Monday, December 05, 2005

Squirrel Attack!

This morning at 8:45 am, while Democracy Now! was playing on the radio, our house was attacked by a suicidal squirrel.

Wenonah was at my computer going through her e-mail, I was staring out the window, listening to the radio, looking up the hill where that large patch of lettuce is (was) growing and Amy Goodman was interviewing someone about something to do with the war.

When, suddenly...

by the lettuce, by a electric pole, there was a bright explosion.

Orange! Flames! Fire!

And then a crackling snap right outside the window.

The electricity went out.

And the computer started smoking.

And then silence.

No Amy Goodman. No lights! No internet connection.

The back-up battery started beeping.

And here we are out on the farm without electricity.

Which normally wouldn’t be so bad.

Our water isn’t pumped out of the ground but instead comes from a spring 200 feet higher up on the mountain side. It comes into the house by gravity.

No need for an electric pump.

And, until last year, our heat was strictly woodstove.

No electricity needed there either.

But this last summer I got all sophisticated on us and installed a wood burning boiler with radiators and radiant floor heat.

Which meant that the heat was distributed more evenly around the house than with the wood stove, but it also meant it needed electricity to pump the hot water from the boiler to the radiators and back.

Which meant, no electricity. No heat. No heat, in the winter means frozen water.

Frozen water means, broken pipes.

Broken pipes means a lot of time spent on my back underneath the house doing plumbing. (which isn’t something I enjoy).

I quickly went around the house making sure all the doors and windows were tightly closed. Let’s save the heat we have for as long as we can.

Wenonah took down the number of our electric company. The local rural electric coop. NOVEC.

And went out to the car with her cellphone. You see, here on the farm there is only occasionally cellphone reception. In fact to actually be able to carry on a conversation you usually need to drive several miles away.

“I have to get going to a meeting in town anyway,’ Wenonah said. “I’ll give them a call on my way.”

Now, imagine if instead of an electric co-op our electricity was provided by our for profit phone company.

The last time lightening struck the phone line and burnt out a box over a mile away, killing phone service for everyone in our valley, it took the phone company a week before they sent anyone out this direction.

No phone service for a week.

Imagine no electricity for a week. In the winter with a heating system dependent on electric pumps.

Shortly after Wenonah left I decided I better be preparing for the worst.

I went out and split two wheelbarrow loads of firewood and hauled them into the house for burning in the fireplace ( even if the fireplace wouldn't keep the entire house warm we could, at least, sit in front of it, wearing sweaters and long johns, and rub our hands over the burning logs).

After hauling the wood into the house, I went into the old living room to see about the woodstove. While it was still there, I hadn’t bothered to connect it to the chimney this year.

I measured how much stove pipe I would need to hook it up and then went out to the truck and started it up with the idea of driving over to hardware store in Marshall for the pipe.

Only, by the time I put up the measuring tape and grabbed my jacket off the coat rack, and by the time I'd walked out to my truck, started it up, turned on the heater and put it in gear. a NOVEC repair truck was coming down the driveway toward the house.

NOVEC, in less than an hour had received our call for help, processed the call. Notified a repairman (actually two). They had got in their truck, left the NOVEC equipment yard on the Manassas side of Gainesville, had driven through Haymarket, down Antioch, turned at the intersection at Waterfall. Driven the truck over Hopewell Gap turned down our driveay, crossed the creek.

And they were there. In less than an hour from getting a call they were on our driveway looking up at the telephone poles figuring out what had happened to cause the electricity to go out.

Wow. Not to make a big deal out of it, but that was something. I’m in awe. Actually having a utility that responds.

I told the guys in the truck about the explosion, the light and they both just nodded their head.

Pointing under one of the electric poles, one of the repair guys spoke.

“There's your problem. See him?”

I looked.

And there, next to the lettuce, by the telephone pole was the terrorist.

A large squirrel.

A large fried squirrel.

The saboteur. The sneaking squirrel saboteur had apparently climbed our telephone pole and, probably, hanging from one wire touched the other with his feet. Maybe even touching the phone line.

And, Bam.

A bright explosion.

A toasted modem and, somewhere, several poles away, a blown line fuse.

'It happens all the time.' the other repairman said. "We'll have the power back on for you in a few minutes."

And they did.


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