Storm Warning! Get Me Oatmeal! STAT


A hermit’s life is easy—you just assume the worst, prepare for it and move on.

According to the weather report, Pittsburg is scheduled to get about a foot of snow tomorrow. When I lived among others, I had a bunch of calculations to make. How will this affect my drive in to work? Where do I need to park tonight? Do I have enough cold cereal to survive a day? If the electricity goes out, how will I live without Wi-Fi?

Living alone with Sam (is a dog) in the Tiny White Box in the Great North Woods, when I read about the storm coming, my preparations were all physical, all easily accomplished in about two hours and caused no emotional stress at all. Let me explain.

The Tiny White Box is located close enough to a bunkhouse at Warriors@45North so I’ve plugged in a heavy-duty extension cord to an outside outlet. This provides the juice for my day-to-day life. It powers the radiator, coffee pot, microwave and wall outlets. Because the power does occasionally go out, I’ve got back-ups for everything—propane-powered heater, propane burner for coffee and cooking, deep-cycle battery for lighting. At nine a.m., I began my preparations.

First, I plugged in the deep-cycle marine battery to check its charge. First thing, it was at 43%. Two hours later, it’s at 83%, so I’ll let it continue charging until it’s at about 90. This will give me about a week of draw to the overhead lights, which are really bright. Maybe I wouldn’t want you to operate on me, but there’s enough illumination for me to take out your appendix—as long as it was properly labelled. Light is really important, of course, so I’ve also got three bright flashlights and plenty of batteries. Even without deus luxit, Keith will be able to say “let there be light” for the duration of any power outage. I then plugged in everything that can be charged—computer, phone, battery packs, so I’d be able to eke out an electronic and technological existence for a while.

Last summer when I began this life, my friend George gave me a liquid-filled electric radiator. Being hubristic instead of realistic, I scoffed at the idea, telling George I’d use propane instead. George was right. I was wrong. The radiator provides soft, even heat that keeps the Tiny White Box at a comfortable 65 to 70 degrees no matter the temperature outside, serving as a temperature gyroscope, if that makes any sense. When I’ve had to use the propane heater, there’s nothing like steady heat. The Big Buddy burner, designed to heat a two-bay garage, I think, has two settings, High (aka The Hottest Pits of Hell Itself) and Low (aka A Steel Furnace Running Full Blast). Either setting takes the chill off; unfortunately, that happens with all the subtlety of a haircut with a hatchet. Still, the Big Buddy is my backup, so I checked the propane supply—full five-gallon tank and 10 or so one-pound camping cans for the cooking burner—fired it up and immediately shut it down to keep from hyperthermia. While the radiator is a gyroscope, keeping the heat balanced, Big Buddy rolls the heat up and down like a mercury-filled egg. Still, all is ready on the heat and cooking front.

I made a 12-cup pot of coffee, to ensure proper caffeine consumption, and checked the stovetop percolator just in case. Everything in order. Looking in the larder, I’ve got plenty of oatmeal—enough for about three weeks—soup, canned spinach, Ritz crackers, dried fruit and a megalithic chocolate bar I bought at Trader Joe’s for just such emergencies. Likewise, the water supply is adequate—five gallons or so—and even I, a Boy-Scout-in-Disgrace, can manage to transform North-Country snow into potable water.

Although I drink my coffee black, and typically make my oatmeal with water, I did have a hankering for some half-and-half, just in case, so I drove to Young’s Store, swapped gossip for a bit with neighbors and picked up the cream. I also made another purchase, one I know will knock my rural cred down a bit. I bought a 10-oz. jar of Polaner All Fruit (seedless raspberry) with which I will sweeten my already decadently-rich oatmeal.

I am prepared for a terrible, awful, no-good, very-bad storm, and will ride it out in sweetened, creamy oatmeal.

3 responses to “Storm Warning! Get Me Oatmeal! STAT”

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