Welcome back to Part II of our guest post from Power4Patriots customer and regular reader Karen from West Virginia. If you missed Part I make sure to check it out to read Karen’s fascinating story. You’ll learn about the critical decisions her family made that helped them weather a disaster as well as their mistakes and how they learned from them to be even more prepared in the future.
‘Be Prepared’ is more than the Boy Scout’s Motto – Part II
Welcome back! We are now in the process of building a house that will have a root cellar/storage room in it. My husband has already built a large storage building I’ve nicknamed the “Taj Mahal.” In it, we have a freezer someone had left out to be hauled away even though they said “it still works,” some stored food, and tools that we moved out of the cabin because part of our family is living there and needed the space. Ken and I are ‘camped out’ in a trailer the fire department had been using for storage and gave us after the fire.
The “Taj Mahal” is 12×8 feet – plenty big enough to store a lot of stuff. It’s insulated with 1-inch foam insulation, underneath, in all the walls, in the ceiling and in the door. The little window is Thermopane insulated glass. So far, even though our outside temperatures have dropped well below zero, the temperature inside has not gone below freezing. We think the heat from the freezer compressor is what keeps it “warm” inside. There are electric lights. The hooks on the ceiling in the photo are for the family deer hunters to use to skin deer. They didn’t even have time to hunt this year, but plan to do so next year. The boxes on the shelves are filled with canned food. Glass jars of dried things like flour are behind the piece of plywood with the “bite” cut out of it. Extra paper towels, first aid supplies, etc., are also on the shelves. The tools that are in the “Taj” will be moved into a workshop once that is built, leaving room for more storage. The wood inside and out is pine, ripped on our sawmill into half-inch thick boards. We bought a log home kit that had been stored in a barn for years, and this wood came from 6×6 pine posts that were in the log home kit.
Even if you don’t have a lot of money, building up survival storage is very easy. You merely buy a little extra of something each time you go shopping. In a very short time, you will have quite a bit gathered up. Right now, our storage is not very well organized because we don’t have a lot of room in any one place to put things. There are things in the woodshed, things in the trailer, things in the “Taj” and things in the cabin.
One thing we need to do is make an inventory of what we have to be sure we aren’t missing something vitally important. There are lots of sites on the Internet with lists of “what everyone should have on hand” and none of them are identical because everyone has their own idea of what is “vital”. However, there are some things you really do need to be sure of. One is a source of water. We have a well with a 220-volt electric pump. However we also have a hand pump that can be used in the well if for some reason we had a power outage longer than we could run our generator. The second thing is a source of heat if you live in a climate with cold winters. Because we have free gas on our property, we heat the trailer with gas. The cabin is heated with a wood stove. If the gas went off, we would have to bunk in the cabin or be very cold as this old trailer is not a safe place for a wood stove!
Store food your family eats. Storing 50 pounds of dried beans is fine if your family eats beans. If they don’t, then store something they will eat. I have food in a freezer but if the power went off for any length of time, most of that food would have to be canned or we would lose it. I have a pressure canner and plenty of jars, so I could can it if I had to. I have a supply of Tattler reusable jar lids and find that they are just as good as the “throw away” kind. They cost more to begin with, but because they are reusable, the cost in the long term is negligible. If you don’t know how to can food, get a Ball canning book. It’s very easy to do if you follow the directions. Some foods, like tomatoes, can be canned in a water bath canner but most vegetables and meat must be pressure canned to be safe to eat. When we had goats, I even canned their milk in the water bath canner. We used that milk for cooking and to feed goat kids who needed extra milk. At the present time, we don’t have any goats but intend to get a milk goat this spring. Having your own milk is nice and goats are a lot easier to deal with than cattle!
I grow a garden every summer. I can and freeze what we don’t eat fresh. Here in West Virginia, one of the easiest things to grow that will produce an amazing amount of food in a small space is White Half Runner Beans. These are good fresh, canned or frozen and can be left on the vine to dry to use as you would any dry bean. Even the year we had an invasion of Japanese beetles that stripped the leaves, my half runners produced until frost. These beans will climb as high as you provide something for them to climb on. I made the mistake of planting some with some sunflowers once. The plants produced beans from the ground clear up to the top of the sunflower plants, way too high to reach!
Another way I have been experimenting with to preserve food is to dry it. I was given a case of celery once, and I tried to figure out how on earth we could eat that much celery before it went bad. That was before we had the freezer, so I had to figure out what I could do to save it, so I dried it. Once celery is dry, it takes up very little space, considering the amount of water in celery. I dried various vegetables and mixed them all together to use in soups, etc. Kept dry, they should be good for years. I even dried a bag of apples the other day to see how that would work out.
Even if nothing bad ever happens, just knowing that you don’t have to go to the store when a snowstorm is predicted is nice. And having extra things on hand when unexpected guests show up is helpful, too.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I did! It’s great to see an independent American family “making lemonade out of lemons” and using an experience that could have really knocked them down to come back even stronger and better prepared than before. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. And if you want to learn more about Karen, visit www.twolanelivin.com.