What you can and can’t do when your power goes off in the woods.

This is probably what happened somewhere--a tree fell on a power line.

When your electricity flickers and goes off in the woods about 8 or 9 a.m. here is what you can’t do:

1. You can’t work on your treasurer’s reports for Thursday’s annual township meeting, because all reporting material exists solely on the computer.  You imagine power remaining out until Thursday.  You imagine the worst-case scenario in which you will arrive, report-less, to the board meeting, hanging your head in shame, embarrassed for the first time in 28 years that you could not submit the budget report.

2.  You cannot check your email or blog comments.

3.  You cannot check blog hits as they excitingly scurry toward that Magic Number.  You figure this is a good thing.  There are more important things to Do in life.

4.  You cannot vacuum, even though the vacuum cleaner sits ready looking very cheerful in its upright posture.  Darn.

5.  You cannot wash dishes, as your water is heated and pumped via electricity.  They wait in disarray by the sink.  They do not look as perky as the vacuum cleaner.

6.  You cannot flush the toilet.  We won’t explain woods bathroom politics again.

7.  You cannot wash your hands, take a shower, lounge in the bathtub.  See #5. No water when the power goes out.

8.  You cannot open the refrigerator or freezer.  OK, you can, but you must snatch your breakfast food quickly, in order not to lose precious cold.  Do not forget this and later stare absently in the refrigerator, wondering what you should snack upon.

9.  You cannot answer the main wireless telephone, should someone ring.  It needs electricity to operate.  You must answer the corded variety telephone and sit chained to its Highness like you did for the last hundred years before someone invented the mobile phone.

10.  You cannot heat the wood stove fire too much.  Because there is no power, the blower will not operate.  You must stoke a tiny little fire and allow it to gently and easily follow the adage “heat rises”.

11.  You may not heat any food unless you strike a match and light the gas burner, thus igniting the flame.  When you heat your lunch in a pretty bright metal pan, do not pour water to soak up the remnants.  Add the pan to the stack of dirty dishes.  Turn away quickly so not to offend yourself.

12.  You cannot take a walk outside and enjoy the brisk spring weather.  It is far too windy and trees are crashing in the woods.  Probably a tree fell upon a power line somewhere; thus, resulting in your current dilemma.

You can watch a chipmunk eat seeds, but, no, all the chipmunks are tucked away safe to avoid falling trees.

Now that we have covered the cannots, let us turn our attention to what you can do when the power goes out in the woods:

1.  You can sit on the couch.

2.  You can sit on the couch and meditate.

3.  You can read a book (lucky you, it’s light outside!  If it were nighttime when the power outage occurred, you would not be able to read except by gas lamp, and that hurts your eyes after more than ten minutes, if you can see the pages at all.)

4.  You can heat water (with aforementioned match and some remaining water in the kettle) and make a cup of tea.  Drink tea slowly while sitting on the couch. OK, move over to the kitchen table and drink tea slowly while surveying brown autumn leaves rushing across the lawn and spruce trees bending over in the wind’s assault.

5.  You can walk downstairs in the basement and sit on the couch down there, thinking about life–or perhaps writing a blog in your head.

6.  You can walk back upstairs, wondering how much time has passed.  But you must find a clock with a battery in which to discern the time.  Oh my, has a half hour passed already?

7.  OK, now read a magazine.

8.  How about dust the computer and shake the keyboard to dislodge crumbs?  Yes, that is a positive constructive activity when the power goes out.

9.  Call the electrical company to report the outage.  (You should have done this #1.  It might be a wide-spread outage, but it might just be in your neck of the woods.  They need to know these practicalities.)

10.  Ponder taking little Ms. Ellie, the laptop computer, into the coffee shop.  Yes, now wouldn’t that be fun?  You could write a blog.  You could check email. You couldn’t do your township report, because all information exists on the desktop computer, but you could…

11.  Decide to stay home.  Lay on the floor.  Do yoga stretching.  Enjoy doing nothing.  Hey, doing nothing is kinda fun.  Why did we think this was boring?  This is really kind of…relaxing…as long as it doesn’t last all day…

12.  Smile in contentment when the power comes on, 3-4 hours later.  Oh didn’t you have fun doing nothing?  Wasn’t it a lovely break?  Shouldn’t the electricity go out regularly—NO!  It should not.

Excuse me all, readers, while I start working on that township report again.  Typed furiously for the last 20 minutes to write this blog, but truly must start juggling numbers.  The wind is still blowing mightily.  You never know when the power will go out again and you will have utterly nothing to do, except read, drink tea, sit on the couch and remember how to let go of all technological and electrical conveniences.  Just like a hundred years ago…

Let's just relax... Notice the small beauties in life...breathe...

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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67 Responses to What you can and can’t do when your power goes off in the woods.

  1. You could, also, write long hand in the much maligned journal, giving it some love and reminding yourself of the power of pen in hand. Just a suggestion. (But who am I to talk, with nowhere near your numbers–uh oh the little green eyed monster just made an appearance. I’ve got it under control now).

    When our area was incapacitated by a freak October snowstorm, the bookstores and coffee shops that had power were packed. It’s amazing how dependent we have become on technology.

    • Kathy says:

      It’s funny, Lisa, I wish I did have some interest in journaling these days–but my heart isn’t in it. Darn. Wish it was. There was always so much fun and connection in watching the words flow from the pen… Don’t worry about envy, Lisa, we all deal with her green-eyed presence in our lives. We must offer her some tea and perhaps a quiet space in which to recognize that we need not fear her teachings–truly, we are beautiful just as we are. As you are.

  2. I feel ya! Northern mich here, been there done that, and your post doesn’t have a hint of kidding. It’s really like that!

    • Kathy says:

      I wasn’t kidding a tiny bit! It always takes a while to switch gears, doesn’t it, when the power goes out? It’s like we have to re-learn how to live slower, without our technological “wonders”. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  3. Chris says:

    I enjoyed your lists. It reminded me of some of the differences between living at the rural edge of society versus the heart of a city. Here in San Diego we would worry about how long the cell phone battery lasts, car crashes in intersections without stoplights, and the untreated sewage that pours into the ocean whenever the power goes out…

    • Kathy says:

      Chris, I am fascinated with your perspective. How a boy from the rural edge of society could become a man from the city worrying about sewage pouring into the ocean when power goes out. Thinking about how our environments shape us, and how they continue to shape us. Hey, if you were home–we could have played Wildlife Adventure!!

  4. Having lived in Haiti for a year, where we rarely had electricity for more than 8 hours a day, I could add lots more to your list. But I’ll restrain myself.

    At the same time, I think in some ways you may be more limited than we were by your your systems’ (most of ours in the US) over-dependence on electricity. The inability to run water or flush the toilet must have been hard. In Haiti we had an electric pump that fed water to huge tanks on the roof. However, once they were full, gravity allowed water to flow whether there was power or not. We didn’t have hot water, but we could, at least, flush the toilets. There’s a lot to be said for the ability to flush!

    Great post, Kathy!


    • Kathy says:

      Kathy, I kept trying to think of more things–knew there must be more things–but the mind went blank. I am sure you have lots more! I would have had lots more if there was someone else to share the quiet with.

      Yes, we US-ers do have an over-dependence on electricity. We can’t flush toilets. (We used to gather buckets of water to flush Miss Ifo, but the new toilet doesn’t respond as well…darn it…)

  5. Heather says:

    I kind of like it when the electricity goes out…for a short period. I love an excuse to go for a walk or run – falling trees be darned! – or to read a book in the middle of the work day 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Congratulations, Heather! You’re a real northern Michigander if you can enjoy it! I was a scaredy-cat of the falling trees. If I could have gone outside, it would have been a blast. But…yikes…too tornado-like for this one.

  6. lisaspiral says:

    Your post reminded me of power outages growing up. These days I’m really grateful for the city water during those outages. I’m also grateful to have a fireplace, even though the blower won’t run without power. A lot of people in the city don’t and it gets cold when the furnace doesn’t run. At least you had daylight and only a few hours to yogicly and meditatively twiddle your thumbs.

    • Kathy says:

      How wonderful that cities can have water when the power goes out! Gosh, we can’t. Sigh…. But I wouldn’t want to trade our woodstove for cold days when the furnace ousts. It was rather a lovely time here in the woods, once you get through the technology withdrawals. Then it’s rather peaceful.

  7. Brenda Hardie says:

    The wind is blowing mightily here too…but thankfully, it is not disrupting power! I would have a hard time if the power went out…would have to find something to do..let’s see…in addition to your list and as long as it is daytime I could: work on my stitching, write a letter (yep, the old fashioned way), read (love the bonus reading times!), change the bedding on my bed, clean closets, take a nap. 🙂
    I’m glad the power returned so you can prepare the Treasurer’s reports.
    I hope there aren’t too many trees falling over in the wind…although it might mean extra firewood. 🙂
    (I wonder how our lists would change if we made them up while thinking like a child….?)

    • Kathy says:

      Gosh, Brenda, the wind continues to blow here, as well. Although not so fiercely. Stitching sounds good. Writing letters sounds good. Nap–yes– I forgot to mention this morning’s nap. I worked for 2 hours this afternoon on the treasurer reports. Finally feeling like they are progressing. Our lists would change a LOT if we thought like a child–or would they? We would have to tell our child-self she couldn’t go out in the woods. And there was no one she could play games with. She could have drawn and colored and crafted though!

  8. john says:

    “Ain’t life a kick in the butt” Not that we got all the twigs, but we picked up all the large branches before we left. Betcha can’t tell this morning. 😉 Wow, you’ve been Treasurer for 28 years. You are going to win the lottery and move to Nicaragua and no one in Arvon will have a clue as to how to do your job. There is a whole generation of people who have never known another Treasurer.

    p.s. Love that last picture.

    • Kathy says:

      Man, John, sorry about that. The wind is STILL howling. Twigs and sticks and leaves and trees everywhere! Sorry you’re going to have to clean up again when you return… You know, to win the lottery I am going to have to play the lottery, which hasn’t happened lately. Barry keeps saying no one else in Arvon could do my job, but I have faith. Someone else can. And they will. However, I must run for office for at least one more term…unless the voters read recent toilet blog. Then it may be up for grabs.

  9. Robin says:

    I think I miss water most of all when our power goes out. We never had that problem with power outages in the ‘burbs or in the city where you don’t have to get electricity to the well pump. The water just magically flows even without electricity. We keep gallons and gallons of water stored in the basement so we’ll have it for outages. And pond water helps with the flushing the toilet situation. Except in winter when the pond is frozen and there is no liquid pond water to be had.

    I enjoy a short power outage, but having lost way too much food (that I grew and/or harvested myself and spent many hours blanching so I could freeze it) to a long-term outage (one week, which might not be long-term in the grand scheme of things but FEELS long-term when it happens), I always cross my fingers and hope that it will be short when it happens.

    I like your list of things you can do. Writing with pen and paper, working on jigsaw puzzles, and spending time with M (if he’s home when it happens) talking or playing a game are other things I like to do during power outages.

    • Kathy says:

      Wow~~imagine water flowing without electricity… We used to keep gallons to flush Miss Ifo Toilet, but the new toilet is not flushing in such a friendly way, darn it. Lucky you to have the pond! We have the lake, but no good way to transport the water easily. I am sorry to hear you’ve lost food. We’ve never lost freezer-fulls; that would be so awful. Jigsaw puzzles are great! But for some reason, this morning I had no incentive (or nothing to say) to write with the real pen & paper. And no one to talk with or play games with either. 😦

  10. Fountainpen says:

    Ah, yes, fill your fountainpen and write a note to someone….
    but then, finding ink might be a problem……


  11. And something else to do during a power outage — play cards! Ideally, hold a tournament between you and rival parties.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, indeed, Eagle-eyed editor! That is good when rival parties are around. Unfortunately, no one else was around here yesterday morning. I can remember playing cards and games with the kids for hours during power outages.

  12. Sometimes the electricity going out is a true blessing. It reminds us to slow down and simply “be” without all the distractions. 🙂

  13. Sybil says:

    What’s a … vacuum ? 😉

  14. Joanne says:

    A power line went over, yes, the whole post, straight across the road! just up from our house last summer, and to make matters worse, here I was, at the computer, mid-writing-blog-post! We were in the midst of an extreme heat-wave also, so had no fans to cool us down. We could flush our toilets (is the no-flush a remote area thing, or a USA wide thing?) and use the tap, but that was about it. We were without power for nine to ten hours and I kept telling everyone “people used to live without power – always! so we can survive a few hours”. How DID they manage back then??

    • Kathy says:

      That must have been miserable to lose power during a heat-wave. Just as bad as losing it during a cold snap… The no-flush in a power outage is a remote area thing, Joanne. Apparently city-dwellers can still flush. Nine to ten hours can seem like a long time without electricity. I often wonder how people do it for 3-4 days and longer.

  15. Lori DiNardi says:

    And here I thought you already lived out in the boondocks with no electricity, kinda like the show Survivor. Heh. I get pi$$ed when my garage door doesn’t open on the first press. 😉 Unfortunately, we’ve got hurricanes to knock out electricity down here. Glad you made it through that frightening experience okay. Hope you got your report in on time.

    • Kathy says:

      Gosh, no,Lori. We definitely have electricity. No hurricanes, though. It really was kinda the opposite of frightening yesterday–very low key. Except for that one thought about the report. Hope your garage door opens quickly today!

  16. I utterly adore the chipmunk!

    I can well imagine that gale force winds in the woods would be cause for alarm with trees falling hither and yon. I’m glad you guys are okay.

  17. bearyweather says:

    The wind knocked my electricity out for awhile last night, too. It was dark, so not much to do except sleep. But, sleep lightly just in case the electric did not return and I did not have an alarm clock to wake me … I had to get to work early in the morning. Garage doors with electric openers require extra work to open.

    I know the woodsy, no power, survival guide pretty well … learned it the hard way. I have the old fashioned phone like you, so I can call in outages. I keep a couple jugs of water stored. Each toilet has one flush … and, my brother showed me how to get water out of the water heater … that is a lot handier than taking buckets down to the lake. In the winter, we have been known to melt snow for some things. Keep the door open on fireplace as the fan will not work. It is possible to cook in the fireplace. It is an adventure, isn’t it?

    But, when I think about it …. I would much rather be without electricity in the woods than in a big city. It is a lot easier for us to get back to nature and live without electricity for a while then it is for city dwellers.

    • Kathy says:

      It’s hard when you have to get up in the morning with a reliable alarm to oust you from bed when the power goes out. Glad you made it to work. I agree with you about being out of power in the woods. It feels like you can survive, like all the things you need to survive–and thrive–are available. (Once you get past the technologically occupied mind, that is.)

  18. P.j. grath says:

    Well, Kathy, our power was out and we were totally snowed in for three days after the last Big Storm, but I melted enough snow on the gas stove to wash dishes once a day, and from time to time we managed to flush the toilet, also using melted snow. If the power goes out now that the snow’s gone, however, it will be a different story. Ran into another couple in the Leland library today and traded stories. The wife agreed with me: we loved it!

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, the ability to melt snow for dish-washing and flushing is a good thing. Three days is a long time to not have power. I’ll bet you were a tad concerned for the frozen foods. Wondering if you lost any. It does feel like returning to an earlier era–once your mind adjusts to the slower pace. Glad you both loved it!

  19. Elisa's Spot says:

    My gramma’s house didn’t have electricity in it at alllll when I was smaller. It was nice and less scary to be there if/when the power went out. A wonderful occasion to have canned peaches on fresh bread!

  20. Colleen says:

    I can’t remember having a power outage since we’ve been here, now that the subject has been brought up. When the kids were little we kept flashlights stashed in every room and candles at the ready. We were lucky in that it was never really cold and we had a wood stove. It would have been more challenging if temperatures were 40+ below and there were no extra heat sources. I suspect that most of us still have the hardy-and-adaptable gene, ready when we might need it. I’m glad all is well and your power is back on. It was great fun to share it vicariously with you 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Glad to have shared it with you, too, Colleen. We have our flashlights and candles at-the-ready, too. It is much easier to handle power outages when the temps outside are reasonable and you have an extra heat source. Sometimes our best memories come from these times.

  21. Dawn says:

    We live with a well too…and when the power is out, which happens frequently, we also have no water, which seems to be the worst of it. Last year we finally installed a permanent, automatic generator. Power hasn’t gone out since.

    • Kathy says:

      Figures! You guy a generator, and Mother Nature laughs. We have a portable generator in the shed which we can use in case of emergencies. It’s hard to lug out and hook up, though, so we only use it when the power goes out for a long period.

  22. A forced break is good for all of us 😉

    ….. sometimes I think an escape from technology is just what I need. Maybe another trip to Mackinac Island is in order……

  23. irenelefort says:

    Reminds me of our time in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Power outages were a common occurence there. Once the continuous rainfall did cause a power mast to topple, which caused an outage for almost a whole day. 🙂 And yes no electricity meant no internet, no TV and no running water from any of the taps in the apartment. Once the power went out while I was cooking, luckily it was a gas stove. So I continued cooking using a torch light.

    • Kathy says:

      And doesn’t that sound romantic–I continued cooking using a torch light. Yes…I think we all could get used to living with less electricity if we had to. And we might even enjoy it! Costa Rica sounds lovely. i so enjoyed our recent trip to Nicaragua… (They did have power wherever we went…)

  24. Dana says:

    We learned the hard way about not being able to flush toilets during a power outage here on the lake. Thankfully, we have only had 4 power outages since moving to the lake in December, and in all cases, the power was back on in less than 2 hours. Of course, the initial shock of a power outage induces a panic re: all the things that cannot be done, but it’s actually nice to have an enforced break from all things electronic and electricity-powered every now and then. (That said, I’m glad your power came back on in time to finish your report!)

    • Kathy says:

      Good thing your power outages were of short duration, Dana! Seems like a lot of us rural folks have to deal with this quite often. Yes, the report got done and the annual meeting was last night and tonight it’s Book Club. (Which is really just a social club.) I am feeling twice as good today as yesterday. Strange how things can rebound, isn’t it? I hope you are doing well, too.

  25. From Moments to Memories says:

    This post made me laugh out loud and smile, Thanks for sharing!

    • Kathy says:

      Seems like a hundred years ago since our power was out, and it was just a few days ago. I am glad you laughed and smiled. Thank YOU for sharing.

  26. I love this reflection on what we can and can’t do when “freed” from technology. I’m really enjoy your blog–I’m from Michigan and my husband and I used to live in Petoskey in the northwestern part of the lower peninsula (I guess that makes us trolls, right? 😉 ). The pictures you post and the stories you share ring true and make me homesick, but in a good way. Thanks.

    • Kathy says:

      Hello, virtually shaking hands with another Michigander Sarah, and officially welcoming you to this blog. I take it you no longer live in Michigan… My parents had a cottage near near Bellaire (and my brother owns it now) so am very familiar with that part of the state. Even sometimes have blogged about it! I am sorry to make you homesick, but it’s cool if it’s a good kind of homesick.

  27. Oh no! I hate it when our power goes out, for all the reasons you mentioned (although our toilet still flushes without electricity). Glad it came back on after a few hours.
    I probably would have gone to the coffee shop, and several other places 😉

    • Kathy says:

      Michaela, I was ten minutes away from going to the coffee shop when something stopped me. And then it was possible to relax and just lie around and veg a little bit. glad you have toilet-flushing capabilities when your power goes out. And I hope it doesn’t happen often!

  28. A couple of hours can be frustrating…last April (27) after the tornados ripped through Huntsville, we were without power for a week. Lost everything in the frig. The neighborhood came together and shared food, candles, flash lights…there were neighbors we never interacted with who shared the feast and we were all thankful that we had our home unlike our neighbors north who lost everything.
    I took a shower from the water hose beside the house (I have a privacy fence). The water was warm from the sun…rather quick shower…all the neighbors laughed that I had the audacity to shower outside.
    Don’t mean to write an entire blog here…I think I still have one somewhere among the sunflowers!

    • Kathy says:

      I can’t imagine what it would be like being without power for a week. Yes, you can a crown for surviving that one. But to lose everything like your neighbors…how tragic. I applaud you for your chutzpah in taking an outdoor shower! You go, girl! And you can always write a blog in the comments here. Blogs are welcome. I love ’em. Thank you, Linda.

  29. Pingback: If you lose electricity click here for toilet flush expertise « Lake Superior Spirit

  30. I think it is totally useless to even leave a comment. Too much scrolling which took an awful lot of my time to get to the (leave a comment). Welllll your post proves yet again that (we people) or is it (you people), are so dependent upon on everything electric that we know not what to do with ourselves when there is no power. In other words we are in a pickled mess or it is in a pickle?

    Love your posts. Keep’um rolling.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, sometimes it takes a lot of time to scroll to leave a comment here. I am glad you decided it was worthwhile to share your thoughts. Thank you so much from part of the pickled mess of life. 🙂

  31. I hope that you did not take offense at my comment about all of the scrolling. I meant it to come out as a jole but when I re-read my comment it sounding tacky. Please over look my smart mouth. I like blogs that are popular with viewers. It means the post is good and a worthy topic.


    • Kathy says:

      Oh, thank you for coming back and saying this, Yvonne. It’s hard sometimes to tell when things are jokes on line. Sometimes you feel like you have to put a smiley face every time you make a joke, and that gets tiresome too. How nice of you to come back and share this!

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