What We Do

We have had two scenarios: warning and no warning.  Almost everything we do was learned the hard way.   Keep in mind we plan for 2+ weeks, because that is how long people in our area have been without power.  Our next-door neighbor was without for almost 3, because a tree took out the lines connected to his house.   He had to wait for an available electrician to fix it.

Warning version:

“There’s a Nor’easter heading our way.  It’ll be here in two days.”

The goal is to live in such a way these things are always done, so we don’t rush around trying to get them done or get caught with our pants down if there isn’t a warning.

1)  With a warning, all cars are immediately filled along with gas cans that are used for various things like the snow blower.

Unless they are already full, they get filled.  Unless someone uses a ton of gas driving, they don’t get touched again before the storm hits.

We have a standing rule: if a car hits half a tank of gas, it gets filled.  No car is allowed to go below half.    This has saved our butts on a few occasions like when we were caught in a 4 hour traffic jam, due to an accident, while on a family car trip to see grandparents halfway across the country.  We were driving a 15 passenger van which isn’t great on gas.

All propane tanks are normally filled no matter what.  As soon as one is empty, it is filled, so we rarely have an empty one. We have two for the grill, one for the camper (eventually will be two) plus the large one for our stove.

2) All feed and hay are checked. All animal water is kept filled; spare waterers/buckets are filled and put in the house to keep from freezing.  This is actually a daily thing that we do anyhow.  We are changing waterers out every few hours due to cold.

I usually keep feed and hay stocked, but stuff does happen and back-ups can get used.  If needed, a feed run is done.

3) Everyone gets their laundry completely washed and dried including bedding.

Washed is the important part.  We can dry by hanging if necessary.

4) One reason the kids love power outages:  I bake.  Muffins, cookies, bread, etc.   Any power outage is better with a brownie or treat.

5) The house gets dusted, vacuumed, bathrooms scrubbed and all dishes washed.

Disease can be a major issue in long-term outages, plus have you ever tried washing dishes without water?

6) Personal products are checked.  Not having enough diapers (no longer applies here) or feminine items makes for a miserable and messy time.

7) The day of or before it hits,  everyone showers.

I blew off a shower once.  I didn’t really need one, so why take it?  I figured how long could we lose power?  We lost it and didn’t get it back for about four days.  Guess what the first thing I did was?  I don’t blow off showers anymore.

8) After all showers are done, containers of water are filled for cooking purposes and the tubs get filled with water.

The tub water is our washing/flush a stinky toilet water.  We have a well, so no power = no flushing.  Our rule is #1 stays until it starts stinking; #2 is flushed immediately.  It’s done by filling the back tank with the bathtub water using a pitcher and flushing as usual.

9) All emergency lighting is brought out and placed around the house. We have two back-up lights, one in each bathroom.  After a child was caught literally with pants down in a dark bathroom, I keep a light in there.  I recently switched to these.  They work well enough that I don’t turn on the bathroom light half the time, because the nightlight feature is bright enough for me.   I plan on buying more for the living room, bedrooms and hallway.   The night-light can be turned off, and it can also be used as a flashlight.

We already keep a working flashlight in each room, but sometimes they like to wander off.   When you live in a rural area, lose power at night with no moon, it’s pretty freaking dark.   Like pitch black dark.  I’d need Riddick to find anything.

All computers are on APC UPS bricks to allow for shut-downs.   It also gives extra light from the monitor to find the flashlight. We had a lightning strike, power surge and electronics were blown, because they were plugged into the wall.   That was an expensive lesson.  We started buying the UPS bricks shortly after that.

10) Coolers are brought in and cleaned in case food needs to be stored outside in the cold, emergency heaters are readied, and all rechargeable items are recharged.

11) A check of the freezer and refrigerator to double-check what we have on hand and recipes to confirm we have all the ingredients.  We have an upright freezer, and I keep containers of frozen water in the bottom to help keep it cold if the power goes out.   It’s in the basement, so it stays fairly cool even if we lose power in the summer.

12) Version 1: everything is fine.  We have a clean house, clean clothes, lights and a sense of relief.  The tubs are drained, container water is used up, and life goes on.

13)  Version 2: Bye-bye power.

14) Heaters are started and sleeping bags are unpacked.  We have space blankets from a sporting goods store (not the cheap stuff) that can be hanged to reflect heat back into the room.

The portable kerosene heater in the basement warms the living room floor that is above it, so people camp in the living room.  A portable propane emergency heater rated for indoor use is set up between the living room and kitchen, and it is aimed into the living room.   Depending on the indoor temperature, we may or may not start it.  The goal is not to keep warm.  The goal is to not freeze to death.  There is a difference.  Either way, the temperatures here will drop by 20 degrees at night, so it is started at sundown.  Fuel for two weeks is always on hand.

Two big-ticket items we’d like to get are a wood/pellet stove and a generator.  We almost had money for the generator this year, but things happened and it wasn’t possible.

15) Since I have a propane cook top, I can cook anything that can be cooked in a pot or pan: cornbread, eggs, spaghetti, etc.  I also keep peanut butter, crackers, canned fruit, canned veggies, and other food on hand in case we run out of fresh and can’t get to the store.   I have a solar oven for summer outages which allows me to bake bread, make stews outdoors and more.  And we have a never-ending supply of eggs.

16)  Remember FEMA recommends one gallon of water per person per day.  We have seven people in the house.  That’s a lot of water. In addition to the water listed above, we  have cases of bottled water that we rotate every few months.   I prefer to not drink out of plastic, but in an emergency you have to give certain things up.  I also have a filter system that I can run the bottled water through if I want to.

In addition to all that, we have a five gallon tank under the kitchen sink that is part of our reverse osmosis system, the well tank in the basement and the hot water heater.   Between all three, I think that is about 75 gallons.

17) We keep crafts, drawing paper and pencils, playing cards, tons of board games, books, etc.   Some of the funniest games of Scattergories has been during power outages.

18) For those who work, we have a battery operated alarm clocks plus they use their cell phones.  We can recharge using the car chargers.

Obviously, this is changed a bit in summer weather, but the basics are still the same.   We eat from the refrigerator first, then the freezer, then canned/packaged items.   Because of my business, I do have freeze-dried and dehydrated foods on hand.

If the power went out now?

I’d be in a bit of trouble.

The dishwasher is broken and my hands can only take so much dish washing even with natural soaps, so there are dishes in the sink.  However, we do keep paper products stocked just in case.  Laundry needs to be done, but my son is in the middle of his.

We have hay, feed, water, food and fuel to last two weeks.

I need a shower, but I’m about to go out and clean the coop.  We do, however, have personal wipes to help clean ourselves in lieu of bathing.  I’ve also looked up how to “dry shampoo” hair so we can have sort of clean hair.  We’d be okay.

Any suggestions or ideas are always welcome.



2 thoughts on “What We Do

  1. Don’t you find that burning kerosine (paraffin) heater or running those portable bottled gas fire makes for damp?
    We did thus we converted to fitting a solid fuel stove.
    It doesn’t exactly heat the whole house, only the main living areas (never gets hotter that 15 C / 60 F) but that’s plenty for us.


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