Sunday, February 3, 2013

Winter has returned and we went camping!!

well, sort of in both cases...

Winter did return since the last warm weather, but we had more thaw, too. In contrast to previous predictions the temperature did not drop significantly below zero, just to about -8. And the camping wasn't actually outside, but in the livingroom! The kids called it "strömlös kväll", meaning powerless evening.
The idea behind it was to spend the better part of the afternoon, the evening and the night without the use of electricity, so we could see if we could handle a powercut, how to do that, but most of all have some midwinter fun together without electrical appliances interferring!! It also serves the purpose of getting used to the idea of how it was, is or might be to live without electricity.
That meant no tv, no computers of any kind, no radio, no cooking on the stove, no lights etc.... We did not go as far as to shut down the refridgerator, deepfreeze and central heatingpump, allthough the latter would not be fired up, either.
Gave us a good reason to try out a few things, relax a little and just goof around a bit. I'd prepare some hearty food, than we could grill a few sausages and marshmellows, followed by some old fashioned, cooked coffee.
The first thing I tried, was to get a gaslamp going. We had bought that one a few years ago, back in Holland, but had never had the use for it. And a good thing it was I did! I could net get the damn thing going! The gastank was attached properly, because gas was coming out. The ignitor, the ones that creat that blue, electric spark, worked good, too. The gas poofed, but that was it... read the manual, the Mss said. I would if I could, but there wasn't one.... I had torn off the foam padding guarding the glass and thrown that aside. I picked it up to see if the manual was there, not expecting anything. What I found taped inside was a very small plastic bag with a little netting in it and a piece of paper, about 4x4cm. The latter was the complete instructionmanual on how to install the sock I had to put onto the central, gasfed pin. I had no idea about that, so a good thing I looked into the padding. I slipped on that netting sock as good as I could and lighted the lamp again. Behold! There was light.... and a large plume of smoke, too!!! What the....? I quickly put the lamp onto the balcony to let it glow and smoke.... I just burned the sock... Is that supposed to happen??? Afterwards I tried again and it worked like a charm, everytime  lit it. And the good thing is it is virtually without smell, gives a good amount of light and you do not need any external means to set it alight. I have several of those gastanks in storgae, because I have a cookingstove that uses those too. Downside was the absolutely minimal instructions that came with it and no spare sock.
Well, I learned how to operate the thing, learned that is is reliable and can be used inside and now know I can at least prepare food and have light and warmth, if things really go bad. Just need to find me a couple of those nettingsocks as spares.
After this issue was solved, we lit several candles all around the house, so we could find our way in the dark. Funny and a bit scary to find yourself a bit at a loss, when it is completely dark, even in the known and comfortable surroundings of ones own house! And surprising to see how much light a single candle can cast in that darkness!
I than sat to prepare some warm food. I used our fireplace as a "campfire", so after a bed of coals was established, and the room heated up in the proces, I took our largest castiron fryingpan, added deepfrozen pytt i panna, peas, half a can of cooked ham, chilipowder and -sauce. I had previously tried something similar with the steel pan we found here, when we moved in, but that did not turn out well. The pan had a nasty surprise for us in store. It had been patched up in the past and when used over the fire, this happened;
The pan came apart! The surface came loose, exposing shiny, bare metal beneath. When you look at the tip of the spoon you can see that, along with the darkened grease, metalparticals had accumulated, which also got mixed in with the food! Not good for a healthy appetite! The pan had been repaired and a new piece had been soldered in. Appearantly they used the wrong kind of solder, which melted when it came in contact with heat, making this pan unfit for further use, I am afraid.No problems with the castiron one, thankfully.

Sausages grilling and coffe boiling
In order to make it real camping we put up 3 fieldcots for the kids and took out their sleepingbags. The Mss and I slept on the couch under wool blankets. At least i now know that if the occassions arises, the couch can be used as a bed for 2.
 We have kept ourselves busy with the ancient art of reading and sewing, apart from trying out new things.... like some of our antique stuff, too. With us they do not only serve an esthetic purpose as decorations, but they have to be in working order, too!
For instance we have this old kitchenset, used previously to heat up or keep warm water, tea or whatever. It is opperated like an oillamp, with wick and all and is intended for petroleum, but I previously tested it with denaturised alcohol or rödsprit. That happened to evaporate faster than it burned and the vapours accumulated within the top, occassionally igniting and causing small explosions, strong enough to firmly shake or even lift the heavy kettle, even when containing 1 liter of water! Not my idea of functioning properly and safely! So I exchanged the alcohol for lamp oil, which worked much better, but had the disadvantage of the strong smell of the lampoil, add that to my disliking of petrochemicals and you'll understand it is not my favorite way of preparing food.

As the children turned in for the night (we did not tell them to, but they did so by themselves and surprisingly not even late!) we had to extinguish some of the candles, leaving us with just four of them on the table. Using those, while sewing buttons on my anorak, gave me a new understanding and appreciation of the ways people used to live and work, years ago. Trying to thread a needle under these conditions is challenging and so is the actual sewing. And I have to admit I did enjoy myself.... The added pleasure of a beer, which would not have been on a real campout, took off the sharp edges... ;)

In the morning I made a good bowl of warm porridge for us all, again over a woodfire. A great way to start your day and somehow we all seem to feel energized during the day. More than usually....despite the sometimes broken night. I really am starting to seriously dislike those noicy, synthetic sleepingbags, like to one my son used. The constant russling when he moves is really loud during the night. Fighting cats is another sleepkiller... ;) Dreaming, mumbling or snoring campbuddies can do you in, too.

Some afterthoughts;
We all enjoyed ourselves, which is the main reason for doing things like this, but we learned quit a few things, too. We learned how electricity and all its convienences and appliances has come to dominate our lives, even enslave us, for many anyway.
Without the artificially prolonged day, when using electricity, it seemed as if the day and especially the evening passed much more quickly and not just because chores take longer. Somehow our bodies felt in tune without it all, showing in the children, which went to bed quit early, without us having to tell them, but we ourselves did so too. Our bodily systems immediately seemed to adapt to a life without power, giving us signals to turn in early.
As far as the dependency goes; we still are very much dependent on it. We still need it to power the pump which provides us with water. It still needs to power refridgerator and deepreezer, allthough we already have started to understand the use of the socalled "svall", being a outsideaircooled cupboard in the kitchen. we also have come to appreciate the use of our foodcellar for keeping things cool and fresh, so the need for a fridge is already diminishing. We have the tools to start preserving food in glassjars, with which we will be beginning next summer, when the ubandance of fresh foods become available. In due time I hope we will be able to provide ourselves with water, too.
Another major dependence is the heatingsystem, here in the house. We can heat the water therein with wood, but still need a 24hr a day running pump to distribute it. That system keeps the house free from frost and provides us with warm water. We already have plans to cut short our dependency there, too.
The third area is the kitchen itself. Since we lack a proper woodstove, we are dependent on an electrically power furnace and oven.... but you already guessed it surely.... That will be replaced by a woodfed one, too!

As for now I consider our little experiment as succesfull. All requirements have been fulfilled; we had fun, together and without fancy appliances. We now know we can cope with a shortterm powercut without going hungry or being cold and in the dark. And the kids know that electricity and all its advantages is not to be taken for granted and that it even can take control of you and your life!


  1. Looks cosy! It seems like a very wise thing to do, most of us are completely helpless without water and electricity. Never in the history of mankind have we been more stupid.

    I think that for the kids, this will be something they'll remember forever.

  2. I commend you on your adventure, and I can tell you from personal experience that it will stick with your kids forever. When I was five my parents took me to an old cabin that friends of theirs owned up in the Great Smoky Mountains, and I cannot even begin to recount the ways that it has impacted my life.

  3. Great experiment, Ron. Really goes to show how artificial and unnatural our lives have become in modern times because of electricity, etc. It was interesting to read about your experiences!

  4. You know what..i'll send the boys to you. They would love this!
    I will take the boat and arrive when things turned back to normal. Deal?
    Special hug from Koen to Elsa..

    1. Sure, take the boat and come on over! Or the bridge/tunnel or plane... Come! I dare you!