Winter Storms: Prepare Now, Have Fun Later

Winter Storms: Prepare Now, Have Fun Later

Winter Storms

Preparing for winter storms is different out here in the woods. We don’t have the same resources as urban dwellers.

winter storms, heavy snow on trees

STORM WATCH! Quick! Get to the Store!

Wait until the last minute, preferably until the first snow flakes fall or freezing rain starts to build up, and then rush to the store. Buy the last loaf of bread, gallon of milk (don’t drink milk? buy it anyway, it’s a storm requirement), and if you’re in Maine, a bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy (I’ll dehydrate before I’ll drink that stuff but again, if you’re in Maine, it’s a requirement). Fight for that bread! It’s going to storm and you might not get out for days. Days I tell you, and what are you going to do without bread? You might want some toilet paper while you’re there too but if you have to choose between the two…

Water

Water was my biggest surprise when we left the city. You don’t have to have electricity to have water when you’re on a public water system. When the power went out the first time and water trickled to a stop, I was stunned. Without electricity the well pump doesn’t turn on. The only water we have when the power is out is what’s already in the pipes and can trickle out on its own. We need a generator to run the pump OR we can fill containers. I scrub the bathtub when the storm starts and fill it with water. We can wash up, water the poultry and dogs, and flush the toilet (pour a gallon of water into the bowl to flush). I also fill the perk coffee maker, that old fashioned one that works on the stove. If you’re coffee dependent and have a thermal carafe, make a pot of coffee and let it sit. Our carafe keeps coffee hot for 15 hours.

One gallon of water per day per person is the standard amount to store. If it’s a normal storm and the roads are going to be cleared tomorrow, be reasonable. If not, store that water. You’ll use it even if it’s to flush the toilet after the power is over.

Water for Poultry

Add 1/3 cup of salt to a 20 ounce drink bottle and fill the bottle with hot water. You don’t need to ever heat the water again. Place the bottle on its side in the bottom of a Fortex or other watering pan used for poultry. Add enough water to cover three-quarters of the bottle. The water in the pan still freezes but the ice is thin enough for the birds to peck through around the bottle. One was alright in a 20 inch pan but two is better. The birds eventually figure out where to peck through the ice to get to water. This is going to save me from going out to the hen house during tomorrow’s nor’easter.

This works outside on a normal day. The ducks’ pan might have ice on top of the water but at the end of the day the water in the bottom is still liquid. I can flip the flexible pan over to break the ice out. Leave the salt water bottle in the pan for morning.

Cooking

The stove is propane. Having an electric stove doesn’t make sense to me. When the power is out the burners will still light. Some stoves, propane or natural gas, have a pilot light. A match held to the burner before turning the knob works just as well. Lit match first, remember that. Turning on the knob to release the propane into the air and then lighting the match is dangerous. Match first, then turn the knob. The oven won’t light without a pilot light. Don’t try to light it with a match. ove is also suitable for cooking.

Heat

We heat with wood so staying warm isn’t an issue when it’s storming. A fan that spins with the power of heat is always sitting on the wood stove. It’s no where near as powerful as the blower on the stove but works well enough. The burners on a propane or natural gas stove put out a lot of heat. You can at least heat the kitchen in an emergency.

Freezers

As homesteaders and frugal shoppers, freezers are always full with either food or ice. If we don’t lift the doors they won’t start to melt for the first two days without power. Freezers don’t run constantly. I can hear them click on once during the day and again in the evening. Running a generator once a day will keep the food frozen. You can run the fridge on a generator too. Learn how to use your generator safely well before the storm.

Gas

Speaking of generators, get gas ahead of time. Fill the vehicles and make sure you have enough for the snowblower. Steve plows with our tractor so he needs to fill the tank with diesel and have a propane heater ready to warm the engine so it will start.

Lights

winter stormsCandles and flashlights provide plenty of light as long as you’re using good candles and fresh batteries. They’re not high maintenance but you do have to think about them. We use Luci lights. They charge under a lamp or in the window. One charge works for 12 or more hours, and it’s unlikely you’re going to need artificial light for that long. Most of us will turn the light off to sleep through at least part of the night. I store Luci on the window sill in front of plants so I don’t see it until it’s needed.

Headlamps keep your hands free to carry water, hay, feed or anything else you need to do outdoors. Something to keep in mind – they drive me crazy inside because when the person wearing one looks at you, the light shines directly into  your eyes. Be sure to have another source of light indoors.

Solar lights. You know those little lights used outdoors for decoration? Charge them in the sun, preferably in a warmer spot like a plastic black mat that absorbs heat, and bring them in before sunset. One .99 cent light should be bright enough to light up the bathroom and serve as a nightlight.

Shovel, Salt, Sand

It’s important to keep exits free of snow during a storm. While you’re preparing for a storm, bring your shovel, salt and sand inside. Don’t plunk it down in front of the television. The porch or mud room or just inside the kitchen door is handy. It’s hard to dig through a snowdrift to get your shovel if your shovel is in the drift. Use enough salt and sand to make walking safe but there’s no sense in spreading much of either if the snow is still falling.

winter storms, gamesGames and Books

Make some hot chocolate and get out the games and books. Winter storms can be a lot of fun. I’m reading a book on food photography but when the nor’easter starts tomorrow I’ll probably switch to something amusing. Board games, hot chocolate and cookies (baked the day before) are a great combination.

Charge!

Charge batteries and devices. These days it’s easy to recharge but go into the storm with everything charged. My truck has a regular outlet in it, no adapter needed. A phone will charge while a vehicle is being cleaned off, snow shoveled around it, and the mailbox cleaned out. Winter storms are good times to put down the gadgets but it’s also convenient to pick one up and check the forecast.

Always Have These Things on Hand

We’re talking about winter storms today but you never know when something else might happen. An automobile accident can wipe out the power. Always have on hand:

  • matches
  • lighting
  • water if you need electricity to get water
  • manual can opener (that’s all we have)
  • healthy food. Your body needs good energy for shoveling, building forts, and if you have it, tending livestock when the storm clears.
  • meds. You might be able to refill a day or two early when a big storm is coming. Call the pharmacy in advance. Do not wait until the last minute on this one (because you’ll be fighting for bread, right?)

Preparing for winter storms isn’t a big deal when you’ve been homesteading a while. I hope the tips are helpful not only in preparing for winter storms but for things you should have on hand just because.

Prepare ahead for winter storms so you can relax and enjoy while the storm hits. It's a mini staycation!

9 thoughts on “Winter Storms: Prepare Now, Have Fun Later

  1. Thanks for these suggestions! Thank you! There’s a few here I hadn’t thought of–solar lights for in the bathroom is a great one 🙂

    A thing I’m more conscious of now, too, is checking on elderly neighbours who might need help getting their supplies from town or even shoveling out. Also single moms or those whose husband might be away working during a storm. I’ve been on the lonely end of that struggle before–I always check to see if nearby friends need a hand and, in turn, they check on us.

    Like you say, this is a list that should be considered at all times. I keep easy to cook things like noodles, canned beans etc so if we had to we could just heat on the wood stove. Good luck in the storm and stay safe! Jill

  2. Being on the coast, I’m used to high winds and power outages. Being that I’m on my own private road, I’m not a priority for EMERA so I often go 2-4 days without electricity. With a wood stove, gas stove, head lamp, candles, kerosene lanterns and a camping light, the only thing I lacked was water. With 3 dogs, 2 cats, 2 goats, turkeys, rabbits and chickens, I need water. I put in a Bison pump which is made in Houlton. It never needs priming and never freezes. In the right situation, they can be installed in a basement and charge the whole water system.

    1. Oddly, our well is in the basement. Previous owners built the addition over the well. I wonder if we could put the pump down there. I’m glad you mentioned it. Thanks!

      1. Perfect set up for it. I couldn’t because my well is a little down hill from the basement and it is 425 feet. The well person installing the Bison had to tell me all of this. I still love it.

  3. Ironically, we never got around to wiring our country property for a generator, though we talked about it many times. Now that we have moved into town, that is one of the first things we did to our house. I moved freezers with us and plan to still garden and can/freeze the excess, so I still love the idea of making sure they are ok. I did just keep them closed during any power outages we had in the past and they did do fine.

    I have only lived where I have had a well and septic, except for briefly years and years ago. I automatically fill pitchers, pots, etc. when I think the power might go out for that reason. The big surprise to me would be that the water WORKED in a power outage. That may turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Do you know if the city water always works? Is there any time when it doesn’t? On the various properties that we have lived on through our marriage, the only times it did not work was when pipes were frozen, or electricity was out so the pump did not work.

    1. I think city water always works unless it’s down for a broken pipe or some such thing. As long as the big tank has water it should flow. I’ve never not had it work.

      We lost a freezer full of meat two summers ago. It was devastating. I don’t can much these days but that and last summer I canned a lot to be sure we’d still have vegetables. A generator is worth its weight in gold.

  4. Wow. I am so not cut out for homesteading. But then again, I knew that…. I grew up in rural Virginia and remember well the filling-up-the-tub routine whenever we expected a loss of power, which was pretty frequent t/o the year, either from bad thunderstorms or the annoying ice storms so common in that part of the country in January and February. I vowed I would never be so isolated again, and so far as an adult I’ve managed to keep that promise. I’m so glad to know there are folks like you, loving the isolation. And I tip my hat, b/c dealing with rural conditions in Maine is about a hundred times more difficult than doing same in Virginia, I’m quite sure. I never owned a pair of snow boots before moving to Maine, and I had to watch a YouTube video on how best to shovel snow when we got our first big dose of snow here (which left me and the husband in shock as the white stuff piled up and up and up….) Anyway, thanks for the tips, despite my firm attachment to urban living, I might need some of that knowledge one day! Hope you enjoyed the storm and happy New Year.

    1. We’re 180° on urban and rural living. I couldn’t be dragged back to urban living. The traffic, noise and crowds, laws and rules on what’s allowed and forced, and the dependence on basic needs is more difficult to deal with than a storm.

      We got 8.5″ of snow and only a flicker in the power. Next up, freezing rain tomorrow afternoon and pouring rain on Wednesday. I’m with you on ice. I’d rather have a foot of snow than deal with ice.

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