The setting: Winsong Farm, King City, Ontario. Saturday evening December 21, 2013 the power went out at 8:45 P.M. The power was out December 22, 23 and most of the 24th. It came back on at 8:00 Tuesday night which was Christmas Eve. The power has never been off in the winter for more than twelve hours in our neck of the woods. Even then the house temperature steadily dropped, bottoming out at 15 degrees. The cause back then was a dump truck coming out of a driveway on the 15th Sideroad (about two kilometres west of the farm). The truck driver forgot that his “dump” was still “up” and he took out all the wires overhead.

The 2013 outage was the result of a massive winter storm with freezing rain and horrific tree damage with many wires down.

The characters:
Ron Marino…he has a horse at Winsong Farm
Cassie…she lives with four dogs and two cats in the staff house on the farm
Bill Stott…owns the farm and lives in the main house with three vizslas (dogs) and two visiting vizslas
Winnie Stott…Bill’s wife

The Decision: Tuesday morning December 24, 2013

Three days into having no power on the farm, the morning of Christmas Eve, Tuesday Dec 24th Ron Marino called Bill to discuss the forecasted cold snap (dropping to minus 22C from a balmy minus 5ish Celsius). Ron didn’t think the houses would be able to go another day with no electricity without the risk of the pipes, people and animals freezing. He mentioned the possibility of going to buy a generator. Bill felt that power should be restored soon. The main house had the propane fireplace which gave some relief and both the staff house and main house basements stayed relatively warm so a generator wasn’t needed. (Wife’s note: the propane heater affected one room which dropped to 14 degrees on Sunday, a high of 11 on Monday and a high of 7 on Tuesday morning. The other rooms in the house were colder. The basement was 13ish.)

That morning Ron dropped off the bottles of water at the farm. Ron was the water man. He lives in Bolton and his home had power. He took on the formidable task of supplying water to the five horses in the lower barn. While bringing in the water Ron asked Cassie if she and her dogs were OK. The answer: her house was a freezer. Her dogs were shivering from the cold and they were all doing everything they could to stay warm. Her two cats were cuddled together which was remarkable because they really didn’t like each other! Cassie felt that she could not survive in the house another day without power. And, of course, there was the forecast of COLD temperatures predicted to arrive that evening. This was a bit much for Ron to hear. He told Cassie she would not go another day without power. Off he went to get a generator. (Wife’s note: From where I sat, Ron was attempting the impossible. How was he going to find a generator when there were over 500,000 people without power in the Greater Toronto Area. Surely every generator within driving distance had been commandeered. At this late date, what would he find and what would be the cost!?)

The generator: Tuesday just before noon, December 24

The good news: Ron had been browsing for generators through his favorite website…KIJIJI… the previous night, just in case the power did not return Christmas Eve morning. Ron had secured one via internet and telephone that Monday evening and agreed to a price with the owner. (Wife’s note: Even though Bolton, Ontario is within a half-hour of Winsong Farm it seemed a continent away. I couldn’t believe that Bolton had power with all the modern conveniences while we were attempting to survive in conditions that mimicked life as it was lived over 100 years ago.) Tuesday morning after dropping off the water and speaking with Cassie, Ron set out to go look at and ultimately purchase the Kubota commercial grade generator. This required a trip to Brampton (not an activity on everyone’s Christmas eve list). After a long look at the generator and a detailed discussion of its history and reliability with the owner, Ron made the decision to buy it. He loaded the sizeable piece of life-saving equipment into his car and returned to the farm.

Saving Cassie and her Family (dogs and cats): Tuesday December 24

Back at the farm, the generator was unloaded and positioned outside Cassie’s house. This unloading was not an easy job. It took three people to lift it from the vehicle and place it on the driveway. Ron got an extension cord and ran into the house. He plugged in an infrared heater, a lamp and a cell phone charger. Off he went to run some errands for his own family.

About two hours later Ron received a text from Cassie. Her power had been restored. (Ron’s note: Whoo hooo!!! I breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps the main house would soon get its power on, too. Just maybe Christmas Eve would be a warmish one for all.)

Winsong Farm main house could use a little boost of heat 5:00 P.M. Tuesday, December 24

The cold snap set in that evening. The Marino Family Christmas was just about set to begin. The family had to make a last minute decision on where to host the 30+ people. Due to the power outage, the initial location, Ron’s brother’s house, was no longer an option. So last minute preparations were made at Ron’s sister’s home in Bolton (about 25 minutes from Winsong Farm). Getting thirty-plus people in her house was a tight fit, but everyone made it to the new location and it looked like the gathering would all work out.

Early that evening Ron receive a voice message from Bill. The main house was getting cold and the outdoor temps were still dropping. Bill asked if Ron could come by with some help to move the generator from the staff house to the main house. Ron responded, “Not a problem. I’ll get one of my brothers to take a run with me to Winsong to help move the generator.”

The two Marinos moved the generator from the staff house to the main house, ran an extension cord into the house and plugged in the infrared heater. Within a few minutes Ron and his brother headed back to Bolton and the Marino Family Christmas. (Wife’s note: Earlier in the day Ron and I were talking about Christmas dinner and I mentioned that the food we knew would be safe to eat with no electricity was: apples and oranges. THAT was our planned feast for Christmas! He was a bit stunned at this comment. And, wouldn’t you know, when he and his brother brought the generator they also presented us with a gift from The Marino Family Christmas. He had two huge plates filled with all sorts of delicious goodies still hot from the oven.)

About an hour after Ron return to Bolton, he received a text message from Cassie letting him know that the main house now had power as well. (Ron’s note: Excellent!! Cassie and I joked that the generator seemed to have mystical qualities. You hook it up and the power is restored! Talk about a ‘Magic Generator’. And, it certainly looked like the powers were getting stronger! Cassie had her electricity restored two hours after “the” generator was hooked up. The main house only had to wait an hour.)

Ron’s sister (not the one hosting Christmas) had also been with no power for 3 days: Wednesday, Christmas Day, December 25

Another one of Ron’s sisters who lives in Tottenham had been without power for three days, however they had borrowed a generator and were getting by. They were thinking that a second generator would be great. They could do with a bit more heat, so since Ron’s generator was no longer needed at Winsong Farm he promised to pick it up Christmas Day and drive it to Tottenham.

Christmas day, Ron was getting ready to take his generator to his sister’s house. She called him that morning and said, “The electricity just came on!” (Ron’s note: Wow, is the magic generator’s power getting stronger?…haha)

Eileen’s Farm: Christmas Day, Wednesday, December 25

Since Ron’s sister did not need the generator, she asked if Ron could lend it to Eileen. Eileen runs the farm where a friend keeps a couple of horses. That farm had been with no power for three days. Eileen, who is in her sixties, takes care of the place alone since her husband recently passed. Ron said, “Of course she can borrow the generator.” Ron had just a few hours to get the generator to its new location. He and his wife were hosting her side of the family for Christmas. Ron set out and got the generator to Eileen’s farm. He ran an extension cord into the house and plugged in her heater, microwave and kettle. While he was there he sorted out an electrical issue in the barn. The really good news is: with the generator the barn also had water. Everything looked good and Ron headed home.

Two hours later Ron receive a text from his sister letting him know that Eileen had contacted her to express her thanks for the generator…and that power had come on.

Ron’s sister in Tottenham: Thursday, December 26

Ron got a call Thursday morning from his sister in Tottenham asking if she could use the generator. The one they borrowed had broken. No problem…Eileen delivered it to Ron’s sister’s house. Just as they got the generator sorted and ready to plug it in the power came on! (Ron’s note: Ok, seriously…this generator IS magic!!)

And, where is this incredible piece of life-saving machinery? It’s at Ron’s sister’s house. During the three-day power outage the electricity at her house had been on and off several times. Ron decided that the magical generator was to remain there, on guard until everyone was certain that Hydro had the electricity permanently restored.

In Review:
1. power returned two hours after the generator was plugged in at Cassie’s
2. power returned one hour after the generator was plugged in at the main house
3. generator scheduled to go to Tottenham, didn’t need to make the trip
4. generator goes to Eileen’s farm and within two hours the power came on
5. generator goes to Tottenham, before it was plugged in the power came on