12 November 2012

Turning off the lights

I delved a little further into the world of solitude and silence on the weekend. I spent much of Saturday morning going through old papers and cleaning up my work room. Late morning I had a brief visit from Ernie and Jenny, a phone call from Shane and then Hanno. Silence followed. I finished cleaning and reorganising my workroom with the window open so I could clearly hear the sound of the rain and wind outside.


At around 2pm on Saturday I decided to have an electricity-free afternoon and evening. I'm really suited to this style of living because I go to bed early, get up early and now we're moving towards summer, I'm in bed when it's dark. So I organised candles for the evening and the morning and found some knitting I could do in low light. Next was my evening meal - I wanted something that required no electricity. I had a small bowl of leftover pasta in the fridge and I ended up adding celery, corn, capsicum, herbs and a small can of red salmon. I had that will a glass of water and a slice of watermelon. I ate in silence looking out into the fading light of the backyard.

When I had the meal and lighting organised, I decided that I would disconnect my laptop from the cable and only use it on the battery. If the battery ran out, that would be it. I'm using the battery power now as I write this at 7pm. If this turns out to be a short post, you'll know why, but I'm hoping it will stay with me until I take photos and upload them. Soon I'll go outside to look at the stars and then, by candlelight, I'll write, in longhand, an outline for a series of talks I'll be giving at the local libraries next year.

[Monday morning] It's a fine thing to withdraw from the electrified world every so often. You cut yourself off from light and the sound of TV and radio, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, electric beaters, fans and so many other things we take for granted. You become more aware of the natural movements outside, of the birds and the amount of light coming into the house. You become very aware of yourself too. There are no distractions, no noise to mask the swishing of a skirt, the scratching of a fountain pen on paper, or breathing. We are all so used to electricity now we forget that it the ability to brightly light our homes came to us relatively recently. In 1904 the first domestic electricity was generated in Sydney and by 1927, only 34 percent of homes had some form of electricity.  Now, most of us, are dependent on electric lighting and while I wouldn't like to live without electricity, I could live without lights. I love coming back to candles and lamps every so often. I last did this when Hanno was in Germany two year ago. Have you stopped yourself using electricity just because you could?

36 comments:

  1. I own 2 old oil lamps from the 1930's, and the children and I quite often have a meal with only the lamps for light. I love it, and more often than not it's the kids who ask if we can light them :) so obviously they enjoy it to.

    Having no electricity is one of the reasons we love to go bush camping so much, no TV, no computer, no DS games just family, it's heaven.

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    1. 'just family', yes, that says it all.

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  2. When I got to the end of the post I had to laugh at myself. In my head I was hearing the words almost whispered...in keeping with the concept and photo. Electricity free has it's own particular silence just like snow has another kind of silence. We are guilty of having the TV on for the sake of it and exclaiming to each other "there is nothing on" yet we keep watching something, anything! I will try to break this habit and just switch off sometimes.

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    1. Good for you Tanya. I loved my weekend with 'nothing on'.

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  3. Yes I did Rhonda. I am truly trying to get down our electricity bill. It took me a couple of months, maybe years to get rit of our dishwasher, but now that he is broke.. ;o) My husband had some issues and still wants the machines to be repalced, but me.. I am sticking to wash by hand. And it seems to work!

    Even by night we don't have lights on all around the house, only on the place where we are (one at the time and then it has to be a CFL)

    Little by little, step by step we are going to be less dependent from others. And I lóve it!

    Love from Holland

    I just wrote an item of cutting down our gas consumption. Also one of those issues ;o)

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    1. It sounds very much like how we did it. One step at a time. :- )

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  4. I spent 7 years power free many years ago. I had a kerosene fridge and lights, wood stove for cooking and to heat our hot water, washing was boiled in a wood copper or scrubbed on a board. No TV, no radio, no appliances that didn't have a handle. Both my children were born while I lived there. I'm going off grid again soon, with a few more modern conviniences this time though (I'm not getting any younger, lol), I'll have the option of vacuum and washing machine if I want them.

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  5. I have been trying to guide my family towards this for years. I have been told that I am actually allergic to electricity! It was recently my birthday. We had no money for gifts of any sort so I suggested that we celebrate with an "off grid" day. We turned off the electricity to the house and had just a wonderful time. I noticed how this switched the birthday focus from a meal and gifts to an entire day of the family just being together. It went so nicely that we decided to keep it off for the night as well so we turned it back on briefly in order to prepare for a night off. I watched how turning the electricity back on irritated my system and how it affected the family (myself, husband and four children still at home). We are now turning the electricity off every night, leaving it off longer on Sunday mornings and turning it off one day per week. I love it. I love the quiet. I love being more intimate with the family. I love settling into what is more natural. I love the challenge of finding ever more ways to adapt to living without electricity. It is my hope that we will just switch our consciousness in my family to thinking that not having the electric on is the natural state and that we simply turn it on at various points in order to accomplish necessary work. We are getting there inch by inch, day by day.

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  6. I wish I could cut back much more. I'd be fine with a washing machine, fridge and computer, I'd gladly ditch the rest. Good luck with your transition. I envy you.

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    1. I can do without the tv, but I'd have to add my sewing machine to your list of 'haves' *grin*

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    2. Treadle machines don't need electricity and there are plenty of them still around.
      Helen in France

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  7. for many many long years I have hated silence, I liked solitude just not silence and never understood how my mother could not turn an TV or radio on all day. Now I have a hubby who snores and talks in his sleep and a 2 year old (need I say more) and I relish moments of silence and stillness. They go out and before they've left the drive the.gov and radio is off!

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  8. Each night Rhonda, when we gather at the table to eat dinner together, we have 'dinner hour'...we laugh about it and make it a game to turn off as much 'power' as we can before we sit down....the only light on is the kitchen light...it may not be a full hour of course, children dont take that long to eat their meal! but we make a habit of doing this each night....

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  9. I find we have nights like this when we go camping. It feels as though you follow the natural rhythms because as the light grows dimmer your body starts to feel sleepy. At home I have night owl tendencies, obviously because of too much light (and pay for it the next day!).

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  10. I love times with having "nothing on", too. My husband is hard of hearing and so when he watches the television, it's up quite loud and reverberates through the house. I'm thinking of looking into him having some earphones so he gets to hear it and I don't! We don't go to bed at sunset but power down at night and I love going to sleep listening to an owl or other night sounds, or rain on the iron roof. It's very peaceful.

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  11. I haven't really done this experiment at home, thought most nights I like to sit on the couch, reading or writing, with just a warm floor lamp on. I get the full no-electricity experience when I go hiking and camping. Day after day spent in a tent or hut with few mod-cons. Headlamp and candles for light. Spirit stove for cooking. It's one of the most enjoyable feelings.

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  12. Dear Rhonda
    How wonderful. I had the lights and power off for earth hour a couple of years ago. Kids loved it we went outside and seen the stars, then played board games by candlelight. My stepdaughter now 10 still talks about it. Must do this again soon, thanks for the reminder. Di

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  13. I love this idea Ronda. Probably will have to try it whilst the big fellow is away sometime. I love the sounds of silence and by that I mean the sounds of nature and such. Just beautiful.

    Blessings Gail

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  14. I too love silence, am probably odd in that I actually enjoy the rare instances when the electricity is knocked out. No low frequency humming. Just peace and quiet.

    Marnie

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  15. Hi Rhonda, We live outside New York City and had an involuntary power-free week (no electricity, heat, water, phones, internet, etc) when Hurricane Sandy came a callin' at the end of October. In general, I love the idea of an electricity-free evening . . . but right now I am enjoying every second of LIGHT! I am typically frugal with the temperature in the house and the length of my showers, but right now we are indulging in all that a bit!

    Kate in NY

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    1. Good to see you here again, Kate, and I'm so pleased to know you came through that hurricane in one piece. xx

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  16. When our children were young we would have tech free days or weekends. It was great they would get their tents and sleeping bags out and camp outside in the backyard or if wet on the verandah. Now grown they still do this and love to go camping, even our 1 year old grand daughter jumps around in delight when her dad says lets go camping when is the sign for, no tech stuff.It is sad to see kids of today who don't know how to rough it a little bit. Our 20 year daughter [ our youngest] has friends who have never toasted marshmallows on a open fire and we live in the country. Life should be more simpler. It teaches us to listen and open our eyes. When she has friends stay for a party we light the fire and candles and cook on the fire. They love it and always ask if they can come over again soon.

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  17. Wow. As I read your post, I found myself craving that experience for myself. With my husband and two young daughters, I feel like it would be too hard. Now if only I could get them to go away for an evening...... It just seems so peaceful to me!

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  18. I am experimenting using my wood stove to heat/bake on top; tonight I wrapped pie pumpkins (after halving and scooping out the seeds) in foil, placed them on a cookie sheet and covered them with an over turned oval Dutch oven to form a make shift non electric oven. There's also a load of laundry drying on a portable clothes rack near said wood stove. When our children were being home schooled, we would often 'experiment' and have no-electricity evenings when studying about Thomas Edison. It's a good habit to be able to withdraw yourself a bit from the hum and buzz of electric gadgets .. you will be better prepared should there be an emergency.

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  19. I love the silence, and although blackouts are not uncommon "out here", I've never thought to voluntarily spend an evening electricity-free. Whilst I pass the days without a television or radio on, when the sunlight starts to fade that tends to change. Next time Shane is away I shall definitely take your suggestion and have an evening electricity-free. It sounds wonderful!
    ~S.

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  20. Our family did it for a weekend this year , Rhonda. We boiled water on the fire for a bath, cooked a casserole on the fire and there was no computer or tv.The kids thought it was fun , but were also surprised how many things they went to do that required electricity. You have reminded me to do this again with them.

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  21. Winter storms will often take the power out here and it always feels more relaxing than when it is on. I should do it of my own volition more often! ~ Maureen

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  22. I spent all of June and July(in USA) using hardly any electricity and/or electronic devices trying to work out a treatment for a sleep disorder I have. We mostly used oil lamps tho I used a battery headlamp to take showers after dark and we took turns using the headlamp to read to each other in the evenings. It was very different and after more than 40 years of marriage I felt it brought us closer again. Life has a different feel and texture without all the noise and light. We plan to do it again next spring even though it did not resolve my sleep.

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  23. how lovely. temperamentally i'm disposed to needing a lot of quiet whilst my husband feels more at home with background noise, radio, tv etc so we tend to alternate and have noise on noise off nights! i love in winter having dinner by candle light, watching the sun set, and the colour you see seems so much more vivid and painting-like in that natural light before dark x

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  24. I love doing this occasionally. It brings back memories of my childhood. Give me the simple, quiet life...not very often the TV is on in our house anymore, I prefer to listen to the abc radio (battery). Or just enjoy the quietness sometimes too...

    x

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  25. My parents used to part-own a narrow boat in the UK and I loved staying on it because you really cut down on electricity and other forms of consumption because there's so much less of everything available - you have to bring the water onto the boat, generate the electricity etc. One weekend I stayed there with a friend and we went to sleep when the sun did - and I think I experienced a phenomenon called second sleep which I have read about. I woke around midnight feeling refreshed but awake, and after about an hour of being awake, went to sleep again and awoke more refreshed than I have in years in the morning. I always wanted to live on one, but it's not really possible now that I'm with my bf.

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  26. For the few years that we lived in rural Scotland we experienced regular power cuts. Any wind stronger than a light breeze seemed to knock out the power and we then had to wait (usually until next day) for a man with a van to drive out from Glasgow (2 hours away) to trip the switch again. When the electricity was off we also had no water because the water was pumped up the hill to us by an electric pump at the bottom. We survived with a coal or wood fire, bottled gas or a coal fired rayburn to cook on and bottled water (collected rain water to flush the loo).

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  27. I've never consciously tried this, but think I should. I love the warmth and light from candles and from fires. I like the quiet and frequently leave the radio off as I work. I can see how a more complete fast, if you will, would do a body good.

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  28. I've just found your blog ! Oh my goodness - now I'm going back to read it all through.

    There's only DH & I in the house and while I'd love to try 'off the grid' he'd have to be away LOL I've tried candles a few times - when the power is out or when coming in after work in the winter. Um yep, the minute hubby walks in, on goes the lights (or the battery camping lantern if the power's out) and out go the candles. I keep trying though :-)

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  29. I'm about to move off grid soon, and will need to adjust to life without many of the appliances I'm used to (goodbye hairdryer!). Our fridge will only be turned on during the day, water will be boiled on the stove, I'll get a broom to sweep the floor rather than vacuum. Thank goodness there is enough electricity to run a washing machine, I'm not quite ready to give up that modern luxury : )

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  30. Great post - I couldn't agree more.

    I often go with out lights and turn every powerpoint in the house off (except fridges) for a night. My husband, usually starts out thinking I am going nutty, gets into it after a little while and we have good talks over a wine. Its lovely when I remember to make time to do it.

    We had a major blackout here in the Blue Mountains last year after a huge wind storm. I had a newborn baby so we had to find water and heating as it was the dead of winter. Had my daughter been the age she is now, I wouldn't mind altogether revisiting that time - we have a log fire now instead of gas, rain and spring water available to us and she is old enough to simply bundle up and she'd be fine.

    It would be like an adventure now, wouldn't it?

    Love your book by the way. Its my new living bible ;)

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