Friday, August 13, 2010

"When it roars, go indoors"... and then what?!

In which Truffula wonders about ways to deal with power outages...


Photo via Flickr: JeremyOK

Our wack-o weather this year has continued into the summer.  What's happening now? Storms. Strong storms. With varying combinations of buckets of rain, fierce wooshes of wind, and lightning strikes, our area has had flooding, big trees snapped, and even people killed by said lightning. It's also had more power outages, for more extended periods of time, than I can remember.

Three weeks ago, the glamor of flashlights soon gave way to air-conditioner-less discomfort in high temperatures with high humidity. The contents of refrigerators and freezers were no longer so palatable.

My family was grateful to be spared (so far). Still, the situation (and its repetitions) have gotten me thinking...

About food disposal... When a storm hits on Sunday, trash pickups are once-a-week, your collection day is Monday, and the stuff in your fridge goes south on, say, Tuesday or Wednesday, it can be a long (stinky) set of days before collection day rolls around again.  But, what if you didn't need to rely on your trash pickup for whisking your no-longer-edibles away?  What if all you needed to do was take your items out to the food digester you made for your yard? Or to your trench composting area?  Or to your worm bin?

On cooking... When your electric stove and microwave stare you coldly in the face, what are the alternatives to lots of PB&J sandwiches (before your bread goes moldy)?  We use our SunOven often, especially to keep the kitchen cooler on steamy days.  Still, it's kind of a fun novelty for us.  On cloudy days, you'd still be reaching for those sandwiches, but when the storm clouds blew off, what if more people made use of the sunny spots on their property, even if just to make a relaxing glass of mint and lavendar sun tea to take the edge off of their electricity-free stress?

On food preservation... It's painful to lose everything you've socked away in your refrigerator and freezer.  What if we relied less on these appliances, as well as on our water bath and/or pressure canners?  What would/could that look like?  From our "egg lady", we learned that unwashed eggs can sit out on the counter (or in a bowl or basket on the table, where they are just beautiful). You've read about my various ferments before -- milk kefir, water kefir, kimchi, and new to the bunch, Piimä yogurt -- which also hang out at room temperature.  (Yes, horizontal space for my jars can be hard to find, especially since the ferments are supposed to be kept some distance apart.)  With what couldn't be better timing, I discovered that Jenny at the Nourished Kitchen is running a Preserve the Bounty challenge this month. (In light of the topic at hand, we'll politely overlook the inclusion of freezing techniques!)  What "alternative" preservation methods have you tried?  Have any fabulous recipes or instructions to share?

On transportation... I'll just say that taking public transportation with portions on foot can be alarming during these storms.  And when the weather alert lets you know that that a tornado warning was just issued while you're standing there waiting for the bus, you're about ready to give the bus driver a big hug when he shows up to take you that last bit of the way.  Once the storm passes, though, and car drivers are white-knuckling it with traffic signals out, it's fantastic to ride on a bus, reading or knitting, oblivious to the backed-up streets around you.


Wendy said...

What "alternative" preservation methods have you tried?

My new, favorite, preserving technique is lacto-fermentation for things like sauerkraut. Yum, yum!

And I'm rediscovering the joys of pressure canning. I currently use my canner on my electric stove, but if we were to have an extended power outage, I can see myself outside with the pressure canner over a roaring fire or a rocket stove, canning up all of the chicken in our freezer from the chickens we raised in the backyard. Wouldn't want it to go to waste!

Anonymous said...

I actually LOVE big storms and power outages (well... except for the hail). The rest of Denver has had big storms for the past few weeks, but somehow my neighborhood has barely seen a drop. sigh.

I'm still afraid to try canning. I fear slow death by botulism... Generally, the stuff in the freezer will do OK for a few days if you don't open it!

Kathryn Grace said...

Storms. I do love a good storm, and we don't get that many where I live now. Of course, the beauty and wonder of them is always mitigated by the danger, but a good storm is something like really good hot sauce. Clears the head and the sinuses and totally invigorates.

Thanks for the link to the Piima yogurt site. I'm going to try that with my raw milk yogurt as soon as get my hands on the culture.

Melissa @ HerGreenLife said...

We had a non-storm-related power outage a few weeks ago, and I quickly realized how much we depend on electricity. Realizing our brick oven apartment would heat up quickly without A/C, I thought we might get through the night with open windows and fans. Oh wait. Then I went into the bathroom in the waning daylight, and decided I could kind-of see, but maybe it was time to turn on the light. Denied. We were packing our bags to spend the night at my MIL's, and I was lamenting the yummy food we might lose, when the power came back on, sooner than the power company estimated. It's pretty humbling to be so dependent on something that we really can't control.


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