We’ve been in Tiny just under 3 months now and as we’ve mentioned before it’s still a time for “firsts”. The past two days were no exception. Tiny just survived her first power outage, and it was a doozy. A little over 45 hours with no electricity!
For some tiny houses (and some of our own previous abodes) this might actually go unnoticed as they are off grid. But our Tiny is very much connected! Still, we were pretty darn comfy. We had heat and the ability to cook since these are both supplied by propane appliances. We were able to melt snow in a pot on the heat stove to use in our RV flush toilet. We opened windows for ventilation when cooking, because of my chemical sensitivities and also because we could no longer turn on the hood fan. Open windows served the added purpose of reducing the humidity in the house by replacing some of the inside air with drier exterior air.
We knew the power might go out, considering the intensity of the storm that was brewing around us and the wetness of the snow itself. So we filled all our available containers with water (pots, mason jars, kettles, pitchers) just before going to bed the first night. And it was a good thing we did. Then again, if we really had needed to we could have dug out our surface well from under several feet of snow and easily accessed our water. (Well, easy once the shoveling was over!) We didn’t run out so now we know how much we need to sustain ourselves if/when this happens again. As soon as the power came back on we filled all those containers right back up just in case! Not having much water gave us a good excuse to let the dishes pile up a bit – but now they’re all sparkling in the dish drainer.
After the first 24 hours we were a bit worried about how well our fridge and freezer would hold their temperatures. So we made a snow box outside and put in some of the fridge items that wouldn’t get hurt if they froze – like our soy and almond milks. And the trunk of our car served as a freezer (since Shanti’s beef patties might attract animals if buried in the snow). It likely would have been fine to have left it all in the freezer since when the power came back on the ice cubes were still frozen.
We were a bit worried too about our water pump, as it resides underneath Tiny in a small insulated space with a heater, and of course the heater wasn’t on for 45 hours. Would our pump freeze? Fortunately, at least this time around, it wasn’t too cold out. It even went above freezing a bit on the second day (good for the water pump, but not so much for the food we were trying to keep frozen!). We were also concerned about the fate of our on-demand propane hot water heater as even without water running it turns itself on briefly when the temperatures get low enough, in order to keep any water in it above freezing. But it too seems to have survived just fine.
Our biggest challenge turned out to be the doggie elevator. We managed to get Shanti up to bed the first night before we lost power (though we did have a bit of a worry session afterwards wondering what we would have done had the power gone out and he was only half way up!), but I had to carry him down the next morning and up again the second night. He was a bit confused by our actions! When it came time, he just sat next to the elevator as he always does, and yet I insisted on picking him up.
Oh, that’s right, it was also a bit challenging to do our online work! However, it was a nice opportunity to enjoy the absence of technological distractions and a good reminder of the importance of taking time off from the internet occasionally. The neighborhood grapevine informed us that the power, expected to come back on at 11 AM the first morning after it went out, now wasn’t scheduled, according to the NS Power hot line, to be reconnected until 11:30 PM on day two. So we headed out to Fitzgerald’s Restaurant, about 10 kilometers away, which offers a wireless connection as well as hot tea and french fries. We got caught up with our online work while all the other power outage refugees had some breakfast and exchanged lights-out stories. So, no major casualties (unless you consider running out of battery power on handheld our vacuum cleaner a tragedy – we don’t J). Actually, it does appear that our modem may have bitten the dust somehow during the outage. No idea how that might have happened but it’s rented so that’s fine. (And clearly, we are reconnected now as we post this!)
Other pros to a power outage? Well, we really (and I mean REALLY) loved the quietness that prevailed – no appliances or fans running. When the winds abated, and the plows passed by, the only noises we could hear were the stream running next to Tiny and the generators next door in either direction, on occasion. Blissfully quiet. I even went for a walk the first night in order to enjoy the dark and tranquility. All I heard the entire time were the streams running and my own footsteps in the snow. This is the quietest place we’ve ever lived and we’ve been privileged to have lived in some quiet places (e.g. Lubec, ME). We also really enjoyed the dark – no street lights, the few surrounding houses lit up by only candle light. Our entertainment was to call out when a car went by, because it was so obvious with the headlights and the hum of the tires in the snow. We were happy to have not taken down our solar powered Christmas lights, which we have now redubbed our joy lights J. They were the only light in the darkness as others went to bed.
The outage also offered us opportunities to continue to build relationships with our wonderful neighbors. On the first morning (power had been out about 8 hours), the young girl from across the street came to offer us a thermos of hot tea (not knowing if we had the ability to cook). Some nice conversation was generated in the street with various neighbors plowing and cleaning off cars, around winter finally arriving, friends in Quebec swimming on Christmas Eve this year, the depth of the Great Bras d’Or channel we see outside our window, and whether we drank tea or coffee.
Now we just need to restock on beeswax candles and AA & AAA batteries, and then we’re good to go for the next time!