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Cultivate Simple 58: Preparing for the Worst

December 23rd, 2013

With a half of an inch of ice on the ground and more to come, we discuss being prepared for power outages and natural disasters.

South River Miso a great source for naturally fermented miso and tamari.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 6.07.14 PM

The Basics
– Prepare for the basic essential needs first: warmth and water
– If you live in a cold climate you need to have an alternate source of heat, at it’s most basic a small propane heater works well.
– An oil lamp works well for providing light for a room, it works much better than flashlights

– Batteries (if rechargeables make sure they are all topped off, including cell phones)
– Have a GOOD flashlight
– Inverter to power appliances from your car (less expensive but your car is not ‘built’ for this)
– Generator (more expensive but made for the job)
– A generator is only as good as the supply of fuel you have
– Turn off all your stuff so when the power comes back on it doesn’t overwhelm the grid
Steve Harris’s Website has lots of good information on power.

– Cook a pot of soup the night before, it’s easier to heat up one pot of already prepared food than try to cook without power, if the power doesn’t go out you have food for the next day
– Always have a weeks worth of food on hand
– Canned food is good, raw ingredients are better
– You need a way to cook it. If you don’t have a gas stove that will run without power, make alternate plans (grill, coleman stove, cook over fire)
– If there is an extended power outage, eat perishable food first
– Freeze gallon jugs of water in your freezer (thermal mass)

– Do you have a well or city water
– Gather water in containers for drinking and cooking
– Having a Berkey water filter will save you from having to boil
– Fill the bathtub with water for washing and flushing (tub bladder)
– Your hot water tank is an often overlooked source of water

– Have some cash on hand
– First Aid Supplies
– Sanitary supplies
– Extra items above can be used for trade/barter in extended outages

– People are stupid and stupid people do stupid things when society breaks down

– Have things to do without power/electric: knitting, crocheting, reading, puzzles, games, etc
– Movies on laptop

Book of the Week

What is the longest stretch you have been without power?

15 Comments to “Cultivate Simple 58: Preparing for the Worst”
  1. whit on December 23, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Looking forward to listening this week. Looks like a great episode. My usual date with you guys is listening while my daughter’s in dance class, but we are on Christmas break now. Maybe you’ll keep me company while I wash dishes this week. :)

    When we lived in the city, we lost power for 5 days in a freak ice storm. Tree branches were crashing on and through the roofs, some pockets of the city had power while ours didn’t. We had a really inefficent double sided fireplace for heat and an open floor plan…the double whammy. We ended up nailing flannel sheets to the walls to keep the heat in our living/kitchen area. We used the hot water from the shower to heat the bathroom in the mornings. We cooked on the BBQ on our deck. We played a lot of Clue Jr. with our daughter.

    Worst part was, we lost power the day after I went food shopping for a huge Christmas open house we were planning. The power didn’t come back on before the date, so we ate really well (cream cheese, herb and smoked salmon omelettes really go a long way toward easing the pain of a power outage) :). But there was still so much food lost; throwing it all away made me leary of ever planning something like that again during the winter holidays.

    Hope the ice is melted soon.

    Reply to whit's comment

  2. tami on December 23, 2013 at 7:00 am

    We had an ice storm here in Charlotte about 12 years ago that really kai-boshed the whole area. We were without power for four days. Some folks were without for a week.

    We stuck it out by running our gas fireplace which heated the family room to around 50 degrees. I hung blankets over the door opening to contain the heat and moved a mattress in. Plenty of food that we warmed by the fire. I hated not taking a shower. That was probably the worst part.

    Reply to tami's comment

  3. Amy on December 23, 2013 at 8:42 am

    We went 92 hours without powering January 2012 when rains followed by a cold wind came the day after a snowstorm. The damage to trees was amazing. Entire hillsides of fir and alder looked like toothpicks. We have a big, tall fir in our pasture, and almost every branch broke off of one side. We have a generator with a transfer switch to power some things, but didn’t trust it was running the well correctly, and we have cattle. The power came back on just hours after we returned home with a stock tank full of city water from my brother-in-law’s house 20 minutes away.

    Reply to Amy's comment

  4. Elizabeth on December 23, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Here in northern Oakland county Michigan we have been without power for 30 hours now. We are lucky enough to have bought a house with a generator. We had 1/4 inch of ice yesterday. 1/2 inch could do a lot of damage I would imagine. A walk in the woods with the kids was a beautiful treat! Stay warm!

    Reply to Elizabeth's comment

  5. Nebraska Dave on December 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Susy, being prepared has become a last minute thing in our culture. I’m always amazed at the grocery store rush right before a storm prediction. I try to avoid the store the day before a storm. Your latest podcast sounds interesting but since my schedule will be totally off the routine because of school be out for Christmas vacation, I will have to work in the listening when I can. Probably after he’s in bed at night time. It will in interesting to see how you prepare compared to my preparation.

    The longest I can remember being without power was three days. I happen to be gone visiting my family in Las Vegas at the time and all the freezer and refrigerator food made it through the ordeal probably because I wasn’t home opening up the doors.

    I must have missed the report on whether the guineas made it through the cold night or not. Did they make it? Since there wasn’t a post that there was a loss, I’m assuming they made it OK.

    Have the best icy day that you can.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

    • Susy on December 23, 2013 at 11:36 am

      All but one of the guineas made it and she was taken by a hawk in the early morning, not by the weather. That’s exactly why we like to keep them inside the run at night!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Joan on December 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Four days is probably the longest stretch that we’ve ever gone without power (we weren’t in Maine for the ’98 ice storm). It doesn’t have a huge impact on us though – we heat with wood, and now we are lucky enough to have a portable generator that will keep our lights on, water running and our fridge and freezer cold (thanks to my dad, who bought a whole-house generator and gave me his old portable one!) . The generator isn’t powerful enough to using our cooking appliances, but we can cook on the woodstove (and my husband loves to use the lack of power as an excuse to eat out!).

    Our prep for storms involves making sure our gas cans are filled (to run the generator) and that we bring enough wood into the house that we won’t need to get it from the barn while the storm rages. We also charge up our cell phones and a great little electric lantern that we have. That’s it. We have everything else that we need – the cellar and pantry are full of food, the woodshed is full of firewood, and even if we ran out of generator fuel we could still get by just fine though if it were too warm outside we might lose the frozen and refrigerated food.

    It’s funny though – until we had the generator I actually kind of enjoyed losing power. It was nice to live more simply. Now with the generator our lives aren’t changed much and I miss the little break in time that loss of power provided.

    Reply to Joan's comment

  7. Meg on December 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    After a particularly terrible ice storm here in Massachusetts, we were without power for almost three weeks! Fortunately, we were relatively prepared with 20+ gallons of water put by for drinking and cooking and two bathtubs full for flushing and other non-potable needs. We replenished that from a nearby stream that was still running and got drinking water from a fire station. We have a wood stove so heat wasn’t a factor and our kitchen is gas, so we were able to light it with kitchen matches for cooking. After that experience though, we bought a generator that runs off our propane tank to take care of the basics. As long as we have water, we are fine. I always try to remember to keep our vehicles full because if the area is without power, gas stations are closed.

    Reply to Meg's comment

  8. Kay on December 23, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    3 weeks in 2007. We learned a very good lesson during that time LOL

    Reply to Kay's comment

  9. amy on December 23, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    6 weeks due to an ice storm…..NOT FUN!!

    Reply to amy's comment

  10. Misti on December 23, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    5 days post-Wilma without power, and a few shorter stints with other storms before and after that.

    I’ll have to listen to your podcast next week after the holidays…which means it’ll be a great workday on Monday morning! :)

    Reply to Misti's comment

  11. Jennifer Fisk on December 23, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    This situation is so much like Ice Storm 98 for the coast and just inland regions. Trees are tipped right into the road by the weight of the ice. The longest I’ve gone without power is 44 hours. I now have a Bison Pump which gives me access to my well. That along with a gas stove, wood stove and Power Dome for WiFi, I’m all set for a power outage of duration.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

  12. Crinia on December 23, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Wow you guys get really long power outages I think the longest for us is about 6 hours and I thought that was bad. Amy has a good idea with the back up generator I should add that to the list of things to buy for our property. The biggest hassle with power outages for us is the no running water so a back up generator just for the water pump would be great. When we get bushfires in the district we get power outages but you usually know they are coming so you can fill buckets and the bath with water in preparation.

    Reply to Crinia's comment

  13. Colleen on December 24, 2013 at 10:42 am

    The longest we have been without power was about 5 or 6 days. I have heard stories about many years ago, during an icy winter storm, some of the homes on our island were without power for closer to two weeks.

    You topic of being prepared is one we are very involved with in our neighborhood. There is a program the Red Cross created called Map Your Neighborhood. Since during a major disaster the emergency system can become overwhelmed with calls (especially our volunteer fire department). The function of this program is to have neighborhoods prepare together as well as individual homes for an assortment of emergencies or disasters. This has encouraged us all to be prepared and build community within our neighborhood. We live fairly close to a main city, however, we live on an Island and are considered “remote”. We are encouraged to be prepared for at least one week and up to three weeks.

    Take good care. Ice storms are beautiful, but can be difficult.

    Reply to Colleen's comment

  14. Mary Schier on December 26, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Our powerlines are buried so the power only goes out when the substation goes out as it has for short times in the past. My folks spent three days without power because of a summer storm this past summer. You are right about the coffee — that was what bothered them most. Luckily, my sister lives nearby and got an emergency pot of coffee to them each morning. I got a Chemex for Christmas, so can cross that one off my preparations list. Great information on this podcast!

    Reply to Mary Schier's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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