Arlo Mudgett: The View from Faraway Farm: That's how cheap I can be

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Where we live in Windham County is snuggled up against Grafton and pretty much forgotten. Our road is out of sight and out of mind. We live on the next to the last road in town, but what a great road it is, peopled by nice folks who genuinely love it here. We live on the high shelf of a sidehill that becomes a sort of canyon. It is geographically unique and is known as a Hollow, of which there are only six in Vermont. One of the things that draws us together up here in the hollow? Power outages.

Our power comes to us via lines that run through the woods from Chester. Whenever the wind blows we lose power. One neighbor claimed that it was the "woods" part of the power line, and if it were cleared more often this would not happen. So he took it upon himself to address the issue and worked with the utility to diligently maintain the line, which they did. My neighbor understood public utilities, knew how to work with them, as he had been the Commissioner of Natural Resources for the State of Minnesota. He was also a native Vermonter from Springfield. His advocacy on our behalf worked miracles, bringing the issues to the attention of the right folks. The utility did a fabulous job keeping those lines clear. We went for several years with no power outages. Sadly, our little hollow lost a champion and a wonderful neighbor when he passed, and the frequency of power outages increased again without his stewardship.

I certainly do not possess his unique personality and ability to work so effectively with entities such as public utility. He was first and foremost a forester, and maybe that allowed him to speak a common language in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Like every organization, the utility has folks who retire and institutional memory is lost. Without our road's advocate and maybe without some of the folks at the utility around to remember, that particularly sensitive stretch of line through the woods may have become overlooked.

This is a long, roundabout way to get to the point I wanted to make about being cheap. The failure of my back-up generator caused me to purchase a more powerful remote start propane-powered unit. I still have to go out and hook a cable to a receptacle that ties into the wiring in my house, but it is a superior unit to the one it replaces. Since I got it we've had two power outages and I have not used it once. I haven't even tested it. What's that about?

Well, I have a lot of money tied up in that thing, and I even bought a brand new 100 gallon propane tank and filled it. It wasn't cheap. The way I figure it, if I don't use my back-up generator, I don't use any of that expensive propane fuel. If I have to refill that tank it is not only a pain to do it, it's expensive. I don't care if propane is a cleaner fuel than gasoline and will not foul the carburetor. Loading the tank onto a trailer and hauling it into town is a pain. So I avoid using the new back-up generator if I possibly can.

High winds after a heavy storm caused our most recent power outage. Our neighborhood grapevine swung into action and someone learned that it would not be a particularly long wait to have power restored. How did I know this? My fiancee was in Brattleboro, saw the neighborhood notification on her Facebook app on her cell phone and called me before the battery back-up power died on our home phone. Did I go out and hook up the generator cable, press a button to start the generator and come into the house and switch our home over to emergency power? No. I simply stoked the two wood stoves and made sure my flashlights had good batteries in them. I lived without the internet for three hours and no food in the freezer went bad. I probably saved five or six bucks worth of propane, and that is how cheap I can be.

The Morning Almanac with Arlo Mudgett can be heard Monday through Saturday mornings on radio stations Oldies KOOL FM 106.7, 96.3 and 106.5 and over Peak-FM 101.9 - 100.7. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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