When we moved into "Little Shouse on the Prairie", we had two windows, and they were both in the back of the shouse, not in the living areas. What we were thinking, I will never know, but I do know that it was like living in a cave.
Sir Knight and I had prepared for Y2K, so we were ready to take on life with no electricity, or so we thought. Although we didn't have electric lights, we did have Aladdin Mantle Lamps and a Petromax Multi-Fuel lantern made in Germany. We had some plain old kerosene lamps, but they were old school - who needed them?
We brought out our highly polished, perfectly beautiful Aladdin lamps, put them in prestigious locations in our rather crude living room, and lit them. They were something to behold indeed. The light was even and bright. You could easily read or work by the light they put out, and Sir Knight and I wondered why anyone would ever have a need for electric lights. The light put out by the Aladdin was so warm and glowing - it positively lit up the room with it's wonderful radiance. And then, it burst into flames.
We found that although the light put out by the Aladdin Lamp is superior, the lamp requires constant attention. You don't just light an Aladdin and then go feed the animals. If you do that, you will return to a burned out mantle (no small thing at $14.00 apiece) or your house on fire. If you use an Aladdin, you have to be willing to babysit it. For folks with no children, who only use the lamp for reading (and they are right next to it to adjust it as required), it may be a wonderful option, but for a busy family with no time to fiddle with a light all of the time, it can be disastrous.
After our adventures with Aladdins, we turned our attention to the stunningly beautiful Petromax Multifuel Lantern made in Germany. Touted as the toughest lamp out there and used by German troops in the field, we thought this might be the perfect lamp for us. After all, we are harder on things than most military units! The Petromax is a technological marvel. It made out of blindingly shiny stainless steel and when fitted with the shade, will fill your house with the equivalent of three 100 watt light bulbs. Pretty good for an off-grid lighting option.
We filled our Petromax with fuel, and noticed what at first appeared to be rivulets and then became rivers of fuel seeping through the bottom seam. After many conversations with the importer, we sent our old (brand new) fuel tank back and were sent a new one. This time, there were no problems with leaking, so we decided to fire up the old girl and see how she ran. The Petromax has a pre-burner that atomizes the fuel so that it will light quickly, before it has gotten sufficiently warm to atomize the fuel on its own. I'm telling you - it is like lighting a blow torch in your kitchen! You have a tank full of pressurized fuel (you pump the Petromax up just like a Coleman lantern) with a blow torch on it and then you put a lighter to it. Now don't think that doesn't take a lot of prayers and a lot of faith! The light that the Petromax puts out is unparalleled. It is bright - really bright. The Petromax is, however, fussy. It leaks (both fuel and pressure), the mantles break incredibly easily, the pre-burner works sometimes and not other times and it is complicated to use. It caught on fire more than once and the last time, it caught my kitchen table on fire (the table still bears the scars) and I vowed never to use it again. It scared me. I was afraid the whole darn thing was going to blow up and kill us all. The best thing that ever happened to that Petromax was Sir Knight drilling holes in it and putting electricity to it. Now I use it every day, hanging over the loveseat in the kitchen, emitting a the lovely glow of a compact fluorescent.
|A new Petromax -our old one hangs in the kitchen|
After a number of hysterical, tear-filled phone calls to my father, he took pity on me and brought up a Coleman lantern and a Dietz Lantern. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. No more fussing with suicidal Aladdin lamps and no more bargaining with homicidal Pertromax lanterns. Just plain, simple, humble Coleman lanterns, with their soothing hiss on cold winter nights. They worked. I didn't have to worry about them catching their mantles on fire or the pre-burner igniting the table. The mantles were cheap, the fuel was cheap, parts were available and inexpensive and the light was wonderful. Sir Knight bent wire coat hangers and hung a hook in the living room and one in the kitchen (off the garage door track) and we had two Colemans, which lit the entire living area of the shouse. Some of my childrens' earliest memories are of waking up to the sound of me pumping and lighting the Coleman lanterns and opening up the drafts on the wood cookstove. To this day, they love Coleman lanterns. They are the sound of home.
|One of our trusty old Colemans|
|Wonderful, plain old kerosene lamp|
And then there are candles. Candles, of course, are not particularly good to read by, they strain your eyes too much, but they do light the way down a dark hall, brighten a dark corner and provide a warm, soft glow.
We hope that we will always have enough solar to keep our lights on, but we are prepared if we don't.