Ann Berg

Ann Berg

Homesteading in Nikiski without power

In our younger days I cooked every meal on the woodstove, as we lived here for 5 years without power

  • By ANN “GRANNIE ANNIE” BERG For the Peninsula Clarion
  • Tuesday, December 10, 2019 10:00pm
  • Life

With the recent heavy snowfall and the branches and trees falling on the power lines, we were without power for about 48 hours.

Lights went out Sunday night at five. We migrated to Bobs cave-shop and kept warm by the woodstove. The yard light going out put us is total black, inky darkness. Thank goodness for good flashlights that were given to us last Christmas. They work by batteries. We have a big box of batteries of all sizes!

We have always had a woodstove in the house so have been able to keep warm and sleep in our own bed. Not so this time. Our woodstove in the house is very old and not efficient anymore. Needs lots of work to make it safe and warm again. But we installed a Renai propane heater that keeps us toasty all the time without having to haul in wood and stoke the fire every four hours as we did with the woodstove. Well, the heater runs ONLY when you have electricity!

We had not really bothered to update a heat source for the house. Last week, migrating to the cave gave us toasty warm as long as you pushed wood in the stove and trekked out in the snow and sometimes in the cold at two in the morning with a flashlight to replenish the wood supply.

The problem was we did not have a warm bed to sleep in so we slept in our chairs in the cave — well, not really! We found out that between light sleep and no sleep you need to lie down and put your head on a pillow. So next night we gathered up a bunch of blankets for a mattress after we found out our new still-in-the-box rubber mattress could not be blown up without an electric-operated pump.

Bob had to go to work Monday morning so he got the blankets on the floor, which he said was not soft or comfortable, but finally because exhaustion overcame him he went to sleep. I went back and forth from my chair to his trying to get comfy. Fits of sleep and kinks in the neck and other body parts keep me from any rest!

Worrying about my plants in the sewing room, I took a plastic bag and decided to put it over my plants and transfer them to the woodstove comfort and warmth of the cave. I opened the door to my sewing room and it was WARM! I was so shocked! We had installed a Williams’s propane heater that did not require a fan to work so I decided we could sleep in the sewing room that night warm! Crowded, of course, but warm!

The woodstove perking away gave us a cookstove also, although neither one of us were hungry, so we snacked and had a can of soup warmed up on the stove. Hot water for instant coffee in the morning kept me going.

I decided to go to Nikiski to get the mail and some convenient food. I had been in the cold dark, no activity and snow all around us for two and a half days. Bob thought he should not plow the 16 inches of snow because there was a skating rink of ice underneath and why expose it again! My little Subaru just climbed out of here in the deep snow.

I thought maybe I should see if M&M and the gas station were open but betting for sure they were not. As I came over the hill into Nikiski (city) there were bright lights, highway lights and the colorful lights on the businesses. I felt like I had dropped right back into civilization. I still smile thinking about how bright the lights were — they had electricity!

Got my mail and groceries and topped off my gas tank and headed home to the dark of the day. Trying to be patient is not my best feature, but thinking we would be in for the long haul as we had neighbors and relatives who were without power a lot longer than us, we were in the middle of the next plan for a long sleepless night when — bammm — the lights came on — then off and on for good. I said a prayer of thanks and made plans for get the house warm.

We had great discussions about how we rely on electricity for everything we have. Power to pump water to drink, wash clothes and flush toilets. Power to keep your fridge and your freezer from thawing. Power for my electric stove!

In our younger days, I cooked every meal on the woodstove, as we lived here for five years without power. Times have changed in 34 years! Electricity for the TV that keeps us company 24 hours a day! Phones that have to be charged by electricity unless you run your car for an hour to charge your phone — which I DID do! Everything we had required electricity. We remembered the days when we geared our lifestyle to no power — wood for the stove was a priority and good exercise. Washing clothes in the summer was a generator hooked up to a top loader washing machine with water from the lake pumped up the hill by the generator. My dryer was warm breezy days so I could hang clothes on a line Bob built.

We had kerosene lamps for night and our entertainment was Bob reading Robert Frost to me. Or, for fun and laughter, a McManus book with all the quirky names and a dog named Strange! What fun that was! We played card and had a puzzle on the table for biggest part of one winter! We learned to bank the woodstove during the night to keep warm. And if you got up to go to the outhouse you just put another log on the fire before you crawled back in bed.

I did not mind the trek to the outhouse in the summer, as there was always light of day even at two in the morning. My doggie Penny and the kitties were my guards. The hooty owl talked to us at times. Bob talked back at him. They carried on a great conversation!

So is the modern way of living just more complicated or are we getting old and intolerant of no electricity? I do know more people in this area had more troubles than we did — I hope you have recouped!


I just came across this recipe! Grandma and Grandpa lived in a cherry apple orchard and had an abundance of apples. She pickled them and made apple butter in her kerosene oven. Made wonderful pies with real lard for the crust. She also made apple pudding!

4 large tart apples peeled, cored and finely sliced

2 eggs beaten

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon baking powder


Mix the eggs, sugar and flour and baking powder.

Stir in the apples and vanilla.

Bake in glass pan in a 350-degree oven until pudding is firm.

To serve, she poured real thick cream and sprinkled a small amount of sugar and cinnamon on it for Grandpa.


This recipe says 1935.

1⁄2 cup butter

1⁄2 cup lard or shortening

1 cup sugar

1 cup molasses

1 large tablespoon ginger (ground)

1 teaspoon each cinnamon, cloves and allspice

1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 6 tablespoons of boiling water

2 to 3 cups of flour

Beat butter, lard, sugar. Add molasses, spices and soda water.

Stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough.

Roll into pieces the size of hickory nuts and then flatten.

Bake in 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until browned.


1 1⁄2 cups leftover mashed potatoes

1 egg

1 cup chopped ham

1 tablespoon hopped onion

A little pepper

Mix together and shape into patties. Dip in a little flour fry in bacon far or lard.

Serve hot with scrambled eggs.

• By ANN “GRANNIE ANNIE” BERG, For the Peninsula Clarion

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