Birthday Candles

By Kim Johnson

I called it five days. My husband says it was technically 3 whole days and 2 half days. But if your husband is gone for most of those days because he claims the bad weather that caused you to go without heat, electricity, and water is perfect duck hunting weather, and if a tree should fall at the top of your road during said days, and another tree should fall at the bottom of your road during said days thereby trapping you on your road, and these things occur on your birthday when your 70-year-old parents have just flown in for a visit from the sunny southwest, then you get to call it what you want. So, I am calling it 5 days with no power.

For chumps that live in town this could sound rather romantic. They might “rough it” for a few days and talk jovially about how they survived the winter of ought-six harkening back to pioneer days with wells that used hand pumps, lanterns fueled with oil and farm animals that kept you warm. But I’m here to tell you there is nothing romantic about 5 days without power when you live out here. It turns out that you need electricity to pump your well water into your house, 5 Dbatteries and a 9-volt to run a modern lantern, and did you know that wool freezes? Our sheep were not going to keep anyone warm while running around like popsicles-with-hooves.

While a variety of tasks may be preformed without electricity: reading by flashlight, sleeping, piano, Irish dance; it turns out there are many things that can’t be done without water. Flushing a toilet, washing your hands after flushing a toilet, taking a shower, cleaning a duck, washing your hands after cleaning a duck semi-colon, these are activities that lend themselves to clean, flowing, potable water with a high chlorine content. And telling a kid they can’t flush a toilet is a guarantee for rapid onset purging of the lower bowel; children have no concept of timing.

However, roughing it without power and water taught me many important lessons. Firstly, if you have a retired military officer in your home when the power goes out, be prepared. The only thing worse than not having bottled water, flashlights (with working batteries), candles (with a way to light the candles), a radio (with working batteries), and working batteries, is hearing about it from your retired military officer father. In his day, he always had enough supply of water, toilet paper, and warm sheep to get him to the next year of the locust which he could presumably eat. Secondly, if you have children, find a way to flush your toilet. In a pinch one can use water from a fishpond to flush the toilet, but that isn’t recommended because the accidental flushing of fish causes great bowel anxiety in children.

And lastly if it is your birthday, your 70 year old parents have come for a visit, your kids keep asking if they can do a Google search without electricity, it hasn’t been above 50 degrees inside your house and your husband has gone duck hunting, open a bottle of wine, gather around the fireplace and talk about the olden days before electric well pumps, back up generators, and Google. And don’t blow out the birthday candles, you’ll need them to see.