DIY Bottom Heat for Seed Starting Retail bottom heat is expensive – I saw one “kit” at a local garden center that was big enough for 2 flats and was $79 – wow! You can buy a lot of tomato plants for eighty bucks! A low cost alternative had to be possible for a dedicated …
You may be thrilled to have a fireplace in your home. Your hearth provides an inviting glow and can become the center of a room. However, most masonry fireplaces are designed primarily for decoration and provide little heat. Compared to woodstoves, fireplaces are extremely inefficient: Fireplaces frequently only have 10 percent efficiency, versus 60 percent or more efficiency from a wood stove.
Certainly, it isn’t worth your while to chop 100 logs to get 10 logs worth of fuel. If you want to generate heat in your wood-burning fireplace, you are going to need to make some changes. Before doing that, though, ensure you use proper equipment and fireproof materials. Do not install anything in your chimney or fireplace that will endanger your safety during use. If you have any concerns, consult an expert before lighting a fire.
There are a few causes to fireplace inefficiency. First, the heated air is siphoned directly from the house through the chimney flue. Second, while the heated air rushes from the house, it creates negative pressure in the house and contributes to cold air leaking into the house through any other openings. Third, the rush of air over the fire makes the wood burn more quickly. Last, there is little heat reflecting from the fireplace masonry into the room. Fortunately, there are fixes for each of these problems, which you can use separately or together.
1. Use the damper to its potential
If your fireplace is well-designed, it will have a damper you can easily adjust to control the flow of air up the chimney. Once your fire is burning, you can close the flue to allow only a small amount of air through the flue and out of the house. You should close the damper as tightly as possible before smoke comes into the house.
2. Intake air supply from outside
You may be able to modify existing vents to draw in air from outside to feed the fire, thus preventing the vacuum effect of using air from inside the house. This can be a simple modification, depending on the construction of your fireplace, but will not make a large difference in efficiency.
A fireback is a cast-iron reflector that is placed on the back wall of the fireplace, behind the fire grate. For maximum efficiency, the fireback must be of comparable size to the back of the firebox.
The iron absorbs heat from the fire and reflects it back into the room; it will also store heat after the fire is out and continue to radiate for some time. A fireback will not make a lot of difference on its own, as the heated air still needs to be flowing into the room, but it will help if you are able to control the direction of the airflow.
4. Fireplace doors
Glass or ceramic doors that can be closed once the fire is burning will prevent the flow of air from the room into the fireplace, and allow more air around the fireplace to be heated. It is important to use a glass or ceramic door that can withstand the heat of the fire. Freestanding screens are also available and will serve a similar purpose; ensure they are safely handled to prevent breakage. Fireplace doors also can improve the safety of your fireplace and allow you to attend less to the fire.
5. Heat exchanger
Passive heat exchange systems are simple in principle: The fire rests on a tubular grate that draws cool air from the room and channels it back into the room. Note that these should not be used with glass doors, which may be unable to withstand the heated air venting directly on them. Some heat exchange systems have blowers to aid the convection; ensure yours will not blow sparks or embers into the room.
6. Fireplace with an insert
The best efficiency solution for a fireplace is a full insert. This is essentially installing a woodstove inside the masonry fireplace. The cast iron or iron and steel box should fit securely in the masonry fireplace, and the entire chimney should be lined for maximum efficiency and safety. Fireplace inserts are readily available and will increase the heating potential of your fireplace while reducing the heat loss through the fireplace when not in use.
Regardless of the solution you choose, keep in mind that your first concern is safety. It is better to safely cover your fireplace and not use it than to risk trying a solution that could start a fire. Exercise prudence every time. With a trusted solution for home heating, however, you will soon be enjoying more than a pretty view from your fireplace.
What advice would you add on generating more heat from a fireplace? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Heating your home is a critical, but what is the most effective fuel source to do it – and what should you use as a backup?
Electric heat? Stove oil? Propane? Wood? Choosing a fuel source can seem overwhelming when trying to balance both cost efficiency and heating efficiency.
Whether you live urban or rural, in the prairie or in the forest, your average seasonal temps are all variables that weigh heavily on choosing the most efficient heating source. In this article, I’ll detail five different common ways of heating your home and the pros and cons of each.
Let’s start with one of the most common types of home heating in urban areas: electric heat. In many areas of the country, electric heat is popular because it is a relatively cheap source of heat. If you live in the Midwest this is especially true, where electricity prices average about 10 cents per kilowatt hour. If you live on the coasts or where I am (Alaska), however, you can pay upwards of 17 cents per kilowatt hour. This can make electric heat quite a bit more expensive than some other heat sources. Electric heat also can be problematic if you are living off-grid and have other fuel sources readily available that might be better put toward the use of heating your home.
If you have an easily accessible source of wood in your area and don’t want to be dependent on other infrastructure systems for your source of fuel, heating with firewood may be your best option. Modern-day woodstoves have become much more efficient in recent years, with many models burning at upwards of 80 percent heating efficiency.
If you can cut the wood yourself, your fuel source also can be virtually free, leaving you with only the initial cost outlay for the woodstove itself. If you don’t have the means to cut your own firewood, the average cost for a cord (4 x 4 x 8 stack) of firewood is between $150 and $250, although this cost is heavily dependent on your area. You can expect to go through about 4-7 cords per winter season with a modern-day wood stove.
Stove oil is also commonly used for heating homes. Stove oil is available in most areas of the country and is especially popular in the Northeast and my area of Alaska. Stove oil prices fluctuate just like gasoline prices, but current prices for stove oil are right around $3 per gallon. Although not ridiculously expensive, stove oil has a higher cost than both propane and natural gas, with the average household spending about $2,500 per household per winter season. Stove oil can be more efficient than heating with wood, however, and has efficiencies ranging from 80 to 90 percent.
Although still fairly common, propane has been losing popularity in recent years as a heating fuel. Current average household propane costs for the country are right around $2 per gallon, but that price varies significantly region to region. In some areas, propane may be cost-prohibitive. In others, it may be vastly cheaper than electricity. Propane stove efficiency is not the highest, averaging 75 to 85 percent, but propane is a readily available source of heat in most areas.
If you have access to it in your area, natural gas often can be an economical and efficient choice for heating. It is one of the most popular choices in the country, with as many as 56 million households using it for space heating (as of 2009). Using natural gas, you will be dependent on the infrastructure necessary to bring it to your home, but the cost savings may be worth it. While natural gas heaters often have standard efficiency comparable to propane stoves, your heating costs will be drastically lower. This cost also varies by area. The state of Massachusetts reported a winter home heating cost of over $3,000 for propane users in 2014, while that number for natural gas users was closer to $1,200.
Choosing which primary and backup fuel source is right for you requires a close look at a wide range of variables. Compare different fuel costs for your specific region of the country and be sure to take into account your budget for the initial cost of a stove and availability of chosen fuel source.
Aryn Young lives in Homer, Alaska, running a small farm and sustainable land-clearing operation.
What are your primary and backup sources of heat? Share your tips in the section below:
Heating your home with a wood stove. It sounds so warm. And cozy. And romantic. You know, sitting by the fireplace in your pajamas with your hot cocoa and a good book kind of romantic. But those of you who heat your homes with a wood stove know that it is, well, not as easy […]
Twenty-first century homesteaders have the advantage of being able to pick and choose between ancient practices and modern technology, selecting the one that works best in every situation. At my place, I love old-fashioned methods, but not when it comes to biosecurity.
I get some startled looks when I say the word “biosecurity” out loud to farm visitors. It sounds a little scary, like a scene from a sci-fi movie with people running around in crisp white hazmat suits. While biosecurity may or may not look a little like that on huge corporate agriculture farms, that is not how it is on my small sustainable farm. However, it is every bit as important here.
I learned about biosecurity the hard way. I purchased two registered heritage breed goat kids one spring and did not quarantine them before putting them in with my existing herd. Later that year when a college class conducted an animal health workshop in my barn, the professor expressed concern about one of the young does. She took fecal samples to examine back in her office, and called me the next day with the results. The animal was loaded with barber pole worms, she told me.
I had no choice but to embark upon a steep learning curve. Just as I was beginning to acquire the knowledge and skills I needed in order to take biosecurity seriously myself, a big dose of similar reality landed on the doorstep of a neighbor. Symptoms, fecal samples, and vet visits revealed the words no owner of small ruminants ever wants to hear out loud. Caseous Lymphadenitis.
“No,” I half-whispered when she told me. “Not CL.” A disease that is highly communicable and can mean a death sentence for much of the herd, it is said to sometimes remain onsite even after the animals are gone. Nobody wants that.
When it comes to livestock diseases and parasites, complacency is not a friend of the homesteader.
Protecting yourself and your animals is crucial. It is also imperative to avoid infecting other homesteads. Although I am not a livestock health care professional, I do have a few tips that may help other owners create and maintain a barrier to keep animals healthy.
1. Boot wash. This is one of the most effective preventions you can do, and one of the easiest and least expensive.
I use a black rubber feed dish, a wide shallow model that sells for very little money at most feed stores. In it, I place a gallon of cool-to-tepid water, and a cup of household bleach. This is a very strong solution, more potent than I would use elsewhere. I also provide a long-handled utility brush. Both the dish and brush are dedicated to this purpose only.
Bleach solution does not maintain its efficacy for long. If visitors are not arriving until later, I set the supplies outside in the shade and mix the solution once they arrive. The liquid is about an inch deep in the feed dish, adequate for reaching organisms on the bottom of most farm boots. I ask folks to step one foot into the dish at a time, dunk the brush, and use it as needed in crevices of boot soles.
2. Shoe coverings. If people show up in sandals or dress shoes, they will not want to dunk their feet in an inch of bleach water. I do not blame them—I would not want to either! In cases where boot wash is impracticable, I offer plastic grocery store bags as coverings. They are easy to slid over footwear and can be tucked down into the tops of shoes or secured with a gear tie or little piece of duct tape.
3. Hand washing. Preventing transmission of disease in animals is similar to doing so in humans, in that washing between contacts makes a difference. I happen to have a barn spigot in summer and a utility sink conveniently located just inside my back door the rest of the year. Other options could include rigging a handwash station using a garden hose, or an old-fashioned bowl and pitcher if needed. Antibacterial products can be used, as well.
4. Screening. If I know that someone just came from a barn full of animals infected with Johne’s Disease, I really might secretly wish I had that hazmat suit. But in reality, I will ask the person to take extra care at my place. Farmers and homesteaders are generally honorable and genuine folks who will readily disclose where they have been and do whatever it takes to avoid transmitting infection. But they are also people with plates so full that they might not think to take precautions unless asked. Screening visitors amounts simply to asking the questions.
5. Commercial products. There are many choices on the market, from disposable boot covers to convenient boot-brush setups to many other types of disinfectant.
Bleach is not everyone’s first choice, nor should it be. It is not the most effective solution in all situations, and is not without risk. I choose it for reasons of my own, but fully respect others’ preference of alternative solutions.
6. Professional advice. Although nearly last on this list, consulting a veterinarian or other expert should never be a homesteader’s last resort. I cannot stress enough how important it is to make use of whatever knowledgeable people are available to you, from your vet to a cooperative extension professional to an animal health educator to someone within your support network. Ask, listen and learn.
7. Share information. Be generous with your knowledge. Keep in mind that there are livestock owners who — like I once was and you may have been, also — do not even know what they do not know. Spreading the word about biosecurity is in everyone’s best interest.
I am not advocating that livestock owners become overly paranoid, but I do recommend taking care. Prevention is always easier than treatment, and careful biosecurity practices are a great way to avoid livestock loss, worry and veterinary bills on any size homestead.
How do you protect your animals from diseases on the homestead? What are your biosecurity tips? Share them in the section below:
Heating with wood is a great option for many households – and a must for most off-gridders and homesteaders. Wood stoves are easy to use and the feedstock is renewable and easy to obtain. If you live in a heavily wooded area, are living without electricity, or simply want to reduce your fuel bill, wood stoves often make a good deal of sense.
In this article, we are going to explore the different types of wood stoves, their features, and differing levels of efficiency. Not all wood stoves are created equal, and they can range from something as simple as a 50-gallon steel drum to something more complicated, like a circulating stove with a catalytic converter.
We’ll begin with one of the most iconic kinds of wood-burning heaters: the open fireplace. Open fireplaces are popular because they’re romantic and make a nice visual addition to a room. Who hasn’t imagined themselves relaxing at the hunting lounge with a big, stone fireplace in the center of the living room? The problem with open fireplaces is that they are extremely inefficient.
Why? Because they actually suck all the heat out of a room, sending it outside via the chimney. Because of this, you will rarely find fireplaces in homes where wood is the main source of heat. Not only are they hugely inefficient, but fireplaces are also extremely smoky. This is an annoyance, but it’s an indicator that you are not getting a very clean, and therefore efficient, burn of the wood itself. Modern fireplaces typically only covert 10 percent to 20 percent of wood burned to heat.
Radiant Heat Stove
Another common wood stove is a radiant heat-type wood stove. These wood stoves heat the area around them by radiating the heat from an enclosed chamber. Common types of radiant heat wood stoves include potbelly stoves and rocket mass heaters. Because the combustion chamber is either enclosed or insulated, radiant heat wood stoves will be much more efficient than an open burning fireplace, and the heat will be radiated into the room for a much longer time after the fire has gone out.
There are varying levels of efficiencies within radiant heat wood stoves, with perhaps the most efficient being a rocket mass heater. Rocket mass heaters use an insulated burn chamber, are designed for more draft, and have heat-exchange passages that capture exhaust gases before they escape through the chimney, resulting in a cleaner burn that can be up to eight times more efficient than traditional radiant heat wood stoves. The heat created from a rocket mass heater is then radiated into the room via a thermal mass (concrete, adobe, dirt, etc.) that surrounds the heating components.
Radiant heat wood stoves can be inexpensively built out of something as simple as a 55-gallon steel drum with a chimney attached. Although this can be a great option if you have the materials lying around or can procure them cheaply, keep in the mind that the life of these wood stoves will be much less than something built out of sturdier material like firebrick, concrete or cast iron.
Circulating Heat Stove
The more modern kind of wood stoves that you can purchase at many heating supply stores are circulating stoves that use air to heat the living space. Circulating stoves are double walled with an inner combustion chamber. There is an air space between the two walls where air is passed over the inner wall near the combustion chamber, and then pushed out into the room, conveying heat. These types of stoves can achieve 70 percent to 80 percent efficiencies and are popular for families with children, since the outer wall of the stove does not get nearly as hot as with radiant-type stoves.
As air pollution became more and more of a concern, many circulating wood stoves started to integrate catalytic converters and secondary air combustion chambers to reduce emissions and increase efficiency. Catalytic converters are simply platinum grids that are placed in the firebox of the stoves, capturing the exhaust and combusting it for a cleaner burn. Modern circulating stoves that do not have catalytic converters have a damper that directs smoke from the stove into a secondary chamber, where hot air is added and reignites any unburned fuel.
Non-catalytic circulating stoves are often cheaper than catalytic stoves and easier to maintain. A wood stove with a catalytic converter is more efficient than one without, but the catalytic converter will need to be replaced every five years and may require yearly maintenance.
Wood stoves are a great way to reduce you heating bill, reduce your reliance on the electric grid and make use of a renewable natural resource. When choosing one, take into consideration your budget, the size of space you want to heat and your desired efficiency for a warm, happy home.
How do you heat your home? What advice would you add for a new buyer or homeowner? Share your tips in the section below:
Anyone who has ever heard of the “rule of 3s” knows that one of the most important survival needs we all have is heating. It doesn’t matter if you are hiding out in your basement or have bugged out to a secret location in the woods, you’ve got to have heat. A number of the survival things we do, such as building shelter, wearing clothes and, of course, starting fires, are all part of fulfilling that need.
That’s why many homesteaders have fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. We recognize this need and try to prepare for it. But what if something goes wrong? What if something happens to the wood-burning stove, rendering it useless? Or what if someone lives in an apartment or home without a stove – and the electricity goes out? What can be done then? Are there other options?
Fortunately, there are always other options.
Let me say here that you shouldn’t limit yourself only to one option on anything. If your Plan A to heat your home is to use your fireplace and you don’t have a Plan B, you’re looking for trouble. While there isn’t much that can go wrong with a fireplace, strange things happen. Damage to your home might make it impossible to use the fireplace or even to use the room that the fireplace is in.
So, what alternate heating can we use for our homes, besides heating with wood?
One abundant fuel source that people use for heating their homes is propane. I’m sure you’ve seen houses or even house trailers with a propane tank out back. The gas company comes and fills it up once a year, and the family has a constant supply of propane gas to power their heat, warm their water and even provide a fire in a fake fireplace.
The great advantage to that system is that you have control over your supply of propane. With the tank in your backyard, it doesn’t matter if the electricity goes out – you’ve got gas.
You can even improve on this by having the gas company install a second tank. It might take a little talking to get them to do that, but it will be worth it. That extra tank of gas will give you enough time and heat to keep your home humming along, even in the event of something catastrophic happening to the power grid. (Note: Never use an oven to heat your home. It is a fire hazard and a source of toxic fumes.)
2. Catalytic heater
The best way of using propane is with a catalytic heater. These come in various sizes and use a ceramic element. The propane burns more on the level of coals in a fire, rather than an open flame. This makes it safer and helps to prevent using the propane up too quickly.
These heaters are highly efficient. They also come in smaller versions, which will hook up to the top of a portable propane tank, such as the type used for a barbecue grille. That makes them usable, even if you don’t have a 500-gallon propane tank in the backyard. Simply get a few portable tanks and fill them up. You’ll have enough heat to last a while.
Kerosene heaters are another excellent way of heating, without using electricity or wood. Of course, you only want to use kerosene heaters in areas of the country where kerosene is readily available. In some places, you can buy it through gas stations, but in other parts of the country, the only source is a paint store. That makes it too expensive to be practical.
I used a kerosene heater for my office when I lived in upstate New York. My office was in an unheated, uninsulated attic, but with the kerosene heater, I was able to keep it warm. It didn’t cost me a whole lot to use it, either.
4. Passive solar
Passive solar homes are designed and built specifically to harvest sunlight and convert it to heat. But even if your home was not built as a solar home, you can still take advantage of solar power. If you have a number of well-insulated south-facing windows, you may be able to use the sunlight streaming through those windows to (somewhat) heat your home.
You need something black for the sunlight to fall on. If you have black carpet or a black flagstone floor, that would be perfect.
5. Solar heat exchanger
Another option to make use of that solar power coming in your windows is to make a solar heat exchanger. This is nothing more than a plenum for air to pass through, where it will be heated by the sunlight. The plenum needs openings at both the top and the bottom, so that cool air can enter in the bottom and warmed air can exit out the top. This will happen with natural convection, eliminating the need to use any electrical power.
Many people make these plenums by cutting the tops and bottoms out of aluminum cans and gluing them together. The cans are then painted flat black, so that they will absorb the sunlight well. Aluminum is a good material for this, because it has one of the highest thermal conductivities of any material you could use.
If you don’t have access to a good stock of aluminum cans, you can accomplish the same thing by closing off the window opening from the inside, leaving about an inch of space at the top and bottom. The side facing the sun has to be painted black, preferably flat black. Whatever material you have available would work, such as plywood or cardboard. But ideally, you’ll cover the side (the side facing the sun) with aluminum, painted black.
6. Ceramic pot heater
Another option is to create a heater from ceramic flower pots. Two pots can be put together, with one upside-down on top of the other. This creates a container with empty space inside. Put a candle, oil-burning lamp or a candle made out of a can of vegetable shortening inside. When lit, it will heat up the ceramic, which will radiate heat into the room.
Don’t Forget to Dress Warm
Your body is generating heat all the time. If you’re trying to survive, don’t take for granted the heat that it is generating. Be sure to dress warmly so that you can keep that heat in rather than having it radiate into the air around you and then trying to replace it. The single most important part of keeping warm is to wear a hat, as about one-fourth of the body’s blood supply goes to the head. If you don’t wear a hat, too much of that heat is radiating out of our head and away from the body.
What advice would you add on emergency heat? Share your tips in the section below:
Many experts insist that in order to make good compost, it must be turned regularly, but is that really the case?
Consider: When leaves fall each autumn and dead trees topple over in hardwood forests, is that decaying matter turned over? No, it just sits there turning into rich leaf mold. A common myth is that you cannot make good compost without regularly turning the compost pile. It’s not true. You can make your life easier by eliminating the compost-turning step.
Compost-turning proponents tell us that turning the compost pile does four things:
- It supplies oxygen to aerobic microbes.
- It eventually places all parts of the pile into the high-heat area.
- It mixes all compost ingredients for a better-looking end result.
- It speeds up composting.
Toss Out Numbers 3 and 4
But if you’re the only one using your own compost, then worrying about how it looks once the compost is buried in your garden is ridiculous. It’s in the ground, so who cares how it looks? Gardening, by its very nature, is not a hectic and fast-paced activity. Why speed up composting if it’s not needed? That eliminates reasons three and four.
Importance of Oxygen
The first point on the list — adding oxygen to compost to benefit aerobic microbes — is an excellent argument. Without adequate oxygen, anaerobic decomposition develops, creating a stinky mess. Commercial compost businesses pump air into compost piles, with big fans blowing through holes in aeration tubes.
How do you aerate garden soil? You do it by adding humus, or the compost that you’re making. Well, that same principle can be applied to compost production. You can add minute air spaces to the compost pile by layering in coarse items, such as weed stalks, straw, hay, and even egg shells.
The king of organic gardening knowledge, the late J.I. Rodale, wrote in his 1960 book, The Complete Book of Composting, “Good compost can be made without turning by hand if the materials are carefully layered in the heap, which is well-ventilated and has the right moisture content.” Ventilation, layering and moisture are keys words in Mr. Rodale’s statement. Coarse material layered between moist animal manure gives you excellent compost ingredients.
Heat Layer of a Compost Pile
To analyze the second reason for turning a compost pile — that it places all parts of the pile into a high-heat environment — you first need to understand the mechanics of compost heat. It’s a result of a blend of carbon to nitrogen, with various bacteria breaking down this combination. The perfect carbon/nitrogen blend is 20 parts carbon to one part nitrogen. Carbon comes from plant matter. The best nitrogen sources originate from animal manure.
Three bacteria types break down the compost. Bacteria that enjoy cool temperatures of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) and lower are psychrophilic. They work very slowly. Mesophilic bacteria like medium temperatures of 68-113 degrees Fahrenheit (20-45 degrees Celsius). Thermophilic bacteria love temperatures above 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). All of these bacteria work together by combining carbon and nitrogen to create carbon dioxide and energy. Part of the energy helps reproduce more bacteria. The remaining energy creates heat.
Just after you apply layers of carbon (plant matter) and nitrogen (manure) to compost, the mesophilic bacteria multiply, boosting the temperature of that layer to 111 degrees Fahrenheit (44 degrees Celsius). Add additional layers and your first layers go into a second stage where thermophilic bacteria thrive, boosting the temperature to roughly 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius). This thermophilic activity is located just a couple of layers under the compost pile’s top surface. As layers are added, the original layer cools, bacteria die off, and fungi takes over decomposition.
Mixing Cools the Hot Bacteria
Stir up these layers by turning over your compost pile, and you cool down temperatures below the level enjoyed by thermophilic bacteria, or those that perform the most robust breakdown of the carbon and nitrogen in your compost. So, continuously stirring your compost actually cools that heat layer just under the top of the pile, instead of putting all areas of the compost into the heat, as suggested by compost-turning proponents in their second argument.
A better composting method is to lay down layers of course plant matter with layers of manure. High-moisture manure is best: pig manure, at 82 percent moisture; cattle manure, at 80 percent; and horse manure, at 75 percent, are best. When using sheep manure, at 68 percent, or chicken manure, at 56 percent, you need to add a daily bucket of water to your compost.
Continue layering like this for a year. Start a new compost pile of layers on year two and allow the year one compost pile to rest during the final fungal breakdown. At the end of the second year, add your compost to the garden and enjoy tremendous gardening results without the backbreaking chore of always turning the compost pile.
Do you agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:
See How Houses Were Kept Warm Before The Age Of Electricity Every year the cold sets in and my bones ache from the shivering. I am lucky enough to have a home with a wood stove and central heated air. I can warm the house and me as hot as I want. The only trouble …
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Nothing beats the enveloping warmth from off-the-grid wood heat through the winter, and autumn is a perfect time for collecting firewood for your wood stove or fireplace. Use the following tips and you’ll fill your woodshed with the right wood from the right trees.
Your primary concern must be safety when looking for trees. Pro lumberjacks have the highest rate of work-related deaths of any other U.S. occupation. It doesn’t end there. A total of 25 amateurs, who were cutting down trees, died in 2012. When adding safety to the decision of selecting firewood trees, consider the following:
- Leaning vs. straight – Leave the leaning trees behind. Seek trees that grow straight and proud. The leaning tree category includes tree trunks angling one direction and then twisting off at a different angle. Crooked trees can fall in unpredictable ways.
- Long trunk vs. wide branches – When a choice exists, select trees with long trunks and branches on top, rather than expansively branched full trees, because with fewer branches, there’s a chance for fewer accidents while limbing the trees for firewood.
- Beware of lodging dangers – Timber growing in a tightly packed forest contains those nice, long-trunked trees. Felling a tree in these woods leads to lodging the treetop into neighboring trees. Trying to get a lodged tree to drop to the ground is hazardous. Leave thick-growth forests alone.
- Match tree size to chainsaw – Don’t attack a three-foot thick oak tree with a chainsaw containing a 12-inch bar. Forestry experts recommend chainsaw bars that are two inches longer than the diameter of the tree, which reduces safety issues with chainsaws kicking back into an operator’s head or face.
Certain tree types favor hot-burning firewood. When a choice exists, look for hardwood, selecting trees with higher density. Dense, or heavy wood once dried, contains higher heat per volume when burned. That means your firewood will burn hotter and longer.
Desirable tree types in descending order, based on dry density measured in pounds per cord of firewood and rated as “excellent” for heat, are:
- Osage orange 4728
- White oak 4200
- Black locust 4016
- Ironwood 4016
- Shagbark hickory 3952
- Apple 3888
- Bitternut hickory 3832
- Honey locust 3832
- Burr oak 3768
- Mulberry 3712
- Maple 3680
- Red oak 3528
All wood types burn, so when no other choice exists, go ahead and take firewood from softwood trees. Just understand that in most cases, you’ll be burning more softwood to get the same heat value you’ll receive from most hardwood trees.
The above list of the dense firewood varieties is based on dry wood. Green, or wet wood, greatly hinders the heat production value of your firewood. If you cut green trees for firewood, give your new firewood at least two years of drying time in order to gain the full effect of dry wood heat value. Besides providing less heat, when you burn green wood, you fill the flue and chimney full of tar and creosote, which has the potential of turning into chimney fires if not removed.
Another option to obtaining dry firewood is to get your wood from trees that are already dead, since they already enjoyed some drying time, thereby cutting down on your overall firewood drying time. Just realize the following aspects about cutting down dead trees for firewood:
- Dead trees have wet areas – Just because a dead tree has dry wood doesn’t mean it’s thoroughly dry. The capillary action of the tree’s roots pulls water from the ground, even after the tree is dead. That means the bottom trunk of a dead tree is still wet. It will require drying time, but you might be able to get away with six months, instead of two years to dry your firewood.
- Dry wood at top – Pull the driest wood from the top third to half of a dead tree. Often this wood is dry enough to burn immediately.
- Beware of widow-maker branches – Look for branches broken loose and ready to fall from dead trees. When you see dead trees with broken branches hanging overhead, select a different tree.
Finally, enjoy your firewood gathering efforts. There’s nothing better than hoisting around hefty chunks of oak firewood for getting great exercise. Plus, you breathe clean air while looking forward to excellent off-the-grid wood heat this winter.
Sources: University of Nebraska, Utah State University.
Which is your favorite tree for winter heat? Share your advice in the section below:
ampfires are unpredictable and some camping stoves arw bulky and let’s face it, impractical. Whether you want to heat some porridge to start your day and or keep warm whilst you star gaze, a reliable fire would be an asset.
A new Kickstarter company might have the answer.’Engineered for adventure’: Solo Stove is offering a new kind of off-grid fire pit and stove range, which pushes the limits of combustion airflow efficiency.
The stove only uses the highest-grade 304 stainless steel in the design and it’s engineered to maximize the airflow of the burning process. So basically, it’s pretty powerful for such a compact, easy to carry around essential. Starting from $69.99, the stove comes in a three types. The lite stove good for an intimate setting of 1-2 people and the titan model, one for a bigger get-together of 2-4 and finally the campfire version for 4+.
There’s no heavy battery needed either. Simply pop a few small twigs and logs in the bottom and the stove will burn through them to give you authentic flames, painting a smooth ambiance that will help make the most magical memories with nature and your loved ones. The possibilities are illustrated beautifully in their short video. The clean up is easy too, just wait for the stove to cool down, shake the remaining ash out of it and back into the bag it goes. When you’re ready to move, it slips into a drawstring bag which you can connect to your rucksack or carry yourself.
The company is also creating a bonfire, using the same technology to build a bigger experience which can be used in your own backyard. Hayley Perry, a spokesperson from the company explained: “As a wood burning fire pit, the Bonfire runs completely on biomass and is the most eco-friendly fire pit on the market.” They’re offering a 10% commission on every $1 that you contribute, so if you’re interested, click here to donate. Pre-orders will be available on their website in October with the official release happening in early December.
In our household, we have a Sun Oven and a Solavore, SilverFire and StoveTec rocket stoves, and a dual-fuel Coleman stove, which uses both unleaded gasoline and Coleman fuel. I have the supplies for putting together an improvised cement block rocket stove, and a backyard full of trees, pinecones, and leaves. We purposely chose a gas stove for our home in order to have the ability to cook in a power outage.
In the emergency cooking department, we have numerous bases covered. Looking at these different types of stoves, it’s not enough to just have alternative cooking methods. You also need to make sure each one uses different types of fuels.
When we lived in the desert, sunshine was not an issue and we could use a solar cooker pretty much every day. In the forest, it’s a different story. We still haven’t found the ideal location for solar cooking, and I may have to chop off extra limbs on numerous trees to allow enough sunlight into our backyard.
However, with this limitation, I’m not too worried. Those same trees are providing massive amounts of fuel for our rocket stoves, a campfire, or a fire pit. In my part of Texas, it would be a very long time before I had to worry about running out of this particular fuel type, and yet, it could happen. In a very long term power outage, the problem would be ending up with a lot of unseasoned, green wood.
In that case, I have propane tanks and stored gasoline. In a pinch, I could use the propane with a gas-powered grill and the gasoline with the Coleman stove. Of course, there are safety issues with gasoline storage as detailed here.
Here’s the bottom line — your multiple cooking methods must have multiple fuel sources, so if you run out of one, you’ll have others to rely on.
A solar oven is highly recommended, since the only fuel you need is the sun. In some parts of the country, you may only have a few days a month for solar, but on those days, use it! You’ll be able to preserve the other fuels you have for days when solar cooking isn’t an option.
One thought I had when we lived in the desert and didn’t even have a fireplace, was to buy a half cord of wood or so, just to have it as a fuel. In most desert communities, it’s rare to find a large expanse of trees suitable for firewood. Our backyard had exactly 5 trees, and although they were all nearly full-grown, we would have had to wait several months for the wood to become seasoned before we could use it. In a power grid loss, I wouldn’t be the only desert rat out there trying to scavenge firewood.
Multiple cooking methods + multiple fuel sources, and you’re golden, and if the fuel is either renewable (biomass) or solar, that’s the best combination.
The post The Importance of Multiple Fuels in Your SHTF Cooking Plans appeared first on Preparedness Advice.
Intro to Prepping – 101 A step-by-step process to becoming a prepared prepper. Forrest Garvin “”The PreppingAcademy” On this episode Forrest and Kyle begin their “Intro To Prepping 101” series. We’ll also hear more on why they became Preppers and reasons you should too! Whether you’ve been a prepper since the Cuban Missile Crisis, or just … Continue reading Intro to Prepping – 101
Imagine living in an off-grid home and not ever receiving a utility bill – no electric bill, no water bill, no sewer bill. Even better, you don’t have to stockpile firewood, because your home is heated by the sun.
Sound impossible? It’s not. It is called an earthship home, and on this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we take a look at these unique houses that are revolutionizing what it means to live off-grid. Our guest is Craig Cook, who lives in an earthship home with his wife Connie in Canada – where temperatures in the winter often hover around 0 degree Fahrenheit.
Incredibly, their home cost only $70,000.
Craig tells us:
- How his house stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer, without a stove or AC.
- What is different between an earthship home and a typical homestead house.
- How he and his wife have all the water they need – without a well or utility hook-up.
- Why his home incorporates hundreds of used tires … that he got for free.
Craig also shares with us the pros and cons of an earthship home for those considering making the transition. If you’re a homesteader, off-gridder or simply someone who enjoys fascinating people, then don’t miss this week’s show!
There have been many warnings issued over the years about the possibility of a total collapse of the national electrical grid. Blackouts occur in some parts of the country during the summer months. They may be planned rolling ones to keep the entire system from being overwhelmed or they may be catastrophic unplanned ones. Thunderstorms or even hurricanes are additional reasons to be prepared for the unexpected havoc from weather related outages. There are several items that are a benefit to have on hand should this scenario occur for any length of time. Survivalists of all levels—especially hardcore enthusiasts—may already have them in their possession. Here is a list of five must-have products that will keep things cool during a collapse.
Golf Cart Batteries
These types of batteries power items for a long period of time in comparison to car batteries. They are similar in size, but can provide hours of use for refrigerators, fans, and medical machines. An inverter is needed to charge appliances and cell phones using a 120 volt outlet. Well pumps will also stay in operation so clean water will be available for drinking, cooking, and bathing. It is a good idea to purchase at least two or more, if budgets allow. Recharge one while the other is in use. A caveat is to keep batteries of the same age in use at all times.
Having plenty of food to eat is critical, although humans can live for up to three days before symptoms of malnutrition kick in. An unbeatable option that can facilitate making ready to eat meals is sealed bags. They store a wide variety of food stuff from dried fruits, nuts, crackers, cereals, and more. This can be accomplished by using chamber vacuum sealers to seal bags for storing foodstuffs. Look for BPA-free products in several sizes such as three, four, or five milliliters that can accommodate sharp foods. Boil-able bags can withstand extended boils without losing food quality and taste, so look for this feature too. Consider zipper bags that can be resealed and those with tear notches for meat and dairy products such as jerky and cheese.
Mini-fan With Misting System
A compact and portable mini-fan is ideal for those times when a burst of cool is needed instead of using the resources of batteries or generators. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from, but look for ones with a built-in mister. The larger reservoirs will usually come with a flat-bottom so they stand upright when not in use. Lithium battery powered units last longer and perform better than those with alkaline batteries. Use the misting function sparingly to conserve its water content.
During power outages, homes heat up almost as quickly as cars do. If there is no breeze, opening the windows will only invite the hot temperature inside. A two season tent is a great option for placing under a nearby tree. The spring and summer version is perfect especially when it has a ventilation screen to keep bugs out and let breezes in. Some may also come with poles and a hammock to enjoy in a shaded area.
Backpacks with Bladders
This is an excellent choice that can be storage for batteries, flashlights, and wick and lightweight clothes. They also come with different size water bladders and built-in cooler versatility. Fill them up with fresh water as soon as the outage occurs or ice would be a better alternative. Manufacturers include a straw for drinking or spout for pouring so there is no need to open it. This keeps the water cold and ice frozen as long as possible.
Hardcore survivalists are generally prepared for what may come in diverse scenarios, but this will serve as a reminder of what keeps them cool in extreme heat. The everyday individual will benefit from the information outlined here as well. Stocking a personal inventory of these items in advance is a sure way to mitigate the inconveniences associated with a collapse.
Emma is a freelance writer living in Boston. When she manages to tear herself away from the computer, she enjoys baking, rock climbing, and film noir.
Summer weather is officially here, and for many gardeners that means one thing: a lack of rain. For others, it may mean a drought.
Gardening during summer is never easy, but how do you grow your favorite vegetables when nature simply doesn’t cooperate?
This week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio tells us what to do. His name is David A. Bainbridge, and he is the author of “Gardening With Less Water,” a book that describes low-cost, low-tech methods for using up to 90 percent less water in your garden.
David has several decades of experience in the subject, and his work even has involved growing plants in the Sonoran Desert – an area that gets only three inches of rain a year.
Get ready to junk the sprinkler system as David tells us:
- How a 2,000-year-old gardening method can help your garden thrive during summer heat.
- Why the methods he promotes can be used to irrigate any plants – and not simply drought-tolerant ones.
- How PVC pipe can be used in your garden to save bundles on your water bill.
- Why he’s not a big fan of drip irrigation systems, and what can go wrong.
All total, David gives us four methods you can use in your garden this year to water your vegetables – no matter how much rain you get. If you’re ready to watch your garden thrive during the scorching heat, then this show is for you!
It’s hot here in the desert, but it’s dry heat (as they like to say), this is the time of the year when it gets really warm for us, hitting the high 90s up into the 100s F, we don’t have or use any sort of air conditioning, it uses up a lot of power and this hot period only lasts a few weeks, then the rainy season (monsoon) hits.
So for this short period of time, we look for ways to keep cool, especially during midday when it came get dangerous. The main things we do are:
- Take frequent breaks
- Don’t work during the heat of the day
- Drink lots of water (super important)
- Eat light meals
- Don’t cook when it’s hot
- Stay in the shade
- Use fans to circulate air
- Find cool spots, shady spots
- Work in the morning and later in the day
- Nap during the heat
- Use a spray bottle of water to cool off
- Take a quick cool shower to rinse off and cool down
Fortunately, being the desert for us, it does cool off at night, so it is bearable, many who live around us do use air conditioners and evaporative coolers, we just haven’t seen the need to invest in one of those, if we lived anywhere else, it would be required to have, to survive. How do you get through the heat of summer?
What do you think of when someone says they have a stockpile room? Is it the zombie apocalypse or World War 3 that comes to mind? With me, it’s simple preparedness.
Maybe it was the seven years I spent associated with the Boy Scouts, but “be prepared” is something that has become ingrained in my philosophy of daily living.
In this article, you’ll find tips on how to choose where to store your own “rainy day” stockpile, or if building one is a better option for you.
Repurposing a Room or Basement
Maybe you have an extra-large house and want to use one of the rooms already available and not used on a daily basis. Perhaps your house has an unused basement that you think will make a great place for your emergency stockpile. Wherever you choose to place your stockpile room, there are at least six questions you should ask before beginning the fitting out of the room:
1. Is it above ground? The temperature in above-ground rooms is more difficult to regulate, due to the fact that at least one wall will probably be an exterior wall of the house.
2. Are there windows in the room? Windows can allow heat and insects to enter, which can damage your stockpile.
3. Is there adequate room for shelving and other storage? If there isn’t enough room for all of the shelves and plastic containers you will need to use for your stockpile storage, then the room is not a good choice to utilize.
4. Can you use an area of your basement? Basements are an optimal place to build a stockpile room, simply because the ambient temperature can remain between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
5. Is your basement finished or unfinished? Finished basements usually have had waterproofing, so there won’t be a problem with moisture getting into your stockpile and ruining it. If you are working with an unfinished basement, you will want to be sure that any waterproofing is taken care of before investing in what could be something that could save your family’s lives.
6. Do you have an outbuilding that would work? Outbuildings are seldom used as stockpile rooms, although they are still a viable option if temperature and moisture can be controlled.
Building Your Stockpile Room From Scratch
Many people who are building a stockpile room “from the ground up” generally intend for it to be a multipurpose room from the beginning. Often, it is intended to serve as a storm shelter for those who live in tornado alley, as well as provide storage space for their emergency supplies. Granted, a basement works well for a storm shelter, but not everyone has one.
As with any other project that you might initiate on your private property, there are a few things that should be considered and looked into before you begin:
- Building codes and zoning regulations. Find out if you are allowed to put such a room/building on your property at all.
- What is the water table in your area? Not just the area of the state you are in, but under your property in particular. Water tables fluctuate somewhat, depending on how the bedrock runs beneath the land.
- Do you have an adequate space for building a storm shelter stockpile room?
- Determine what kind of materials you will be building your stockpile room out of, as there are many that you can use. I will offer some suggestions a little later in this article.
- How large will your finished room be? The size of the hole you dig may be twice as large as your finished room, depending on materials, due to safety reasons.
- How large of a stockpile do you intend to build? Do you want it to cover a matter of months or are you looking at a year or more in food?
Below are a few suggestions on what you can build your stockpile room out of, whether you choose to have it be multipurpose or not.
1. Natural stone. While a good idea if you have a lot of head-sized stones (and larger) on your property, it would take a fair amount of know-how to properly build such a room. More than likely, you would still need to either pour a cement floor or build a cedar floor on top of the stone for a flat surface.
2. Cement cinder blocks. This is the most popular material to use, since you can pretty much customize your storm shelter/stockpile room. This method also requires a bit of knowledge on how to put it all together properly so that the walls and roof don’t buckle beneath the weight of the earth pressing against them.
3. Earth-packed tires. This is a green method that could work well if you could get your hands on a large number of tires. Again, you would probably need to either pour cement or lay a cedar floor to keep out insects.
4. Whole cedar logs. While cedar planks may be easy to gather; whole logs may be more difficult to find.
5. Unused, faulty septic tanks. Believe it or not, you really can use a septic tank for either a storm shelter or a stockpile room, or both. Faulty septic tanks have cracks after they have been cast. These can be the results of poorly mixed cement or improper chemical mixtures; maybe the cast was too old and should have been replaced. Whatever the reason, the septic tank makers now have a tank that can’t be used AS a septic tank.
No matter what you choose to build a stockpile room out of, or if you choose to place it in your home, you are one step closer to providing for your family should difficulties come your way. It may not be the zombie apocalypse or a thermonuclear war, but you can be assured that you and your family will have plenty of food.
What advice would you add for choosing or building a stockpile room? Share your advice in the section below:
The Survival Grill Host: James Walton “I Am Liberty” Don’t underestimate just how devastating a tool your grill can be both in a preparedness situation and in the betterment of your current life. The fact is most people don’t know how to utilize their grill. It could be a lack of understanding of heat or … Continue reading The Survival Grill
If your home is like mine and you don’t have central air conditioning, then trying to keep the house as cool as possible when it’s hot outside is important. One very common appliance that can really heat up a house is a dryer.
Lately, I have been washing my clothes in the washing machine but hanging them up to dry. This doesn’t take long to do, and clothes dry quite quickly in 80-90 degree weather in the sun. Additionally, since air drying can leave clothes wrinkled and a bit rigid, I pop the dried clothes into my dryer with some fabric softener for about 5 minutes to get them soft.
Going “back to basics” is a great way to save money and electricity, as well as learn a new skill. Since everyone has to do laundry, learning how to go without a washing/dryer or just reducing your use of them can be very useful.
Washing Clothes by Hand
When you think of handwashing clothes, an image of a pioneer lady scrubbing away on a washboard comes to mind. If you are a woman, you may already wash your undergarments or other delicates by hand. There isn’t any real secret to washing your laundry by hand. It does take some elbow grease, but it’s a worthwhile skill to learn.
The absolute basic way of washing clothes would be to fill up your sink or bathtub with warm water, add a few drops of your detergent or some other soap and start scrubbing. You can use a soft bristled brush, your hands or just scrub two pieces of cloth together. Once they’re cleaned, rinse with cool water and inspect to make sure you got everything out.
Truly washing by hand is fairly easy for lightly soiled clothes and if you just need to wash some shirts or denim. The next step up would be to use a washboard or scrubbing board. You can find these boards at thrift shops or yard sales, as well as online.
You could make your own washing board by replicating the build of the traditional boards if you are handy with tools. If you are disabled or have an injury preventing you from scrubbing away on a board, then a non-electrical washing machine could be your best bet. Hand-powered washing machines are perfect for larger loads of laundry or if you don’t want to/can’t use a washing board. These machines are very popular for people living off grid as well as during extended car camping trips.
Once you’ve got your clothes washed, it’s time to dry them.
Air Drying Clothes Properly
While you can string up a rope outside and drape your clothes over them, there are some tips to keep in mind.
- Don’t hang your clothes directly in the sun. Direct sunlight will get your clothes dry more quickly but also causes a lot of stiffness in the fabric as well as sun bleaching. Definitely don’t air dry delicates in direct sunlight.
- Hang T-shirts bottom up. Clip your shirts upside down on the bottom hem rather than at the shoulders. Clip marks are far less noticeable here.
- Knit shirts, sweaters, skirts and other clothing should never be hung, as it stretches the material. Same goes for any type of knit, crocheted or wool bedding. Instead, lay these items out on a screen so they can dry flat. You can build your own screen for this purpose or MacGyver it by popping out a window screen or two and placing them on bricks to allow airflow.
- Protect the vibrancy of clothes by turning them inside out before hanging up to dry. This is a good tip for regular electrical washer and dryer use, as well.
While using a clothes line strung up outside with pins is the traditional way of drying clothes, it isn’t the only option. Clothes drying racks are perfect as a standalone way of drying clothes or an addition to your clothes line as a place to hang delicates, socks, rags and smaller items of clothing. Those of you in urban settings can also use those types of racks. Another option would be a retractable clothes line in your home high up towards the ceiling.
Making Your Own Detergent and Fabric Softener
Now, a quick word about laundry detergents and fabric softeners. Both of these products can be made right at home and for good reason. It will save you money and prevent exposure to the nasty chemicals typically in these products. You also will be able to infuse the scent of your choice into your mixes, which is a huge bonus if you are like me and don’t enjoy the scent of most store-bought detergents.
There are TONS of recipes out there on the web for these two laundry essentials. Here is one of the most basic recipes to get you started:
- 1 bar of Ivory soap, shaved (you can use a cheap cheese grater)
- 1 cup of borax
- 1 cup of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
Mix and add whatever essential oil that is pleasing to you. The number of drops you will need depends on the oil you are using and how sensitive your nose is, so just use common sense. Drop in some oil, mix and sniff until you get to your desired scent strength.
As for fabric softener, the recipe is even simpler. Buy yourself a gallon jug of regular white vinegar and add in anywhere from 10-20 (or more, depending) of your favorite essential oils. To use this, you will first wash the clothes so they are clean. Empty the dirty water and refill the tub with cool water. Add in roughly a half cup of the vinegar mix and agitate the clothes a bit. Empty this out and do one final rinse (preferably under cool running water) to get everything out.
If you don’t like it, or would like to try something different, just do a Google search for “DIY detergents/fabric softeners”.
Laundry is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Next time you have a load, skip your machines and try it by hand. Or at least hang them up to dry.
Feel free to share any tips and tricks, detergent recipes, DIY project for hangers, etc., in the comment section below!
Future Preppers of America
As preppers, I believe there is nothing greater than realizing our way of living, our purpose and our beliefs are being passed down to new generations. It means there is still hope.
This weekend I received an email from a woman at TCA Tektons Projects of three young kids that have figured out how to re purpose cheese wax. Yes, you read that right. lol Cheese wax. (Do you know how many of those we, as a family, have thrown away.)
They are using a material that burns very well and doesn’t biodegrade to create light and heat. Not only that, it is reusable over and over and over. Simply remold and add another paper wick. This sounds great for a bug out bag in my opinion. Just toss in a ball of cheese wax and voila, a Candle.
One candle takes about nine or ten cheese wax wrappings to create and one post it size piece of paper. Each candle will burn for 30-45 minutes. I hope you enjoy their video!
If you want to keep up with these Future Preppers of America you can find them on TCA Tektons Facebook page.
I vividly remember growing up in Colorado. We lived in Lakewood, a suburb on the west side of Denver, which put us right up against the mountains.
We used to have a saying in Denver: “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes, it’ll change.” Anyone who has ever lived there understands what that means. The thing is, the weather in Denver comes over the mountains, and we’d get little warning of what was to come. I could literally leave my house in the morning with clear skies and find it raining or snowing by the time I got to work.
Maybe the weather can’t sneak up on you quite as quick where you live, but the truth is that the weather you leave behind when you walk in the door at work may be very different than when you walk out the door eight hours later.
With that in mind, it only makes sense to stay prepared for winter weather, as long as there’s a chance of it showing up. That means more than just dressing for cold weather; it means taking along what you need to ensure your survival. A simple drive to a friend’s house out in the country could easily turn into a dangerous survival situation, especially if you end up spinning out on the ice and go off the road.
Survival in this case means surviving until someone can come rescue you, and we’re assuming you already have a cell phone. We’re not talking full-blown wilderness survival here. Call someone, stay with your car and allow them to come rescue you. That’s your best chance for survival.1. Shovel
A shovel gives you the chance to dig your way out of being stuck alongside the road. While that won’t always be possible, there are many situations you can get out of with a quick 15 minutes of digging. A simple folding shovel, like an entrenching tool, is enough as that doesn’t take up much space and is small enough to get under your vehicle.
2. Sand (or, something for traction)
I remember many a time when the only problem was getting enough traction to get up a slight hill or even out of a parking space. Keeping a bag of sand in the trunk, or something else to give you traction, may be all you need to get unstuck and back on your way. Of course, if your state allows studded snow tires, that will solve the problem for you as well.3. Space/rescue blankets
3. Space/rescue blankets
With three or four of the cheap rescue blankets, you can create a cozy cocoon in your vehicle. Line the roof, windshield, rear window and doors with the blankets, taping them in place with duct tape. That will reflect the heat back to your body, rather than letting it all escape.
Rescue blankets don’t provide insulation, so you need something between you and them. They are heat reflectors. However, as a heat reflector, they are excellent and will help you to stay warm.
4. Candles & matches (or other heat source)
A couple of large candles will help keep the inside of your car warm, even if you can’t run the engine. Granted, it won’t be summer on the beach warm, but it should be enough to keep the ambient temperature above freezing, when used in conjunction with the rescue blankets. While that may not seem comfortable, it will help you survive.
In a pinch, those matches can be used to light your spare tire on fire. The rubber will burn, providing you with heat. It will also provide a lot of smoke, so keep it on the downwind side of the car. Let the air out of the tire before trying to light it so that it doesn’t explode.5. Blankets
If you’ve got an old blanket or two, one of the best places to store them is in your car. That will help keep you warm while you’re waiting to be rescued. And at other times, keeping a couple of blankets in the back seat can help keep the kids or any other passengers from complaining about the cold.
6. Hats and gloves
There are a lot of people who don’t like wearing hats or gloves in the wintertime, even when it is cold out. But those are important for keeping you warm. A quarter of your body’s blood supply goes to your head, so wearing a hat will go a long way toward keeping you warm. Keep some spares in the car, just in case you left home without them.
Please note that I’m assuming that you always wear a coat when you leave your home in the wintertime.7. Charger for your phone
7. Charger for your phone
Actually, I carry two: one for the cigarette lighter and a battery-powered one. That way, I can recharge no matter what, even if my car battery is dead. That call for help is important, but it’s not going to go through if your phone is dead.
8. A full tank of gas – even extra gas
Maybe this one seems a bit simple, but it’s amazing how many people run out of gas in the wintertime. You tend to use more in the winter, simply because of the time you spend waiting for all the other people who are driving slow or slipping on the ice.
But even more important than that is having that gas if you get stuck somewhere. As long as your engine is still running and your exhaust pipe is clear, you can run your engine to keep you warm. I’d recommend running it every 15 minutes, for about 10 minutes, to make your gas last as long as possible. That may not be enough to keep you really warm, but it will be enough to keep you from freezing.9. Energy bars
9. Energy bars
Your body needs sugar to burn and turn into heat. Keeping yourself well-fed is an important part of keeping yourself warm. Don’t count on your body using fat reserves; those take time to convert to sugar. Some high-energy bars will give your body that extra burst of energy needed to help keep warm.
When eating these, take lots of time to chew them. Sugar begins being absorbed into the body at the mouth and carbohydrates are broken down into sugar by saliva. So, by chewing thoroughly, you’re getting some of that sugar into your bloodstream immediately, where it can start helping your body produce heat.
10. Plastic bags
In order to avoid having to go outside to go to the bathroom and expose yourself to the cold, keep several plastic bags in the car. You might want to keep some toilet paper, too. While it’s inconvenient to try and go in the car, at least it’s warmer than outside. Then, tie the bag closed, open the window or door slightly and put the bag outside.11. Flashlight with extra batteries
11. Flashlight with extra batteries
A bright flashlight might make it possible for you to signal anyone who passes by on the road. Make sure you have spare batteries, as high intensity flashlights go through them rapidly.12. Piece of rope
12. Piece of rope
You’re best off if you don’t have to get out of your car. But you might need to get out for something, such as clearing the snow from your tailpipe. If you do and you fall in a blizzard, you might never find your way back to your car.
This problem is solved quite simply the same way that astronauts accomplish their space walks. Simply tether yourself to the car, each and every time you need to go out the door. Tie one end of the rope to the steering wheel and the other end around your wrist. That way, if you get lost in the snow, all you have to do is follow the rope back to the car.
What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below:
It’s wintertime and the power goes out. If you’re like most of us, you’re not all that worried – you trust that the power will come back on soon. But when 12 hours goes by and you still don’t have any electricity, you start getting concerned. It might be days before the power comes back on.
For many of us, the quick solution is to turn to wood. Heating with wood is historically the most common means of keeping your home warm. Throughout the centuries, people used wood to warm everything from tents to palaces. It has withstood the test of time quite effectively, providing warmth for millions of people. That makes it a survivalist’s number one choice for a backup heat source.
But it takes a lot of wood to keep your home warm. In a long-term crisis situation, you might run out of wood before the power comes back on. Or, perhaps your wood-burning stove is unusable. Whatever the case, you’re going to need another alternate heat source. Here’s a few to consider:
Many people living in rural areas already heat with propane. Unfortunately, their forced-air propane heater won’t work any better without electricity than anyone else’s does. However, there also are ceramic heaters, commonly referred to as “catalytic heaters,” that can be tied into the home’s propane. These allow you to burn the propane for heat without having any need for electricity. They are extremely safe for use indoors.
These catalytic heaters also are available for connection to a portable propane tank, such as the type used for a barbecue grill. I actually heated a motorhome through a couple of winters with these, as they were much more efficient than the furnace that the motorhome was equipped with.Kerosene
Kerosene heaters provide a considerable amount of heat, without needing electricity. I used to heat my office with a kerosene heater, back when my office was an uninsulated attic in upstate New York. If you live in a part of the country where people use kerosene for heating, then the price is quite reasonable. But if not, avoid this one, as buying kerosene at the paint store is just too expensive.
3. Passive solar
Anyone who builds a home without giving it at least some passive solar capability is missing out on a great opportunity for free heat. Even if passive solar can’t heat your whole home, you will still save money on heating costs. Passive solar is reliable, cheap and plentiful, especially if your home is designed for it.
If your home isn’t designed for passive solar heating, you can still take advantage of it. Open the curtains on all your south-facing windows during the day and put something dark colored on the floor to absorb the sunlight and convert it to heat. While not a perfect solution, it will help.
The big problem for most people is having a thermal mass. This is a mass of rock or concrete that becomes warmed by the sunlight striking its surface. The surface, which must be dark, is called the absorber because it absorbs light and converts it to heat. If your home has concrete floors and you cover them with dark-colored floor covering, then you’ve got a basic passive solar system, even if the concrete isn’t thick enough to absorb much heat.Solar convection
4. Solar convection
Another way you can take advantage of solar energy is to build a solar convection heater. The easiest and cheapest way to make one of these is to cut the tops and bottoms out of a bunch of aluminum soda or beer cans. Glue them together, forming tubes out of the cans that are the height of your windows and leave an opening at the top and bottom. Connect several of these together, side to side, to fill your window opening and paint the whole thing black.
Since warm air rises and cool air drops, the cooler air at the bottom of the window will enter into the bottom of the solar convection heater and exit out the top, warming as it passes through.
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There are still many homes in the northeast which have coal bins and coal chutes into the basements, even though they are no longer heated with coal furnaces. Coal burns hotter than charcoal and will burn a long time. Essentially, coal is petroleum-filled porous rock. So what is burning is the petroleum, leaving behind the rock, which is referred to as coke. The biggest problem with burning coal is keeping it lit. It needs a lot of oxygen to burn, so you’ll have to have good airflow to the fire. It burns slowly, making it perfect for heating, but does produce a lot of soot.
In order to use coal, you’re going to have to use it in a fireplace or a wood-burning stove that is lined with fire brick. Please note that this is only an emergency measure, as the coal will damage the fireplace or wood-burning stove. A coal insert in the fireplace is better and will allow the coal to burn more efficiently. Don’t use coal in a metal, wood-burning stove without fire brick since it can get hot enough to soften the metal, distorting it. You absolutely have to have some ventilation, or your home will fill with the coal smoke.
6. Animal dung
Dried animal dung has been used by a variety of cultures throughout history for heating and cooking. While not anyone’s favorite, it works well. If you have livestock, you have a regular source of this heating fuel. Just allow them to dry naturally in the field and collect them. Surprisingly, dried animal dung burns without stinking up your home.
7. Burning flammable fuels
Gasoline, diesel, oil and other liquid fuels can be burned for heat if you are careful. The problem is controlling the burn rate. This is fairly easily accomplished by pouring the fuel into a sand-filled container, such as a number 10 can. The sand will act as a wick, controlling the burn rate.
There also are oil heaters. Some of the simpler ones control the burn rate by dipping the oil from a tank into the burner. The Army used to use heaters of this sort, with gasoline, to provide hot water for field kitchens. So you might be able to find one of those heaters at your local army surplus store.
The big problem with this is that you’ll go through a lot of fuel quickly, so this should be considered only if no other option exists. Ventilation is essential.
The natural act of composting produces quite a bit of heat as the millions of bacteria eat the organic material, breaking it down into its basic elements. You can tap into this heat source by burying pipes in your compost pile. Those pipes can carry water to be heated or you can push air through them to be heated. As long as the compost pile has a continuous source of organic material and is kept moist, it will continue to produce heat.
What tips would you add to this list? Share your advice in the section below:
If your wood burning stove could talk, what would it say to you? Is it happy with the way you load it? Is it happy with the amount and type of wood you use?
Most off gridders are using wood to heat our homes, open fireplaces are pretty to look at, but aren’t efficient. We prefer to use a wood burning stove, a metal box that contains the wood and fire, they use much less wood and give off much more heat.
I found this video with lots of tips and tricks to help you use your wood stove more efficiently, the biggest tip I got from this video is to learn your wood stove, they each have their own personality and burn differently, some like being filled, others prefer less wood more often, experiment and learn what your stove likes best and what works best.
Passive solar is a building design approach that incorporates certain materials into the roof, walls and floors that collect solar energy to heat a home in the winter, cool it in the summer, and heat water year-round. It’s called passive because it requires no electric devices or mechanical devices to operate and performs various functions.
This is not about collecting solar energy through dedicated solar panels to generate electricity. It’s about temperature management. In its simplest form it involves the use of windows with a southern exposure that simply allow the sunlight to enter the home in winter, and are shaded with blinds or window shades in the summer. Many people take advantage of that sunlight by installing special, thermal tiles in their floors to absorb the heat during the day, and release it slowly during the night. There are also wall panels that perform the same function. Certain types of floor tiles and wall boards collect the heat.
You have to be able to shade windows in summer. Otherwise, you can get something referred to as passive/aggressive solar heating. The result is a house that is too hot during the day, especially in summer. You want that “Goldilocks” factor, where the temperature is just right. Shades and shading can help you manage variable heat and sunlight conditions.
Hot Water Heating With Solar
A rooftop set-up for hot water heating involves a series of tubes encased in a black box on the roof and covered with a sheet of glass or plastic. The sunlight enters the black box through the glass and heats the interior to allow the enclosed water to heat.
Often, there is a tank above the arrangement that allows the hot water to rise into the tank, and the water is drawn by gravity down into the house. The temperature varies depending on the amount of sunlight and the ambient temperature outside, but the water can range from hot to warm with no effort, other than pumping cold water up into the tank.
Southern Exposure Is Necessary
The key to successful use of passive solar is the orientation of the home, its windows and the rooftop solar water heater. An unobstructed, southern exposure is ideal for heating, in addition to generous windows both in size and number.
It’s not just about staying hot in the winter, but also about staying cool in the summer. There’s one simple solution: trees. Trees have leaves in the summer to shade a home, and they lose their leaves in the winter if you live in a temperate zone. The result is that sun passes through the bare branches of trees in winter, and is blocked by the leaves of summer.
There are also ceramics that absorb cooler temperatures at night and continue to cool during the day. It’s the old thermos joke: “How do it know?” Many solar tiles have this characteristic.
There are some simple and remarkable DIY projects and even new technologies that allow you to cook a variety of meals with solar power. The critical success factor is bright, direct sunlight focused directly into the solar oven. Once again, these are passive solar approaches that require nothing more than direct sunlight to effectively function.
Insulate, Insulate, Insulate
Any passive solar heating set-up assumes that you are going to collect and release heat. What’s essential is to contain the heat in a properly insulated structure. It’ s easy to get complacent, especially if you have a high-efficiency wood-burning stove blasting out the heat. But passive solar is different. The heat that is collected and stored will vary depending on cloud cover and time of year. Unfortunately, winter months have the shortest duration of sunlight when we need it most.
As a result, high-efficiency insulation is critical. This is especially true around door frames, windows and electrical outlets facing the outside. The idea is to trap and collect heat, and insulation will give you a better chance to do that.
Have you heated your home with passive heat? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
If you have a cast iron stove, you no doubt know how to manage the flue and dampers and how long it will provide heat to your home. But there are a few “hacks” that you can improvise that will allow you to capture, store and radiate more heat longer. This can be especially useful at night when you might not want to wake up at 3 in the morning to put another log on the fire.
It could also come in handy if you’re facing a particularly cold period of weather. We had wind-chills of -30 degrees Fahrenheit in Michigan last winter, and I used some of these tricks to get the most out of our cast iron stove.
There are several factors that affect the radiance of a wood-fired stove.
- The stove material. Cast iron is the most common stove material, but there are also masonry stoves that are built with fire brick and other materials to hold heat longer.
- The size of the stove and the amount of mass that is exposed to the air.
- Venting and the amount of stove pipe that is exposed to the air, including second story rooms.
- The type of wood that is used. Soft woods burn hot, but fast. Hardwoods burn low and slow.
What we’re going to explore are ways to retain the most heat from your wood-burning stove. For the sake of argument, let’s assume you have a medium-size cast iron stove. There are some fundamental things you can do to increase its ability to hold and retain heat.
1. Increase the mass of cast iron. This sounds a bit complicated but it’s as easy as placing some dry cast iron utensils, like a Dutch oven or a frying pan, on the stove top. The utensils will get quite hot — but that’s the idea. You want to capture as much heat and hold it as long as possible.
2. Place some fire brick in the stove and the stove top. Fire brick is relatively inexpensive and you’ll only need enough to put on the bottom surface of the firebox. They’re about two inches high, so you might be reducing the size of your firebox somewhat. That’s when you can go a different route and place the bricks directly on top of the stove. Don’t stack them too high. The benefit of fire brick is that it holds heat longer than cast iron.
3. Reconsider your chimney venting configuration. Be careful here. Stovepipes should have a vertical configuration and a double-walled insulated pipe anywhere it bisects the structure, such as a second story floor or roof. However, there may be an opportunity to install a single-walled length of stove pipe to draw more heat from the pipe to the surrounding air.
4. Install a catalytic combustor. These are honeycombed shaped inserts that are covered with platinum to create a more efficient burn in your stove. They don’t work in all stoves, but are worth considering if you want to improve efficiency. The primary benefit is that they help to burn much of the smoke that is normally wasted heat in a traditional stove.
Proper installation and venting are critical safety factors for any wood-burning stove. These ideas are improvised solutions, and the two safest options are the insertion of fire bricks into the base of the firebox, or the installation of a catalytic combustor if your stove can accommodate one.
Placing anything on the stovetop, whether it’s cast iron utensils or fire bricks, requires some added care and attention in the event something falls to the floor.
Of course, these alternatives are proposed as short-term solutions in the event of extreme cold. If you need to combine too many improvised solutions like this, you might want to consider a new stove.
What tips would you add to this story? Share your advice for wood-burning stoves in the section below:
It’s the most reliable, safe and efficient way to produce heat with wood. So why do so few homes nowadays have them?
Masonry stoves have been used for centuries — across Scandinavia, France, Germany and Poland. But they were seldom found in Britain and it’s the early British influence on North America that may account for their relative scarcity in the US.
On a fundamental level, a masonry stove is a massive assembly of bricks that is designed to hold and radiate heat produced by a wood fire. When properly designed and built, a masonry stove can continue to radiate heat for up to 20 hours in a well-insulated home after the intense burning of a two-hour fire. On average, though, the two-hour fire will heat a home in winter for eight to 12 hours.
The brickwork in the chimney is designed to circulate the smoke through a system of channels that extract as much heat as possible before the smoke exits the flue. Because an intense fire is used to heat up the masonry, there is little creosote buildup and it produces a very clean fire.
Well-known American author Mark Twain was so impressed with the masonry stove during a trip to Europe that he wrote about it, expressing confusion about why America hadn’t imported the heating style:
“All day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and comfortable … Its surface is not hot: you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt. Consider these things. One firing is enough for the day: the cost is next to nothing: the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns … America could adopt this stove, but does America do it? No, she sticks placidly to her own fearful and wonderful inventions in the stove line. The American wood stove, of whatever breed, is a terror. It requires more attention that a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time: and for all reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half … and when your wood bill comes in you think you have been supporting a volcano. It is certainly strange that useful customs and devices do not spread from country to country with more facility and promptness than they do.”
Ideally, a masonry stove is built during the initial construction of a home, but it’s possible to retrofit one into some existing homes. What’s critical, though, is that there is sufficient support under the stove because one can weigh anywhere from one to three tons. Another architectural detail is that most masonry stores are built and placed in the center of a home’s living space. This allows for more efficient radiation of heat to all parts of the home.
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A side benefit to a masonry stove is the inclusion of an oven in the brick work. This is another great off-the-grid solution and it works extremely well for baking everything from bread and pizzas to turkeys.
As Twain pointed out, the masonry does not get terribly hot on the surface. Unlike a cast iron stove that can easily burn you if touched, the brick and stone in a masonry stove radiates heat steadily at a lower temperature. It can still be hot to the touch, but not as hot as a traditional wood-burning stove.
Popular materials used in construction include fire-brick, soapstone and other types of brick that hold and retain heat well. There are free-standing masonry stoves that you can buy, but they really should be installed by a professional and are sometimes assembled in pieces due to their weight. There also are building codes and necessary safety features that need to be followed because of the high heat generated in the firebox.
Because the masonry stove puts off a consistent heat for hours without great fuss, it is a great asset if you are living without electricity and gas.
Do you have experience with a masonry stove? What would you add to the story? Share your advice in the section below:
Building your own systems. Why buy?
On this episode of the Tech, Build and Grow show, Brett is discusses new build ideas for our preps, homesteads and more. Moving beyond the greenhouse with our automation and build ideas where can we better our lives and make them more efficient?
Being now in the heart of the cold weather season, we should be focusing our attention on backup heat options for our homes, greenhouses and livestock facilities. The question that many may have is where do I start?
Creating heat options and systems can be fun and challenging at the same time, and now is time to get the creative engineering juices flowing. We can take a simple wood stove idea and put it on steroids to run all on its own, send us updates and heat more efficiently.
We will discuss how to transform our thinking from “What do I buy?” mentality, to “What do I build?” mentality. Getting to the point where you start designing and building your own systems is a huge step forward.
By building and creating all your new systems you start to learn the ins and outs of all the components, science and technology involved. Learning all the aspects of each build creates more knowledge for the next build and creates an awareness in the mind for troubleshooting and problem solving in the systems. Transforming in to a “Maker” is a one way street and once you get the building bug, it’s usually with you forever!
Makers On Acres Website: http://makersonacres.com/
Join us for Makers On Acres Website “LIVE SHOW” every Saturday 9:00/Et 8:00Ct 6:00/Pt Go To Listen and Chat
Listen to this broadcast or download “Building your own systems!” in player below!
We have a cabin in Michigan that’s entirely heated with a cast-iron, wood-burning stove. It wasn’t long after we installed it that we came face-to-face with the realities of heating a whole house with one, wood-fired heat source. Some rooms were too hot, some were too cold. This motivated us to find a “Goldilocks” solution and see if we could get the heat distribution “just right.”
1. The heat-powered fan
It didn’t take us long to discover a variety of small fans that are powered by heat from the stove. These are made from heavy metal and are designed to rest on the top of the stove. The combination of heat rising from the stove causes the fan blade to rotate and direct a gentle draft of warm air in a specific direction. We actually have three of them pointing toward key points in the first floor of the house, like the bathroom, the kitchen and the front porch, although the front porch is often closed off at the height of winter.
We also bought an electric-powered fan that sits under the stove, but we wanted to make sure we had good off-grid solutions. Unfortunately, while the heat-powered fan made some improvement for air circulation, we still had a problem upstairs.
2. The stovepipe option
Our wood-burning stove is vented up a brick chimney before the stovepipe reaches the second floor. We considered re-routing the stovepipe through the ceiling so we could have some of the metal surface exposed upstairs, but it was a big job and it would have meant redesigning the second floor layout. It’s an option, but that’s up to you.
3. Passive vents
A neighbor of ours used something called a “passive vent” system in his cabin, and he said it worked surprisingly well so we decided to give it a try. A passive vent is essentially a hole in the ceiling leading to the second floor. It’s sealed off with a metal grate both on the floor upstairs and in the ceiling below. The inner space between the floor boards and the ceiling is surrounded in duct work, so the heated air rises up through the vent into the room above.
One word of warning. Make sure you know what’s in your ceiling and below your upstairs floorboards before you make any significant cuts. You could have electric power running through the floor, or you could have plumbing. A stud finder and a metal detector are a good place to start, or you could cut a very small hole and peak inside with a flashlight before you make a larger cut.
We ended up cutting two passive vents to the upstairs rooms and they both worked great. The warm air would rise from the vents, and my brother actually cut a couple of small plywood squares that he laid over the grills to act as a baffle for when it got too hot upstairs. We later installed grates with baffles built in and they still work fine.
4. The chimney insert heat reclaimer
The chimney insert is essentially a square box a little larger than your stovepipe that is inserted into the stovepipe and pointed in the direction you want to direct the heat. It works to not only extract more heat from your stove, but given its directional option you can do a little better directing heat toward a certain area.
If your stovepipe continues through upper floors, you can install an insert on both the first and second floor to capture and direct heat.
All of these options work best if the wood stove is centrally located in the home. The heat-powered fans work pretty well, but it’s a modest draft of heat. You might also consider keeping all of the doors open upstairs so any hot airflow rising from the stove has a chance to find its way up there. If you have an upstairs room that just doesn’t seem to get the heat and you’re looking for an off-grid solution, the passive vents may be the way to go.
What advice would you add on distributing heat through a home? Share your advice in the section below:
It finally happens … the crisis you’ve been preparing for. All that training and stockpiling you’ve been doing is going to start paying off. What you do during the next few days might decide whether you and your family make it through this crisis unscathed. Having the right tools and supplies on hand is going to make a huge difference, but so is using them in the right way.
Depending on the crisis, you may not know it is coming. Some natural disasters, such as hurricanes, give us lots of warning. But other things, such as an earthquake, sneak up on us with no more than a second’s notice. Then there are the situations which aren’t supposed to be a crisis but become one when the storm ends up being bigger than forecasted. Of course, there’s also the chance of a man-made disaster or terrorist attack. At times, our first warning that there’s a problem is when the power goes out.
There’s often a time of confusion at the beginning of any crisis. Rarely do we have all the information at our fingertips about what is happening, nor do we know if it will be a short-term or long-term crisis.
So, what do you do? How do you react? What are the first things you need to use and the first actions you must take to ensure your survival? Obviously, some of these items will be in your survival kit or bug-out bag.
Let’s take a look at what you should have:
Your very first need is going to be information. Without it, you may not even be able to tell what is happening around you. You definitely won’t be able to make a judgment call as to how serious it is. That’s necessary for making decisions about bugging out or bugging in, recalling your family to the home and whether you need to put your disaster plan into effect.
While there are many sources you could use for information, radio is the most reliable. While information also is on television, there aren’t all that many battery-powered TVs around. Plus, such TVs drain batteries.
2. Cell phone
Chances are the crisis will hit when your family is scattered all over town. The modern American family has a busy schedule, with kids scattered around at different activities and both parents working. Once you know what’s going on and make a decision to go into survival mode, you’ve got to get your family together. That means contacting them, letting them know what’s happening and explaining your plan. The cell phone is the most efficient means of doing this, assuming that cell phone systems are still up and running.
As a secondary consideration, you might want to contact your extended family to check up on them and let them know that you’re all right. This can wait until you have your immediate family gathered up, but it might give you something to do while you are driving.
If the family is scattered around, you’re going to need vehicles to gather them up. Keep in mind that schools may not be all that willing to let kids go in a crisis situation. As part of your plan, let your kids know that you expect them to leave their classrooms and meet you at the school’s entrance (or possibly an alternate exit point), regardless of what the teacher says. Short of physically restraining them, your kids should be able to get away.
Once you have everyone at home, you need to immediately go into survival mode. If your electricity is out, you probably don’t have lights, and the refrigerator and heat will be off as well. Since your number one survival need is to keep your body heat in, have everyone change their clothing to something that is more appropriate for keeping them warm. Of course, if the crisis happens in the summer, you’ll need to put on cool clothing to prevent overheating.
5. First-aid kit
Hopefully none of your family gets hurt in the crisis, but that’s not something you can count on. Chances of injury increase during these times and someone in your family could be hurt. You’re going to have to be ready to switch hats at any time, grabbing the first-aid kit and taking care of their needs.
Medical facilities tend to get overloaded in crisis situations, due to the high number of accidents. So try to take care of the small stuff at home and only go if there’s a serious enough injury to warrant the care of a doctor.
Of course, that means having a first-aid kit that can handle the rough stuff. If you don’t have a good trauma kit that’s big enough for dealing with large injuries, you’re missing out on an important part of your survival preps. At a minimum, your first-aid kit should provide enough to treat gunshot wounds and broken bones. If it can’t do that, it’s time to add to it.
6. Water and food
Once a crisis hits, you won’t have any idea how long your utilities will last. Therefore, you have to assume that everything will go out and go out soon. While some may last a while, you can’t count on it.
Water is going to be one of your biggest needs and one which you will constantly need to be seeking. While you probably have a bunch of water on hand, it’s not going to be enough. Therefore, you should have portable water filters, such as a Paratrooper Filter.
Food with a long shelf life that doesn’t require refrigeration is essential.
7. Alternate heating
What if the disaster takes place during winter? Before your house gets cold, you’ll want to start using your alternate heating. For most of us, that means wood-burning stoves or fireplaces. Start burning some wood, just to get it going. It’s easier to keep your home warm than it is to warm it up once it’s gotten cold.
Your stove or fireplace is only going to be able to keep one room warm, probably your living room or family room. So you want to isolate the heated room from the rest of your house. If you don’t have doors to close it off, hang extra blankets over doorways, blocking out the cold air and holding in the warm.
By now it’s probably getting close to nightfall, so you’ll want to break out the flashlights, candles or oil-burning lamps. Our modern society is not used to stopping our work at sunset and you’ll probably find you have a long list of things you need to do once the sun goes down.
Be sparing with your use of your light sources. You don’t know how long they are going to have to last you. Don’t just keep a flashlight on so that you’re not sitting in the dark. Use the light when you need it and then turn it off. Your eyes will adjust to the dark, allowing you to see well enough to walk around your home and do some simple tasks.9. Guns
It is unlikely that many major acts of violence will happen within the first 72 hours after the start of a crisis. Most people will be in shock, trying to deal with the situation and just survive. It won’t be until they run out of supplies that the serious fear will set in and they will start acting irrationally. However, there is always the possibility that someone will snap early, either because they are a bit unstable or because they are already criminally minded and think that stealing is the way to survive.
You’ll want to be ready to defend yourself from the beginning. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary. But in a time of crisis, some people won’t be all that picky about other people’s lives. Your family’s survival may depend on how quickly you react to an attack.
And One More To Consider
When the power goes out, you can count on your refrigerator/freezer keeping things cold for about two days, but that’s it. After that, you either have to consume the food or let it spoil. Of course, there’s another option too: finding some alternate means to preserve it.
A solar dehydrator will allow you to turn any meat you have into jerky, which is probably the best and easiest way to preserve meat. Properly prepared jerky, with enough salt, will last a long time, even without refrigeration. Meat also can be canned if you have a pressure canner. For that matter, just about everything in your refrigerator and freezer can be canned. Better to do that, than to see it go to waste.
What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:
So you are storing extra food for times of emergency, right? Unless you have all canned goods or MRE’s, that food will need to be cooked. Even canned meals and MRE’s taste better warmed up. However, in many emergency situations you are without power which means no microwave! Making a plan for powerless cooking as part of your prepping will help ensure you’re not eating all your food storage cold and raw. So here are eight great ways to cook when the power is out.
1. Fire. We’ll start with the most primitive. Build a fire in a fire pit, barrel, or other enclosure. Be careful, you don’t want to add a burning house, field, or tree to your emergency! You also don’t want to cook your food over something that produces toxic fumes as it burns like tires. Roast your food on a stick or use metal to make a grate over your fire and cook in sturdy pots and pans.
To make it work you’ll need: a safe place to burn, fuel to burn, and matches or other fire starter.
2. Wood or coal stove. If you have a wood or coal burning stove in your house, you can cook on the top of it if it’s flat enough. An old wood burning kitchen stove would be awesome although I expect this method would have a pretty steep learning curve for those of us accustomed to cooking with power. A benefit of this method in the winter is being able to warm your home with the same fuel you’re using for cooking. Not so beneficial in the summer!
To make it work you’ll need: A wood or coal stove safely installed in your home or bug out location, fuel to burn, matches or other fire starter.
3. Rocket Stove. These are little stoves that burn standard biomass fuel like sticks, but use less of it than an open fire. You can make your own rocket stove with empty cans, or purchase one like the EcoZoom stove or the similar-to-a-rocket-stove fuel saving Volcano Stove.
To make it work you’ll need: Some form of rocket stove, fuel to burn, matches or other fire starter.
4. A barbeque grill. This one is easy if you are used to cooking on it anyway. An outdoor grill, either gas or charcoal, is a simple powerless cooking option. Grill meats, large veggies, fish, etc. Anything small enough to fall through the grate can be cooked in foil or a pan.
To make it work you’ll need: A grill, propane in your bottle if it’s gas or charcoal if it’s a charcoal grill, possibly matches or other fire starter depending on your grill style.
5. Camping stove. These are the portable stoves like the Coleman Stove your grandpa used when he went camping. Except now there are so many varieties out there from super light weight backpacking stoves to more stable single burner stoves to larger two burner stoves, there’s surely one that will fit your needs for preparedness and probably make itself a regular use cooker during camping season as well. Each stove will have a specific fuel type, so make sure you’ve got the correct fuel for your stove!
To make it work you’ll need: Camping or backpacking stove, fuel specific for that stove, fire starting method if your stove doesn’t come equipped with electronic ignition.
6. Larger camping stoves. Larger camping stoves, like a Camp Chef, are a bit more cumbersome than their backpacking counterparts, so won’t work as well if you’re doing a quick evacuation, but they are great cookers. They generally run on large bottles of propane and come with legs so you’re easily able to cook standing up rather than on the ground or balancing your stove on a rock.
To make it work you’ll need: A stove, propane, and a fire starting source if your stove doesn’t come with auto ignition.
7. Your gas stove top. If you’re lucky enough to have a gas stove in your kitchen and the gas lines are not damaged, you can use the stove top in your home. Just light it with a match or other fire starter. Due to fluctuations in flame to adjust for temperature, your gas oven won’t work without power. Cook up anything in a pot or pan on your stove as you normally would once you bypass the electric ignition and get it lit.
To make it work you’ll need: Gas stove already installed, matches or other fire starter to get it lit.
8. Solar oven. You can make your own or purchase one like the Global Sun Oven. You can even make one out of a Pringles can. These work great on hot sunny days, but also work on cold sunny days! Depending on your design, your oven may not work too well on windy days. A solar oven can cook anything you’d put in your normal oven as well as dehydrate foods.
To make it work you’ll need: Solar oven, sunny day.
Of course, for each of these cooking methods you may need specific pots or pans for them to work best. Testing out your gear before an emergency is always a good idea.
And just for fun, I’ll throw in these safety disclaimers as well. Some of these methods of cooking use open flames. Don’t burn your house down. Others burn fuel that need ventilation–don’t use those stoves indoors. Okay?
Now here’s a challenge for you. Some time this week, cook a meal using a powerless cooking source of your choice. This could be as easy as a BBQ or as challenging as building a solar oven and baking a cake in it. Get out and give it a try and let me know how it goes!
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When you’re looking to go off grid, there are several options, but you’ll often begin by asking: Can solar alone get me off grid?
The answer to this question is “yes,” but keep reading if you want more details.
Using solar to go off grid is a fantastic way to go. You’ll need to keep the following in mind throughout the process:
1. Cloudy days are fine. Let’s first dispel the myth that you need every day to be sunny to go solar. Solar panels do, in fact, work in foggy or overcast days with ambient light and will produce significant power in those times as well. As a matter of fact, solar panels can work just as well in cool weather as in hot weather.
As an example: Solar panels in Sacramento, California, only produce one percent more electricity than do the exact same panels in San Francisco, California. Sacramento is known for its hot sunny days while San Francisco is known for its foggy, overcast, cooler climate.
2. Monitor your electricity usage. The average American home uses 911 KWHs of electricity each month1. Some states are higher and some lower. But, 911 is the average. Louisiana is the highest with 1,291 KWHs and Hawaii the lowest with 506 KWHs of electrical energy usage average per household.
We all use more electricity than we need, so consider cutting back. But there are solar system calculators that you can use to ensure you’re getting enough power. Having a little more than you need is far better than not having enough.
3. Off-grid or grid-tied? Many don’t fully understand how grid-connect systems work. With a grid-connect system, you don’t have power storage batteries. You generate power, use what you need and deliver the rest to the grid.
You have no back-up batteries. If the power goes out for the grid, your power goes out, as well. At night when you’re not generating power, you are buying it from the grid. So, you’re selling it to them during the day, and buying it back at night.
If you’re going 100 percent off grid, then you’ll want to go with a battery storage system. This way, you are creating power all day and storing the excess for nighttime usage.
Should Solar Be My Only System?
You most certainly can use solar for your entire energy production and it will generally work out just fine.
If you’re confident that you have more than enough room to have a solar power system larger than your needs and have more than enough battery backup for extended times without generating power, then you should be good to go.
You may, however, wish to consider a second system that also provides as much power as you need. It doesn’t have to be a very costly system. But, putting all your eggs in one basket could be problematic at some point in the future.
Twenty years going 100 percent off-grid with solar would not have been possible. But with today’s advances in solar technologies, it’s not only viable, but it’s practical and wise as well.
What would you add to this story? Share your thoughts in the section below:
For most people, gardening is limited to the summer months, when the weather is warm. However, commercial growers don’t always depend on the weather being cooperative. While most farmers are limited by the weather as well, there are some who manage to grow their produce most of the year, if not all of the year.
Having extra growing seasons or even growing year-round has some distinct advantages. More than anything, it can ensure a year-round food supply, rather than having to depend on the food that one has canned in harvest time. It also evens out the workload, rather than working a huge garden in the summertime.
The key to this is a greenhouse. Greenhouses were invented by the ancient Roman Empire for the purpose of growing vegetables 2. Considering that Rome is at a higher latitude than Denver, if they were able to grow vegetables there during the winter, we should be able to do the same in most of the country.
Although professionally built greenhouses are very expensive, made with aluminum framework and glass windows, you can build a homemade greenhouse quite cheap. A quick search online shows countless examples of homemade greenhouses, mostly made out of PVC pipe or 1 inch x 4 inch dimensional construction lumber and visqueen plastic sheeting. Of the two, building out of PVC is the easiest, although PVC pipe will become brittle after a few years if you have a lot of sunlight.
The key to using your greenhouse year-round is to maximize the heat produced inside it. Your goal has to be to keep the temperature inside the greenhouse above freezing. If you can keep it even warmer, that will be better for the plants. There are a number of things you can do to help accomplish this; not all of them need to be done, and you’ll need to pick a combination that works for your situation.
1. Use a double layer of plastic for the “windows”
Insulation helps, but most insulation blocks the light. So, instead of insulating the south and west sides of the greenhouse, use a double layer of plastic for the windows. That will double the R-value of the greenhouse. It may not seem like much, but it will help tremendously.
2. Use compost
The natural breakdown of organic material to make compost generates a lot of heat. Specifically, it is the bacteria that is breaking down the material which generate that heat. So, topping your garden beds with fresh compost before the cold weather hits will help to keep your plants, especially the critical roots, warm. Make sure that you add a good layer, two to three inches thick, as the bacteria like a warm environment. The thicker layer helps the bacteria create that warm environment.
3. Use black wood mulch for the walkways
The space between your planting beds is prime real-estate for absorbing sunlight and converting it to heat. This can either be left as bare dirt or covered with black wood mulch. Whatever you do, make sure that it is black or at least dark colored, as dark colors absorb more sunlight. Black-colored cement would be even better, although it would add a lot of cost to your greenhouse.
4. Add heat-absorbing barrels
One of the best things you can do is to place black plastic barrels, filled with water, inside the greenhouse, where the sun can strike them. The sunlight entering the greenhouse will be absorbed by the black plastic and converted to heat, warming the water inside. That water will act as a thermal mass, holding the heat like a battery, until it is needed. Then, usually after the sun goes down, that heat can be radiated into the air.
You must be careful about the placement of these barrels, so that they do not block the sunlight from reaching any of your plants. Remember that the sun will be lower down on the horizon, so sunlight will be blocked easier. The best place to locate these barrels is along the north wall of your greenhouse. For that matter, you can make the north wall out of them and then cover them up with white fabric in the summertime, so that they don’t create extra heat in your greenhouse.
5. Insulate the north side
The north side of your greenhouse isn’t going to generate any heat for you. That’s because we live in the northern hemisphere and the sun is always south of us. So, there’s really nothing to be gained by having the north wall be clear plastic, like the other walls and roof. You’re better off insulating it with Styrofoam sheets, helping to hold in the heat and blocking any wind.
6. Build your greenhouse partially underground
Probably the hardest, but one of the most effective strategies is to build the greenhouse partially underground. The deepest you’ll want to go is about 4 feet, with another four feet of roof sticking up above the ground. By building it underground, the earth around the greenhouse will act as an insulator from the cold outside air. The lowest that the ground temperature can reach is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you have colder air in the winter, the ground will actually be warmer.
This works extremely well if you can build your greenhouse into a south-facing hillside. The sun coming into the greenhouse can warm the earthen wall on the north side, just the same as it warms the ground. Between the two, it will produce more heat.
Add a heater, if you must
When all else fails and these ideas don’t keep your greenhouse warm enough, you might have to add a heater. This becomes more likely the farther north you go. A small space heater inside your greenhouse may be just enough to break the chill, especially at night. Don’t worry about producing too much carbon dioxide, as your plants will consume that, converting it to oxygen.
Finally, grow cold-weather plants. All plants are assigned a “growing zone” in which they grow best. These zones come from a map produced by the USDA and equate to the temperature encountered in those areas of the country. During the winter, pick out plants that grow best in the northern part of the country. This will be indicated by a lower growing zone on the seed packet.
Do you have a greenhouse? What tips would you add to the list? Share them in the section below:
Keeping chickens healthy and comfortable in cold temperatures is easy if you follow these simple tricks.
Chickens, of course, are not mammals. They are birds, and thus, they maintain their temperature very efficiently if they are not subjected to extreme conditions such as wind, rain, snow or ice.
The first step is to make sure your coop is adequate to protect them from the elements.
There should be no cracks or openings that will allow cold drafts to enter the coop. You want it to be air-tight, with the exception of ventilation, for proper air movement. Place air vents high in the walls or in the roof to allow proper air exchange and to avoid moisture build-up.
Condensation and high humidity combined with cold temperatures are the chief cause of frostbite to the wattles and combs of chickens.
Make the most of solar heat by placing windows on the south side of the coop or by installing clear panels in the roof. This will aid in warming the coop and especially the floor during daytime hours.
Make sure your perches are wide enough so the birds can sit on their feet while roosting. I like to use two-by-fours for perches, turned flat, so the chickens can roost flat-footed. Unlike many birds, chickens don’t like to curl their feet around a perch. Do not use plastic or metal pipe. It’s slippery, and metal gets very cold and could cause frostbite.
Allowing the manure and bedding to build up in the winter will create heat as the waste breaks down, just like a compost pile. If you smell manure and ammonia when you enter your coop it means you need more bedding. Keeping plenty of bedding in the coop allows the birds to scratch more, aiding the composting process as well as keeping them active during winter months.
To encourage your chickens to be more active in winter months, hang a head of cabbage on a string from the ceiling. They will love it and stay busy pecking and shredding it.
Feeding a high-quality protein feed in the winter helps to keep their metabolism running high and produces more energy for warmth. Giving them cracked corn in addition to regular feed in the evening provides them a good high-energy boost for the night.
Chickens need good supply of water at all times. If the water is freezing, you’ll need to give them warm water two or three times a day or purchase a heated water base to keep the water from freezing. Dehydrated birds have a very hard time maintaining their body temperature. And chickens that are low on water will not eat as much, and that only makes it harder for them to maintain heat.
I have kept chickens using these methods for years through many days of zero and even sub-zero temperatures — and you can, too!
What are your best tips for keeping chickens warm? Share them in the section below:
My grandfather heated his home in northern Michigan with wood for most of his life. As he got older, we installed an oil-burning stove as a backup. But for the most part, he did great with just wood heat, and my brother and I would often go up to his place to cut and split timber and stack the cords.
My grandfather usually insisted on three cords of wood stacked on his back porch for a typical Michigan winter, and sometimes liked an extra batch just in case. (A “cord” of wood is a stack that measures four feet high, four feet wide and eight feet long.)
He always over-stocked. He felt that wood harvested in summer and fall was much better than panicking in late winter or early spring if the stockpile of wood was low. We all agreed.
His house was modest at about 1,500 square feet, but he had a second story. His wood-burning stove was on the first floor. He also had a wood-burning cookstove in the kitchen, which was next to the stairs leading to the second floor, but he rarely bothered to heat the upstairs.
When the temperatures got below zero, he closed off the stairway to the second floor with a light sheet of plywood and set up a cot on the first floor in the living room. Over time, he actually preferred this bed in the living room and pretty much relegated the second floor to storage.
I learned a lot by helping him heat his home – lessons that are still applicable for today.
Let’s start with the basics. If you have a two-story home, the good news is that heat rises. If you only have a first floor wood-burning stove, the heat will find its way upstairs, but you may find the first floor a bit chilly if the heat generated isn’t sufficient for your total square footage and it’s all going up.
Many wood-burning stove manufacturers indicate the reasonable amount of space you can heat with a given stove, but this varies depending on the stove quality. Make sure you anticipate your square footage and understand how many square feet any stove you purchase can reasonably heat.
Stove Quality Facts
A standard wood-burning stove is made from cast iron, and the iron acts as a heat exchanger to direct heat into a room or rooms. Some have clear glass doors so you can enjoy the sight of a wood fire and assess when to add more wood.
However, quality matters. A poorly constructed stove will not only vent smoke into your home, but burn and heat inefficiently. If you can’t afford a better quality stove, any wood-burning stove is better than none.
Some stoves are made with stone, brick or soapstone to transfer and hold heat. Another critical consideration is the flue and other valve controls that can control the flow of air to the fire. What you want overnight is a slow, steady burn that continues to radiate heat without burning out in the middle of the night. The key is to do your homework and know that better quality stoves will give you maximum control, effective smoke sealing and overall safety.
Wood-burning stoves also require a base underneath that is usually firebrick or fire-proof tiles that protect the floor from any radiant heat from the bottom. Make sure you insulate the floor properly before planting a wood-burning stove on any floor.
Humidity and Stoves
An unfortunate side-effect of heat generated by any wood-burning stove is that it creates a very dry environment. This can cause problems for some people related to their sinuses, chest congestion, dry skin and dry eyes. You need to find a humidifying solution. The simplest is a towel in a five-gallon bucket that is filled with water and draped over a T-shape made with dowels of two slats of wood.
Any water exposed to dry air will evaporate into the surrounding air, but the towel acts as a wick to speed the transpiration. You could also hang your wet laundry on clotheslines in your home; you’ll be surprised at how fast it dries.
Wood Types and Seasoning
Only wood that has been dried or aged for a least a year should be used in a wood-burning stove. In an emergency, you do what you have to do, but green wood not only burns inefficiently but produces creosote that will eventually clog your stove pipes and chimney – creating a fire hazard.
The type of wood is also critical. Hardwoods such as oak and maple are best. Fruit woods are also good if they have been sufficiently aged. Aged ash is good for starting a fire but as a soft wood it burns very quickly. The worst is pine. Dried pine branches can help start a fire, but even when aged pine produces creosote and simply burns too quickly. Here again, if it’s all you have then you need to do what’s necessary, but if you can avoid pine, do so.
Strive for hardwoods for 90 percent of your stockpile, with well-aged softwoods to start a fire. Three cords is a good general stockpile, but like grandpa said, “More is better.” Besides, you can always carry over the excess to the next winter.
Insulation as a Factor
Insulation applies to the retention of heat regardless of the heat source, but you can reduce your wood stockpile needs if you manage insulation properly. The key is to understand not only key insulation points, but temperature management.
Temperature management is as simple as telling a teenager to not leave the front door or the garage door open. This was my grandfather’s pet-peeve. He knew how much he worked to maintain heat and humidity in an environment — and complacency from anyone was not tolerated.
Temperature management also involves stopping leaks in the integrity of a structure. This is largely defined by doors and windows. What most people don’t know is that doors are the biggest heat leakers. Make sure your doors are sealed with a rubber or plasticized gasket and that the door seals tight.
Windows are another matter. If you have storm windows, make sure you use them. You can also apply a sheet of plastic internally and stretch it tight with a blow-dryer to create an additional seal. It may be unsightly for a while, but hey — it’s winter.
Gaps in insulation between the foundation and the frame can also be heat sinks. If you can afford it, find ways to insulate and seal areas where cold air can invade.
By the way, electrical outlets on walls facing the exterior can also cause drafts. There are simple insulating templates that you can use to insulate any electrical outlet. Hold your hand close to the outlet on a cold day and if you feel a draft, you know what to do.
Hire an Expert?
As a self-sufficient person who values and appreciates homesteading, I’m always reluctant to hire experts. But you may want to think about this a bit if you’re not willing to pursue some due diligence on the subject of heating your home with a wood-burning stove.
Heating your whole home with wood heat is a serious and potentially dangerous proposition. The risk of fire, oxygen depletion, carbon monoxide poisoning from escaping or leaking smoke, or a failure of the stove on a night when the temperatures are -30 Fahrenheit contradict our attempts to survive in the face of adversity. You want to get this done right the first time.
Wood-burning stoves require annual maintenance:
- The seals need to be evaluated and potentially replaced.
- The chimney should be swept and cleaned by a chimney sweep regardless of the quality of wood you are burning. If you want to do this yourself, then buy the equipment and make it a late spring chore.
- Clean out and dump the ashes on a regular basis. You’ll need an ash bucket and a place to dump the ashes in the cold and snow of winter. Think ahead about how and where you’ll do this. Remember: The ash will most likely have hot coals that are a fire hazard.
Heating with a wood-burning stove makes sense for many people and may be your only off-the-grid option. Take the time to learn the basics and have the tools and hopefully the resources to stockpile enough wood to stay warm and comfortable all winter long.
What are your wood-burning stove tips? How much wood do you stockpile? Share your advice in the section below:
Winter months present a unique challenge in many parts of North America due to freezing temperatures. In fact, no other season is as deadly if the electricity goes out. So how do you prepare to survive the cold season? What should you stockpile? And if you’re tied to the electric grid, what do you do if the power goes out?
Heat is the Key
If there is no electric power you can always assume you’ll have gas. But many gas appliances from furnaces and water heaters to gas ranges have electric components. They also have compressors that are electric powered to force the air through your home. You could always light a gas range cook top with a match or flame, but don’t assume for a minute it can serve as a heat source unless you’re absolutely desperate. You can put some cast iron over the gas range cook top to act as a heat conductor after you have switched off the gas, but it’s not going to add much heat to you home.
If you have a fireplace, it can certainly help you stay warm. But be forewarned. Ninety percent of your heat is going up the chimney with the smoke. A fireplace will heat a room, maybe two. It will not heat a whole house. You can close-off sections of your house, but you’ll discover very quickly that a fireplace is a highly localized and inefficient heat source.
Buy a small cast-iron stove that you can quickly install into your fireplace. You’ll have to attach a stove pipe that exhausts up the flue, and some heavy duty aluminum foil affixed with foil tape to seal off the flue. Once you’ve done that, your cast iron stove will be a heat exchanger that will add significantly more heat than a traditional fire in a fireplace.
You could also have a wood-burning stove installed in your home to not only supplement your heating while on-the-grid, but to serve in an emergency off-the-grid.
Keep in mind that just because you have an efficient word-burning stove it doesn’t mean it will heat your entire home. It’s all a question of square footage and the design of your home, as well as the size and number of wood-burning stoves inside. While some people have installed “whole-house” wood-burning solutions, most people have just one wood-burning alternative.
Keeping a two-story home warm is the most challenging. Heat rises and cold descends. If the temperature outside is zero degrees, your house will quickly equalize to that temperature. A single, wood burning stove in the fireplace will not efficiently heat a two-story home. The temperature will rise, but you’ll be lucky to have an average temperature above freezing across your home.
As a result, you may have to rethink your living and sleeping arrangements during a particularly cold weather. Your first step is to abandon the second story. Close all of the doors upstairs and try to block off any hallways with a sheet that is tightly suspended or tacked around the wood framing to the hallway. You also might want to consider closing off rooms that are not critical, like a formal dining room.
A Special Note About Kerosene Heaters
Kerosene heaters give off significant amounts of carbon monoxide. You could always place one in the fireplace in place of a wood-burning fire, but unless you close off the flue to some degree and carefully vent the kerosene heater you’ll lose more heat up the flue than you generate.
Putting a kerosene heater in proximity to a fireplace could also encourage venting of the carbon monoxide. But manage it carefully and if you feel dizzy, nauseous or have a headache, know that you may be succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have children, they will be affected more quickly due to being smaller.
Avoiding Frozen Pipes
If you cut off heat to the second floor of your home for any length of time, you’ll want to drain the water from sinks, toilets, showers and bath tubs throughout the house. Without electricity you probably won’t have running water and will be depending on local water supplies, your stockpile of water, or melted snow and ice.
You can still flush a toilet without running water. You just have to fill the toilet tank with sufficient water to effectively flush. This is a good argument for keeping a constant supply of melted snow or ice on hand in a large 5-gallon bucket or two.
Without electricity you’ll find cooking to be a continuing challenge especially in winter. There’s a remote possibility that a gas range may function, but you’ll need to light the flame manually.
You also can cook in your fireplace or on the surface of a wood burning stove. Make sure you have an ample supply of cast-iron cookware on hand including covered pots like a Dutch-Oven. Some people use a corner of the fireplace for cooking with a metal grate to support a pot or pan.
You also have the option of cooking over an open fire in the backyard or a kettle grill stocked with wood that has burned down to coals that are manageable for cooking. This is a cold proposition depending on outside temps, but if you have a covered grill you can hurry inside while the food is cooking outside. Here again, consider the cooking equipment you might need to cook a variety of dishes and meal types outside.
Bedding and Clothing
It’s obvious that winter clothing makes sense in winter but there are some items you want to make sure you consider. One is sometimes referred to as a “night-cap” and no, it’s not an evening cocktail. If you’ve ever slept in a tent in the winter you know how cold your head can become. In fact, we lose 40 percent of our body heat through our heads. You might want to consider sleeping with hat on.
Bedding should be ample with extra blankets, quilts or sleeping bags. If you’re sleeping on the floor in a family room or on a couch, having extra blankets on hand can not only keep you warm, but accommodate friends and family that may have joined you because they don’t have a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
In addition to the cold, it’s also darker in many parts of the world during winter. Candles are a primary consideration along with a few lanterns that burn a clean oil.
There are also flashlights that are cranked by hand to provide a light source without batteries. If you are going to depend on battery-powered flashlights to any degree, consider a solar recharger. Remember, however, sunny days in the winter are short and might be few and far between.
Laundry as a Humidifier
Laundry is a tough one in winter without electricity and ample supplies of water. Your primary focus should be on laundering socks and underwear and any other clothing that is obviously soiled.
A benefit of doing laundry in the house and hanging it to dry is the humidity that it creates. Just like on a hot summer day, the humidity will make you feel warmer. And if you are heating with wood you may find the laundry drying surprisingly fast due to the dryness of the air.
If you need humidity and the laundry is done, you can always use some dowels to support a towel in a 5-gallon plastic bucket filled with water. The towel should emerge above the water level to some degree and will act as a wick to add humidity to the air.
Creating a Winter Stockpile
If you want to prepare for a winter off-the-grid, you need to figure out some basics. One is the number of people you think you will be housing. This could go beyond your immediate family as extended family members seek shelter in a location with basic resources they may be lacking.
Here’s a checklist to serve as a reminder. It may vary depending on your circumstances and already assumes you have ample supplies of food and drinking water:
- A wood-burning stove with the necessary equipment to install it in a fireplace, including stove pipes, foil and foil tape, along with an ash bucket and ash shovel.
- Sufficient firewood to heat throughout the winter
- A kerosene heater if you can properly vent it. Make sure to have enough fuel, replacement wicks and filters to keep it operating.
- Lumbering tools for harvesting and stocking additional firewood.
- Cooking equipment and utensils for cooking on a wood stove, open fire or kettle grill.
- Sufficient candles, lanterns, lantern oil and flashlight options that are hand-powered or solar-powered, along with sufficient fire-starting materials like matches and lighters.
- Up to a dozen, 5-gallon plastic buckets for water collection of snow and ice and other needs.
- Sufficient winter clothing for you, your family and others who may join you.
- Sufficient bedding in the form of blankets, pillows, quilts and sleeping bags, plus sheets that also can be used to temporarily seal off hallways and stairways.
- Soap for washing and laundry.
- Rope to hang laundry to dry and act as a humidifying agent.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start. The key is to stop and anticipate your needs and do some estimates so you have enough on hand to get through winter and early spring.
What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:
How To Build a Deluxe Barrel Stove Prepping is the name and prepping is the game! Having a reliable heating system makes winter a more enjoyable, less stressful season. Most homes have central heating with oil, gas, or electricity for fuel and these are reasonably dependable even if evermore expensive to use. Many folks use wood-stoves for …
Long-term food storage is a common-sense approach to ensuring that you and your family can survive a catastrophic event that significantly affects our food supply. But there’s more to it than just stacking cans in the attic. In fact, that may be the worst place to store any kind of food.
A lot can go wrong if you have food in storage for years and simply assume that everything will be okay when the day comes that you need to open those cans.
There are fundamentally six things you should consider with regards to any long-term food storage plan:
1. Consider nutrition.
There are some fundamental considerations you have to think about with regards to long-term food storage. The first is diversity. Storing 200 #10 cans of macaroni and 50 #10 cans of dry milk is not a nutritious solution. You have to think in terms of nutritional diversity. Many companies offer pre-packaged solutions for three months’ to one year’s worth of food. If you can’t afford a large package offering, look carefully at what they include so you can purchase a diversified collection of foods over a period of time.
You should also keep a running tally on what you have stored. You may think you have it all figured out, but you don’t want to find out the hard way that you have too much of one item and barely enough of something that may be more essential. A good way to make this assessment gets to the next point.
2. Eat what you store and store what you eat.
Failure to follow this simple suggestion may be the biggest fail for anyone stockpiling food supplies. While many products in hermetically sealed, #10 cans will survive for years and years, some in 5-gallon buckets aren’t as dependable. I opened a five-gallon bucket of sugar after six years and it was permeated with mildew.
You’ll also find great value in this practice of eating what you store. We’ve never bought a box of macaroni and cheese in the last 10 years when we figured out that a can of macaroni and a can of cheese powder was essentially the same ingredients.
Eating what you store also gives you experience with how to prepare these foods and combine them with available fresh ingredients to create a pattern of recipes you and your family will enjoy.
3. Watch out for heat.
The standard recommendation is to store your foods in a cool, dark place. That’s why an attic is a bad idea. Not only is it sometimes inaccessible on a regular basis, but the heat that can develop in an attic space will quickly compromise the shelf life of any stored food. A dedicated pantry is ideal and a basement is also an option. Darkness is not as critical as ambient temperature, because most long-term foods are hermetically sealed in cans, but direct sunlight at any time can raise temperatures.
4. Watch out for moisture, too.
If your basement is damp, that’s a problem. Even though cans are sealed to prevent moisture from affecting the contents, oxidation or rust from moisture can affect the integrity of any metallic item over time. Moisture can also permeate food even if it’s sealed. This was my experience with the five-gallon bucket of sugar. A bit of dampness in my basement was all it took to compromise the entire bucket.
You should also take your cans out of the cardboard boxes if you have purchased foods in bulk. The standard package is six #10 cans in a box. That’s great for shipping, but cardboard absorbs moisture and can continually compromise the cans inside. Get the cans out and do whatever you can to keep them free of moisture.
5. Use common sense when opening food.
When we eat what we store we have to remember that the minute a can is opened, it is subject to the standard shelf-life of any consumer packaged goods. Most #10 cans come with a plastic lid and you can even buy additional lids if you lose one, but resealing a can with a plastic lid doesn’t mean you can return it to the storage area for another five years. Once it’s opened, you need to consume it on a regular basis.
6. Rehydrate your food properly.
What allows most foods to have a long-term shelf life is dehydration. In order to prepare most of these foods, the addition of water or some form of liquid is required to rehydrate the foods. Failure to rehydrate properly is perhaps the greatest fail when it comes to the enjoyable consumption of long-term foods stores. We’ve prepared an article on this subject that gives you guideline for various rehydration methods and food types. (Recommended: The Right Way To Rehydrate Long-Term Storage Food.)
This gets back to the fundamental concept of eating what you store and storing what you eat. You’ll gain valuable experience with various types of stored foods that will ensure that you can prepare meals that not only sustain you nutritionally, but that you’ll actually enjoy.
What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:
Transcription provided by American Preppers Network
Number of speakers: 1 (Manny)
Duration: 08 min 39 sec
Make a Lamp with Sardines and a Twig
Manny: No matter how many spare batteries or candles you pack, eventually you might run out. But you can still make light, as long as you have a can of sardines in oil and a twig. I’m pretty sure you can find that. I’ll show you what to do with it.
To use a twig as a wick, you wanna get one that’s still green, because it needs to be fibrous. You don’t want one that’s gonna snap. This is bald cypress. I’m gonna get one out of oak. That one’s green. We’ll see how these work. Let’s go in and try it.
This is just a cotton string. So if you have that in your kit, you’re in a good shape. You can take this and make a wick out of it. Okay but what do you do, if you don’t have a wick? Well, you’ve got several options. You can use a twig. Here I have a piece of bald cypress twig and a piece of oak, which I haven’t tried. You’re gonna see me trying oak for the first time.
Another thing you can do is cut off a few strips from your shima, because you always have a cotton shima in your bag, right. Start about an inch and a half away from the end. You wanna have a rectangular piece that’s not cut and then you’re gonna cut three strips.
Now you’re gonna cut just a strip right here. A slit right about there. What I wanna do is just stick this piece of bamboo in here tight. If you’re outside and you can find a tree, then wrap it around a twig like this. Might be easier to do this than it would be to find the end and work it over the end. And now I’m just gonna braid it. I’m looking for a fairly tight, dense braid. And of course the thinner the strips you start with, the smaller the wick. The smaller the wick, the slower your oil will burn off. If you make your wick too large or too long, it’s going to burn extra oil of course, and it’s also gonna smoke.
Let’s prepare the twig wick. Roll it. A twig is essentially a wick. It draws nutrients up out of the ground, and water, to the leaves and transports nutrients from the leaves to the rest of the tree. I mean, it’s just a… it’s a transportation system for liquids. Alright, let’s try it with some oak, which I haven’t done before. I don’t know how this is gonna turn out, but… By the time I get it soft enough, it’s kind of shredding. So, I don’t know how that’s gonna work. We’ll see.
When I’m done burning the oil out of this, I’m gonna eat the sardines. So, I don’t want to turn the reamer the way it’s normally used to ream, because I don’t want to get metal shavings in my sardines. So, I’m just gonna poke the hole, and then if I need to expand it, I’ll turn it the other way, so it doesn’t cut any metal shavings. That should be good enough for the cotton string.
We’ll go ahead and soak the wick. I’m gonna go ahead and trim it. See, I don’t think this oak is gonna work so well, because when I pounded it, it just came apart into these strands. So, I’m gonna try taking off the bark end and poke it in there. Alright. Well, that’s kind of a mess, but… Cotton string, cotton sheet. That’s the bald cypress. And here’s the oak. See that cotton sheet, a little too thick, so it burns off with a lot of smoke. I think that bald cypress wick can do better.
So, I’ve blown them out, I’m gonna work on the bald cypress wick a little longer. Try to make a better one. I’m just making one from the thick end of the twig. See if that helps. I like it to be good and soft.
I love this job. So, the trick here is to get that wick really soft. You have to pound it until it’s just really flexible. More like cloth and then it wicks better. The total amount of oil in the can will probably last two hours, maybe three, if you’ve got a smaller wick like this cotton. Generally the smaller the better. Burns slower. Puts out about the same amount of light. This is the cotton string, this is the cotton sheet, braided. And that is the bald cypress twig.
There, just an idea for how you can get some light, if you have no other option and don’t mind putting a little work into it. You can go out and get a twig. And as long as you have a can of sardines or tuna in oil, would work fine as well.
Thanks for watching. Go to the blog SurvivalNewsOnline.com, and I’ll have more information about this. Good night.
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You’re so hot — but not in a good way!
Whether you work outside for a living or you suddenly find yourself stranded on a desert island or you find yourself in Phoenix, Arizona, or Las Vegas, Nevada, you need to maintain your cool — literally!
Extreme heat can be deadly. Hyperthermia, or abnormally high body temperature, is the term applied to the many heat-related illnesses that can cause a firestorm of maladies in your body. Heat stroke, sun stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps can come upon you like a house on fire and consume you almost as quickly.
Extreme heat does not refer to those lazy, hazy days of beach play and picnics beside a lake or when temperatures are merely in to the eighties and the humidity is low. We’re talking temperatures close to 100 degrees or more or the combination of high temps and humidity that can be life-threatening.
Heat conditions that are too extreme for your body will render it unable to cool itself and allow your internal temperature to soar. This kind of heat is similar to having a fever over 104 degrees — it begins to damage your vital organs, your heart and brain, and will eventually kill you.
There are steps you can take to beat the heat. From a poorly ventilated apartment with no air conditioning to the stuffy cab of a bulldozer in the middle of July, you can survive the dog days of summer no matter where you are.
Learn from Your Forefathers
As hard as it is for Generations X, Y or Z to imagine a world without air-conditioning, cellphones or the Internet, there are still many people and places in the world that lack those amenities. There are also those who choose to forego those things for ecological or economic reasons. And as un-imaginable as it may seem to anyone under 30, it can be survived. Just ask a Baby Boomer or your grandparents.
Surviving and Thriving In Spite of the Heat
Here are tips for staying cool:
Fight the fire by escaping it:
Avoid direct sunlight and try to stay in the shade during the hottest part of the day — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Create shade if none is available by hanging a piece of fabric as a makeshift curtain or wearing a wide-brimmed hat to shield your face and head from the sun. The heat index tells us how hot we really feel when humidity and temperature are combined. Strong wind and full sun exposure can add as much as 15 degrees to the heat our body is experiencing. Stay out of direct sun during those hours if you can.
Get naked or as close to it as possible:
The more skin you expose, the easier it is for your body to dissipate heat through sweating. However, unless you’re a lucky landscaper or construction worker at a nudist colony, going commando is probably illegal and not an actual option for any of us. So if you must wear clothes while in extreme heat conditions, wear just enough to remain within the law. Choose light-weight, loose-fitting, light-colored and breathable fabrics. Clothes that are suited to extreme heat help your body reflect the heat of the sun and wick the moisture off your skin to keep you cool.
Water, water and more water:
Dehydration makes hyperthermia worse. Heavy laborers working outside need to drink a lot of water to keep their body from overheating — perhaps as much as a quart or two every hour. Avoid sugary drinks or those with caffeine or alcohol — they do more harm than good by making your dehydration worse.
Water can also be used to cool your body from the outside. Soak a head-scarf or towel in cold water before wrapping around your head or neck to reduce the heat you feel. Putting a pan of cold water and ice in front of a fan blowing in your direction can also help cool the air around you.
How Much Is Too Much?
When soaring temps cannot be avoided and air-conditioning is not currently installed where you are or where you work — like behind a machine or on top of heavy equipment outdoors — be aware of what your body is telling you. It is vital to your health.
Here’s how to know if the heat is getting to you:
- Muscle pains and aches are often the first sign your body is not handling the heat. Painful spasms in your legs or abdomen along with unusually heavy sweating are a sign of heat cramps or heat exhaustion and must be dealt with. Immediately get to a cooler location if possible and begin sipping water — 4 ounces every 15 minutes — if you are not already nauseous. Apply cool compresses to your skin and lie down to minimize your exertion. Seek medical attention if vomiting occurs.
- Watch for breathing problems — shallow or rapid breathing, a weak pulse, and hot, red and dry skin. These are signs of an abnormally high body temperature (105+) and the onset of heat stroke. Heat stroke is your body’s last defense before unconsciousness, coma or death. Get to a hospital or call 911 as soon as possible. A delay could mean death.
Good News for the Working Man
Your body can adapt to the heat if it is regularly exposed to it. If you are used to working outside in warm weather you probably won’t succumb to hyperthermia as quickly as those who are new to extreme heat conditions. Our bodies are able to double their sweat output as well as sweating at a lower temperature once acclimated to the weather. However, acclimation takes at least a week or two so don’t count on it if you’re new to outside work.
The better choice is to monitor your feelings and overall condition closely while exposed to extreme heat. If you feel hotter than usual — hotter on the inside — take note. If you experience a change in your breathing or the onset of pain, stop what you are doing and get out of the heat — your health could depend on it.
Staying cool is not just for Fonzie anymore.
Alicia grew up in Alaska where she earned her hunter and wilderness safety license at age 13. She now works as a content coordinator for a tech company in Pennsylvania and blogs in her free time at Homey Improvements.