Saturday, March 12, 2016

Power outage - How we survive and thrive when the power is out

Last week, the power went out for 24 hours. A few years ago, the power was out for five days! I HATE power outages for many reasons, but I'm also trying to look at the bright (ha!!!) side of having no electricity.  Here are some of the main problems we face, and solutions we came up with.


Problem: 

Obviously, living without electricity is a pain in the bootie, especially when you power three freezers (Yup. We raise a lot of our own meat). I know that the hundreds of pounds of my home made cheese are fine in the crawl space under the house, but I always worry about our frozen food. 


Solution: 

Get a generator. We use this one. These things are loud and smelly and obnoxious, but they really work. We run an extension cord with a splitter so that we can plug in our inside freezer and our refrigerator all at once for a few hours. We also use it to recharge battery powered lights, the computer, and our modem for the internet. Never use a generator inside the house, otherwise you might get carbon monoxide poisoning! Make sure you always have extra gas in a gas can so the generator won't run out of it.

Don't open the fridge or freezer unnecessarily, otherwise you let cold air out. If your freezer is not full, you might want to fill it with water bottles before a power outage happens. The frozen water will help it stay cold, and you can defrost the bottles for drinking water. Most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed fridge for several hours. A full freezer will keep cold enough for about 48 hours.

We also use the generator to power up our modem and recharge the computer. Since I run my business online, I need to have access to the internet. That generator is a life saver when it comes to connecting with the world! I hate to admit it, but I do rely on the internet a lot. We live in the wilderness (that's literally why we are the last people to get our power back after a bad wind storm). Having access to the internet allows me to feel connected to the world, read up on news, check in with my friends, and run my business.

By the way, it's a good idea to disconnect appliances and other equipment in case of a momentary power surge, because a power surge could damage them.


Problem: 

We get our water from a well that needs electricity for its pump. When the power goes out, we run out of water quickly. We don't drink soda pop or other bottled beverages, so we mostly rely on drinking water. Dishes pile up in the sink and toilets don't get flushed (why do my kids always forget that we have an outhouse that needs to be visited when the power is out?)


Solution: 

If we get advanced warning that the power might go out (if the weather forecast predicts windy weather), we fill up bottles for drinking water before we lose electricity and therefore our water pump. 

If we don't get advanced warning and we lose power, we immediately fill bottles for drinking water to use up the remaining water that's hanging out in the pressure tank. Otherwise, it's too easy to forget that the power is out, and someone flushes the toilet, which uses up a lot of water.

People have been known to fill up their bath tubs so they can wash dishes, flush the toilet etc with it.

Problem:

It's sooooooo dark where we live in the winter. And some of us (ahem) go a little tiny bit crazy when there's not enough light. Everything is harder in the dark: milking goats, feeding my kids, reading...


Solution:

Invest in some battery powered lights and oil lamps. Really. Candles are cute and all, but they can be dangerous when you forget about them and burn your house down. We do use candles, of course, and they add a romantic glow to dinner, but we blow them out as soon as we walk away.

We love us a good head lamp. We use them every day - power outage or not. Doing chores at night (locking in the goats, feeding pigs, tucking in the ducks) would not be possible without a good head lamp. We love this one. I wouldn't want to be without it during a power outage.

Oil lamps are great when you need more diffused light. They are easy to handle, create good light, and are so Little-house-on-the-prairie. I feel like a real frontiers woman when I light that lamp. We have this one, and it has served us very well.


Problem:

So if you are not supposed to open the fridge and freezer, what do you eat? What if you have an electric stove? How do you cook?


Solution:

Fortunately, we have a wood stove. It's the only source of heat in our house, and it lets us cook on top of it. Oh, I love this wood stove! When the power is out, I put a big pot of soup on it, or I throw in some food I canned in the summer and fall.

Our pantry is usually well stocked (they don't call me a homesteader for nothin'!), but if you don't have access to that scenario, you still can be prepared by purchasing easy-to-prepare canned foods, like soups or beans.

Many people use camping stoves or propanes stoves to heat water or cook food during a power outage. A single burner stove works great if you don't have too much volume, or you can use a two burner setup.

Problem:

This time of year, the baby chicks we hatched in an incubator need a heat lamp, since they don't have a Mama chicken protecting them under her wings. Lordy, lordy, do I fret over these fluffballs! Yes, they're fluffly, but they can't generate much of their own heat, and I don't want them to suffocate by piling up on each other to stay warm.


Solution:

We put them in front of the wood stove and kept the wood stove cranked. This created huge amusement when our puppy found out how fascinating baby chicks are. The puppy put her face close up and bit the door, while the baby chicks pecked at her teeth. Don't worry - we were always there to supervise the rising level of our puppy's frenzy enthusiasm.

Sorry for the bad lighting, but... you know...


Problem:

You run out of chocolate. Gasp!!!!!

Solution:

Make my amazing, healthy raw chocolate truffles in advance, and make sure you never, never, never run out! Here's my video tutorial on how to make them.

Then there are other issues like having your first aid kit updated at all times, having access to a phone (preferably a landline you can hook into directly when you lose power, since cell towers can be affected by power outages), and other details like that.

The silver lining:

Although I don't like power outages because they inconvenience our comfortable way of living, a part of me cherishes the time without electricity, noise and distraction.

Our life style is more down-to-earth, unconventional, and slower than most Americans are used to, but in a power outage, we tend to slow down even more, spend more quality time as a family, and - our favorite - play games around the kitchen table by candle light. There are some great board games out there, y'all! We've been addicted to this game lately.

There's a part of me that kind of likes power outages and the unhurried, unplugged, quiet change of pace it brings.

Don't get me wrong: I'm the first one to do a happy dance when the electricity comes back on. I elbow my family members out of the way to be first in line for a shower. I get excited about doing dishes.

And still... For days after the power comes on again, I light candles more frequently, and the kids ask to play games at night. It's lovely, all of it.

I will leave you with images from the day of the power outage.

The kitchen, without power, but with plenty of natural light (Yippie for a break in the rain!):


Sure signs of spring:


Baby chicks, hanging out with Eva on the sofa.  Yes, I have to clean up the poop. No, I don't mind. You might, if you come visit and dare to sit on the sofa.



My sons' friend (the dude with the pink hair) stayed for a sleepover, and in the morning I forced them to go outside for a walk. They grumbled, but I told them they could be sitting in school just then. The joys of homeschooling!




Tell me: What do you do in a power outage? How do you feel about 'em?


Power Outage Checklist

Essentials

□ Self-powered flashlights
□ Candles
□ Glowsticks
□ Matches
□ Lighter
□ First aid kit: bandages, gauze, tape, scissors, hydrogen peroxide, antiseptic ointment, pain medications, and prescription medications
□ Batteries
□ Self-powered radio
□ Extra cell phone car chargers
□ Water (a gallon per person per day)
□ Coolers
□ Ice
□ Extra water bottles that can be used as ice packs
□ Canned goods
□ Can opener
□ Trash bags, paper plates, flatware
□ Water purifier bottles
□ Warm clothes
□ Copies of personal documents
□ Emergency contact info
□ Pocket money

Appliances

□ Camping stove
□ Propane tank or charcoal

Entertainment

□ Board games
□ Playing cards





22 comments:

  1. We went solid state with our 15 cu. ft freezer: two marine batteries and an inverter run the freezer for 3 days. Because power outages are usually in winter, and we keep the freezer at 0 degrees, the ambient temperature lets the freezer stay below 32 degrees for up to a week, depending on how cold it is outside. I finally got a $60 switch that automatically switches to batteries when the power goes out. We didn't want the noise or maintenance of a generator, though the battery avenue is limited. We can't run the pump house on batteries!

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  2. Thank you for sharing. We too hate when power gors out. We have a woodstove, love cooking on it.last time it went out ( last week). JERRY took a piece of Aluminum Foil laid it on top of woodstove and made a nice grilled cheese sandwich and I made some bean and bacon soup.....love that.We do have a generator for pumphouse, fridgeand our freezer, and landline , computer too. Love were we live..

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  3. If you are in the market for a new propane stove - read the instructions carefully before buying. Some new stoves (like the Whirlpool we got last year) don't even allow you to light the range top manually when the power goes out. Most modern stoves don't let you light the oven - that's just how it is. I really liked the stove (it was used, so couldn't be returned anyway), so I pretty much disassembled it to find and disable the interlock. Finding out before buying is way easier.

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    1. So true! It's good to do research before buying such an expensive item anyway, but keeping power outages in mind when researching is even better!

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  4. Here in New Hampshire, the power goes out once or twice a year. We use kerosene lanterns and the wood stove for heat but I have an old wood cookstove that I love and that is used in cold weather whether or not we have a power outage. Like you, I don't open the refrigerator or freezer unless absolutely necessary! We are lucky enough to have a spring not far from the house that doesn't freeze unless it's very, very cold so water, thank goodness, isn't a problem unless one wants to bathe -- I suppose that's what the ponds and streams are for..... Lastly but importantly, we have a generator, too, but only use it in the winter. Did I mention winters are cold?

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    1. Oh yes, New Hampshire winter's are cold! Don't you loooooove your wood stove?

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  5. Here's a little tidbit about freezers vs fridges. A chest freezer is best. Think of the cold inside like ping pong balls. When you open the fridge the cold spills out like ping pong balls. When you open a chest freezer the cold stays in because cold air sinks (flows down). So take whatever you can from the fridge and put it in your chest freezer and it will stay better longer.

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    1. One of our freezers outside is a chest freezer. I have a love-hate relationship with it, because I have dig in it to find the cuts of meat I want. I guess I could organize them better...

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    2. We have a small chest freezer and a stand up freezer and now that I know about the ping pong balls I decided to be happy about the digging and I organized it and labelled everything with big huge names. Are you floating away up there? We almost are but with much digging of drainage channels we are still here. Love the rain. No, really, love it.

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  6. Goodness, here's my third time trying to post! I kept choose the wrong, "Comment as" selection and it kept deleting my post. ACK! Of course, I'm pretty sure you have no control over that, so no worries!

    Anyway, I was going to say how we deal with being on well water during a power outage. We flush our toilets with water from our rain barrel or (before we had a rain barrel) water from our stream or pond. We just fill up a five gallon bucket of water and pour it into the toilet bowl until all the waste goes down. It usually takes about 2 gallons to flush that way, but none of it came from the well. I also put painters or masking tape over the handle to remind the family not to flush.

    We also conserve water by only using it for drinking, washing hands, and rinsing dishes. During a long power outage, I boil water from our rain barrel and use that to scrub/soak the dishes, and just rinse them with a dribble sink water. We also have low-flow nozzles, which helps a lot, too.

    During the big power outage this fall, we were out of power for a little over three days, and never ran out of well water, though the pressure did get pretty low during the end (we have a pressure tank for our well, which is I think 65 gallons). We also fill up one or two five gallon jugs with water and keep them always full with relatively fresh water, just in case!

    Oh, and our pressure tank also has a spigot at the base which we can hook to a hose and fill up our jugs that way, if we ever run out of pressure but still have water. Check and see if yours does, too!

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    1. Ack, so frustrating trying to post a comment three times! Sorry about that!

      Thanks for your input on the water situation. It's fun to see how different people deal with power outages!

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  7. My favorite things about power outages:
    - the quiet (no humming electronic stuff)
    - slowing down
    - connecting with our neighbors (when the outage lasts for days, our neighbors pull together and help each other out)

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    1. I so agree with you. I also love our community of neighbors who all help each other. It's a beautiful thing!

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  8. I kept this blog for in depth reading. We are in the midst of packing and moving to our very own homestead and I need two of me! I did just now read it in depth and I agree with everything you say but for the life of me I never thought of cooking on the wood stove! Great idea! Then that inspires me to think of cooking on the webber grill. YES I love that there are no electrical motors humming. I actually love it when the power goes out. I wish there were some noiseless way to power the computer. But then It's good to go unplugged from time to time. By choice!

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    1. Oh, yes, simmering soup on top of the wood stove, even without a power outage, is a common scene around here! Good luck with moving! So excited for you!

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  9. Our current game of choice is dominoes, we've worked up to dbl 12's. Although the kids prefer dbl 9's. Not that the kids are little, they're all in their 20's. And I do love my old lamp for power outages, it reminds me of stay over nights at my Grandma's when I was little. No running water, no electricity & no phone. Although they did have propane lights in several rooms, the kind with mantles.
    Thanks for the memory.
    Susie Wilson (aka MomShoots)

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    1. Dominoes! I remember that! Maybe I should get some...

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  10. Hi. I just came across your blog and am enjoying it. I love the batik flags you have hanging in your kitchen. Would you mind sharing where you got them? Thanks!

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    1. Yes, Maureen, I love these flags, too. I also have some in my bathroom that are even more gorgeous.
      I bought mine locally in a shop, but you can go online and get them there.
      The ones in my kitchen are from a place called goodkarmaflags.com

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    2. I was not surprised to see that the origination was Nevada City CA. Gotta love us crunchies here in CA and more specifically crunchies in Nev City. As a matter of fact as soon as I get a flag pole I'm flying an Earth Flag. I've had it with annoying provincialism and destructive nation states. I'm declaring our homestead a province of The Planet Earth. There, I've said it!

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