Sunday, April 20, 2008

life's just not fair

Yahoo! We've had several dry days. No rain. No snow. Just sunshine! I was going to report about our last snow fall, but it was just too depressing so I let it slide. But we woke up to about 8.75 inches of snow the other morning (I stuck a ruler in it to measure!) and got a couple more inches throughout the day. Wet, heavy snow. If I hadn't mentioned how depressed I was the prior day, I would have over this. But the good news is, it's melting! And very quickly! I bet by the end of today, our back yard will be a snow-free zone and our front yard close behind. Besides record snow for this time of year, our temperatures (low 20's) have also been record breaking every day.

Now it's on to gardening. Welcome to our lives: either snow/winter or gardening. But one thing I learned these past few days is Pansies will survive any weather. Our local nursery received their first shipment of the year and I asked my sweetie to get half a dozen to pretty up the back yard for Tracy's shower. But I never got them planted and I've managed to forget about them. But every morning we wake up to 20 degree weather and these poor little guys are hunched over in their pots, heads drooping, wondering what they ever did to deserve such treatment. By the end of the day, they're bright eyed and bushy tailed and you wouldn't have known they just froze. Their pots are frozen solid. They've been covered with a foot of snow. Yet, they still smile. What a happy little flower they are! So for any first time gardeners who live in the cold country--go buy pansies! You just can't abuse them enough.

We've had an interesting week. Besides the weather, we had a huge avalanche just out of town. Juneau has its own hydroelectric power station; we generate our own electricity. This avalanche took miles of transmission lines down. It'll be months before they get it fixed. And if that isn't bad enough, we are now drawing electricity from the diesel generator backup system.... It's predicted that our electric bill will go up, at a minimum, of 500% over the next few months. 500 percent! So if that turns true, we can expect an electric bill of about $740 next month. And the month after that. And the month after that. And maybe even the month after that. They can't even start fixing the problem because of the danger of more avalanche and are estimating work will commence in about a month's time. But they're predicting a three or four month situation.

So what are we doing about it? Plenty! The experts are suggesting that we return to the urban/camping life style for the next few months to lower our electrical usage. Here's what we've done:

  1. We've replaced most our regular light bulbs with fluorescent. Yes, they don't give off the brightness, but.... it's a small sacrifice to save some money. We haven't found flood lights that are inset in the ceiling yet.... so the kitchen lights are only used as absolutely necessary.

  2. We unplugged every thing that has a light or a clock and will plug it back in when we need it. I hardly use my printer, so out came the plug. The coffee pot has a clock on it. As soon as the coffee has brewed, we transfer it to a thermos and unplug it between daily uses. Spare bedrooms have been stripped of any thing using power--spare tv, vcr, lights, clock radios. I need to buy a wind up alarm clock yet so I can unplug my alarm clock. We are leaving the main tv/dvd player plugged in, for now.... Otherwise, we've unplugged most things. Even the hot tub. It's now a swimming pool! Unheated!

  3. In the garage we unplugged all tools being recharged. The spare refrigerator was unplugged. It's still cold enough that the pop and beer will stay cold in the garage. We cleaned out the upright freezer, allowing room for the kids to bring over their freezer items if they want and then unplug their freezer.

  4. At night, we go to sleep in the dark. No night light. No outside light to brighten the porch and yard from thieves who want to steal our oil.

  5. We plan on doing more cooking on the outside grill.

  6. We're going to install a clothes line outside. Never mind we don't have the warm sunshine you might need, but on those rare days when it is sunny, I'll do any laundry we have and hang it out to dry. I'm also going to search on-line for a portable/folding clothes rack to put in the garage where laundry can also hang to dry.

  7. We sit in the dark pretty much at night, watching tv or reading. Keeping one light on only. Course we've never lived with all the lights on but at least now we feel like it's making a difference.

We're also taking shorter (and fewer) showers (less hair drying); using our bath towels more times between washing; letting the dishes air dry; washing clothes in cold water; use more cold or warm water rather than hot water; lower our thermostat; and use the crockpot more.

So that's just a little of what we're doing to conserve energy right now and for the next three or four months. It's scary! Our oil bill has never been higher. The economy is going all to pot. We're on a fixed income, being retired, yet the cost of living in this small town is increasing by leaps and bounds. And now this. To take this one step further, to prepare ourselves for a huge electric bill, we have to cut back in other areas besides our watt usage so we have the money to pay this additional cost. We went to Costco yesterday and instead of buying the big bag of Starbucks French Roast, we bought a different roast that cost about $10 less....

No, life is not fair! I live and love for a good cup of coffee in the morning! But we're doing what we have to do. We're cutting back wherever we can. We have to. We look at every single thing we pick up to buy and ask ourselves if it's necessary right now. Can we take Sadie for a simple ride around the block rather than a ten mile ride in order to conserve on gas? Can we eat more casseroles and one dish meals rather than all the fresh fruit and vegetables we normally do? Not only, yes, but we must. This is trying times right now. It's the worst of times and we must consider all aspects of our lives right now and its affect on our watt usage and the pending 500 percent increase. See today's article on what the city is trying to do.

City officials are trying to get federal relief for us, so it could turn out we won't have to pay much but I'm not going to sit back and expect that to happen. We all need to do our share right now. Walking into Home Depot, we noticed that a third of their over head lights were turned off. It was pretty dark. But they're doing what they have to do. Same with Fred Meyers. This disaster doesn't just involve us, in our safe little homes. It involves every business in Juneau. Every store. Every hotel. Every one. And every business in Juneau will have to pass this 500% increase on to their customers, their clients, their tourists. We not only have our own home to worry about, but higher prices at the grocery store, at the department store, every where.

So whether it's our pretty little pansy on the back porch, struggling to stay alive in winter conditions, or us, trying to stay afloat under the most extreme financial conditions.... it's all relative. We're all in this together. We all depend on each other. Yes, we could not do anything about this problem. We could go on with business as usual, living life as we know it, and our electric bill will show a 500% increase. If we do all we can to cut back and prepare ourselves for this increase, it might turn out our increase will only be 300%. And if it turns out the federal government comes in and bails us out.... then we've just put ourselves in that much better of a situation where our bill may actually be much less than normal. So for the next three months, this is what we're doing. It's actually an interesting time of our lives. An experiment. Going back in time. Learning to do with less. Or maybe it's just our future....


Kathleen Grace said...

Oh Nancy, my heart goes out to you! What a horrid predicament! I hope you get Federal disaster relief of some sort. Thank goodness Spring is coming!

Georgia said...

Oh my! When I first started reading your blog, I thought it was going to be a happy one - a smiley pansy face greeting me when I opened up your page. But then...this really is a dire situation, huh? Smaller packages of Starbucks?! And that's just the start, I'm sure. The really really sad part - with so much of your budget going to electrical - where do you fit in the purchases of those cute little Godiva chocolate squares that you liike so much:~)

(PS - I'll send a care package)

Jerusalem said...

This is all so crazy! I cannot imagine and with Tracy having a baby - this is no time for scrimping but what must be done must be done! Go buy a bunch of those "catholic" candles at Fred Meyers - they last forever and aren't too expensive, they would be good at night for mood lighting. Luckily the days will get longer and longer in Juneau and that will help with lighting. I am praying for some Fed relief for you tho - 500% is just too too much!

tracy said...

we've started making some small changes; not using the dishwasher, only turning on the lights once the sun has completely gone down, and even then, only turning on half the lamps, keeping things unplugged, running larger loads of laundry. I wished we had a rack to hang laundry on; it was nice enough over the weekend that I could have air-dried at least a load or two of laundry. we'll switch out some of the bulbs for the fluorescents, but Bucky said everyone is jacking their prices on those now! I think all but Home Depot, he said. Did you have a few left, still?

I can't imagine anyone in town being able to afford this increase, and it really is staggering to think how widespread the effect is. Think about the non-profits who depend on their $20 donations here and there; they won't be getting those from folks anymore.

I figure as long as we pay what we can, they're not going to shut off our power. Using the grill more is a good idea ~ will that save on electricity even though the oven is always plugged in?

joey said...

Good grief, Nancy. I was delighted to read about your sunshine then heartsick reading the rest of your post. Indeed these are hard times for you ...

We suffer in Michigan because of the hard economy also. My husband's business is automotive (by now he should be retired) so though these should be "our golden years', he is struggling to keep the doors open. Heating bills for his office, our home and cottage were almost $1000 last month (thermostats turned down).

I wish you well during this time and have a feeling that with your 'guts and grunt' know-how, you will survive with a wise tale to tell.

Thank God milder weather and longer days are on the way! I will include you in my prayer list that is so LONG it takes me the entire day to complete! (Starbucks French Roast is my favorite also!)


Julie said...

Something good will come what you can do and if you believe - God will do the rest.

A favorite saying of mine is, "Don't cross that bridge until you get there!"