January 19, 2012

Off Grid

I remember when I was younger waking up occasionally to a power outage. My mom would break out the candles and my brothers, sisters, and myself would get dressed, brush our teeth, and have breakfast all by candle light. As a kid this was something I always enjoyed, the excitement of not knowing when the power was going to comeback on.

Nowdays, this is something that I still enjoy. No TV or music in the background, no digital clocks to tell you your running late to something thats not really that important, and finding creative ways to prepare your meals. It is refreshing to have pure silence, like waking up to birds chirping and fresh crisp air on a cool summer morning after a night of camping.

In those circumstances it also shows us that we cannot always rely on " The Grid". At first it can be exciting and at other times such as the September 14, 2008 power outage as a result of hurricane Ike, it can induce panic. So as the boy scouts say it, "always be prepared". It is also important to be able to adapt, improvise and overcome.

Some of the ways we are able to prepare for times like these is to stock up on the things you may need such as candles, matches or lighters, maybe a few cans of butaine, and non perishable food. There are few things worse then simply having no light but it's to no ones advantage to have a fridge or freezer jam packed with food that ends up going to waste when it spoils from no electric keeping it cool. If you are unable to avoid having a jammed packed fridge or freezer due to the size of your family you should also look into investing in an electric generator. That way you will have a buffer zone in order to consume those perishable goods before they spoil. If you have a generator make sue you keep extra gas on hand.

Thinking of the moment you wake up to the time you go to rest your head, how much do you truly rely on the electric in your home?

For myself, I wake up to the flashing of our digital clock. I get up and turn on the light in the bathroom and take a nice warm shower, courtesy of our electric water heater. I brush my teeth using water from the faucet pumped by our electric well pump. I go back to my bedroom, flick on the light to pick out what I want to wear, and get dressed. I then head to the kitchen where I turn on another light. I get milk and maybe an egg, to fix breakfast on our electric stove, from the fridge. I warm up some milk in the microwave to give a bottle or sippy cup to our son and it's not even 8:00 AM. I've already relied on electric for most of my morning tasks. Although I allow myself to use these luxuries it is far from where I want to be.

To start out, we made sure we had an old analog wind-up clock. By having one of these in your home you are removing the need for electric and giving your children (if you have any which we do) the knowledge of how the read a real clock instead of numbers separated by dots.

Next, we already have a small cache of candles to light our home. Some are store bought and some are homemade. In a future post I will show you how to make homemade candles as it is a good skill to have. As a precaution, do not light too many candles in confined spaces. I learned that a few years back at my Aunts Christmas party. Yes everything looked beautiful and fun until everyone was coughing, gagging and pouring out into the street from the home filling with smoke. Always place your candles where they will not catch anything on fire such as drapes, home decor, or anything combustible in general. You do not want to catch your home on fire especially in the dry winter months when it can rapidly spread and destroy everything to have worked so hard to obtain.

Then there was the nice warm shower. There is nothing wrong with taking a cold shower but when it's warm it can be healing and provide a soothing atmosphere to recap and think. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to think when you are focusing on staying warm. Two thoughts that come to mind in this kind of situation are to: A. start boiling buckets of water for a bath, or B. skipping a shower all together. The current status of cleanliness at that point in time is a good indicator as to which option to choose. I, myself, am pretty well maintained (unless I'm working in the garden) so I may be able to go a few days of skipping a shower. Lenny on the other hand is constantly working with grease, oil, dirt, and anything else he can get his hands on, so he may need to boil a few buckets.

Did you know a home that has no running water is considered uninhabitable? Well at least that's what insurance companies say. I could have stayed in a nice hotel and let the housekeeping make my bed for a few days if I had known that in '08. Our house is currently set up on an electric pump, so when the power goes off so does our water supply. I've been talking to Lenny and have came to the conclusion that we will definitely need to install a hand pump. The downside is that those can run in the hundreds of dollars.  Typically, the hand pump would sit side-by-side with your electric pump down the same well-shaft. It averages about 2 gallons per minute, and pumping strength varies from 11 to 20 pounds. Hopefully Lenny can fabricate something that resembles this in order to avoid paying an arm and a leg, but who knows it may end up being a pretty darn good investment.

There are many ways to heat up a meal. You can throw a few hobos (mixture of meat and veggies wrapped in foil, not the people) on a fire, which can be the fire in your fireplace, wood burning stove, or fire pit in your back yard. You can cook with a dutch oven, pull out the camping stove and butane, we even have a kerosene heater where the top is flat and heats up like a stove burner, or use a rocket stove which takes little wood to produce a lot of heat. There are many ways to improvise this aspect of a power outage. If you do not have access to fire you can also try out solar cooking. For this all you need is a cardboard box, a pane of glass and some foil.Place your food in a covered lightweight pan inside the box, prop it so the entire interior is exposed to the sunlight (about a 45-degree angle), cover with the sheet of glass (and tape the glass so it won’t slide), then prop the aluminum foil panels (the flaps of the box covered in foil) so that they reflect more sunlight down into the box. Move the box every 30 minutes so it maintains an even temperature. It will get hot fast, easily up to 325 degrees.

For more information or if you have any suggesions feel free to e-mail me at thehomesteadjones@yahoo.com.

1 comment:

  1. another nice piece of equipment I came across, is a Kelly Kettle or volcano kettle, a container (either stainless steel or aluminum) in 3 different sizes, that uses kindling, and small combustables to heat water or use for cooking. I thought it was great for camping and hiking, so instead of hauling gallons of water, I could boil water along the way and use it with it's optional cooktop