What’s In YOUR Pantry? August 17, 2010Posted by lizp4 in Uncategorized.
Living in Alaska is always a challenge. Power outages happen frequently, and can last anywhere from a few seconds to hours. Thank goodness, I’ve never had to put up with one that lasted more than six or eight hours. But whenever something like that happens, we are always tested as to our ability to cope.
Psychological preparation is the first thing to consider. Some people, when their lights go off and their televisions go blank, go from relaxed to total panic state in less than five seconds. So the whole idea of dealing with the outage is to stay calm. This is why it’s a good plan to have a flashlight next to your favorite chair, and one beside your bed or in a windowless bathroom.
There aren’t many places much DARKER than Alaska in the winter when the lights go out. When we lived in Valdez, we spent a lot of time in the dark. The power supply was quirky, so we learned quickly to be prepared. We had candles, matches, lighters, and lanterns in convenient places throughout the house. We learned to carry our lights high above out heads so the bright flames didn’t blind us to what might be in the shadows. (Nothing like carrying a candle down a narrow hallway only to trip on the family dog, who’s sitting there in the dark, and you’re blinded by the candle flame.) We learned to place them high, as well, when we set them down. This gave a more even light to the whole room, and kept little fingers from exploring HOT surfaces.
One thing we were always thankful for was our gas range. In Valdez, it was propane. But it was our great equalizer. With it, we could cook, boil water, and heat the house, so even if the lights went out in the winter (which they most often did), we would not be freezing in the dark. After a couple of winters of relying on the propane range, we decided to get proactive, and put in a state-of-the-art woodstove. They say a woodstove warms twice: once when you split the wood, and once when you burn it. It was a lot of work to make enough wood to feed that little honey, but believe me, it was worth every drop of sweat, every bug bite, and every cussword. We used it for the main heat in the house, and cut our heating oil consumption in half. The furnace was the backup heat, and we knew the stove had gone out when the furnace came on. I loved that little stove, even though it was like a baby: voraciously hungry, and aways needing to be cleaned on one end or the other.
Here in Wasilla, we have natural gas, but the principles remain the same. My range is gas, not electric, so I can heat the whole house (it’s very small) with my oven. Double duty at baking bread, roasting a roast or a casserole just makes it that much handier. Here, too, I have flashlights, candles, lamps, and lighting materials scattered throughout the house, and don’t feel too frightened of a power outage, even in the cold part of the winter. It might not be an Elysian spa, but we won’t freeze.
Taking the time to make a few preparations for disruptions in any kind of service makes sense in Alaska, or anywhere else, for that matter. People who lived here in the “olden” days remember what it was like not to have a reserve of essential things, and most of us are fairly well prepared for power outages and emergency evacuations, if necessary, as well.
They should make sense where you live, too. It’s always nice to know that you can keep body and soul together for as long as it takes to restore service. I keep water stored, also, since our little community well is, obviously, fed with an electric pump. When the power goes off, the water goes away. This is not a total loss in the winter, when snow can be melted on the gas range, but it’s good to have a little hidden away to be doled out, perhaps, for a soothing cup of tea, or to wash up and brush my teeth.
Having a little pantry stash is also a handy idea. My house has a lovely pantry in the laundry room, with deep shelves and lots of space, so filling it with necessities and staples has been an enjoyable project. I even made use of an extra closet for further storage of bulky stuff like toilet paper and paper towels. With these little stashes in play, things take on a decidedly more optimistic hue.
Power outages are expected here. They go with the territory. Being “housebound” for days on end in the event of heavy snowfall, or just plain lack of transportation can be a problem, too. So, stashing the necessities is simply a wise practice.
Keep your pantry full, keep your woodbox full, keep your candles handy, and make sure to put butane lighters on your shopping list every once in a while. Happy stashing!