Monday, July 2, 2012

Life in the country: Rehearsal

I was going to write about bears and such this week, but a change in the weather has focused my attention on other country matters.

Friday night, about nine o’clock, the heat, which had reached a record 99.7° in our courtyard, was swept away by the same winds that knocked out power across a wide belt of the northeast and mid-west. It was replaced by darkness. We have an automatic generator that comes on-line if the power is off for 30 seconds, and stays on until service is restored. Well, so far that restoration hasn’t happened. And the sub-station the telephone company uses to provide our internet service has no backup, so we also lost our internet connection. I’m not complaining, mind you. We can cook and wash and run fans, and our freezers are running and we have water and lights. No A/C because the generator wasn’t set up to feed that power-grabber. In the past we have not been without power very long, and we generally can count on cool, dry weather here in the mountains. A hot day now and then, but we haven’t really needed air conditioning often, and our power-outs usually last no more than a few hours or a day at most. Not this time. As I write this we, along with millions of others, are looking at the third full day of heat, and no power company service. For us it is tolerable, at least for the rest of today. Our propane tanks, however, are running down to the bottom. We usually get a fill about now, or maybe in September, and it isn’t ever the full 200 gallons, but today, or tomorrow or whenever the truck gets here, we will probably need every drop of that.

So we are very conscious of power use and needs. We turn out lights, we put fans on low, we use water from the rain barrels rinse dishes. As long as our laptops don’t run out of battery, we can use them, but not to get on the internet.

What this is all about, of course, is what science tells us to expect more of: higher temperatures, greater demands placed on the "grid" that supplies power which in turn will generate more heat and less service and so on. We aren’t ready for this most places. Suppose we run out of propane? We’ll get by. But suppose this becomes the way we live for years in the future? Will we be able to accommodate? Are we ready to conserve what we do have, against future needs? Can we push development of alternate ways of living, given that our schools are seeing cuts to budgets, college is becoming more and more expensive and probably less and less relevant and rewarding? How will be grow ourselves out of the decline we are in? I want to believe that America’s ability to find creative and useful solutions to our problems is still part of our national strength. We are about to find out, I think.

What we are doing today, this weekend before our Independence Day celebration, is finding out more about who we Americans really are. We will discover again the strength and creativity to solve our problems and move forward.

This is a test. Do not call your repairman. Fix it yourself.

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