st Century humans, and we are unbelievably, incredibly spoiled. So while I might write books set in the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries, I certainly wouldn’t want to live there permanently.

But, to visit in a time machine? Maybe. Think of the research opportunities. If you ever visited another time, when would it be and what 3 things would you take with you?

Deborah Schneider

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8 responses to “Living off the grid

  1. It is amazing how we rely on electricity. In August last, Cyprus had a major power-plant explosion. We were without power for long periods. Gradually they worked it to two hours off am and pm. On the days of 12 hour shut down we had it all organised. DH had two hours on his portable DVD player, I had two on the laptop. Gas hob meals were prepared and Scrabble games organised by candlelight. We can survive, but as you rightly say, we are spoilt!

    We are having a freak cold winter here too! Brrr.

    • I would go to America in the late 1800’s, to see the birth of many things. I would take my laptop, my camera and a purse full of dollars to pay the electricity bill.

  2. I wouldn’t go too far back – but would’ve loved being an adult in the 60s for the music – all the amazing English artists and Motown, Woodstock.

    I’d need my laptop though … and wifi — that could be a problem.

    eden

  3. That’s not just off the grid, Deb. That’s without resources. *grimace*

    As for what I’d pack on a time travel expedition, the first thing would be a camera. The second thing I’d bring along would be my laptop. Though I couldn’t get onto the Internet, as long as the batteries lasted—unless, of course, the time was post-Edison—I could use it to supplement my documentation, as well as impress the hell out of the yokels. 🙂 The third would be a color photograph of where I came from. Clearly,though, if they were burning witches, I’d be SOL. 😦

  4. Deb, this is one of the things that I often think about – and I’d take a satchel full of notebooks and many many many pens. Plus Tylenol or Aspirin. That’d be it for me. And where would I go? Easy. England in 1910 and I’d want to stay right through until 1923 or 1924.

    Kate

  5. Seattle and snow or Ice–or both–do not mix. It’s not natural. 4 inches and the whole damned place goes FUBAR! It’s not supposed to snow in Eden!

    If I were to go back in time, how far back would I go? 1920s, Paris and New York. I too, would take Tylenol or Aspirin, also, lot’s of notebooks and ballpoint pens, and a huge album of Photographs from this era. And a big wad of money to buy drinks for people like Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, to name a few!

    Wally

  6. Oh… I love the places you guys will go and the things you will see!
    Glynis – we were doing the same, scrambling when the generator was running to get our devices charged.
    Eden – I was there for the sixties, and my clearest memory of music was when The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. And 2 of my cousins got to visit NYC and see them. It took me a long, long time to like those girls again!
    Raymond, I never thought of taking my laptop, but the photos are a great idea. Of course, like you said – NOT if they were burning witches.
    Kate – I love that timeframe too, (Edwardian) and could go with you. But I’d bring antibiotics along with the tylenol.
    Wally – Kate and I could come and visit you in Paris, (after WWI of course!) And you’re right, we’d need money. Or Gold. I think gold would travel well through the time machine.
    These are all fascinating answers.
    I’d visit Montana in 1880’s just to see what it was like with all the cowboys, cattle ranches, etc.

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