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28 Hours Without Hydro: Thoughts On Thanks And Tainted Meat

2012/10/08

Here in Canada it’s Thanksgiving Monday, when we Canucks consume turkey (or tofurkey, depending on preference), mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie a month earlier than our southern neighbours, although they also have a long weekend, thanks to Columbus Day. It’s a good thing the featured meat of this Canadian holiday isn’t roast beef, as across the country Canadians have been alarmed to hear that thousands of pounds of beef contaminated with e-coli at a Brooks, Alberta processing plant has been sold (and consumed) across the country in the last month. I don’t know what is most disturbing about this story as it unfolds – that U.S. inspectors were the first to raise the alarm, or that for two weeks after this alarm was raised Canadians were assured by our government that the meat was safe, or that the Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz has been playing duck and cover, avoiding the press and the opposition in the House of Commons. Meanwhile, members of the Harper government who were in the House responded to any questions from opposition MPs with a completely unrelated and scripted message about how the NDP are pushing a “job-killing carbon tax“. Weird and worrying, but not that surprising a response from the current federal government; they are so focused on pushing their own (or more specifically Stephen Harper’s) ideological agenda forward that actually governing the country, and responding to Canadian’s concerns, comes a distant second.

Here in our corner of northwestern Ontario we had an unexpected start to our long weekend. Due to an early winter storm, we lost power Thursday at 3:00 pm and didn’t get it back until Friday around suppertime. It wasn’t clear at any point in the power outage when hydro would actually be restored, as Hydro One kept promising, and then postponing, the time it would be back online. It was a very good experience – a trial run – for coping without the grid. Many of us who are aware of climate change, and the increasingly extreme weather it’s going to bring in coming years (and most governments’ completely inadequate preparations), also know that everyone in our highly urbanized, grid-dependent society is going to need to get used to disruptions of all kinds in our way of life, including power outages.

We learned a few things from this experience:

  • We need to have a back-up generator (and five gallons of fuel)  that we can use during emergencies to run our pellet stove occasionally, to keep the temperature inside the house up, our freezer cold, and our water lines from freezing. Until last year we heated much of our house with a wood stove, but exchanged it for a pellet stove (for a number of different reasons which I won’t go into now). In general we are pleased with the pellet stove, but have been saying since we got it that we really should have a back-up in case of a power outage. Now, a generator is top of our list of things to be purchased.
  • It’s useful to have camping equipment. We were pleased to find out how convenient our camping stoves are; we have a very light one that we use for canoe camping and a larger two-burner Coleman stove for car camping; they were both very useful. Life is so much easier to cope with after a cup of hot tea (or coffee), especially first thing in the morning.
  • Every household should have a corded telephone on hand for emergencies. It was surprising to us how many people in our community didn’t have one. Cell phones worked for about 8 hours after the power outage, but then the towers ran out of back up battery power so the only way to contact people, other than in person, was by plugging in an old-fashioned telephone with a cord.
  • Wind-up/solar radios are only useful if the local radio stations are still broadcasting. We were quite proud to dust off our solar radio, only to find we couldn’t get any channels. This may not be a problem in less remote areas.
  • It’s as important to be connected to your community as it is to be connected to the grid. We spent time with friends who had a wood stove (and noted, for future reference, that they also have a propane oven), had friends bring over their generator to our place when it looked like the outage was going to last a second night, and shared our camping stove cuisine.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I can say that I am thankful for the opportunity this power outage provided. As well as some practical lessons, my husband and I were reminded that we are more resilient than we realized. Also, we are part of a community of good people who are not only resilient as well, but are a whole lot of fun to spend time with.

In conclusion, if you are Canadian, Happy Thanksgiving! / Bonne action de grâce! And for those of you celebrating Columbus Day (and all the rest of us in North America), here’s something to consider: Christopher Columbus arrived as an immigrant to “the New World.” He did not “discover” America.

Photo: someecards.com

More links:

6 Things You Can Do To Commemorate Indigenous People on Columbus Day

Agriculture Minister Should Resign Over Tainted Meat Scandal: Mulcair

Statement By Minister Ritz On Tainted Meat Scandal

Time For Conservatives To Let Go Of the ‘Job-Killing Carbon Tax’ Talking Point

And a now for a bit of Thanksgiving fun from Gloria Gobbler, for the vegetarians out there:

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/10/08 11:19 am

    Yes, a genocidal immigrant. Thanks for the great post – enjoyed the read!

    • 2012/10/08 5:16 pm

      You’re welcome – you have the advantage of both the US and Canadian perspectives!

  2. Laurie permalink
    2012/10/08 7:57 pm

    We inadvertently happened upon a survivalist trade show in Arizona on Saturday. We were attempting to find a museum but certainly had an educational experience none-the-less, albeit a short one. There weren’t too many environmentalists (possibly none) and I found most of it very disturbing (there is something about camo for dogs and small children, bullet-proof houses and people packing guns that makes me want to crawl into bed with a good book and a cup of herbal tea); however, had I known, just for you, I would have perused more closely as they had everything you could imagine to live off the grid.

    Great video.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    • 2012/10/08 9:08 pm

      Happy Thanksgiving/Columbus Day to you, Laurie. Sounds like an “interesting” way to spend a Saturday morning – while some people think bullet proof houses, etc is the best way to respond to the “Great Disruption” that’s coming, as far as I’m concerned by far the most important thing we can do to prepare is build community relationships and resilience. I don’t want to live in the kind of world these folks are preparing for.

  3. Theresa permalink
    2012/10/09 9:16 pm

    Hey Christine!
    I can say I found some enjoyment in this past power outage as well, it proved to be a great trial run with no real hardship! I only missed having my husband along to share the adventure., but as luck would have it he and Isaac left before the storm and had all the comforts of home in the camper ( with the sought after generator) 😉
    Hope to see you soon !
    Ta

  4. 2012/10/11 8:49 am

    Glad to hear you were okay, even without Mike. I’m surprised I didn’t bump into you around S & P’s wood stove on Friday afternoon!

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