Forget the snowblower, Santa. A generator is what we need.

clearing the driveway at the Manse

How did we spend the shortest day of the year? Well, much of the morning entailed getting the driveway and walkways cleared of ice-coated snow, with the great help of our neighbour John and his handy little plow. (That’s Raymond looking on.) Unfortunately there was (and is) more nasty precipitation to come.

Well, a happy winter solstice to you all! And a very wintry winter solstice it is, at least here in Queensborough – though I gather in many other parts of south-central Ontario too. Freezing rain has been falling (though very lightly here) off and on for the past many hours, with more in the forecast. Neighbours have been telling us to brace for a power outage if the buildup on the hydro lines and tree branches gets too heavy. And while a power outage in and of itself is (obviously) far from the end of the world, we are reliably informed that when the power goes out in this extremely rural neck of the woods, it is not at all uncommon for it to be out for a couple of days. Apparently we are rather far down Hydro One‘s priority list.

To which I can only say: Yikes!

Because, you see, while all of our neighbours (as far as I can tell) have set themselves up with generators that can be put into service for heating and appliance-running in the case of a hydro outage, Raymond and I, the new kids on the block, are as yet generator-free.

cars braced for the storm

Driveway cleared (thanks to John) and errands in town run, we parked our cars early this afternoon braced for the storm that was to come: lots of space ahead of them for snow-clearing work to happen, and windshield wipers up so they wouldn’t get frozen to the windshield when the freezing rain came. Which, I am sorry to report, it did. As I write this, the cars are coated with ice. I hope the power stays on…

Now, I raised the generator issue here at Meanwhile, at the Manse last winter, in posts here and here. And readers were most generous with advice, all of which I am going back to review in light of current weather conditions. A couple of members of my own family scoffed a bit at the idea of a generator; there was some suggestion that hurricane lamps and a bit of sucking it up would suffice in a power outage. But I think they were speaking from childhood recollections of power outages at the Manse, which lasted a few hours at most – certainly never a full day, let alone more than than a day.

(And to that I can only say: if Ontario Hydro could get the power back on here so quickly back in those days of the 1960s and ’70s, why the heck are multiple-day power outages so commonplace in 2013? People, that is not a rhetorical question; I would like to know.)

Anyway: given that Raymond and I don’t (yet) have a wood stove for heating at the Manse, as my family did in my childhood here, and in light of the all-too-common multi-day power outages, I take back everything I said just a few days ago about wanting a snowblower for Christmas. Santa, what I really want – and need – is apparently a generator.

Because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like the knowledge that no matter what the wind and weather, you (and your cat) can stay safe and warm in your Manse.

17 thoughts on “Forget the snowblower, Santa. A generator is what we need.

  1. Happy Winter Solstice…the shortest day of the year. Hoping it’s not going to feel like the longest night (altho’ of course, it is), with hydro off as we awake tomorrow. Hope you keep warm and safe, friends, thinking of you in Q’boro.

  2. Yes, a generator would be a terrific idea (and that red bow would look nice on it, too.) I was just speaking with an Aunt in Belleville, and the power went out as we were talking. So, they’re sitting in darkness. Hopefully, it will be back on very soon, and I hope everybody else in the area is OK, too.

  3. Hi there,
    Interesting that many of the churches in Belleville cancelled services this morning, but the Quinte Mall was open and busy.
    Gerry

    P.S. Bev and I were two of the shoppers. Chapters had the book on the early history of hockey in Canada – they were marking it down as we looked. The book has a few references to the Belleville scene.
    Gerry

    P.P.S. The book’s author is Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada and not the Stephen Harper who plays now on the Belleville Bulls.

    • That’s too funny, Gerry. Yeah, we’re all too iced in to get to church – but not to the mall… But hey, I did not know that Belleville was mentioned in the prime minister’s book on hockey. That’s very cool!

  4. If you opt for a generator make it a Honda. Bought one in 1980 when I was living in my converted school bus out west. Sat in storage many a year and when the ice storm came along it fired right up without a blip. Growing up in the country my mom was a master with roast pork (Boston butt cut) (amazing what one remembers) pies and cakes and no end of sweets came out of that wood stove which also heated the house. Surprised you don’t have a functional wood stove. What would Anne Langton think.

    • Wow, Gordon, I totally have to thank you not just for the Honda-generator tip (which is most welcome), but especially for introducing me to Anne Langton, whom I had not heard of before but totally should have. I love how you just slipped that reference in! (And yes, we must get a wood stove. Everyone tell us that.)

  5. Honda makes arguably the finest small 4-cycle engines in the world. Their strength is the reliability & durability of internal components [ie, valves, piston rings, crankshaft bearings/journals]. They are essentially the “Timex” of the small engine world. More “economical” generators generally have “lower quality” engines that may last perhaps 100 hours of usage. Following the Great Ice Storm of 1998, many borrowed generators were returned to their owners in non-functional states because the engines had simply worn out after many hours of continuous use.

    As for “startability” following long layoffs, that aspect is highly dependent upon fuel quality. Current 87-octane fuel degrades significantly after 3 months or less. Furthermore, the incorporation of 5-10% ethanol in current gasoline means that significant amount of moisture [from ambient atmospheric vapour] accumulates in the fuel tank & carburetor: not a major problem with fuel injectors but such moisture wrecks havoc with carburetors. Accordingly, a good quality fuel stabilizer is now highly recommended for use for BOTH long-term storage [in the red plastic fuel can as well] AND daily use in all seasons [that is, in the lawnmower in the summer as well as the snowblower in the winter & the generator in all seasons]

    • Thanks for expanding on Gordon’s information on Honda generators, GG. Yours and his make two good recommendations, and so I think Honda is where we will start our generator search. A lot of people have mentioned to us that you need to fire the thing up every once in a while to make sure it’ll work when you actually need it – and I have to say that that does not seem like an overly onerous task. Adding the fuel stabilizer is, I guess, another of those tasks that would pay off in the end.

  6. Reporting in from Toronto. Ice storm has devastated huge numbers of trees – worse than high wind events. Our power was out for 12 hours at our house (Lawrence / Avenue Rd), however less than a dog’s walk away power is still out (for 200,000 GTA households). One interesting aspect for me is how different a city outage is compared to Queensborough from my youth. As soon as the power went out I warned by wife and son to conserve the water in the toilet. This is because in Queensborough water supply is individual and water pressure is from an electrically driven pump and one must be strategic. However not so in the city as water is supplied by the city. Moreover we have a natural gas water heater, so we had hot water to boot. Also our gas fireplace is battery operated and was able to ignite the flame. So “roughing it” was simply no lights and inability to have hot food. I was thinking of using the BBQ when the lights came back on. Our neighbour did buy a generator yesterday morning and was able to power the freezer, fridge and furnace (at least the electrical comments of such). He though has his electrical technician papers and knew how to connect the generator selectively.

    • This ice storm has been so odd for Raymond and me (and we speak as veterans of the Great Montreal Ice Storm of 1998): we fully expected to lose power here as the freezing rain/drizzle continued for hour after hour, interrupted only by bouts of snowfall, and (given that we are utterly unprepared for it) were thoroughly dreading it. Miraculously, North of 7 has survived with power intact, while all along the lakeshore (Toronto, Port Hope, Prince Edward County, Kingston) it’s been varying degrees of disaster. In my Port Hope days I enjoyed the fact that Lake Ontario moderated the weather so that we got less snowfall and had milder temperatures than “points north.” Right at the moment, though, I am glad to be away from the lake! Glad to hear your outage wasn’t too severe, Bill – and also that your Queensborough training kicked in (even though in the end you didn’t need it)! You can be sure that Raymond and I have a couple of buckets of water at the ready at all times for toilet-flushing purposes should the power go off…

      • Oh heck, in Queensborough, all that is needed [in the winter, that is] is an axe & some crampons. Then, when the need arises, one tramps on down to the river, chops a hole in the ice and bails some lovely, fresh, protein-enhanced water

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