Sunday, November 15, 2009

Don't ditch that propane lantern!

We moved into our new cottage on a gorgeous weekend in mid-September and were already looking forward to having Thanksgiving there – more food, less work! Or so we thought.

We arrived late afternoon on the Friday. Slushy snow was on the deck and the weather was getting worse – like winter was arriving in October.

Although it wasn’t yet dark outside, it was dim inside the cottage, so I switched on the light to my left. Nothing happened. Oh, I thought. Maybe that switch doesn’t operate that light...And I tried another switch. Nothing. And nothing again in the living room. Every electrical item was off.

Finally, it dawned on me. There’s no power!

No power, for us, meant no heat as we were relying solely on baseboards because we hadn’t yet been cleared by our insurance agency to use the fireplace. No power also meant no teakettle, no coffee maker, no stove or oven – and no phone, as ours is a cordless jobbie that needs plugging in.

Ah, this would be interesting.

It was too late to head back to the city, so we unpacked the car and, as we were going back and forth, a phone started ringing. Can’t be ours, I thought, as we have no power; must be the neighbour’s who didn’t appear to be up yet. But the noise persisted and Val, being the natural-born explorer she is, followed it into the old shed where the noise got louder.

Yup, you guessed it. There’s an old (and I mean old) phone in there, hardwired in and, despite its grimy state, as welcome a sight as any you can imagine. We weren’t entirely cut off! We phoned Hydro and learned a line was down and power would likely be out for a while.

Ah, this would be interesting.

We hauled out our trusty old 3-ring propane-powered cooktop from the back room and cooked up a proper dinner, which we ate by candle- and our jackets, toques and gloves. We left the dishes for morning in hopeful anticipation of power (and, thus, running water) and went to bed. Man, those sheets were cold!

The power flickered on briefly at around midnight, but did not stay on, so the cottage was just as cold in the morning, although it was bright...from all the snow outside! In fact, it looked like a winter wonderland: Inches of snow had fallen, but at least it wasn’t really cold.

I explored outside to discover trees laden with heavy snow arching over our driveway; getting out would be a challenge. Then I looked down the road and it was worse: trees were so weighed down that the road was impassable. For better or worse, we were here to stay – at least for a while.

Neighbours were out and we exchanged info about the state of things and who had what kind of supplies. We were in this together! Then, from up the road, a convoy of about four vehicles approached: They were, literally, cutting and running: Cutting their way out with a chain saw and heading back to the city. Not a bad idea, I thought.

But Val would have none of it. The sun was beginning to come out, it was truly gorgeous outside, we could continue to cook with propane and, if we were desperate to get warm, we could make our way on foot to Blacks Point (it’s quite a hike from Islandview) where the power was back on and friends invited us to share their woodstove warmth.

In the end, we got warm enough puttering around figuring out just how many trees were down, so, when the power came back on at noon, we were happy to make coffee, wash the dishes and settle in for a snowy Thanksgiving stay.

Our friend Yvonne came up on Sunday, we roasted a delicious chicken and reveled in tales of fortitude.

The moral of this tale? No matter what the season, be prepared. Know where the matches and candles are. Never leave your propane tank empty. Don’t ditch the Coleman stove or lantern. And, always, keep an old fashioned phone in the shed.

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