It is Saturday morning, a bright sparkling 19 degrees outside as I write this, a chilly 52 degrees indoors.
For those of you who are just joining this blog, here is a brief background. In December 2004, we bought a 30 acre farm in Southwest Virginia to build a log home for retirement. In December 2005, the construction of the home commenced after getting all of the requisite permits, having a perk test to make sure we could have a septic system and digging a nearly 800 foot well to insure we would have water that wasn’t coming from a spring that opens into a creek above ground for a quarter of a mile before crossing our property. There are no springs on our property. We found a contractor, who we refuse to name and will not recommend, to do the log erection and the rough carpentry. He proved to be slow and of a very poor quality. Our son, his partner and whatever crew he could pull together, including me, did all the interior of the house, the deck and all of the stone masonry work. The original plan did not include a basement nor a garage, however, when we purchased our logs, the company was offering a “free” garage (the logs, window and side door), slab, roof, garage doors and drywall ceiling were not included. The contractor convinced us that digging a poured basement would be a minimal extra cost and would allow a place for the air handler, water heater, and pressure tank, so we agreed. I wanted a cistern to catch roof water for gardening and eventual animal watering. It took the contractor more than a year to do his part; we did begin some of the interior work during this period, but had to stay out of his way. Our son took over and it took another 9 months to get the structure to a point that we could get a temporary occupancy permit, which gave us a place to live while it was being finished. The June after we broke ground, I got a job in the neighboring county and left my husband and youngest son in Virginia Beach so hubby could wind down his law practice, I moved into an apartment in Blacksburg and our eldest son and his family were in an apartment in the town of our address until the house was approved for that permit.
At the time of construction, we discussed installing a whole house generator, since we live rurally but as the contractor was finding so many additions and additional costs, we decided against it. We had a small generator that was being used during construction before the electricity was run to the house. This is a decision that we haven’t regretted until 2 days ago. We have never lost power here for more than a few hours except during last summer’s Derocho storm when it was out for about 42 hours. And the small generator hasn’t been started in years, so it likely won’t start now.
The last time we had a real snow was January 2010 and we wanted snow this winter and snow it did on Thursday, 10 inches of wet snow in a matter of about 8 hours. Four hours into this storm, we lost power, around 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Thursday night it stayed about 30 degrees out and yesterday dawned sunny. We have a great fireplace in the living room, so we built a fire and kept it going until bedtime. Rebuilt it yesterday morning and kept the house at about 58 degrees all day, wondering when the power might be restored. Now living rurally means that when we have no power, we not only don’t have lights and heat, but we don’t have water. No electricity, no well pump. The cistern that the contractor built was a good idea, but he had no clue and we couldn’t get water from it. Two summers ago, our son, our daughter by love, hubby and I dug out the cistern tanks, refitted all the plumbing to it, added a gravity fed yard hydrant that is several hundred feet south of the house, down the hill.
Last winter, we found a different contractor to finish our basement into a 4thbedroom, recreation room and utility area. Prior to this, our son finished the fireplace facing down into the basement and he and I laid a tile floor in front of it. This was for a wood stove to be installed with the idea of trying to help heat the house with it. As all of the stone used on our house came from our land, it had to dry for a year before we could start a fire down there. The first fire was set on Christmas eve and the basement filled with smoke. The chimney has 3 flues, one for the main fireplace, one for the woodstove and one to just balance the look. It appears that our incompetent contractor, capped the wrong flue and the woodstove is unusable until we can get someone to go up and break out the cap, so we are relying only on the Rumford fireplace in the living room for heat right now.
Yesterday, I hauled a sled down to the yard hydrant and brought 5 gallons of water back up the hill for necessary flushing and dog watering. We pulled down the 2 burner propane camp stove and I can make tea and coffee, and washed the dishes from Thursday night. The refrigerator perishables are packed in snow in a cooler on the shaded north porch. The produce we grew and froze and the grassfed beef and pork we have purchased from the farmer’s market is probably thawing in the chest freezer in the basement.
To add insult to the situation, the news, which we are getting from our smartphones, that do work if we charge them in the car, is that the power company predicts it will be Tuesday night before power is restored to the more than 6000 homes in our county that do not have power. The county only has 15000 residents, so that is a good portion of the homes here. We might get lucky, but I’m not holding my breath on that.