Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Getting Kicked Off The Grid

Last Sunday the electricity went out. How fitting that on the day I wanted to launch a blog about sustainable local living, the electrical power in the whole neighborhood shut down. According to the LA Times, Saturday was 104°. We peaked at about 113° earlier in the week. Ah, a cooling trend had begun.

It wasn’t the first time a blackout had happened. When we moved in, we lost power around Week 2. The neighbors said it happens; get used to it. Welcome to the Third World, our Golden Ghetto, I thought.

We continued to suffer from blackouts every few years. Once an elementary school play was cancelled and the audience of sweating parents and grandparents was sent home. No power meant no AC in a multi-purpose room filled with little kids singing Broadway show tunes. The show definitely couldn’t go on.

Since this is the summer of the stay-cation, to amuse myself I pulled out the camera and started shooting photos of the backyard. Bark stripping off the trees, dew on the leaves, well, really sprinkler water. We don’t do dew. We live in a desert, something I was sure to be reminded of shortly if the AC didn’t come on soon.

Yet it was amazingly pleasant. Our world famous sun wouldn’t hit us full force until later. Since I planned on spending lots of time in the yard, barbecuing with friends, maybe even planting a container vegetable garden, it was time to make the place livable again. I swept up the leaves and removed pots of dead plants.

In between the heavy lifting, I stopped to listen to the birds. It was just me, the birdies, the lizards, the rabbits, a little white butterfly and some flies. I’m sure there were snakes too; it’s rattlesnake season. A few years ago a small dog was bitten in the parking lot of the community center and died. I’d seen reptiles slithering around when I walked by the condos and the high school baseball diamond.

Then as I swept the patio, I noticed strange animal poop. It wasn’t from our Wonder Poodle. He goes on the yard. And it was too big to come out of the bunnies. We do have coyotes. Was this an example of nature up close and personal?

The neighbor’s cat was killed by a coyote few years ago when the poor thing slipped out unnoticed. The next morning they found what was left of it by the mailbox.

The meat in the freezer was defrosting, I couldn’t check my emails without running down the battery and now I was surrounded by unfriendly, non-domesticated mammals.

Then I heard the click of the house gearing up again. Not bad. The power went off around 7am and was back on by 9:40am. Just 2 ½ hours of living off the grid. More like getting kicked off it. Then at 10:30am it died again but struggled back on five minutes later. The hum remained permanent. At last I could get back to real life.

It’s going to be another long, hot, dry summer. The only good thing will be the ability to rack-dry loads of wash quickly in the backyard and put the saved money towards cranking up the air conditioner. In between the blackouts.

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