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By February 24, 2012 Read More →

Surviving a harsh winter

By concretegardenstx

This post may seem a little odd now, as it seems like most people (well, at least here in TX) are having very warm weather. But as we all know, weather can be unpredictable, and you never know when you will get that March storm that makes it seem like TEOTWAWKI.

I actually had my own mini collapse a few years back. We were living in a rural area, when a sudden winter ice storm knocked out power for a week, and we even lost water for a day. We weren’t preppers back then, but we managed to make it through with what we had. I’d like to share my experience and offer some tips on what we did right, and what we learned from it all.

The foremost concern we had at the time was keeping warm. It helped that we had a fireplace, and firewood already. I cannot stress this enough that I feel that having a fireplace, or a woodstove, or some other non electric heat generator should be a must if you live in a cold climate. I made sure that when we went looking for a new house, we had to have a fireplace. But you also have to make sure that you have wood. We had some wood on the rack, but some wood was at the end of the property that had been cut by the electric company, and trudging down to the end of the property in the cold snow and ice is not fun. Don’t be lazy, always make sure that your wood is where it should be! The other thing you need to figure in is ashes. Running your fireplace 24/7 for a week generates a LOT of ash! We were lucky that it wasn’t too long after Christmas, and those lovely metal popcorn tins were great canisters to hold the hot ash (just be careful, wear gloves, as the canisters heat up quickly!) and let the cans cool off outside, to be emptied and used again. Another important way to keep warm is blankets. Not just any blankets. I highly recommend getting as much fleece as possible. I was working on a craft project, so I had a lot of large, uncut pieces of fleece. The fleece retains heat amazingly well! I also remembered I had a fleece shirt, so I wore that the whole week. I recommend checking the fabric stores for when fleece goes on sale, and stocking up on pieces, maybe about 2 yards or so. If you can sew, even better! Make some nice flannel shirts, pants, booties, whatever! Don’t forget to utilize your pets. If you have cats, dogs, or whatever, let them under the covers with you!

After heat, you need to make sure that you have enough water. All you good little preppers out there probably have enough water, but we didn’t have any. We had water until one day the water just stopped. It turned out that the RWD that provided our water lost electricity, so they were unable to pump water to us. If the power goes out, fill all the containers that you can with water, just in case. You can also use fresh snow, just make sure you boil it first! And never take it in in snow form, as it does not hydrate you. Don’t forget to have extra for flushing the toilet!

As good little preppers, I’m sure you have enough food. If it’s cold, anything in the freezer or even fridge would store well outside. We put our stuff in a cooler and put it outside, making sure it was secured so no animals could get into it. One device we had was a long two pronged fork. I suppose it’s used for campfires, but it worked great with cooking hotdogs in the fireplace. We also had a handheld butane torch, which worked great for making grilled cheese sandwiches. We were lucky enough that we still had our natural gas supply, so I was able to cook on the stove top (the oven had an electric ignition, so we couldn’t use that). PLEASE make sure that there is nothing on your stove before you use it. I missed seeing an electrical cord to an appliance that happened to be on the burner, and couldn’t figure out what the horrible smell was. Imagine it being 20 degrees outside and having to open the doors trying to get the smoke out of the house! I would also recommend knowing where your gas line is coming into your house, and how to turn it off. In a snowstorm, gas is great, but if there is a bomb or earthquake you may want to shut that off.

Lighting is something that will make the nighttime bearable. It gets dark early in the winter, and not having enough light is boring, and after a week it’s miserable. We did have a hand crank LED flashlight, but only one. I had a mini LED booklight that I clipped to my shirt to try and crochet, but it was hard on the eyes after awhile. Oil lamps are great as long as you are careful, and battery operated lamps are good too, as long as you have some sort of solar recharger for your battery. What I wish I would have had was solar powered garden lights. I like to put as many of these in my garden as possible. They can charge during the day, and I can bring them in at night to illuminate the darkness. As much as I love candles, I don’t think they are good for long term luminescence, as they don’t give off a lot of light and they can burn quickly. There is also the risk of a fire hazard!

I’ll never forget our adventure, and the lessons I learned from it. We were all pretty proud for surviving it, but I know that with my preps now we can handle it even better.

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4 Comments on "Surviving a harsh winter"

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  1. Holly says:

    They say what we learn in the school of “Hard Knocks” always makes a lasting impression =).

    Our power went out for about 6 hours a few weeks back. We had invested in those ‘Black-out Buddies’ for a few locations in our home and we LOVE them! They are flashlights that stay plugged into a wall socket, and when the power goes out, the flashlight comes on. It allowed us to have enough light to get the matches and light the lamps, candles, etc.

    I know so many people who just expect to always be able to turn the faucet on and have water come out, and always expect to be able to just go to the store, or turn up the thermostat. When you ask them what they would do in an emergency, they just think it will never happen to them. Thanks again for sharing your experience!

  2. Lyle says:

    When you say you needed water – there is one place most people forget about – it is the water heater – I have a 50 gallon water heater – so – no matter what other water source I use – I still have about 50 gallons – if you use this – make sure to shutoff the feed from the street – as if the water comes back on – it may be contaminated from sitting in the pipes.

    I love the idea of the Garden lights – I think I will have to buy some more this summer – thanks for the great idea

  3. TED says:


  4. doug says:

    I guess our preparedness for severe cold is at two levels:  
    1st for short duration we have a 10, 000  BTU Kerosun heater.  A couple of times we used it (power outages and once for a major furnace problem) it is enough to keep out drafty old farm house at 65 degrees when the outside temps were -20 degrees .  Yes it “eats” kerosene on the plus side of 2 in really cold weather.
    2nd for anything really long term we’ve a wood stove that will get moved inside, along with chimney part necessary to get her going.   Yes there are 2 cords of wood slpit under a tarp on pallets with more dried wood that needs spliting just to warm me up.