We had a power outage in east central Alberta recently and it really made me see how very spoiled we are and how dependent we are on electricity.
As I was sitting under layers of blankets and drinking cold coffee left over from the day before, I started wondering how they managed without power in the old days.
The first thing I thought of was the old wood burning cook stove.
They didn’t have Keurig coffee makers or microwave ovens; they didn’t have central heating, they might have had a big old coal furnace in the basement, but everybody had a wood burning cook stove.
First thing in the morning they would get the fire going in the fire box and put the kettle on for coffee. They would keep that fire going all day.
Many days there would be a pot of beans or stew simmering on the back of the stove for hours. Those beans or that stew don’t seem to taste as good done on any other stove.
Most stoves had a water reservoir at the side giving you warm water all day for washing hands and faces.
In winter the oven door would often be open and covered in wet wool mittens drying out.
The stove was the first place you went when you came in from the cold and you wanted to get warm fast.
These stoves were not all ‘easy peasy’. They were actually a lot of work.
First you had to split the wood you needed and empty all the ashes from from the previous day was a daily chore.
The women of the house would pride themselves on keeping their stove looking clean and new. To do this they would get a block of stove black and scrub and polish that stove top until it was so shiny black that you could see yourself in it.
On top of all that, the stove pipes needed to be cleaned on a regular basis. This would be an all day thing, taking the pipes apart and brushing them out, then cleaning the mess that would make.
Coming home from an afternoon of shopping or visiting, the first thing you did was get that stove going so you could make the evening meal.
We really are spoiled with our modern stoves a quick wipe with the dishcloth and the top is nice and clean. We don’t even have to clean the oven on some stoves with their self-cleaning feature.
When we want heat, we just push a button or turn a dial. It is all wonderful until the power goes out.
The day our power was out, I ended up going and sitting in my car to get warm and charge my phone. That heated steering wheel sure felt good on my cold hands.
I was feeling better but my dogs were looking at me and wondering if I had forgotten how to drive the car.
I was out there for a few hours when my cousin texted me and told me she had power. This was good but I decided to stay in the car until I knew my power was back on.
I figured I would be able to tell by seeing the bars come back onto my phone. I sat there for about 20 minutes waiting and wondering why my power was not coming on then I remembered that the night before when the power was going off and on I had unplugged my computer and wifi. I had to go inside and plug that back in to get the bars showing.
Three minutes after I did that, I was drinking hot coffee and sending all kinds of ‘blessings’ to the ATCO work crews.
by Lois Perepelitz