Thursday, September 23, 2010

Off Grid

In a vain attempt to "smarten up" I check the NWS Lacrosse weather Wednesday morning. There's a forest green area above Vernon County which a color coded grid on the right side of the main page tells me is a flash flood alert. When I click on the map for Viola, the forecast is heavy rain in the evening and 80% chance today. I begin, "Oh no! There's bad weather a'comin'," activities. I'll cram two days of work into one daylight stretch. First, I clean gutters. Then, because it's sunny and warm I do the laundry. I have to string an extra clothes line between the pine trees to accommodate sheets and a cover blanket. The storm door to the deck is faded and should be repainted. I have extra trim paint from the breezeway project. I start a list of necessities from town to complete other tasks. Polyurethane for the thresholds in the breezeway, more caulk to replace the tube I shot in a hole wasps had created in wainscoting above the garage siding. As of this writing, I'm winning the war with wasps who have eaten their way into the garage attic, through the caulk, ignoring jet streams of wasp spray. It's payback for two stings to the face when I replaced the photoelectric cell above the yard light.

The Kwik stop installed a soda fountain. 32 ounce cups of diet Coke laced with cherry syrup cost 99 cents. The caffeine jump starts a grass mowing frenzy. My phone rings. "Are you comin' to the library today?" my library angel asks. "Uh, I wasn't planning on it," I reply. "I've got an ice cream pail of raspberries for you," she says. I drop everything, grab some magazines and a book about living greener Dawn borrowed. Mandy and I drive to town.

It's not easy to make a quick stop at the library. I leave Mandy in the car vowing to hop in and out "in a jiffy". Three peanut butter cookies, a pail of raspberries and advice from two veteran raspberry growers about starting your own raspberry patch along with a good deal of explanation and story telling from the head librarian and I'm back on the road. Dawn drives up.
"I'm gonna mow until it starts to rain," I inform her. In two hours I've mowed most of the important parts of our five acres. The berm by the highway is picture perfect. The field behind the gardens is too cluttered with pumpkin and gourd vines. It'd be dark before I finish mowing that portion. I decide to quit. Hopefully it won't rain for three days in a row and I'll be able to get to it before the hay stage. Pulling the mower into the shed by the highway, huge drops of rain start to pelt the steel roof. Mandy and I run for cover.

Around bedtime I call Mandy for one last time outside. Earlier, the sky is gloomy dark before seven when the two of us go out in search of the Pooch. He trots down the deck and I snatch him before he can escape. Mandy gets the chance to do her business . Dawn and I settle into the last disc of Glee. The Pooch nestles himself on the back of the couch. After two episodes and the final installment when the New Directions glee club goes to Regionals, the Pooch has worked his way onto his back, feet up in the air. Mandy is curled on her chair. Now she is sitting at the back door staring at the rain. I try to entice her to follow me outside. I grab a paper feed sack for a head cover. Mandy crawls under the truck. I give up on getting her to pee one last time. By the time I'm settling in to another Charles Martin book, booms of thunder have Mandy trembling and panting. She hides under the bed. The cat comes up and inspects the dog hiding under the bed. "Dum dum," I see in a the cartoon dialogue balloon over his head. I get Mandy to jump on the bed so I can console her. Then the lights go out.

Duh, I mutter to myself. Power's out. Thunder crashing and lightning illuminates the bedroom even with the shades drawn. I go downstairs and unplug all the components to this computer. The power is on when I check the time on my cell phone but all the clocks are flashing. It's after one. The rain has subsided for a moment. I let the dog out while I grab a drink of water. From the kitchen window I wash Dum Dum standing in an area illuminated by the yard light watching the east fence line. After a five minute wait, I walk in the breezeway and whistle for the dog. I hope no one drives down the highway to see me standing naked in the yellow spotlight .

In the morning the power is off again. That means no shower for Dawn. She has a new shorter haircut and her hair is spiky without her early morning routine. I don't miss not having electricity, except that the pump isn't running. No water-hot or cold. I wonder how I can connect a gas generator to the pump motor. The electric company calls to check on the outage. The telephone company truck drives down the lane to fix their interface tower on the fence line which is also out of power. I briefly talk with a man wearing yellow high waders while Mandy goes into guard dog mode and then jumps on his knee and begs for attention. Dawn calls on the cell phone. "Nope, no power," I tell her. The gas stove has an electric starter, but we have plenty of Bic lighters. There's also two other propane stoves for cooking in the summer kitchen. I can't wash new potatoes so I settle for frozen. Coffee is heated in a saucepan. I trim the wick on the mason jar kerosene lamps to be able to see the food cooking on the stove. Rummaging in the camp equipment in the basement, I find the camp stove toaster. There's no sun so the solar shower isn't an option. I'm starting to smell like Johann. Back in the 70's when we lived in a tent for a year, I decided that running water is a necessity. If this outage goes for any length of time, I'll call Johann to find the source of the spring he uses for his water source. I chuckle to myself when I think about the time I mentioned to the Amish patriarch that our power went out in a storm. Glibly he says, "I didn't notice."

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