Good thing that Scott and I invested in that solar charger for our laptop batteries or I wouldn’t be typing this; I’d be stuck writing everything down by hand. We woke this morning to find that the power had gone off at some point during the night. Luckily our cell phones are still working – sort of as there are a lot of black out areas in town – so we were able to keep touch off and on during the day. This day went from bad to worse in short order.
To keep from going into a panic I tried to act like the power outage wasn’t anything unexpected. I put the kids to getting dressed and doing their early chores like putting the plants outside. I added filling up five gallon buckets from the pool to put into the bathroom for the toilets and filling up the camping shower bags from the rain barrel so that those that needed showers could have them. This gave Scott time to get the solar radio out and turn it on to see if we could pick up any local news. While he fiddled with that I got breakfast going.Breakfast
: It was Day 9 for the bread starter and I let Johnnie squish up the mix while I pulled out the Coleman oven and mixed up some biscuits. Biscuits with sausage gravy were about all I could come up with on such short notice but the smell alone made everyone feel better. I only ran the oven long enough to cook the biscuits and heat water; I need to save all the propane I can. While the biscuits were baking I duct taped the refrigerator and freezer shut so no one accidentally forgets and keeps opening it to see if the ice has melted yet. The sausage gravy came from a can, but hey, it wasn’t bad at all even if Momma woulda had a fit had she seen me do it. Cans of slightly watered down juice were the morning’s beverage. Some might think that watering down juice is a bad idea, but full strength juice can play havoc with a digestive track unused to it. Better to be safe than sorry, especially if we are going to have to lug water for the toilets for any length of time.
Thank goodness I have been going through all of our equipment and had it ready and easy to find. News broadcasters on the radio were giving preliminary reports issued by the power company that a major piece of equipment at the local plant had malfunctioned. Repair parts were available, but due to shortages in plant staff, the repairs will take longer than normal. All citizens within the station’s broadcast area were warned they would need to endure a power outage lasting approximately a week. Future news reports would keep everyone apprised of the progress. Frankly I just hope that equipment failure is all that it is. I can too easily imagine what caused the staff shortage.
I wasn’t thrilled with Scott leaving to go to work but didn’t have much choice as he and David had been in the middle of replacing a main waste line when they had to close up shop to meet curfew. As he headed off to pick up David and his supplies at Home Depot I got in motion to see what all I could do to make our lives easier for however long the power remains out.
The kids had already hung out our black shower bags. Hanging in the August sun all day will give us plenty of hot water for washing and such. I also started a gallon of solar tea. When I went out to set the jug on our back stoop I heard a lot of yelling – loud and angry – coming from a few different houses. There was also some crying. Looks like bad just got worse for some of our neighbors.
It was already warm and muggy despite the early hour. I knew it would get worse before it got better. We have portable fans that are solar powered but I didn’t want to waste them since we would need them for tonight if the power didn’t come back on. I just had the kids keep a wet washrag handy so that they could use evaporation to keep themselves cool. I also had those little battery operated fan/spritz bottles. The kids learned real fast not to waste the batteries (rechargeable) or they wouldn’t have any “fan.”
I was making some notes on some preliminary ideas for meals over the next couple of days when Scott called me the first time. David got jumped after Scott dropped him off yesterday and took a pretty good beating. Nothing that warrants a trip to the emergency room but he’s gonna be sore and multicolored for a couple of days. His apartment is trashed. David is mobile so they packed up his stuff and stuck it in Scott’s van – there wasn’t all that much apparently that didn’t get trashed – and went ahead and tried to get some work done. At that time no one was sure where David was going to spend the night.
Johnnie and Sarah both were starting to get irritable from the heat so I had the older three help me to set up a little wading pool on the lanai and fill it with water from the pool. I told them no splashing or there would be consequences and surprisingly they both obeyed me with only one or two minor exceptions. Guess they were too hot to risk being banished back into the house.Lunch
: The noon hour crept up on me quicker than I had expected. I fixed Zesty Bean Salad over instant rice. You can eat the salad by itself as a side dish but it is also good with rice to make it a main dish. I dished out everything onto paper plates and pulled a package of Melba toast out to use for a bread. The toast also helped to rake up even the last grain of rice. I had about a gallon of bleach water to use for washing the silverware and cups. I set it outside in the direct sun to keep it warm so that it could also be used to clean the silverware at dinner.
After lunch, I took a moment to have a private adjustment reaction. In layman’s terms that means I went out to the she and cried a few tears where the kids couldn't see me. Afterwards I took stock of our situation and while it is difficult, its far from being catastrophic. There isn’t anything left to spoil in the refrigerator or freezer but I will keep them sealed to try and save the ice for as long as possible. Adding up all of our potable water sources yields several weeks worth of drinking and cooking water so long as we don’t get sloppy. The pool water will work for the toilets for a good long while and even for showers. We’ve been getting a regular afternoon shower every day for a while and I watched James set up the water catchment barrels to our downspouts from the roof gutters. I also figured that I could re-use liquids from canned goods. Veggie water I’d use for regular cooking and fruit syrups or juices I would save for drinking or baking.
Most importantly though I set up the water filter system that I made using filters I bought on the internet and a couple of food grade buckets. It’s a drip system similar to the big expensive Berkey system that I could never afford. It sure would have been nice to have gotten one of those big stainless steel versions, but hey, what we built may not be pretty but it works just as well and meets our needs.
I am so glad that I was able to get all of our laundry done, including the bedding and all of the towels. It might be a while until I get another big load of laundry done automatically. I have a set up planned for having to do my laundry by hand but that’s not going to be any fun at all. I have a metal horse trough that I can set up over a fire and I’ll boil the clothes clean. I even have a couple of big wooden paddles my dad made to dip the stuff in and out of the hot water. I’ll avoid going “old school” as long as I can though. I’ll just rinse out socks and underwear for as long as I can stand it. We’ll hang out everything else to air it out and reuse it as long as it isn’t gross. Good thing I stocked lots (and lots and lots) of deodorant.
Food isn’t going to be a problem for a while yet either. How to cook that food is an issue. Our propane supplies will last a good while yet but only if we are careful. I also have charcoal and a wood pile (that just this afternoon got moved to a more secure location near the house) and several other solid fuel options. Nothing extravagant, but with careful rationing, we are set for a while anyway.
The only free energy source available to us is solar power. We’ve got two solar panels and several deep cell batteries. I also have a simple solar oven we bought off the internet and some solar lanterns. The other thing we have are plans we printed off of http://solarcooking.org/plans/
and the materials for some of these contraptions; materials like a reflective car sunshade, panes of glass, two tires not on rims, dark cooking pans. Even if things get so bad that we go through all of our propane I can probably do some cooking using solar power, just not on cloudy days. I hope what we have is enough to get us through. I know hope isn’t a plan, but it makes me feel better.
Speaking of hopes and plans, Scott called me several times through out the day to keep me up to date about what was going on. We both agreed that we couldn’t allow David to go homeless, especially since it looks like he was attacked just because he is working for Scott. David said that he recognized two of the three guys who attacked him as being friends of Carlo’s. That cinched it for me. I told Scott to bring David to our house even if he if was kicking and screaming. I’d gotten my anger pretty much under control and put it away but the attack on David just brought it all back out. I’m just plain spitting mad. I sat down and explained things to the kids and every one of them wanted Scott to bring him home to us. Seems David made a place for himself without any of us realizing it, including David. Scott says David is very embarrassed but kind of without any other option at this point.
When Scott finally pulled in I couldn’t believe my eyes. David has a badly split lip, a loose tooth, and two black eyes and that’s just from the neck up. His nose is swollen too but not bad so I don’t think his nose is actually broken. But apparently David is street tough and got in quite a few licks of his own. The knuckles on both of his hands are abraded and swollen. He says he fought dirtier fighters growing up on the mean streets of West Tampa and keeps a knife in his boot top in case he starts to feel like he is going down. The guys were mostly drunk so they weren’t overly coordinated; if they had been, David said he would have been in worse trouble. But they ran when David pulled the knife. I’m just glad, drunk or not, that those guys didn’t have guns. That would have put a totally different face on things.Dinner
: Dinner wasn’t anything special and David needed something soft to eat. Ramen noodles topped with canned beef stew I doctored with some raisins and capers was what I put on the picnic table outside. It was too dark to eat inside unless we opened the shutters and that was too much like work after a long day. Especially after moving the plants yet again.
While we sat discussing the new living arrangements – David was still hesitant about accepting our invitation for more than a night or two – we had the news going in the background. Mostly it was about the power outage and what people could do to help themselves because there were no plans for the local, state, or federal government to step in at this point. The phrase “you’re on your own” has never been more true.
I hope we can get David to agree to stay. It would give us another adult we could count on and at the rate things are deteriorating that isn’t a bad thing. Yes, I’ll need to rework some of food my storage plans but that’s doable. At this stage adding one more mouth to feed isn’t going to break the bank. I’m going to give him some time to heal before I start really trying to persuade him though. I want him to stay because he feels that it is a good arrangement, not because he feels beholden or trapped. That wouldn’t be a good place to start any kind of relationship.
The other thing we discussed over dinner was how to use our resources as wisely as possible. Overall, every meal must be more fuel-efficient. Starting tomorrow the Coleman stove will be used for breakfast. For lunch I’ll use a small stick or charcoal fire for heating soups and/or fry breads. If an outdoor fire isn’t an option because of the weather or some other reason, I’ll use Sterno, Eco-Fuel, or solid fuel tabs on the lanai. And when possible I’ll use solar cooking for dinner.
My goal will still be to provide 2000 kcal/day. Before the power went out I used bread as a filler at meal times. With limited options now that the power is off I’ll need to use ingredients that are more fuel-economical to fix; rice and pastas will be my first choice for a while. Both of these work well in a solar cooker as well.
We were pretty well talked out by the time all of that was discussed and I could tell that David was hurting even if he wasn’t complaining. He finally let me doctor him up and he even slept on the bunk in Johnnie’s bedroom after the girls cleaned it up. Johnnie didn’t know quite what to make of the guy sleeping in his room, but let it pass without creating a fuss after we moved his box of toys near his “new” bed. Scott and I are going to have to escape to the shed to have any alone time but what the heck, we’ll just play newlyweds and take our pleasures where we can.
In addition to three extra strength Tylenol (which is all he would take), I fixed David a mug of Warm Maple Milk. In fact I fixed it for everyone as we all definitely need a little bit of a sleep aid tonight. The sweet warm milk is relaxing.
Scott wants to stay home tomorrow. He knows David needs recovery and healing time and this way he and James can get started on the other false wall in the pantry. No telling what is going to go down in town with the power off. Gas will certainly be hard to get until there is electricity at the gas stations although by law gas stations are supposed to have generators here in Florida because of the hurricanes. But “supposed to” and reality aren’t always the same thing
Here’s hoping tomorrow’s calamities don’t overwhelm us.