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Recommendation needed: Monitor vacation home, detect outages

We recently purchased a vacation home.  It's in a fairly rural area.  In
spite of the best efforts of the local utilities, from time to time we lose
power, and telephone service is, well, not exactly "first world" calibre.
There is no cable, dsl, or even cell phone service available.

I'm looking for two sets of advice.  First, when the power goes out for some
time, the stuff in the fridge could go bad.  Then the power comes back on,
and cools every thing off.  We come back, are unaware the power has been off
long enough to harm food, and either take a chance on poisoning ourselves or
we toss out perfectly good stuff.  There must be a better way.  Does anyone
know of an instrument that can tell us how long the power has been out?
Using an old fashioned mechanical electric clock helps, but doesn't go past
12 hours and doesn't tell us how long the longest outage was.

Second - any ideas for inexpensively monitoring the property?  It might be
nice to know the status of the HVAC, water pumps (run and temperature in
pump house), inside temperature, and maybe even an inside camera.  It would
all have to be done over a very slow phone line.

I'm just starting to think about this.  Clueless how to set up and hook up.
Are there any references one can read?


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