In coming weeks and months, this failures of the grid electric system here in Texas will be gone over in excruciating detail. That is not the purpose of this post.
I want to bring up some plans and upgrades that we will be doing here that you might want to take note of.
Our personal fails touched on all the main needs: Health and physical ability, Food and Water, Shelter and
Health and physical ability: Neither of us had paid much attention to decreasing level of fitness, strength, and recurring injuries. We had allowed ourselves to drop successful nutritional actions – mostly drinking kombucha and taking vitamins. Rahn spent far too much time with back pain and I had let poor sleep decrease my energy level and ability to handle a heavy project load.
Food: I thought I was “adulting” by paying attention to the forecast and getting to the grocery store and feed store two days ahead of the forecasted storm. I got over $200 worth of groceries, $50 worth of feed, and put $20 in the gas tank. I filled water bottles, and made sure I had the recirculating pump in the rain barrels turned on.
As things fell out; the lack of alternate ways to cook meals made the interruption in electric service dangerous. Lack of hot food in cold weather can speed the onset of hypothermia.
A simple recirculating pump was totally inadequate to keep our stored water from freezing. This made keeping our rabbits and chickens safe far more difficult.
Shelter: I didn’t make any particular preparations so far as the house went. I did make sure I knew where my candles were,, and had fresh batteries in the flashlights.
Inadequate insulation in the house, and the inoperable wood stove also added to the danger level.
Clothing: We did not have proper winter clothing, and this could have killed us.
Having examined how we failed to protect ourselves, we need to make sure it never happens again. Increasing our self-responsibilty level requires a number of improvements.
We certainly can’t count on luck!
Health and physical ability: We are back to daily consumption of Rahn’s health TreaT – a specially brewed and upgraded home – produced kombucha – and vitamins. We are also starting multiple visits a week to a local gym, and will be working with a personal trainer at least five times a month. This will require some fairly substantial outlay, but we have negotiated a plan that is doable.
Food: While we plan to vastly increase the amount and variety of food grown at home, I need to put some attention on fast meals with minimum cooking time. The emphasis here will be on canned and dehydrated foods and not on things that require thawing or a microwave oven for heating.
I have a good dehydrator and need to add a pressure canner and jars. A nutrient-dense soup or stew that can be put on the wood stove in a week like we just survived will make a HUGE difference.
While I would like to add a chest freezer, more jars and a pressure canner may be a better option.
Water: Extended hard freezes can be planned for. The best option here may be two-fold. Since the wood stove will see a lot of use during a hard freeze, a copper pipe around the chimney and water line to the water storage is easy and inexpensive. A pex solar hot water panel is another inexpensive option, and can be easily adapted to melt snow and ice for animal water usage.
Shelter: Two things are essential. Improved insulation and a working wood stove. There will be a number of upgrades and additions to the house this year, so more insulation, a radiant floor heating system, and the blocking of the pneumonia holes are part of that.
The parts for the stove have been ordered and will be here soon. Some decisions need to get made regarding the location of a wood-fired hot water using heat from the stove pipe, or a solar water heater using a coil of pex tubing – and preferably both.
We do have two chain saws, and plenty of access to firewood. We have a log splitter on layaway, and expect to be able to get it out in a week or two. One of the chain saws is a small electric model that I can handle easily.
Energy: Installing grid electric was the least expensive option when we first moved the mobile home here. We do still plan to follow our original goal of adding zoned solar power generation
Even the $200 Harbor Freight solar kit would be a step in the right direction. That kit consists of a minimal mounting kit, a charge controller, four 25 watt solar panels, and a blocking diode to prevent night time discharging. It does not come with batteries or an inverter.
While we have already eliminated this kit from our plans, it gives an opening for discussion. There are plenty of videos on YT that deal with how to size a solar power system for various loads.
The basic problem with this system that it is woefully undersized for anything larger than a few 12 volt lights and maybe a phone charger. It can’t run a laptop for more than an hour a day, for example. If you want to power that laptop for five hours per day, you would need at least 600 watts of panels and four deep cycle golf cart batteries.
You would also need a higher amperage charge controller, higher cost wire, more space, more battery connectors, and a battery box to keep children and animals from access. This much amperage can kill.
Here is another option. The 900 watt gas generator from Harbor Freight only costs about $100. It will run for 5 hours on a gallon of gas, though it can charge those four golf cart batteries in only an hour. Since sunny days would not be an issue, you could also use that power day or night, sunny or cloudy rather than having to design in having extra wattage capacity to allow for poor weather.
Having generator backup will allow fewer batteries to carry a load, and let you expand panel arrays. Batteries are much more expensive than panels, and mismatching power capacity and battery age can cause several technical problems.
Clothing: While real cold-weather gear is generally not required in north Texas, having it and not needing it is much better than the reverse. Waterproof barn boots with heavy wool liners, long underwear, a sweater or two for layering, and wool mittens are good things to have in the closet. The waterproof boots would also be useful during spring mud, for instance.
I have a substantial amount of sheep wool in my stash, and plan to process, spin, weave and knit it this year. Hand-knit items, hand-woven blankets, and garment fabric are all on the urgent project list.
We plan to put up a temporary shelter / studio so I can get started on these projects, and we have a sheltered area for outdoor cooking / canning / wood working / general work space.
These actions will allow us to address our failures in preparedness. Freedom should imply that we take our self-responsibility seriously. None of this is to give the impression that we are addressing this with heavy doom and gloom. We take both joy and pride in our ability to be free, productive, and creative.
Create Beauty Every Day!