Hello? Is this thing on?
Sorry for the long absence. The Readers’ Digest explanation is that a family crisis beginning last fall shoved blogging off the cliff of my priorities. For several months, I was so preoccupied that I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be back. But as the urgency of the situation abated, the writing itch has returned and so have I. Thanks to all of you who expressed concern and good wishes without really knowing what was going on. Maybe someday I’ll write about that experience in detail, but not today.
Today’s topic is gas. No, not the embarrassing kind — I mean the stuff that comes through pipes into our homes to fuel our appliances. At our house, the dryer, stove, furnace, and hot water heater all run on natural gas. Or at least they did until about two weeks ago.
Recently our local gas company offered to move the meter from its location in the alley to a spot next to our house. We are currently responsible for repairing any leaks in the line from the meter to the house. If we permitted this modification, the gas company would move the meter at no charge to us, and assume responsibility for the line leading across our yard up to the new meter location. A money saver! What’s not to love?
Before the meter could be moved, the line had to pass inspection, and here’s where the money saving part of the plan began to unravel. The inspector found a leak just inside our yard — where we are still responsible for fixing it. You know how long it can sometimes take to get a utility company to flip the switch to turn your gas or electricity on? This was the opposite of that. The inspector had our gas turned off almost before Mike could walk into the house to let me know what was happening.
It’s good that we have camping experience because it has come in handy over the past two weeks. We have no stove or oven, no clothes dryer, and most inconveniently, no hot water.
In some respects, we couldn’t have picked a better time of year to be out of gas. Today’s high in Tucson will be 105 degrees, so we’re not missing the furnace. The water coming out of the cold faucet in the shower is lukewarm, although we could shower with hot water if we want to drive to the Y. So far, that has seemed like more trouble than it’s worth. We wash clothes in cold water and hang them to dry anyway so there’s been no change there.
However, you cannot run cold water through your dishwasher with good results. Mike likes to wash dishes by hand (yes, that is one of the reasons I married him), but you can’t get good results with cold water there, either. So once a day, one of us — and by that I mean not me — heats up a couple of large bowls of water in the microwave to clean our dishes with. I do not love dishes piling up in the sink, but I do love the sight of my husband with his hands in soapy water, so there they sit until he can get to them.
Since cooking has fallen out of favor in our culture, except for watching someone else do it on television, you’d think not having a stove or oven would be a minor difficulty. However, we are throwback hippie types who concoct meals from scratch, so cooking has been the most challenging part of our natural gas-free experience. We can heat up some foods in the toaster oven and microwave. We could make more meals in the crockpot if eating soups and stews wasn’t so unappealing during a desert summer. The other day, we baked bread in a borrowed solar oven (more evidence of our hippie tendencies). However, we had to keep rotating the oven as the sun moved across the sky, tipping the box to catch the rays. It led to an edible but somewhat unconventionally shaped loaf.
The main thing that has saved us from having to eat out for every meal is the Ancestral Stove. Dad gave me his old camp stove about 20 years ago, along with several canisters of propane that are at least a decade older than that. Apparently propane doesn’t go bad. Or if it does, we haven’t blown up the kitchen with it yet. I never expected to use this little stove inside my house, but it’s been our biggest asset since the gas went off. Pancakes, anyone?
The plumber came today, and we agreed that he should cap off the ancient, code noncompliant gas line and run a new one. After permitting, inspection, reinstallation of the gas meter, and the writing of a very large check, we hope to resume our natural gas-powered life by sometime next week. When I told Mike how much it would cost, he sighed because this project was supposed to be a money-saver. Instead, it’s been a lot like getting a free dog.