Hurricane Sandy brought death and destruction to the East Coast last week. Millions who came through the storm unscathed still face an ongoing problem, the loss of electrical power. After a day or two, the lack of power went from an inconvenience to a hardship.
Thinking back to the loss of power on our farm, I remembered that we got along pretty well. We had fresh vegetables in the garden and canned ones in the storm cave, chickens to provide eggs and fresh meat, a kerosene stove for summer cooking, and a good supply of lanterns. After all, we didn’t even get electricity until the late 1940s.
When storms knocked out the power, our biggest problem was milking the cows by hand. Like the father in The Feedsack Dress, my father cared little that electricity enabled us to have bright electric lights rather than dim kerosene lamps, an electric radio rather than a battery-powered one, and an electric range rather than the hot wood-burning stove. To him, electricity meant the opportunity to milk with a machine and triple the size of our dairy herd, then about 10 cows.
He and my mother could milk those cows by hand in about an hour and a half, the same time it took to milk the expanded herd with the milking machine. And milking with the machine took far less energy and produced much less stress on the hands and wrists. Replacing the lanterns with electric lights also raised human (not bovine) productivity, especially on dark winter mornings and evenings.
I’m not sure what the cows felt about the changes, but they adjusted.
Less work and more money. It was great—until the power went off. Milking all those extra cows by hand took hours and cramped the muscles.
Nothing like losing your electricity to make you value it.