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31 October, 2012

Guest Post: When Emergencies Are A Fact Of Life

When my husband and I sat down to brainstorm the basic skills a modern homesteader needs, emergency preparedness was near the top of the list.  But our reasoning had less to do with a future catastrophe and more to do with the reality of living back in the woods where you're always the last one to have your power restored when trees take down the whole county's grid. 

Since moving to our farm six years ago, we've had perhaps half a dozen relatively major power outages, the longest of which lasted ten frigid winter days.  We weren't prepared, so I spent a lot of time cooking outside over a fire and melting snow for drinking water.  I defrosted the top of our wedding cake months early to cheer us up --- we were going to save the delicacy to eat on our first anniversary, as tradition dictates, but I figured I'd rather our marriage last through the outage.

At night, we read until our flashlights gave out, then settled down into a nest made of all our blankets and sleeping bags to stay warm.  It took us several days to be able to hack our way through fallen trees and get off the farm for more supplies, but since we grow most of our own food, that was less daunting than the long, cold winter nights.

Afterward, we made major changes.  We installed an efficient wood stove inside so we'd stay warm no matter what and we invested in some high quality sleeping bags for the same reason.  I picked up a few solar flashlights to make light less dependent on electricity and washed out milk jugs to store drinking water.  Nowadays, the worst that happens when the power goes out is that I lose a round of eggs developing into chicks in the incubator.

Which brings me back to our brainstorming session, the result of which was The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve-Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency .  My new book presents one fun and easy project for each weekend of the year to guide beginners onto the path to self-sufficiency, and I've included three emergency preparedness chapters.  In general, though, the book espouses a philosophy I stole from author Sharon Astyk, who writes frequently about the Anyway Principle.  If you're simplifying your life and becoming more self-sufficient anyway, you won't need to do anything special when the lights go out.

Anna Hess homesteads with her husband, two spoiled cats, a hard-working dog, and an ever-changing number of chickens on their farm in southwest Virginia.  They write about their adventures on their blog at www.WaldenEffect.org.

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