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Thu, 15 Mar 2018

Remembering Prepping

Hurricane Katrina was a wakeup call for many Americans, our family included. I lived in Connecticut at the time, with a wife and two young children. The realization that if there was a disaster, natural or otherwise, you were largely on your own was sobering. We endeavored to prep, as it were, and over the course of several years we built up a cache of storage food, water and essentials.

For food we stored staples like milk, flour, honey, dried veggies and some dried meals in the 20-year cans. My wife and I started a vegetable garden. I built three raised beds and we attempted to grow various sorts of vegetables over the years (cucumbers and lettuce were the most successful). We had three apple trees and several blueberry bushes on our property.

For cooking we had a propane tank that provided gas for our kitchen stove, and a gas grill, as well as several camp stoves. With no electricity we relied on matches to light the burners, so we had plenty of those.

For water we had four, five-gallon containers of fresh water and lots of smaller spring water bottles - you know the kind you can buy in the grocery store for a few bucks in packs of 24. Because we had a well and could not ensure an unlimited supply of gas to run the water pump off of the generator, we purchased a well bucket, which for a residential well is a long, narrow stainless-steel tube with a one-way flap on the end. The flap lifts when you lower it down into your well, and closes when you pull it up, full of water.

For heat, our house had a wood stove, and we purchased a gas generator. We had an electrician install a transfer switch, so that we could run the major appliances off of the generator safely, including the oil furnace. For fuel we had stored 20 gallons of gasoline (stabilized with Stabil). In the fall we would order four cords of firewood, and I'd stack and split it over the course of a few weeks. A neighbor who had experience in tree work suggested a Fiskars axe, I bought one to replace my old, wooden axe and immediately noticed how much easier it was to split wood with it (it has a specially shaped head and is formed in one piece, I highly recommend it).

For lighting we had various solar lanterns (D-Lite brand), flashlights, lots of candles and several oil lanterns. We had five gallons of lamp oil (clean-burning synthetic kerosene - Kleen Heat was the brand).

For communication I got my ham license (general class), and tinkered with various HTs and HF radios. I also had an SDF dialup account which theoretically would allow internet from my laptop and USB modem for a week or so without power - in practice I found that modern-day phone companies provide a day or less of power to your phone jacks if they themselves are on battery power.

Apart from the generator, we had two solar panels and a deep-cycle battery that we could setup on our south-facing deck as needed. The battery I used to power my HF radio, an Icom IC-718.

For defense and hunting I had one handgun, a Sig P228, one 12ga Remington 870 pump shotgun, and a bolt-action .22 rifle. Both my wife and I were comfortable around guns - I had been hunting or target shooting since I was 18 and had a concealed pistol permit, and my wife used to be in the Army Reserve, and so had her training there to fall back on. Obviously those stayed locked up most of the time, but I felt better having them.

For bugout purposes we had camping supplies and two pre-packed storage boxes of essentials that we could quickly load into a car and go. We never had to use those, however.

So how did all this work? We had several power outages over the years, the longest was 11 days after that freak, late fall snowstorm in New England that knocked down so many trees and power lines, I think that was in 2013. In 2011 we had no power for three days after Hurricane Irene. Things worked pretty well. We learned to ration the use of our generator to conserve fuel, so we would use it in the morning, then again at lunchtime, then once more for dinner. So it was only on for about four hours a day, and the seven-gallon tank will last a while if you use it like that. Obviously this only works if you have secondary lighting and heat sources. During the 11-day outage we had several neighbors who left their generators running overnight. Some of them had them stolen. The clever thieves would start a lawnmower to cover the sound of the generator, so the owners would not notice when it was shut off.

When we moved to Canada in 2016, we gave away most of our supplies, simply due to space constraints. It would have been both costly and time-consuming to try and import the weapons, as Canada has much stricter gun laws than the US, so I gave my guns to a good friend who is an avid hunter. A lot of the tools we gave to our neighbors. We kept the generator, one lantern, the Fiskars axe (our house here has a fireplace at least) and some storage food. We rent our house, and don't have the property to garden. But someday we will move and enjoy gardening and prepping again.

posted at: 13:12 | path: / | permalink | hurricane, prepping, self-sufficiency