Life without Refrigeration


The refrigerator has been going for weeks. Slowly cooling less and less. It did this last summer too. When the house heats up, the fridge can’t keep up. Still, I was hoping it would struggle along.

But when the ice in the freezer was water, and the melted blackberries were collecting fruit flies, I knew it was over.

I spent about a day being sad, and I even went to Rent-a-Center to see what they were offering (even though I’m morally opposed to buying things on credit). I was stressing out over the expense of buying a new (or rather a new-to-me fridge). Sales have been abysmal this month, and I was already feeling that tightening in my throat when it comes time to buy groceries, much less a new fridge.

Then I cleaned out the fridge and freezer of everything (including a really nasty collection of brown water under the vegetable crisper drawer).

Fortunately I have a large stand alone freezer, so I put everything I could in there, tossed everything that had spoiled, and resigned myself to a warmer life.

It’s not like this is the first time I’ve been without a fridge.

When we lived in the van, there was no refrigeration. We only had a cooler that I very, very occasionally bought ice for. I learned that jam doesn’t need refrigeration, that Earth Balance “Butter” definitely does (it separates quickly), and that you learn to live without an electric icebox.

The first 9 months or so of living in this house, we also didn’t have a full-sized fridge–just a tiny square dorm fridge. It fit the milk, Earth Balance, and the strawberries. For that year, I also didn’t have a furnace, so keeping things cool in the winter was simple, just leave them on the counter. Though on the really cold nights, we had to keep the liquids in the heated room, because they would freeze.

The dorm fridge was worthless during the winter, because refrigerators can’t handle it when the outer temperature gets lower than the inner temperature. It messes them up somehow.

So I’ve been here before. It’s comforting knowing that. When you lose a treasured part of this modern life, first you panic and fret, but then you realize that it’s not the end of the world.

Living without a furnace was uncomfortable and inconvenient (and I really wish I had a fireplace or woodstove), but we managed. When the van became too expensive to fix, we managed. When I moved in, I couldn’t afford a fridge. But more than that, I couldn’t handle buying one.

A purchase of a major appliance is at heart a risky thing. It took me months gearing up to buy my car, and I wouldn’t have even done it if I didn’t need a way to get wood home reliably (and if I wasn’t going stir-crazy from being stuck alone in town).

My endless saga with my Dewalt Scroll Saw (it’s in the shop for the 5th time this year), has left me with a fear of purchasing new electronic devices. My parents’ new dishwasher has broken about 5 times in a couple years. Their new heat pumps and air conditioners also have broken down twice in the first year.

I’ve had enough. If manufacturers can’t be bothered to make something worth buying, then I’m not buying it. I bought an antique ice cream maker, because the reviews of the new hand crank ice cream makers (that retailed from $100-$200) were terrible.

I was talking to a farmer that we are friends with, and he was expressing his disgust with the farm tools that they have gotten that break after minimal use in the field. He said, “Some things just aren’t worth making if you can’t make them properly.”

I might buy a fridge in the fall, but for now, I’m going to sit back and remember where we came from. Refrigeration is a wonderful invention, but it’s not necessary for life. And I do have the freezer still (bought for $35 from someone on craigslist, looks to be 20-30 years old), so I’m not rejecting technology. But I plan to live my life on my terms, and that includes not sending 34 dollars a week to Rent A Center, so I can be like everyone else.


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