Long Story


Power went off here not long after I posted yesterday. I was in the studio, making preparations for this Saturday’s workshop day. I didn’t feel any sense of panic or nervousness. I have a generator! And I’ve kept a trickle charger on it to keep the battery charged. Only–

I couldn’t get the generator started. And I couldn’t figure out WHY. I’ve started the generator many times now, and I had just started it this past Saturday when we had a scheduled outage for power line maintenance. I know it works! After about an hour of on-and-off attempts, I started feeling a mild sense of panic due to cold. I called my generator guru, Jerry. (Jerry is my photographer friend who took those wonderful photos of me for my book.) Jerry was in the middle of his own power outage, in the city, in the snow, but he did what he could to give me suggestions over the phone. I tried several different things, which eventually included finding a wrench and taking the panel off the generator. On the upside, I was impressed with myself that I managed this feat, but I never got the generator to start. Jerry kept talking about the choke, which is next to the carburetor, and other things in Chinese. I am not a mechanically-inclined person.

I called my cousin about five billion times, but he didn’t answer, until I started worrying something had happened to Georgia. And everyone was at the hospital! Worry! (Everyone’s fine. Georgia’s fine. Their “power outage phone” rings really softly and they didn’t hear it. They were busy trying to get their own generator going.)

Meanwhile, I tried to find my neighbor, Jim, who actually could come over, but he was bow-hunting.

Meanwhile meanwhile, it was getting pretty darn cold in the house.

Lesson, and a good one before real winter actually gets here. There is no source of heat in this house other than the gas furnace and the fireplace. In my enthusiasm for investing in a generator, power cords, and gas cans, and other associated items, I had neglected the backup. By the time it was getting dark, I was suggesting to Morgan that she find some place else to spend the night because it was going to be cold. I wasn’t going anywhere–I have livestock at the barn. Not leaving them under snow conditions when they are completely dependent on humans for water and food. I lit the oil lamps and settled in for a cold night with my dog and extra blankets. I have a small stash of wood–but it was wet. It was wet because I didn’t take seriously the need for a backup source of heat, enough self-generated heat (without a generator) to sustain minimum comfort until I can get help in the event that the generator doesn’t start for one reason or another. I brought all the wood inside and laid it out to dry, but it wasn’t going to help me right away–it was WET.

I was sitting in the living room, light flickering from the oil lamps, covered with an afghan, preparing myself for the cold night ahead, when I heard a knock at the door. Then Jim opened the door and said, “Show me your generator.”

I said, “HELP ME!”

I was outta that chair in two seconds, grabbing up my charged spotlight, showing him my generator. He showed me the choke and in another two seconds, he had it running. My generator has an auto-choke, but apparently when it gets cold, it needs a little manual assistance. Before a few months ago, I’ve never owned or operated a generator before, so I suppose as times goes on, I will learn more and more. I’m glad for every lesson. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to start my (push-button!) generator by myself, but so grateful for all the men in my life who educate me on things I don’t know about, like chokes–so that I can do them by myself in the future. Jerry–who spent a great deal of time explaining what I needed to do, but couldn’t get to me to show me, my neighbor Jim–who could get to me, Ross–who set up the new electrical in the furnace closet last summer that allows me to run my gas furnace blower off the generator, and my cousin–who wasn’t available this time, but has fixed my furnace and a lot of other things. I’m not a mechanical person and have never done many things, but I’m learning.

I went to bed toasty-warm with my gas furnace–and discovered that the same circuit that runs the furnace blower also powers my entire bedroom. Nice. (Yes, the main breaker is turned off.)

Today, I powered up the studio and continued with preparations for Saturday’s workshop. I don’t expect that this power outage will run that long, but if it does, I will unplug the house for the day and turn the generator’s full power on the studio. I can energize the entire studio with my generator and the workshop will go on as usual.

Meanwhile meanwhile meanwhile, back at the barn, another lesson. All the animals at the barn at once is a challenge. Only the cows are separated, in the back paddock. I have the barn open to all the rest–goats, donkeys, sheep, horses, dogs. I don’t want a fuss at feeding time in the evening, so this creates a bit of a trick. My concern is between smaller animals and larger animals. I spend a lot of time getting down more hay and bringing fresh water from the creek–this tends to calm everyone who gets excited when I make an appearance. (GOATS.) Then I feed the dogs, who are pretty good at protecting their own interests. Scatter feed for chickens. Then to the goats and sheep and donkeys. Then to the horses. Well. Since I’ve opened the barn up, Shortcake FREAKS OUT when I walk toward her. AS USUAL. I walk by her in the alleyway, and she runs! Freakazoid! This evening, I pointed out to her that, “It’s NOT all about you, Shortcake!” (She doesn’t believe that.)

But boy howdy, when I came with her feed and headed for her stall, she was on me like I thought she might crawl up my back. Excellent! Perfect! I’ve got her number. I feed her in a stall into a bucket that is fastened to the wall, at a height no one can get into but a horse. She is trained!!!! Yay!!! Zip was off trying to eat with the donkeys–not trained. My sweet sugary Shortcake–she’s trained! Every night, she expects her feed in her stall and she will follow my awful self into hell and beyond even though she won’t speak to me any other time. Awesome. Because any time I know I want her in the morning, to go riding, or the farrier is coming, etc, I can just shut the stall door and I’ve got her.

We’ll keep working on the trust issue, but training her to feed is a big step ahead.

Oh–and as you can see, my DSL is working today!

Back when I can be——–

We are melting here. Note how quickly the trees have gone from colorful to bare.

P.S. I will be laying in more wood. LESSON LEARNED.


  1. oneoldgoat says:

    Yeah, but you had a ‘charged’ flashlight at least 🙂 It is all a learning lesson but you are doing well. And teaching all of us.

    Jujus for a quick return of the current!

  2. yvonnem says:

    We learn and learn, but there is always more to learn!

    We actually got lucky this time, the power only flickered a few times, just enough to mess up every electric clock/appliance in the house, but that’s ok!

    I think the derecho really helped us all be more prepared for such things.

    Glad all is well with you and hope the workshop is a great success.

    Blessings to all who have lost so much with this storm. We were very lucky….this time.

  3. brookdale says:

    Wow, Suzanne! Quite an adventure!
    Be sure you have lots of gas for the generator. Hope your power comes back on soon!

  4. outbackfarm says:

    Why is it that us women can pull and push and do all kinds of things to something that won’t start, then a man comes along and touches it and it starts??? That happens to me all the time! So I know how you feel. I have said for a long time now that there needs to be a “man” school for women. I would go. There are so many things I need to learn that only a man can do. Or do well anyway. But it’s very frustrating. I am so glad that Jim came and helped you and you were warm. And get some wood now!

  5. whaledancer says:

    Before you’re through you’ll be able to give a workshop on preparing for weather emergencies.

  6. bonita says:

    Recognize that your to do list is long on entries, short on time. However, some jr colleges offer basic auto mechanics for ‘ordinary people.’ (They used to say is was Automobile Maintenance for Ladies. . . ) Covers all you need to know about gasoline powered engines; identification of parts and function, and simple diagnosis guidelines.

  7. mamajoseph says:

    We have a generator, too, b/c of FREQUENT power outages that have been more frequent this year than ever. I now possess a written set of instructions (complete with bold and colored sections) in case DH is gone and I need to start it myself and switch the house over to the generator. I have done it a few times and think I’ll make a habit to practice it once a month…just in case.

  8. rurification says:

    I figure that doing hard stuff that reminds me that I don’t know a whole lot is good for me. It sure keeps me humble. Thank heaven for all those people who know the stuff I don’t and are willing to help out and answer questions.

    Note: I am as mystified by the whole ‘choke’ concept as you are. Seriously mystified!

  9. ladybird_1959 says:

    I don’t know about you, Suzanne, but I’m already tired of the weather and it isn’t even winter. Our power went out Monday morning about 9:30 and is still out. We have a whole house generator, but can’t afford to run it all the time because propane is so expensive. I’m thankful we have it, but I hate that we don’t have gas available to us.

    Anyway, I’m tired of sleeping without heat, getting up at 4:45 to turn the generator on so I can take a hot shower. Can’t have the furnace and the hot water heater on at the same time, pulls too much juice and the generator goes off. Spring where are you????

  10. The High Altitude Tea Duchess says:

    Your post has opened my eyes. I rely heavily (and rightly so) upon my husband for doing these sorts of things. I don’t even know where our generator IS. I best find out how all this gets done just in case an emergency happens when he is out of the house. Thank you and I’m glad you have a reliable network of folks to help you! Thank you, Jim.

  11. hoosiergal says:

    Suzanne, why couldn’t you convert the fireplace to a gas log and not have to worry about cutting/ storing wood?? We converted our fireplace to a ventless gas log and it keeps us too warm if we need to use it. Last year, we lost power for 6 days—-and I live in town– and the gas log did a wonderful job keeping us warm. Just a thought of mine. hoosiergal
    Note, I sent you 3 BBB’s. Did you receive them?

  12. Glenda says:

    Thank God for Jim!

    After the last horrific ice storm in our area where we had no power for 11 days and the portable generator was a real problem child, we bit the bullet and had an automatic one installed. It comes on and goes off when needed…it is fed by our propane bulk tank. It is large enough to run everything on the farm if needed.

    I recommend them highly!!!

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