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Power Outage! An Unusual Day in the Life at Walnut Studiolo

Power Outage! An Unusual Day in the Life at Walnut Studiolo

We get some pretty cool stormwatching on the Oregon Coast, especially during the fall and winter holiday season. On 12/20/2019 -- one of the most critical days for shipping holidays orders in time -- the power went out for 21 hours across the entirety of North Tillamook County. This made it a challenge keep the business running, but we know how important holiday presents are!

In this post, we'll share how we managed to keep orders shipping out during a power outage, including gear lists of what was essential, and what we wished we'd had!

7:36 am

Coffee first. The power went off just as we were going to bed the night before, so we woke up to our (charged) phone alarms prepared to deal with it. We set up the Coleman propane stove we use for car camping on the kitchen island and boiled water for the French press. Then we realized we couldn't grind the coffee from our whole beans! After briefly considering using a mortar & pestle, we opted instead for cowboy coffee and dug up a bag of finely ground coffee we use for the guests drip coffeemaker. Granola bars for breakfast.

Essential Gear We Had:

Wish List Gear:

8:42 am

Quick assessment of the damage under stormy skies, swirling trees, and fat raindrops. A little school bus shelter near our sign was knocked over in the 35-45 mph winds but it miraculously didn't knock even a single branch of the laurel hedge or hurt our road sign. Emergency vehicles and utility repair trucks were whizzing by on both directions of the highway.

9:31 am

Our first priority was accessing the internet, to download order packing slips and labels. Our wi-fi was down because it is powered by electricity, so we hunted around the property looking for the best cell signal, which varies from 1 to 3 bars. We often lose cell towers in power outages, but luckily we found 2 bars on the open field behind our workshop. These two cars together became like our mobile office, where we could see through the windows without wasting flashlight batteries and we had electricity and communications.

Wish List Gear:

9:46 am

The laptop had a full charge, but the phone was going through its battery fast. I plugged the phone into the Honda CR-V's USB socket for power. Then we used the cell signal from the phone to act as a hot spot for internet. Later, I plugged the USB cord from the phone to the computer for a faster internet connection.

Essential Gear We Had:

  • Cell Signal
  • Laptop with Full Charge
  • Phone Charging through Car's USB Port

Wish List Gear:

9:51 am

Worried that we might lose cell service, we quickly downloaded both the packing slips and shipping labels at the same time (making educated guesses at the package weight). We saved them as PDFs to the desktop, so in theory we could put them on a thumb drive and take them somewhere (like a public library in Hillsboro?) to print if needed.

10:00 am

Our other car, the Toyota Matrix, has a 2-prong plug in the dash, which is an amazing feature that we are never going to take for granted again! We plugged in a mobile printer with AirPrint that communicated wirelessly and directly to our Mac laptop. We printed out all the packing slips and labels at once just to be on the safe side. That little printer is amazing, I wouldn't change a thing about it. Now all we had to do was fulfill them and package them up in the workshop!

Essential Gear We Had:

10:52 am

We had some light in the workshop from the garage windows, but the rest of it was so dark that we needed headlamps to get around. We have a well that runs on electricity, so when the power is out, the water is out, too. But our septic tank is gravity-fed, so if we have the water to bring in, it will flush its way out. Luckily we had stashed many gallons of water, enough for at least 7 days.

Essential Gear We Had:

  • Multiple Headlamps with AA and AAA Batteries
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Many Gallons of Backup Water

11:10 am

One of the good things about having such an analog business is we don't need power to do most things. Geoff uses hand tools for most things, including monogramming orders, so all he needed was a headlamp to work by.

11:24 am

Once we'd fulfilled all the orders and Geoff had monogrammed them, we set up two electric car-camping lanterns over the shipping station. We loved these lanterns, they have a couple different lighting settings and really handy handles and brackets and swivel heads for lots of different lighting situations. We know roughly how much most packages are going to weigh, so all we had to was affix the labels we printed out in the car with tape and package it up for the post office.

Essential Gear We Had:

Wish List Gear:

12:25 pm

The Nehalem Post Office was closed without power, so once we had the orders all packed up, we drove them 20 miles north to the post office in Cannon Beach, the nearest town in Clatsop County, which had its power back on! We were so happy to eat a hot lunch by a roaring fire at the quiet beach town during off season.

4:47 pm

It was the day before winter solstice, a short day for a power outage. It gets dark at 4:30 pm, so before dinner time we had the candles out and a long-form board game going (Catan). Power came back on that night during our game!

Walnut Studiolo crafts original modern designs by hand in our Oregon workshop using only natural materials. We are a family-run company located on the North Oregon Coast. Learn more about us on our website.

5 Responses



December 06, 2023

You can get a digital kitchen scale for about $10 on Amazon. They run on batteries. I don’t think I’ve ever had to replace the batteries on mine. That’s how I weigh packages. I know you are looking for solar, but gas generators are great for power outtages. I go to a lot of garage sales and people are selling new ones that they never used for cheap (usually when they are moving). That’s how we got ours.

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July 11, 2023

This was so fun to read—you guys are so intrepid! Glad you got all the orders out and got to have a cozy lunch by the fire to boot.

Bruce Miller

Bruce Miller

July 11, 2023

This is one of those only can be done in America type of narratives that you had. It was a great read and it was very uplifting, especially in The times we are living through where there are not too many things you can call uplifting. Sheer force of determination and you won the day. What a great story what a great company and you sound like two really find souls. You have obviously found your calling. Amitiés, Amitiés, Bruce Miller



July 11, 2023

Amazing account of the big power outage of 12/20! We lost power only for 40 minutes or so, in the evening, but I spent the whole day thinking through my priorities, printing labels like crazy, trying to stay ahead of the tragedy I thought wd strike!

I loved the part where you plugged the HP portable printer into the Matrix’s 110 dash plug! How kool is that? Whew!

One suggestion: have you ever tried using what I think of as “Etsy labels”? They’re adhesive, the perfect size for printing USPS labels from the USPS shipping site, so no more to apply tape. I love them!


I found a source on Amazon that’s better than this link. Just too tired this minute to locate it. But if you want it, I’ll send it. I just ordered from the new cheaper source for the 1st time. Will report on the quality once I get into the Pkg tomorrow.

Congratulations on a problem well-tackled! Amazing!

Bleary eyed, Dana

Sent from my iPhone


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