This recent wave of bitterly cold weather has definitely brought my thoughts back to energy usage and the need for self-sufficiency. Of course we knew that as the arctic cold front bulldozed its way south that it would obliterate all of the bread, eggs, and milk from grocery store shelves.
So when my lovely wife took off in relatively warm weather on Sunday afternoon to stock up for the week she hadn’t even bothered to write “bread” or “eggs” on her list. Eggs we had covered with the little cluckers we feed that live out in the shed. And bread…well, she had that covered too.
Instead of heading toward the bread aisle with fingernails between teeth she went instead to the baking aisle and nabbed two bags of flour. See, my wife is an amazing person. It’s why I married her. Alone I am only a quarter of the way to amazing. But as a single operating unit we are tee-totally fantastic, and its because of her amazingness that life is so good.
During the deep freeze on Monday Mandy baked bread and made both chicken and dumplings and venison chili. No, don’t bother coming over; we’ve eaten it all. We had bread because she has perfected baking it in the years we’ve been together. We had eggs because we decided a couple of years ago that we wanted chickens. And we had strawberry jelly to eat on the homemade bread because Mandy canned it back in warmer times, not because there was any left on the shelves at King Soop…er, Kroger.
When the grocery store shelves are bare we know what to do. As a society we’ve gotten used to the convenience of having corporations do our baking for us, but it's not that we've lost the skills to eat when bad weather cuts off our food supply, but that we've become spoiled by a consumerist society that values convenience over resilience.
Our home is heated by geothermal energy. However, in case you don’t know how geothermal works, we are dependent on the electrical grid to run the pumps that drive the fluid down into our wells and bring it back. We need electricity to power the blowers that distribute the heat around the house. While we are energy efficient in one sense we are totally dependent on the grid for our heat.
When my parents installed the geothermal unit in the house my dad took out the wood stove. Fortunately for us that unit has been stored in the shed for the past couple of decades. We’ve been talking about putting it back in the house as a backup and supplemental heat source. My parents always relied on kerosene heaters, but I think we’re going to go for wood heat as a backup.
On a broader scale, I’ve noticed warnings from KSP, KU, and from the mayor of Lexington on the twitterverse about staying in if you can and reducing your energy consumption to help the utility companies ride out this record peak demand we’re experiencing due to the extreme cold weather.
Logically it should follow that the vast majority of businesses should simply close down. It would allow employees to stay home and off the roads where they’re safer. It would allow large buildings to operate on a reduced energy flow, and in general keeping as many people home as possible would both reduce the demand for emergency services and energy from the grid.
But no, as a consumerist society we only feel good if we’re operating at full throttle. We can’t delay a single day in spending, spending, spending. Got to keep the corporatist machine moving on toward some elusive state of capitalist nirvana. Or wait, maybe there is no capitalist nirvana; we just have to stay in a perpetual state of infinite growth to be happy as a society. My bad. I forgot.
As I finished up this post (Tuesday afternoon) I got the dreaded phone call. Mandy reported that the power had gone out at our house and the temperature is 6°F with no prospect of climbing above freezing for the next 24 hours. We’re not ready for this contingency. My hand is forced. Resiliency is survival.
Ironically my car battery is also dead, so I am dependent on someone else to get my car running. I'm temporarily stuck at work while my family has no electricity or heat. This would never have happened in Colorado when I could just jump on my bike and go. In a perfect storm all of your weaknesses become apparent. I will not be caught in this situation again.