The Farm Report: A Power Outage

      114 Comments on The Farm Report: A Power Outage

When we moved to our little farm, Chareva pointed out that everything runs on electricity – including our stove and our heating system – and suggested we should think about what we’d do if the power lines ever went down.  After all, when a major storm takes out a chunk of the power grid, power companies usually focus on the populated areas first, then get to those of us in the sticks later.

I agreed with her and put “prepare for power outage” on my things-to-do-someday list.

On Saturday morning, a guitar-picking friend of mine came over to lay down some tracks on a song I’m trying to finish up.  I spent Saturday afternoon and early evening working on a web site for one of my software clients.  With that finished, I gave myself permission to chill.  I require permission from myself because there are always unfinished (or unstarted) tasks  nagging at me … books to read and review, speeches to write, emails to answer, etc.

I flipped on the TV and started watching Apocalypto, which I think is a terrific film.  Whenever I watch bits of it, I’m reminded of a point Lierre Keith made in The Vegetarian Myth:  farming is what gave us cities, social structures, territorial wars, and government authorities.  It’s the crop-growing city dwellers who send their soldiers into the forest to capture the hunter-gatherers and bring them back to become slaves or human sacrifices.

Right around the time the film’s main character was running for his life from a jaguar, the TV went dead.  About a second later, I realized everything was dead.  No lights, no heaters blowing, nothing.  The girls yelled from downstairs, where they were sitting in complete darkness.   Chareva told them to sit perfectly still until she could get a flashlight and lead them upstairs. (If they moved in the dark, the odds were pretty good they’d trip over one of the many toys they prefer to leave on the floor.)

None of this would have been particularly alarming if not for the fact that it was the coldest night of the year so far – 19 degrees.  We checked the circuit breakers in the garage, but none of them had tripped.  Chareva called Middle Tennessee Electric and punched in the I have a power outage code when prompted.

We have a fireplace in Chareva’s office.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the chimney needs work – another of those to-get-to-later items – and we were sitting there with no grate, no screen, and no wood.  So Chareva lit several candles in the fireplace  — which actually produced a wee bit of heat – and suggested one of us may need to run out for a kerosene heater.  Someone from Middle Tennessee Electric called back and said a technician would come by soon.  Chareva said perhaps I shouldn’t waste a trip going out for a heater.

“What if the technician gets here after Home Depot is closed and tells us he can’t fix the problem?”

Good point, she replied.  So I drove all the way into town and to buy the heater.  As I approached the checkout, I reached for my wallet and found that my back pocket felt strangely empty.  Rats! (That’s not exactly the world I used.)  That meant my wallet was sitting on my desk.  Fortunately, the clerk let me call Chareva at home and get the numbers for my debit card.  They’re trusting folks around these parts.  I didn’t have any ID, and I could have been calling anybody.

Sure enough, the technician couldn’t fix the problem that night.  When he flipped the main switch back on, it buzzed and smoked.  We weren’t about to risk an electrical fire in the middle of the night, so he shut it back off and told us we’d need an electrician to replace it.  Chareva called her contractor buddies from the renovation project and got some recommendations, then set an appointment  for a service call on Sunday.

I turned my attention to the kerosene heater and quickly learned that when you’re limited to working under the weenie illumination of candles and flashlights, the three most annoying words in the English language are Some Assembly Required.   By the time I got the @#$%ing thing all put together, Chareva had already explained to the girls that Daddy sometimes says bad words when he has to put things together, but they shouldn’t do likewise.

I had to take the heater outside to fill it, which was a good reminder of why I’d just bought a heater even though some assembly was required.  It was friggin’ cold out there.  (That’s not the exact description I used.)

The same manual that informed me of Some Assembly Required also warned – in BIG letters – not to leave the kerosene heater running while you’re asleep.  Great.  So I put it in the kitchen, cranked it up, and let the heat drift up to Chareva’s office.  In fact, most of the house soon felt warmer.  After two hours of kerosene-fueled warming (much of it spent with me sitting by the heater, listening to a book), I shut it off.

We’d dragged two mattresses into Chareva’s office earlier, and the girls were already asleep.   Chareva and I squeezed onto another mattress that’s just big enough to accommodate two small children comfortably.   I ended up kicking her, and she responded by trying to gouge my eyes out.

Well, that’s not quite what happened.  I twitched in my sleep, then she rolled over to get away from me and accidentally caught me in the eye with a fingernail.  (That’s her story, anyway.)  At that point, I decided to go sleep in the guest bed, cold or not.  There were enough blankets on the bed and enough residual heat in the house that I managed to sleep without waking up because of excess teeth chattering.

The next morning, I cranked up the kerosene heater again and violated one of the manual’s many safety warnings by heating a pot of water over it.  Chareva had an old cast-iron grinder in the pantry – Some Assembly Required – so I put that together and ground coffee beans, then made coffee.  Chareva was a bit tired of the whole back-to-basics experience by this time and drove off to McDonald’s to get more coffee and some breakfast.

Once the power was back on in the afternoon, we graded ourselves on our first off-the-grid experience.  It wasn’t a passing grade.   We’ve been talking for months about going more low-tech –a wood-burning stove for some of our heat, cooking over a fire more often, that sort of thing – but when our first power outage hit, we weren’t prepared at all.

We were lucky it was only a day-long dry run.  When I was a teenager, a major ice storm hit our town and most of the residents didn’t have electricity for a week.  My parents lived in front of their fireplace, and I went to stay with a friend whose apartment had gas heat.  We don’t get many ice storms in Tennessee, but we do get tornadoes, and a twister can certainly rip up power lines.

So yesterday afternoon, we went out and stocked up on LED lanterns and flashlights, a camping stove, and bottles of fuel.  We’re going to get the fireplace in working order and keep some wood around … heck, there’s plenty of it in the forest behind us (in the form of some big fallen trees) just waiting to be chopped up and stacked.

I hope we don’t go off the grid again anytime soon, but we’ll certainly be more prepared if we do.


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114 thoughts on “The Farm Report: A Power Outage

  1. Katrina

    Before you switch everything over to propane, you might want to check the price. My heater and water heater are both propane, and OMG! it is expensive. We’ve installed a woodstove and burn wood in the winter, and are looking to replace out water heater with something else. The price of propane has been rising every year as well. Of course I’m in Washingto State, so propane may not be as expensive out there as it is up here. But I’ll tell you, when I lived in Tennessee a few years back, my winter or summer electricity bill was nothing compared to my winter propane bill up here.

    We’re looking into wood-burning stoves for now.

    Reply
  2. Bridget

    What an experience! Learning new experiences is good for the kids, too.

    Ha, every time I see the word McDonalds now all I can think of is that part in Fat Head where you’ve got that colander on your head and are being asked if you want fries or a hot apple pie. Cracks me up!

    With Chareva playing the role of the torturer.

    Reply
  3. Lori

    Speaking of living off the grid, your daughters might enjoy building a solar oven.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if they tried.

    Reply
  4. Elenor

    “When we’re traveling, Chareva likes to play a game called “Is The Coffee Pot Off?” The farther we are from the house when I turn around, the more points she gets.”

    Can I suggest you teach yourself to always unplug the coffee pot entirely when you’re done? (As in: cord out of the wall!) Lots of houses have burned down because the *turned-off* coffee pot set the house on fire!! I’ve taught myself to unplug nearly all ‘small’ appliances when not in use. At first a minor annoyance, latter an unconscious habit, always a good preventive! (As I’m sure you know, that Chinese prison labor isn’t really all that “into” good work habits!)

    Then the game would be called “Is The Coffee Pot Unplugged?”

    Reply
  5. Galina L.

    We live in Florida, sometimes we have a power outages during hurricane season due to a very strong wind. The main problem here – not working air-conditioner. There is nothing you can do about heat.

    That’s my concern here too. I can build a fire, but without electricity I can’t make a 98-degree day any cooler.

    Reply
  6. Jan

    Tom, you may want to check your town’s/county’s regulations before you get those rain barrels – my husband said he read that in some places collecting rainwater on your property is illegal. It’s apparently “hoarding natural resources.”

    Lots of places sell them around here, so I hope to heck it’s legal to catch rain. If not, they can come and find me.

    Reply
  7. Lori

    You could get a vintage coffee percolator. My 1930s Manning-Bowman is elegantly designed with a simple fuse whose connector drops out when it overheats. (Replacement fuses being non-existent now, you have to solder it back together if that happens.) So when I make coffee, I plug in the pot, set the timer (5 minutes for 1 cup, 10 minutes for 2) and unplug the pot when when the timer goes off.

    Back in the days before natural gas had a substance added to it to make it smell like rotten eggs, if you let your coffee pot on the stove boil over put out the flame, it could be the last mistake you ever made.

    Yee-ikes. Good idea to make sure the CO detectors are working.

    Reply
  8. Martha

    As an old country gal (no.I won’t say how old), from the Gulf coast, there’s not much you can do about daytime heat, but we used to sleep under single damp cotton sheets to make the nights bearable. Sometimes you had to replace the sheets half-way during the night when they dried out (but it was always my parents or grandparents who had that job!) Just be sure to stay hydrated, even if you don’t feel thirsty. If you aren’t peeing, you aren’t properly hydrated.

    Reply
  9. Marilyn

    @Tom: “The farther we are from the house when I turn around, the more points she gets.” LOL

    @Anne: We lived “off grid” for the first several years of my life. I was six when the REA came through. I didn’t have to deal with the things the adults did — and had done all their lives, but I do have some memories of those times.

    Reply
  10. Nowhereman

    Glad to hear you managed to make it through the power outage. Nothing quite like an experiance like this to remind you that it doesn’t take much to take away our comfortable veneer of civilization. Just out of curiosity, have you considered obtaining a portable power generator and fuel supplies to go with it? Remember, even if you go “off grid” with your own solar or wind power, those can be damaged or destroyed in a severe enough storm. Also having portable hand-crank radios are highly useful for listening in on emergency broadcast and news information as well and many models also act as a light source.

    We’ve got the hand-crank radio — you even crank it up to produce some light from one side. A portable generator is definitely on the list.

    Reply
  11. Katrina

    Before you switch everything over to propane, you might want to check the price. My heater and water heater are both propane, and OMG! it is expensive. We’ve installed a woodstove and burn wood in the winter, and are looking to replace out water heater with something else. The price of propane has been rising every year as well. Of course I’m in Washingto State, so propane may not be as expensive out there as it is up here. But I’ll tell you, when I lived in Tennessee a few years back, my winter or summer electricity bill was nothing compared to my winter propane bill up here.

    We’re looking into wood-burning stoves for now.

    Reply
  12. Bridget

    What an experience! Learning new experiences is good for the kids, too.

    Ha, every time I see the word McDonalds now all I can think of is that part in Fat Head where you’ve got that colander on your head and are being asked if you want fries or a hot apple pie. Cracks me up!

    With Chareva playing the role of the torturer.

    Reply
  13. Elenor

    “When we’re traveling, Chareva likes to play a game called “Is The Coffee Pot Off?” The farther we are from the house when I turn around, the more points she gets.”

    Can I suggest you teach yourself to always unplug the coffee pot entirely when you’re done? (As in: cord out of the wall!) Lots of houses have burned down because the *turned-off* coffee pot set the house on fire!! I’ve taught myself to unplug nearly all ‘small’ appliances when not in use. At first a minor annoyance, latter an unconscious habit, always a good preventive! (As I’m sure you know, that Chinese prison labor isn’t really all that “into” good work habits!)

    Then the game would be called “Is The Coffee Pot Unplugged?”

    Reply
  14. Galina L.

    We live in Florida, sometimes we have a power outages during hurricane season due to a very strong wind. The main problem here – not working air-conditioner. There is nothing you can do about heat.

    That’s my concern here too. I can build a fire, but without electricity I can’t make a 98-degree day any cooler.

    Reply
  15. Underground

    Just FYI, we do get some bad ice storms here in Middle TN sometimes. It pays to have some options. A woodburning stove is one of the most flexible ones and simple to keep running, I think that’s a good choice. It’s a good time to be cutting and stacking wood to dry now on the pleasant days before it starts to get hot.

    In the summer, since you have a basement you should be cooler down there should you lose power. You should also be able to take advantage of the natural thermosiphon effect. Open windows down low in the shade, and up high in the sun. The cooler air will be drawn in down low, and sucked up and expelled out the higher windows as it’s heated through the house.

    Improvised window awnings or shade trees can make a huge difference in the summer also. There are other simple tricks that you can try like spraying some water on a screen so that the incoming air gets the benefit of evaporative cooling.

    Good ideas. Chareva told me that during the renovation process, she noticed it was quite a bit cooler in the basement. If we had a power outage during hot weather, we’d probably end up sleeping down there.

    Reply
  16. Underground

    Ah yes, that can also show the benefit of having some small LED headlamps instead of just flashlights. Having illumination AND your hands free can be very useful.

    Reply
  17. Lori

    You could get a vintage coffee percolator. My 1930s Manning-Bowman is elegantly designed with a simple fuse whose connector drops out when it overheats. (Replacement fuses being non-existent now, you have to solder it back together if that happens.) So when I make coffee, I plug in the pot, set the timer (5 minutes for 1 cup, 10 minutes for 2) and unplug the pot when when the timer goes off.

    Back in the days before natural gas had a substance added to it to make it smell like rotten eggs, if you let your coffee pot on the stove boil over put out the flame, it could be the last mistake you ever made.

    Yee-ikes. Good idea to make sure the CO detectors are working.

    Reply
  18. Martha

    As an old country gal (no.I won’t say how old), from the Gulf coast, there’s not much you can do about daytime heat, but we used to sleep under single damp cotton sheets to make the nights bearable. Sometimes you had to replace the sheets half-way during the night when they dried out (but it was always my parents or grandparents who had that job!) Just be sure to stay hydrated, even if you don’t feel thirsty. If you aren’t peeing, you aren’t properly hydrated.

    Reply
  19. Marilyn

    @Tom: “The farther we are from the house when I turn around, the more points she gets.” LOL

    @Anne: We lived “off grid” for the first several years of my life. I was six when the REA came through. I didn’t have to deal with the things the adults did — and had done all their lives, but I do have some memories of those times.

    Reply
  20. Underground

    Just FYI, we do get some bad ice storms here in Middle TN sometimes. It pays to have some options. A woodburning stove is one of the most flexible ones and simple to keep running, I think that’s a good choice. It’s a good time to be cutting and stacking wood to dry now on the pleasant days before it starts to get hot.

    In the summer, since you have a basement you should be cooler down there should you lose power. You should also be able to take advantage of the natural thermosiphon effect. Open windows down low in the shade, and up high in the sun. The cooler air will be drawn in down low, and sucked up and expelled out the higher windows as it’s heated through the house.

    Improvised window awnings or shade trees can make a huge difference in the summer also. There are other simple tricks that you can try like spraying some water on a screen so that the incoming air gets the benefit of evaporative cooling.

    Good ideas. Chareva told me that during the renovation process, she noticed it was quite a bit cooler in the basement. If we had a power outage during hot weather, we’d probably end up sleeping down there.

    Reply
  21. Underground

    Ah yes, that can also show the benefit of having some small LED headlamps instead of just flashlights. Having illumination AND your hands free can be very useful.

    Reply
  22. Matt Eggleston

    Congratulations on your first “out of grid experience!” Next time you’ll be ready to party like it’s 1899!

    Over the years my wife and I have worked things out to suit us for blackouts. Bad ice storms in 1993-94 and 1998-99 and numerous nasty hurricanes have left us without power for a week or more at a time. Some major points:

    A generator is a gas hog, so you don’t want to get much more than you need. Our 5000 watt is plenty to run the refrigerator on one 20 amp “side” of it, and use the other “side” for the well, lighting, a small window air conditioner or other things while it’s running in the evening. (The new “inverter generators” are supposed to be better on gas and much better for electronics, but they’re expensive and I don’t know much about them.) Also, remember they sit around for years between uses, so they can be unreliable (to put it gently) if not stored correctly.

    Cooking is easily done outdoors on a standard 22.5″ Weber kettle grill. It’s good in the wind and rain, and you can even cook with a pot of water or a frying pan if you get some of those charcoal holder baskets and push them together. I’ve made breakfast, lunch and dinner for more than a week at a stretch that way. The chimney starters are the easiest way to light them. Two sheets of newspaper does the trick, no stinky fluid.

    Cheap “Weather Ready” LED flashlights last for days one one set of batteries. We have one per person in the kitchen cabinet, plus one in each bedroom.

    A propane “Big Buddy” heater is our favorite emergency heat source. Very safe and they smell much better than kerosene. They are set up to run off two 1 pound bottles, but I keep a couple of 20# gas grill tanks and an adapter hose they also sell. I figure we’re set for a week or so without utilities.

    Preparing for a full week off the grid is a good idea. We were lucky it was on a day-long dry run.

    Reply
  23. Gwen Patton

    I did the Preparation Shuffle last year. We have a 4000-watt gasoline generator on a cart that we can run out onto the porch, all assembled and tested. We have several means of cooking/boiling water, from a trioxane stove in a container on a shelf to a lovely Kelly Kettle that’ll burn pine cones and sticks, to the gas grill in the backyard (if it isn’t pouring rain like the LAST time the power went out), to the one-burner propane stove I got most recently, to the multi-wick emergency candles-in-a-can I got to stick in each car, that will eventually boil water and give a good amount of heat.

    I also got a good heater, a catalytic propane heater that doesn’t make carbon monoxide, is safe to leave running while sleeping, has an oxygen-depletion sensor and a tip-over sensor in case it gets knocked down. It has a battery-driven blower that’ll shove the heat even further out in the room, and didn’t cost an arm and a leg…and is FULLY ASSEMBLED. It runs off the same big jugs of propane as the gas grill and the little gas stove, and I have nice, long hoses for all of them.

    I also have multiple ways to make coffee in the morning, depending on how the water gets heated. The 12-cup Brewstation is for when the power is on and everything is fine. The K-cup brewer is for when we’re really zombified and we use up the 12 cups in the Brewstation and need MORE COFFEE. But if there’s no power, and we’re down to the Kelly Kettle, the stainless-steel tea kettle, or a saucepan to heat water on one of the other heating implements, I have a stainless-steel Thermos French Press and this new little gizmo called an Aerobie, an aeropress that actually makes a damn good substitute for espresso.

    Add that to the freeze-dried sausage crumbles, scrambled eggs, and cheddar cheese, and I’m set for breakfast in an emergency. After that, if it’s a weather emergency, I start cranking up the ham radio to see what the heck is going on in the world, and whether or not I can help. If not, brew another cup of espresso, sit back, and relax.

    I saw a propane heater like the one you described when I was shopping for a camping stove. I wish I’d gotten one of those instead. No assembly required, no hassle of pouring kerosene into the tank.

    Reply
  24. The Older Brother

    “…in some places collecting rainwater on your property is illegal.”

    That’s out West — Washington, Utah, and Colorado as far as I can tell. Colorado is loosening up for some home-owner sized applications like rainwater collection, cisterns, and greywater systems as people with a view to sustainability have been pushing back.

    Big Government’s theory is that you’re “diverting” rainwater that should be going into a stream. So they can send it California, I suppose. In reality, the more you slow water down, the better it is for the land and everyone downstream. So not letting people collect rainwater is the hydraulic equivalent of insisting on avoiding saturated fat and eating plenty o’ grains.

    But all of the “experts” still know the best way to handle water is to have massively centralized (i.e., single points of failure) facilities that use tons of chemicals to treat our water so they can push it through expensive infrastructure to our houses where we’ll use the largest percentage of it to poop and pee in and flush back it to the government so they can treat it with tons of chemicals (or not) and send it downstream.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Nuts. I’m channeling Joel Salatin again.

    Cheers.

    Next time Joe takes over, tell him Chareva really enjoys his book.

    Reply
  25. Matt Eggleston

    Congratulations on your first “out of grid experience!” Next time you’ll be ready to party like it’s 1899!

    Over the years my wife and I have worked things out to suit us for blackouts. Bad ice storms in 1993-94 and 1998-99 and numerous nasty hurricanes have left us without power for a week or more at a time. Some major points:

    A generator is a gas hog, so you don’t want to get much more than you need. Our 5000 watt is plenty to run the refrigerator on one 20 amp “side” of it, and use the other “side” for the well, lighting, a small window air conditioner or other things while it’s running in the evening. (The new “inverter generators” are supposed to be better on gas and much better for electronics, but they’re expensive and I don’t know much about them.) Also, remember they sit around for years between uses, so they can be unreliable (to put it gently) if not stored correctly.

    Cooking is easily done outdoors on a standard 22.5″ Weber kettle grill. It’s good in the wind and rain, and you can even cook with a pot of water or a frying pan if you get some of those charcoal holder baskets and push them together. I’ve made breakfast, lunch and dinner for more than a week at a stretch that way. The chimney starters are the easiest way to light them. Two sheets of newspaper does the trick, no stinky fluid.

    Cheap “Weather Ready” LED flashlights last for days one one set of batteries. We have one per person in the kitchen cabinet, plus one in each bedroom.

    A propane “Big Buddy” heater is our favorite emergency heat source. Very safe and they smell much better than kerosene. They are set up to run off two 1 pound bottles, but I keep a couple of 20# gas grill tanks and an adapter hose they also sell. I figure we’re set for a week or so without utilities.

    Preparing for a full week off the grid is a good idea. We were lucky it was on a day-long dry run.

    Reply
  26. Gwen Patton

    I did the Preparation Shuffle last year. We have a 4000-watt gasoline generator on a cart that we can run out onto the porch, all assembled and tested. We have several means of cooking/boiling water, from a trioxane stove in a container on a shelf to a lovely Kelly Kettle that’ll burn pine cones and sticks, to the gas grill in the backyard (if it isn’t pouring rain like the LAST time the power went out), to the one-burner propane stove I got most recently, to the multi-wick emergency candles-in-a-can I got to stick in each car, that will eventually boil water and give a good amount of heat.

    I also got a good heater, a catalytic propane heater that doesn’t make carbon monoxide, is safe to leave running while sleeping, has an oxygen-depletion sensor and a tip-over sensor in case it gets knocked down. It has a battery-driven blower that’ll shove the heat even further out in the room, and didn’t cost an arm and a leg…and is FULLY ASSEMBLED. It runs off the same big jugs of propane as the gas grill and the little gas stove, and I have nice, long hoses for all of them.

    I also have multiple ways to make coffee in the morning, depending on how the water gets heated. The 12-cup Brewstation is for when the power is on and everything is fine. The K-cup brewer is for when we’re really zombified and we use up the 12 cups in the Brewstation and need MORE COFFEE. But if there’s no power, and we’re down to the Kelly Kettle, the stainless-steel tea kettle, or a saucepan to heat water on one of the other heating implements, I have a stainless-steel Thermos French Press and this new little gizmo called an Aerobie, an aeropress that actually makes a damn good substitute for espresso.

    Add that to the freeze-dried sausage crumbles, scrambled eggs, and cheddar cheese, and I’m set for breakfast in an emergency. After that, if it’s a weather emergency, I start cranking up the ham radio to see what the heck is going on in the world, and whether or not I can help. If not, brew another cup of espresso, sit back, and relax.

    I saw a propane heater like the one you described when I was shopping for a camping stove. I wish I’d gotten one of those instead. No assembly required, no hassle of pouring kerosene into the tank.

    Reply
  27. The Older Brother

    “…in some places collecting rainwater on your property is illegal.”

    That’s out West — Washington, Utah, and Colorado as far as I can tell. Colorado is loosening up for some home-owner sized applications like rainwater collection, cisterns, and greywater systems as people with a view to sustainability have been pushing back.

    Big Government’s theory is that you’re “diverting” rainwater that should be going into a stream. So they can send it California, I suppose. In reality, the more you slow water down, the better it is for the land and everyone downstream. So not letting people collect rainwater is the hydraulic equivalent of insisting on avoiding saturated fat and eating plenty o’ grains.

    But all of the “experts” still know the best way to handle water is to have massively centralized (i.e., single points of failure) facilities that use tons of chemicals to treat our water so they can push it through expensive infrastructure to our houses where we’ll use the largest percentage of it to poop and pee in and flush back it to the government so they can treat it with tons of chemicals (or not) and send it downstream.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Nuts. I’m channeling Joel Salatin again.

    Cheers.

    Next time Joe takes over, tell him Chareva really enjoys his book.

    Reply
  28. Peggy Cinocki

    Everyone has great suggestions and I don’t have much to add. But I would recommend a French press for coffee all the time. I didn’t know thermos ones existed, but that’s even better. Makes the best tasting coffee, all you need is coffee grounds and hot water (no coffee pot to unplug, no points for Chareva–or change the game to “is the kettle turned off?”) And that aero press does make a really good espresso! If you have a way to heat water (wood stove, kerosene heater?) you have coffee–and espresso, too, if you want it.

    Reply
  29. Peggy Cinocki

    Everyone has great suggestions and I don’t have much to add. But I would recommend a French press for coffee all the time. I didn’t know thermos ones existed, but that’s even better. Makes the best tasting coffee, all you need is coffee grounds and hot water (no coffee pot to unplug, no points for Chareva–or change the game to “is the kettle turned off?”) And that aero press does make a really good espresso! If you have a way to heat water (wood stove, kerosene heater?) you have coffee–and espresso, too, if you want it.

    Reply
  30. Jolly

    Kerosene heaters heat *very* well, and they are also *very* safe. CO is much more of a problem with propane heaters than kerosene. Running them all night, as long as a window is cracked, or you have a drafty house, is no problem.

    A hundred years ago, kerosene was a primary source of heat, and was a terrific alternative to coal. Coal was much more dangerous if smoldering, and coal stoves and furnaces were definitely a source of CO.

    Up here in NH, we have four kerosene space heaters that we use in various remote parts of the house. Main heat is a pellet stove, but without electricity, we can keep very comfortable with just kerosene.

    Read my site for some ideas on how to utilize kerosene safely. And- how you can get the most out of your heaters.

    Jolly

    Will do, thanks.

    Reply
  31. Walter B

    Instead of all those desperate methods of making coffee, perhaps some NoDoze would suffice? OTGH, if you can boil water you can cook so that is important.

    Now that we have a camping stove and a hand-grinder, my coffee habit is disaster-safe.

    Reply
  32. Octavian @ Full Fat Nutrition

    When you’re thinking about preparing your house for future disasters, remember not to prepare for anything too specific.
    All disaster have commonalities. You will always need 4 things: shelter, energy, water, and food. This is from the rule of threes: you can survive 3 hours of exposure, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.
    You can extrapolate what you will need from there.

    Good advice.

    Reply
  33. lantenec

    Oh, I was going to say, you better not bang your head on the desk for that one; you’ll put your head THROUGH the desk….

    Reply
  34. Jolly

    Kerosene heaters heat *very* well, and they are also *very* safe. CO is much more of a problem with propane heaters than kerosene. Running them all night, as long as a window is cracked, or you have a drafty house, is no problem.

    A hundred years ago, kerosene was a primary source of heat, and was a terrific alternative to coal. Coal was much more dangerous if smoldering, and coal stoves and furnaces were definitely a source of CO.

    Up here in NH, we have four kerosene space heaters that we use in various remote parts of the house. Main heat is a pellet stove, but without electricity, we can keep very comfortable with just kerosene.

    Read my site for some ideas on how to utilize kerosene safely. And- how you can get the most out of your heaters.

    Jolly

    Will do, thanks.

    Reply
  35. Greg H

    A wood burning stove is very dangerous healthwise. Cancer, breathing problems, they’re bad news.

    Say what? The smoke goes out the pipes.

    Reply
  36. Alex

    Where we live has a tendency to be south of snow and north of rain, so our ice storms can be really nasty. The last one, a few years ago, had power off in town for a week. But, town is full of trees lining the streets, and it’s an endless nightmare of falling branches. We’re out in the country, where the poles are mostly running along side corn fields, and in that last ice storm, our power went out once for less than an hour. Also, our power company is a rural electric CoOp, which I think may be more customer service oriented than the corporate power Co. that serves in town.

    Our house was originally off the grid, but being my own power company got to be far more hassle than it’s worth, and we had power brought in. But, we still have the inverter, PV array, and battery bank, so when the power goes out, the power doesn’t completely go out for a few hours.

    Here’s my experience based $0.02 with respect to alternative energy technologies. If you’re not willing to water batteries on a regular basis, don’t get vented batteries. I HATE watering batteries, and as a result I boiled dry and destroyed two entire battery banks before switching to a sealed, maintenance-free batteries. And, that was after a bank of reconditioned NiCd batteries failed after one year. Sun Xtender sealed lead-acid deep cycle batteries work great.

    What finally moved us to hook up to the grid was the failure of our Onan propane fueled RV generator on a Saturday afternoon, in the dead of winter, and me having to scramble to town to buy a Coleman genset and a gasoline can from the farm store. I shlepped gas and manually started/stopped the generator for a week before the CoOp was able to come out and string poles out to the house. Generators are loud and noisy and require a fair amount of maintenance. For that reason, I got rid of the generators. I put a beefed up alternator in my truck and installed a 2000 watt inverter, but unless I sit there, keeping the truck rev’d way up, under heavy load the inverter drains down the starter battery, which very quickly kills it. If I get a generator again, I will do what my sister did down in Florida: she got one of those large propane fueled units that sits outside the house, and the company that installed it comes out regularly to do all the maintenance. After a hurricane, she can keep her food cold and enjoy a little air-conditioning for up to a week.

    The benefits of generator inverters is that they are quieter and more fuel efficient. Conventional gensets have to run full time at 3600 or 1800 RPM in order to create 60 Hz AC power. Inverter generators create variable frequency 3-phase AC which is then rectified to DC and fed to an inverter. The inverter creates the 60 Hz, so the engine only speeds up, as necessary to meet the power input requirements of the inverter. If there’s only a small load, the engine runs slower, saving fuel and making less noise.

    Reply
  37. Walter B

    Instead of all those desperate methods of making coffee, perhaps some NoDoze would suffice? OTGH, if you can boil water you can cook so that is important.

    Now that we have a camping stove and a hand-grinder, my coffee habit is disaster-safe.

    Reply
  38. Octavian @ Full Fat Nutrition

    When you’re thinking about preparing your house for future disasters, remember not to prepare for anything too specific.
    All disaster have commonalities. You will always need 4 things: shelter, energy, water, and food. This is from the rule of threes: you can survive 3 hours of exposure, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.
    You can extrapolate what you will need from there.

    Good advice.

    Reply
  39. Chareva

    @jolly. Thank you for the great post. I bookmarked your site. Oh, I picked up kerosene at Walmart today. It was marked half off on clearance! I put it in a garbage can outside. (Not to worry; We don’t have garbage pick up). I’m nervous to have so much fuel in the house.

    Reply
  40. lantenec

    Oh, I was going to say, you better not bang your head on the desk for that one; you’ll put your head THROUGH the desk….

    Reply
  41. Nowhereman

    Octavian, to add to that list; escape routes, often to and from shelter. A bugout bag is also essential.

    Reply
  42. Greg H

    A wood burning stove is very dangerous healthwise. Cancer, breathing problems, they’re bad news.

    Say what? The smoke goes out the pipes.

    Reply
  43. Alex

    Where we live has a tendency to be south of snow and north of rain, so our ice storms can be really nasty. The last one, a few years ago, had power off in town for a week. But, town is full of trees lining the streets, and it’s an endless nightmare of falling branches. We’re out in the country, where the poles are mostly running along side corn fields, and in that last ice storm, our power went out once for less than an hour. Also, our power company is a rural electric CoOp, which I think may be more customer service oriented than the corporate power Co. that serves in town.

    Our house was originally off the grid, but being my own power company got to be far more hassle than it’s worth, and we had power brought in. But, we still have the inverter, PV array, and battery bank, so when the power goes out, the power doesn’t completely go out for a few hours.

    Here’s my experience based $0.02 with respect to alternative energy technologies. If you’re not willing to water batteries on a regular basis, don’t get vented batteries. I HATE watering batteries, and as a result I boiled dry and destroyed two entire battery banks before switching to a sealed, maintenance-free batteries. And, that was after a bank of reconditioned NiCd batteries failed after one year. Sun Xtender sealed lead-acid deep cycle batteries work great.

    What finally moved us to hook up to the grid was the failure of our Onan propane fueled RV generator on a Saturday afternoon, in the dead of winter, and me having to scramble to town to buy a Coleman genset and a gasoline can from the farm store. I shlepped gas and manually started/stopped the generator for a week before the CoOp was able to come out and string poles out to the house. Generators are loud and noisy and require a fair amount of maintenance. For that reason, I got rid of the generators. I put a beefed up alternator in my truck and installed a 2000 watt inverter, but unless I sit there, keeping the truck rev’d way up, under heavy load the inverter drains down the starter battery, which very quickly kills it. If I get a generator again, I will do what my sister did down in Florida: she got one of those large propane fueled units that sits outside the house, and the company that installed it comes out regularly to do all the maintenance. After a hurricane, she can keep her food cold and enjoy a little air-conditioning for up to a week.

    The benefits of generator inverters is that they are quieter and more fuel efficient. Conventional gensets have to run full time at 3600 or 1800 RPM in order to create 60 Hz AC power. Inverter generators create variable frequency 3-phase AC which is then rectified to DC and fed to an inverter. The inverter creates the 60 Hz, so the engine only speeds up, as necessary to meet the power input requirements of the inverter. If there’s only a small load, the engine runs slower, saving fuel and making less noise.

    Reply
  44. Harry "Snapper" Organs

    Hey Tom, remember the ice storm in Springfield back in 78? We were without electricity for a week. Now that was tough.

    Two words for you –
    1. propane
    2. generator

    When we lived in the ‘civilized’ world of suburban chicago, our power went out so often that we searched for a generator. I bought one at an auction at the Army reserve base near us. It was an old Air Force monster that probably generated a couple megawatts and was once probably used to fire up B17’s in WWII. Thing was so large you needed a lawn tractor to pull it, but it only cost 400 bucks. Of course it drank about 5 gallons of gas per hour and made so much noise that it deeply offended the neighbors. but it kept our refrig and the furnace motor running.

    If you have a military surplus place near you, check it out, you might get a monster like that which would be perfect on the farm.

    Good suggestion.

    Reply
  45. Chareva

    @jolly. Thank you for the great post. I bookmarked your site. Oh, I picked up kerosene at Walmart today. It was marked half off on clearance! I put it in a garbage can outside. (Not to worry; We don’t have garbage pick up). I’m nervous to have so much fuel in the house.

    Reply

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