You Got to Let Go of Remote Control: The Wake-Up Call is in Your House!

Sharon December 18th, 2008

Don’t ever doubt the power of just one mind.
Or the world-wide power of just one rhyme.
Don’t ever doubt the force of the bassline.
Or a record gone round to burn the house down.
You got to let go of remote control!  You got to let go of remote control!You got to let go of remote control!  You got to let go of remote control!

Hey world, you know you got to put up a fight
Hey world, you rumble in the jungle tonight
Hey world, keep bringing it the rest of your life
You got to put up a fight, You got to put up a fight!

- Michael Franti and Spearhead

(Ok, you don’t have to or anything, but I’d strongly recommend that you listen to the song while you are reading this blog post - sometimes things just need the soundtrack.  This is one of them - you can see it on youtube actually: and the song is downloadable in various places. We need the sound to go with the ideas here, and who better than Franti?)

Ok, folks, time for our wake up calls!  Today is the end of the year preparedness wrap up.  This is not your normal blog post, this a party, and like all the best parties it has a soundtrack, some singing and dancing, some call and response.  Because this is the year that normal started to go to hell, and we got our wake-up call!  But that doesn’t have to be bad news - knowing that we have to be responsible, that our future is in our hands can be empowering too.  Time to let go of the remote control, to let go of all the things we let operate on remote control, and time to take charge of our futures.  We got to put up a fight on this one - we’re not going gently into any kind of night.

Who’s out there now?  How many of you got your wake up call this year that we can’t count on everything working the way it always has? By my count there were 14 states that had a significant portion of their population lose power for more than a day or so: Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire (some of y’all are just logging back on), Texas, Indiana, Iowa Minnesota, Michegan, Ohio, Alaska.  I’m probably underestimating the number, too.  Ok, report, who am I missing??  What was it like?  Were you ready - would you have been ready if it lasted longer?

What about the places where a large number of people had to grab their bug out bags and run?  Iowa, right, and Minnesota, Californians from the Wildfires, and Lousianans and Texans from the Hurricanes.  Name your states, folks!  Call out loud!  Did your plan help you?  What will you do next time?

And time to sing out, all those folks who weren’t part of any official disaster, but feel like they got hit by an earthquake anyway - you lost your jobs, you lost your homes, you are still sitting in your homes, but what you had ain’t worth nothing and you know that all the things you assumed would keep you secure, well, they aren’t so solid anymore.  Time to find some small measure of security in all this bad.  What can you do now to insulate yourself from the next little earthquake?

What about the 1 in 5 Americans who ended last winter in debt to their utility companies, struggling to pay for increasingly unaffordable heat, light and power?  One out of every 20 Americans got shut off last year - that’s more than five million households who had to live without a major utility! Anyone want to bet that number won’t go up?  Can you manage without them?  We’ve got to get the coal fired electric plants closed down - are you ready to make do with less energy?

And yes this was a rough year for America, but it certainly isn’t just America.  Check in, all of you from the 91 countries that the CIA notes had serious shortages of oil, gas or electricity.  What about the victims of floods in Britain, riots in Greece, the Earthquake in China, or any of the other disasters that hit around the world?  Anyone here reading from those places?  Don’t stay silent!  Sing out and tell us how you do, how you did, and what you’ll do next time.

Ok, so you survived.  How’d it go?  Were you safe, were you strong?  So you made it through - were you ok, were you ready?  What did you learn in your trials this time - what will you change for the next time?

 What about those of you who had no trials - do you think you won’t ever?  Time to practice, because three days without power will teach you more about what you need to get along than all the reading you can do on the internet.   

All of us who had our wake-up calls, either because our basic systems failed, or because we saw our neighbors lose theirs - it isn’t just enough to shrug and go on - it is time to resolve that next time you’ll be ready, you won’t be stuck, you won’t be powerless, just because you are without grid power.  There isn’t any getting off easy in this life, unless you are rich - and most of us will never be that. 

 Do you have an evacuation plan, a bug out bag, a little cash in reserve and enough gas to get where you need to go?  Do you have a way of finding your loved ones if you have to get out? 

 Are you set with light, heat, cooking and anything else you need to be secure and comfortable at home in a power outage?  Don’t rely solely on a generator - getting gas out of the ground takes power, and widespread enough outage will mean you still need those no-power backup systems.

Are you talking to your neighbors, talking about how to manage systemic problems?  How will you deal with waste, with food, with the elderly and ill in the neighborhood?  

Most of all, are you set to take care of yourself and your own needs, maybe to help others, or are you likely to rely on safety nets?  There’s no shame in relying on a safety if you really need it - but I think there is some shame in making use of a safety net you could have avoided requiring.  The safety nets are most likely to catch those who need it if those of us who can take care of ourselves as much as possible. 

 It is so easy to live in the world and trust that the systems will keep you going on remote control, that it is enough to do nothing, or maybe to do a little.  But if you haven’t had your wakeup call, it is coming.  We have no choice but to let go of the remote control, to take responsibility for ourselves and our future.

What will you do this year to be more prepared? Remember, there’s no getting out of it - we’ve all got to put up a fight, because no one is going to make it easy for us.


39 Responses to “You Got to Let Go of Remote Control: The Wake-Up Call is in Your House!”

  1. Shamba says:

    You just seem to be writing up a storm here these days! I use the word “storm” metaphorically here-unfortuanately, there are many forming out there for real these days.

    Not that I’m complaining about your frequency and subject of your writing. Quite the contrary, I’m enjoying reading every bit of it.

    thanks for your thought provoking writing, sharon.


  2. Shamba says:

    andn one more thing: I can only say, I’m more prepared than I was last year at this time. I have preparedness for lots of things, but there are some I still have no solution for. Some days I don’t want to put up a fight but at least today I feel like I’ve got enough energy to fight at least through the holidays. ;)


  3. Theresa says:

    I am more prepared but not prepared enough. No drastic wake-up calls here yet, but they will come.

    Fantastic video and song!

  4. wasteweardaily says:

    Here in my part of Florida we did not have anything significant happen to our family, friends or neighbors. There are still things I need to do to be preppared for long term power outage or for lower energy living. We would probably be fine for a few weeks without electricity. The only thing I have concern for is refrigeration. Even in winter it can be 80F like it is today. I guess we would just make due. We did a modified no electricity challenge, trying to do Crunchy Chicken’s L H on the Prairie challenge. It ended up being no lights, no TV, no computer and no radio. We did use the washer, fridge and freezer. What I learned was that Alladdin lamps use a lot of fuel. I will stick to battery operated LED lanterns with rechargeable batteries I can charge in my solar charger.
    I hope by the time I am done taking the Adapting in place class that I will be ready for anything :-)

    Cindy in FL

  5. Lisa Z says:

    Here in Central Minnesota we’ve never been without power for more than an hour or two at a time, blizzards and all. Still, I know it could happen. The recent extreme cold makes me wish we had our wood stove set up in the house, but hey at least we have two (!) of them in the garage. No natural gas or electricity for an extended time would be very bad here in MN. But at least we do have knowledge over some things to do, like keep water dripping to hopefully prevent freezing pipes, and at least we have those wood stoves, and we are in general better prepared than we ever knew to be. We also have lots of food stored, much of it that wouldn’t need cooking if need be.

    Thanks, Sharon!


  6. risa b says:

    House and Land — I know this hasn’t been possible for some, and there’s some anguish out there. We had a small income and an autistic child — but some things broke our way, and we jumped at it. It was a struggle; if we could not have done this we’d be in a small apartment but up to our elbows in alternative transportation and community gardening — but, yes, we have the house and the land.

    Expanding Food Independence — yes. Garden quadrupled. Pasture and poultry, check. Seed saving. Composting everything in sight.

    Water independence — yes. Hand pump now in place. Will need to filter its output, though … too close to chickens.

    Heating, lighting and tools: Wood, at least some of which we grow. Insulation goes on apace. Window blankets. Solar water heater, CFLs, LED lanterns, kerosene lamps, tapers, supply of kerosene. And we know how to save up some tasks for the full moon!

    Storage: we keep an eye peeled for curbside giveaways that match our needs, and Craigslist, etc. A dry-goods storeroom and a cold room. Roots, apples, squash. Some canning. Lots of flour and rolled oats! Need to de-emphasize the freezer, but can’t yet. More emphasis next year on solar drying, though.

    Security: some. No illusions about the efficacy of some measures, though, Old West movies notwithstanding.

    Transportation: a weak point. Two paid-up vehicles and now a paid-up pickup, courtesy of my mom, but all use gasoline. I’m 16 miles from work and the road shoulders are narrow and unsafe from here to there. Am now driving 5 miles to a bus stop. Will build a bike trailer this year for local hauling alternative.

    Simplification: Gave up cable long ago. Giving up broadcast. Nice collection of old books, board games, acoustic instruments, family tales, and, we hope, sense of humor.

    Networking: maintaining ties to friends family, church. Giving away eggs, receiving trees and starts. We keep talking about talking with the neighbors, but it’s tough. We’re often gone all day, they’re often gone all day. In the evenings, everyone is bushed. Most watch TV and go to bed, we feed chickies and pull weeds and go to bed. It’s a weak point. And you can tell from the size of the SUV and the RV and the boat and the ski-doo and the ATV and such in the yards, that a meeting of minds on what’s important might not happen right away.

    Misgivings: health care. I’m a colony of some vicious strains of strep, and my heart is clunky. Beloved needs expensive orthotics. Lack of access to powerful antibiotics and to hospitals and clinics is a concern. Well, nobody lives forever. Hoping to pass on the skills and the place to family, or, failing that, friends.

    Bumper sticker: What Wisdom Can You Find That Is Greater Than Kindness?

    risa b

  7. Wendy says:

    The power went out in Maine??

    Just kidding. We did lose power last weekend for three and a half days.

    All of our preparations ensured that we were very comfortable. We have a woodstove, which we use as our primary heat source. So, nothing changed there. I often cook on the woodstove, and so doing without the electric oven for three days was no big deal. We have flashlights and oil lamps and a camping lantern and candles galore, and so we had light. I heated water on the woodstove for washing, and I have a very sophisticated set-up for low-energy laundry that consists of a wash tub, an antique wringer and a clothesline :) .

    The only two areas where we failed are: I need electricity for my “paid” work (and I work from home), and refrigeration - specifically, the freezer. The power outage almost had my husband convinced to consider the cold closet I’ve been bugging him about ;) .

    In short, it wasn’t a bad three days, and we didn’t “suffer” at all. In fact, we would have been fine for much longer, except for the stuff in the freezer, and my needing to be able to do my “job.” In a real emergency, where we couldn’t be guaranteed to ever have power restored, we’d have to come up with options for those two things. We’ll likely get a 1kw generator so that we can power the freezer and so that I can have my “office.” Other than that, not having electricity didn’t really change our day-to-day lives significantly enough for us really miss it.

  8. Lyle Gray says:

    Reporting from one of the Western Massachusetts hill towns, town of Ashfield.

    We were without electric power from 4:00 AM 12-Dec-2008 (Friday) morning through 1:30 PM 14-Dec-2008 (Sunday) due to an ice storm, but a number of homes are still without power at the time of this comment (18-Dec-2008).

    We happen to be well situated. We have the second floor apartment of the family farmhouse (my parents live downstairs). There are multiple features of the farmhouse that help during low-power situations and power outages.

    We never lost phone service. Both apartments in the farmhouse have at least one phone that is powered by the phone line itself.

    The farmhouse has a wood stove in the kitchen of each floor (cook stove downstairs, heating upstairs). We normally use a wood-fired gasification boiler with parallel hot water radiators for heat (plumbed as a secondary for an oil-fired boiler, but both boilers are set so that heat is called for from the wood-fired boiler first). With the power outage, the circulating pumps for the heating system would not work (no backup generator at this time), but the system is supposed to be able to be reconfigured to work with convection when there is no power.

    Also, without the circulating pumps, the boiler overheated, causing the pressure release valve to open. This required refilling the system with spring water, which it’s not set up to do well. We needed to run a hose from the summer kitchen faucet (which has a hose fitting) to the boiler to refill the system and bleed the air out of the radiators. The heating loop for the second floor was shut off so that any heat in the system from the boiler would go primarily to the first floor.

    We found the heating system less than adequate to the task in the convection configuration, and depended on the wood stoves for primary heat. We are going to see if there was something that we were missing in the method of using the boiler for convection circulation.

    Plenty of firewood stocked inside the house, stockpiled as much as possible during the fall against the entire winter, with appropriate sizes for both stoves and the boiler.

    Butane lighters and strike-anywhere matches are both available as fire starters, with a refill canister for the butane. Zippo lighters and fuel are also available; these lighters are not kept filled because the fuel evaporates. It is also difficult to light the lanterns with a Zippo without lighting a splint or spill first (the flame is very gentle, and the lighters don’t work well when turned sideways). For long term, when the stoves are continually lit, a splint can be used to take a flame from the stove for lighting the lanterns, rather than use up a limited store of matches or lighter fuel. We didn’t get to that point.

    The space heater stove had a heat-powered fan to circulate the warmth to the rest of the apartment. The cook stove did not; we’ve picked up another heat-powered fan for that stove for the future.

    Spring water is available when the pump for the well water is out. The downstairs bathroom can be reconfigured to use the spring water, one of the faucets in the summer kitchen is spring water, and there’s an open, inverted-J pipe in the attic above the summer kitchen for water access for the second floor (the open J pipe always has water flowing through it, to keep the spring feed pipe from freezing). Water could be hauled in pails from either the faucet or the J pipe to wherever it was needed (such as the other toilet tanks and the water feeders for the chickens).

    Food stores were good, with dry goods as well as refrigerated and frozen goods. When the refrigerators and freezers started to become too warm (after 2 days), items could be moved outdoors in coolers for a substitute freezer or into one of the attics as a substitute refrigerator. But my wife says that we need to keep some more chocolate in store.

    Cooking could be done on either of the two wood stoves (slow cooking on the space heater stove) as well as a propane stove in the summer kitchen. The propane stove has pilot lights rather than electric ignition, although a stove with electric ignition could still be lit with a match (as long as there was pressure for the propane).

    Lighting for our apartment was good. We had multiple, filled oil hurricane lanterns, as well as candles if needed. Downstairs apartment lighting was more of a problem. While they had oil lanterns, they were filled with old kerosene rather than fresh or lamp oil, and burned darkly with excess smoke. We plan to get fresh oil for those lanterns. A couple of electric lanterns (one with a crank dynamo for charging) and plenty of flashlights were also available in both apartments, with a good store of replacement batteries (including rechargables that I keep with a fresh charge in them).

    We have a single radio in the house that uses batteries, solar power, or a crank dynamo for power.

    Fuel was also not a problem, for such things as chainsaws to clear out fallen limbs. The fuel tanks for gasoline and diesel have hand pumps, so losing power didn’t affect the ability to draw gas. We had a few people stop by to get fuel for their own equipment.

    The town itself had good emergency response, both from neighbors and through official channels. The local grammar school was converted into a temporary shelter (provided you were able to get through the roads to get there), and is still serving that purpose today.

    My wife and I spent evenings after dark either working by lamplight in the kitchen, or sitting with a lamp between us in the living room (she working on an insulating quilt to hang on a north wall, me reading aloud from the latest book in post-apocolyptic series by S.M. Stirling). My parents spent the evening listening to the radio and reading by flashlight.

    Some plans for future events:
    - Pick up another electric lantern with crank dynamo.
    - Pick up a flashlight with a crank dynamo [done].
    - Pick up fresh fuel for the lanterns, as well as experiment with alternate fuel sources such as olive oil. Clean and refill the lanterns for downstairs.
    - Pick up more fuel for the Zippo lighters, just in case.
    - Look at the possibility of a backup generator for the heating system, to power the circulator pumps and controllers.
    - Look into putting a water storage tank next to the J pipe. The flow from the spring is rather slow, and flushing the spring-fed toilet would interrupt water flow to the summer kitchen and the J pipe, while drawing water in the summer kitchen would also interrupt the flow to the J pipe. Overflow from the storage tank would go into the standing pipe that receives the water from the J pipe.
    - Get licensed in Amateur Radio and get battery-powered radios for emergency contacts as needed, in case phone service is lost with electric service. Also useful for emergency contacts when on the road and cell service is out (we don’t own cell phones).


  9. The Screaming Sardine says:

    I got a wake up call earlier this year. I lost about 70% of my income, starting in March. I was living in NY at the time and decided to move back to ND, which is much, much cheaper. Luckily, I had a house already paid for in ND (and luckily it didn’t sell when I put it on the market when I first moved to NY). The house only cost a few thousand dollars since things are so cheap here, but it’s a very structurally sound house. I’m very grateful for it. I worry about going without power, though, since the bitter cold (50 below) requires heat of some sort. I hope to save up and purchase a wood burning stove by next winter - just in case.

    Moving back to ND a few months ago caused me to ditch about 80% of my possessions, since moving costs so much. I’m slowly rebuilding and am fortunate that some friends here have given me odds and ends of furniture. I sometimes miss having a washer and dryer since it’s winter time, but I actually like washing things by hand now.

  10. Steph says:

    This was my year for a wake-up. We didn’t lose tons of income but we did lose 70% of the value of retirement savings. I just pulled all that I can from that account to finance the things we are doing to engage in a different life before it tanks farther.

    I grew up with the assumption that ‘security’ was a steady job and a retirement account to which one made steady contributions. I now believe that the only real security is owning your own land and being able to feed yourselves and those you love and having neighbors who do the same. With that shift of perspective, we are in the process of making some changes:

    1. Moving. Our lovely house in a small town is a misery to heat and offers little in the way of food producing opportunities but lots of already dysfunctional neighbors (there are nice ones too- but they aren’t blasting Headbangers Ball at 3 AM). So we bought 30 acres and an old farmhouse in very rural Maine and will be taking the first load up the week after Christmas. Alas, we will still have debt. The house is a wreck but big (9 kids, 6 still home and a couple likely to come back) and has fantastic water plus two barns.

    2. Heating: the new house has a wood stove to supplement the oil fired boiler. We’ll add a wood cook stove to the kitchen and then my incredible, brilliant and very patient husband plans to figure out how to run the boiler on biodiesel. The 30 acres is largely woods which were illegally clear cut in places so we have piles of downed timber for firewood. We also got an old clunker of a suburban which he also wants to convert to biodiesel. Did I mention that he’s awesome?

    3. Food Preparedness: We’re eating through our stores right now so as not to need to move them but I have a $1000 budget to rebuild that when we get there. Come spring, there will be chickens and turkeys and ducks and geese and the beginnings of a series of raised beds. I’ll also make getting an orchard in a priority. I’m close enough to go to the Fedco tree sale and plan to do so. Berry bushes and berry bushes and more berry bushes. Long term plans include many more critters and a whole lot more garden.

    4. Preparing for multi generational living: instead of buying the kids new beds (which they need in several cases) the aforementioned talented and brilliant husband is going to be making some nifty built-in beds for added warmth and privacy. No more twin beds for anyone. Doubles and Queens are a much better use of space

    5. Emergency prep: Laying in a supply of oil lamps, candles, and those fantastic little candle lanterns from IKEA which prevent children from setting one another on fire at the Pascha services.

    6. Buying a wringer and a tub with a stand as well as a laundry boiler, a good chain saw and a supply of fuel for it, and using quilts for curtains and door covers.

    7. Economic security: the amazing husband is getting some new certifications to help make sure he stays employed and could maybe get a new job without a huge commute - one where he’s home every night. I’m focusing on good management, thrift and freeing up as much of what he brings home for debt reduction as I can.

    8. Mental health and Education: I recently noticed that, like most homeschoolers I know, my library is totally kid-centric. Sure I have the classics but they seem to stop at 12th grade. I want to build up a library that is also useful for adults and add to my collection of practical skills books. We’re going to take the plunge and put at least one kid in public school, at least as a trial. I’m burned out teaching special needs to the point that I don’t think I’m doing either of us any favors.

  11. Survivalist News » Casaubon’s Book: You Got to Let Go of Remote Control: The Wake-Up Call is in Your House! says:

    [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » You Got to Let Go of Remote Control: The Wake-Up Call is in You… Ok, folks, time for our wake up calls! Today is the end of the year preparedness wrap up. This is not your normal blog post, this a party, and like all the best parties it has a soundtrack, some singing and dancing, some call and response. Because this is the year that normal started to go to hell, and we got our wake-up call! But that doesn’t have to be bad news - knowing that we have to be responsible, that our future is in our hands can be empowering too. Time to let go of the remote control, to let go of all the things we let operate on remote control, and time to take charge of our futures. We got to put up a fight on this one - we’re not going gently into any kind of night. [...]

  12. Boysmom says:

    We are moving in the opposite direction of most of you-out of the country. But we’ll have guarenteed rent for 2 years. (So inflation will hurt less.) It’ll include several of our current monthly bills and we’ll save money overall. There will be insulation. We’ll be able to walk almost everywhere. (Or not, we’re at snow knee-deep. But the car won’t go through it either. Moving next month is going to be so not fun.)
    But we’ll be very grid-reliant in student housing. The community garden in that town isn’t close enough to walk with the kids, so we’ll be just container gardening. But we will be able to walk to the farmer’s market and the co-op. We won’t be able to dry laundry outside. The chickens are going to their new home on Sunday. (We never got an egg out of them-but the gal who’s getting them gave us eggs all last laying season, so I feel good about that part.)
    It’s hard. I’m a country girl, but my husband is a city boy. This is a move in his preference direction, and a big part of me doesn’t want to do it. I don’t like someone telling me I can’t do what I want-chickens, graden, clothes lines-I don’t like sharing walls and noisy nosy neighbors. Doesn’t bother him-any of that. He hates the very idea of a wood stove: too much work. We’ll see more of him with no commute, I guess. He’ll probably still drive rather than walking halfway across campus. We used to have him home for lunch everyday when we lived close to his work, and that was nice. Maybe we can do that again.

  13. David says:

    I don’t think 2008 was the year of my wake-up call. I’m still hitting the snooze button, but I’m getting there. Soon I’ll be fully awake!

    2009 for me is going to be the year of:

    - organizing a network of backyard gardens and gardeners in my neighbourhood in my small town (personal goal: winter garden and storage crops to supplement the summertime harvest);

    - starting a seed-saving project; we already have a plan and are about to order starter seeds and organize some folks to grow a few varieties of squash, beets, beans, and peas for the first year;

    - expanding our bulk food buyers’ club into something that can meet the needs of other groups in town (soup kitchens, church groups, poor folks, etc.);

    - getting serious about lacto-fermentation (my preferred method of food preservation); I finally found two decent crocks for sorta cheap, so I will start producing sauerkraut and other pickled foods for barter and maybe sale;

    - getting a pressure canner and learning all about that;

    - organizing workshops on low-cost healthy eating, small-scale/urban food production, food storage, food preservation, etc.

    - getting our household emergency prep situation in order;

    Is that enough?

    Thanks, Sharon, for making crazy the new sane. Happy 2009!

  14. Jenn says:

    There was no big reckoning in the form of disaster here (yet, anyway), but I still feel like I’ve been woken up. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m a great deal further ahead than I was at the start of this year, so for than I’m grateful. Thanks to you Sharon, and to everyone else who pitched in, for helping me better realise what’s going on and what I need to do about.

    I still have a ways to go. I need seeds, and especially open-pollenated varieties that will do well in Ontario weather. I need a way to heat and, more importantly, to cook, since all I currently have is an electric stove and a home-made solar oven that functions somewhat questionably. I’m still looking into the possibility of building a tiny house, and other possible options for finding affordable, reasonable housing.

    But, with that said, I now have filled oil lamps and flashlights with batteries, rather than just electric lights. I replaced the electric blanket with lots of wool blankets, quilts, and a hot water bottle. I now have a (rather low-quality) grain mill, a wash board, a hand-crank radio, loads of containers for plants, heavy-duty kitchen supplies, and good-quality winter clothing. My pantry has far more food in it than it ever has before, and I’m starting to preserve some on my own. I talk more and more with people about the current issues that need to be dealt with, and I’m looking at joining the local food co-op.

    It’s still just a start, but it feels like a good one, and I’m grateful for all the inspiration, hints, tips, and pushes that have been coming from all fronts. And, I’m looking forward to improving further in the new year. I’m hoping this will be the year of a real garden on the patio, of new ways to reduce consumption, of a new small home, and of increased preparedness for whatever’s coming.

  15. KathyD says:

    Rock on Rebel Rocker!

    I’m at full alert and putting a lot of effort into my community. In as gentle way as I can- in part through our children.

    One project I’m working with the food shelf to get a fruit tree planted in the yard of every K-6 elementary student. It is part of my community preparedness plan disguised a education and access to healthy food.

    My time horizon for getting work done is getting shorter and shorter. I was investing in long term project a few months ago (mega-wind farms- community owned) and now I’m hoping we get the fruit trees delivered.

    Rock on! Loud and soft. Brash and Gentle.

  16. Bill says:

    Having been off grid since 1990 and fuel independent for the past 5 years or so, I’m not terribly affected by the three big changes - oil, financial, and climate (re: climate - at least not yet…). In fact, at the risk of being tarred and feathered, I say “Bring it on!”, the earth could use a break from the psycho-consumerism that gives meaning to so many lives. The more time I spend in the plastic world, the more I enjoy my simple but fulfilling existence at the homestead.
    Circumstances forced me to chase dollars for several years and the time devoted to that questionable pursuit didn’t leave enough to maintain the gardens or the critters, so, as my monetary needs have diminished yet my hunger lives on, 2009 will be about food.
    (1) reclaim the abandoned gardens. Ugh. Can’t tell them from the rest of the lawn. At least the rocks are out and the soil’s good.
    (2) Restock the pond. It’s got panfish but trout are a real treat.
    (3) Chickens… and maybe 4 pigs (one to keep, three to sell) but the time spent collecting kitchen scraps from local resturants can be a problem. Growing them on commercial feed isn’t cost effective IMHO.
    (4) Greenhouse. The growing season where I’m at is really limiting. I’ve been collecting salvaged glass for years. Time to put it to use.
    (5) Networking/Partner(s) This has become really important - I just can’t do it all by myself. Something is always left undone, (usually the dishes and the vaccuming - Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens have never called). An extra hand, someone to share it with, would make the work more fun and the rest more enjoyable.

  17. Jeff in S. NH says:

    My town (pop. approx 5,000, Monadnock Region) is the hardest hit by the ice storm in Southern New Hampshire and possibly New England. PSNH (Public Service Company of N.H.) has stated that they will not give a date for full restoration of electricity; it will be after Christmas for the majority of the town. There are so many tree limbs and trees down that it apprears as if a tornado hit the entire town.

    Our town has really pulled together to deal with this interuption; saftey services plus volunteers
    going door to door to check on everyone, highway department plus local construction companies paying employees with chainsaws and equipment to clear the roads, local church hosting “the” town emergency shelter and a local developer opening his empty “for sale” homes for “free showers >”. All of the public services and volunteers (our neighbors) doing an excellent job cleaning up this mess.

    We are preppers and are doing fine; wood heat with 5 cords of wood, generator with stored gas, chain saw, propane range top, barbeque grill, battery radio/shortwave, nearby brook to draw water for buckets to flush toilets and plenty of food. Being forced out of a normal routine for a week or three is good training physically and mentally for a longer term emergency.

    Last night my wife and I did a self analysis of
    adjustments we need to make in our preparation plans. Our major decision being installing a photovoltaic solar electrical system
    as an investment in self sufficiency and someday retirement.

    Happy Holidays from New Ipswich, NH

  18. Shaunta says:

    We’re much more prepared than we were at the first of the year. We have at least six weeks to two months of food stocked, maybe more if we rationed and ate a lot of rice and beans. We bought camping gear for a family Christmas present so now each of us has a below zero sleeping bag and we have two small and one large tent as well as a camp stove and mess kits. Those sleeping bags will come in handy should we end up losing power up here in the mountains.

    We also started living on 80 percent of our income in October. Somehow in October we ended up nearly doubling our family monthly income. I started working. With two teenagers and two adults in the house, we’re able to have two incomes and not need daycare for the preschooler. So if things stay stable-ish for six more months we’ll have about $15,000 in savings.

    Tragedy hasn’t hit our little town. Yet. We have two main sources of employment around here. One is the state’s maximum security prison which is about ten miles out of town. And the other is a copper mine. Copper closed at $1.30 today. It costs $2.29 to get a pound of it out of the ground. Apparently there is some contract with China and enough cash to keep things running until June. The whole town is holding it’s breath. The prison will keep us from becoming a ghost town, but every time the mine closes the town’s population halves and housing prices plummet.

    The worst thing going on around here is environmental. Las Vegas is going to take our ground water, and they’re planning on building coal power plants up here to power Las Vegas as well. There is fighting going on about that, but there are 9,000 in my county and 2,000,000 in Clark County. Talk about David and Goliath.

  19. Kati says:

    Snap!! When did Alaska lose power??? Didn’t happen around here. At least, not any more normally than it ever does. (Every year, there’s a 2 to 4 hour span during any given day, but that’s just normal for us.) Was it this weekend??? Crazy! I didn’t even know it.

    Anyway, don’t forget Hawaii!!! That big ol earthquake they had (or was that LAST year???) resulted in a lot of people on Oahu and Hawaii being out of power for a couple of days. Mom said a lot of people acted COMPLETELY stunned, but she was so prepared (former Alaskan, there!) that the ONLY thing she wished she’d had more of was cash on hand, and mainly that to help out the neighbour couple that didn’t realize the ATM’s would be down so they couldn’t get cash for diapers and bread.

    I just “harvested” my 3 peppers from my little pepper plant. They are shaped like spicy red jalapenos, but flavored like sweet red bell peppers. I’m dehydrating 2-1/2 of them (ate the other 1/2 of the one raw) and the seeds, for saving. They’re a Hungarian breed of pepper that I think may be paprika when dried and ground. That, and the 6 stupice seeds I saved from the ONE tomato I know WAS stupice, is all the more success I’ve had with seed-saving and food independence this year. (Have yet to see if my three baby-potatoes (Yukon Gold) hold through the winter for “seed potatoes” for next year’s slightly increased planting.) But, all in all our gardening efforts this well did pretty dang good! And our canning efforts, while minimal, were a success!

    Otherwise, on the homefront, the hubby is still obstinately refusing to acknowledge that our country and world is changing before our very eyes. My FIL is wide awake to it, and doing his best to help us out, but is dealing with the onset of Type 2 Diabetis. (Of course, FIL is all obstinance himself when it comes to reworking his lifestyle to fight the onset of such disease.) I’m doing what I can, including spending a good portion of my birthday GC from Mom (to on books that may help in my efforts here at home, INCLUDING YOURS, Sharon! And that other one _Just In Case_ that you mentioned a couple of weeks back.

    Lastly, THANKS for sharing that GREAT SONG with us! I’ve got it added to my line-up to buy for my Ipod some day.

  20. Pangolin says:

    I’m in the heart of Northern California farm country. Last year we had a storm that put most of our rural areas out of power for a week and the city for a weekend. Not a problem, pull out the camping gear and it’s not that cold anyway.

    Come summer things started to burn and kept burning for a month or more. At one point I stood in a city park and watched a fire bomber come off the end of the runway, drop it’s load, and return to the same runway. I just turned myself in a circle mouth agape at the spectacle.

    If things really hit the fan this town would be buried in the produce we normally ship to the rest of you. Still, I always keep a few weeks supply of rice and beans on hand for sound thinking. Plus I’ve learned to pickle eggs which is incredibly easy and convenient as well as kim-chee and jams.

    Due to health problems I’ve come to realize that the medical system is entirely dependent upon computers and pill bottles and I’m stockpiling herbs and looking to planting my own medicinal garden. Find out what you might need for a basic herbal that grows locally and keep a patch growing that you can expand is my plan.

  21. aurorab says:

    Having good water has been much on my mind lately.

    Here in my little town we recently had a boil water advisory for a few days due to some rusted bolts that caused a breach in the system. What I found was water for drinking was really no problem (I had some stored), but making coffee, cooking pasta, and washing dishes use a lot of water! I didn’t even try to do laundry. Also, the dogs drink much more water than I realized. I hadn’t really been keeping track when clean water just pours out of the tap. Boiling water a gallon at a time on an electric stove is really not a long-term solution!

    When there’s not much water, I have to change my handwashing habits. I started using hand sanitizer when water isn’t available, but using alcohol on my hands all the time doesn’t seem like the best solution.

    Over Thanksgiving I visited a place with strongly chlorinated water. I found out that it takes a lot of time to Brita-filter a quart at a time the amount we needed for drinking and cooking. We also managed to burn through a filter in a week’s time.

    I think these exercises are good because they really make me appreciate (again) the value of simple things like an abundance of clean, good-tasting water. It also makes me realize the stress involved in making even small changes to the way I go about my daily activities. It just reinforces what you’ve always said, Sharon, about practising new methods before you really need to rely on them.

    It has also made me start thinking about how our little town could ensure its water supply if there is no power. The first step for me would be finding out the details of how the system works! I used to live in a house with its own well which was pretty simple to understand but I’ve never really looked into how a municipal system works.

  22. Arthur Vibert says:

    My wife thought I was batty with all my talk of impending disaster of one sort or another. The “eye roll” was starting to become an all-too-familiar part of our conversations and I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and kept it more to myself.

    Then, one day about 4 months ago, she showed up with a hefty supply of dried goods and other supplies as well as storage containers. Her Mormon ancestry apparently got through to her where I could not. She still has a somewhat jaundiced view of it all but I think her job in the financial services industry has opened her eyes to some unpleasant possibilities.

    We still have much to do! But we are making progress. I’ve identified some sites in our neighborhood that would make excellent community gardens. Now I need to negotiate with the owners of the properties to allow me to start gardening them. It’s a delicate line to walk. We live in a fairly wealthy–if somewhat bohemian–area and people are open to these ideas, but one doesn’t want to come across as a wild-eyed fanatic. Still, as our “way of life” continues to devolve having a dependable source of food within easy walking distance becomes an attractive option.

    We do have a fairly close community, especially for a suburban area, and I think it would easily become closer in times of mutual need. Most of us have lived here for a decade or more and our children play together. We are having our annual neighborhood Holiday festivities on Saturday and it will be interesting to see how people are feeling about the state of things. I’ll be keeping it light, of course - no one wants to get into a serious conversation about the end of the world at the holiday party!

    We’ve had no disasters to speak of, but I live in California and earthquakes are a very real possibility. I was here during the Loma Prieta quake in ’89 and power was out in the city, though I had power. The worst thing that happened to me was a wasp sting–I was lucky!


  23. Susan in Seattle says:

    Thankfully no major events here in Seattle and I still have an excellent job (knock wood). I’ve been gradually getting things in place for when that event does hit. My experimental garden this year didn’t do very well, but I did figure out *why* and this year I think it’s going to rock! Got a coop built in my backyard and the chickens are finally starting to lay delicious eggs. I’ve got enough food to feed several people for a couple of months, and since it’s just me here, it’s going to last me a long while. I’d be toast without power for very long though, so I need to work on that.

    What I really want to do is sell my house here in the city and move farther out to a more rural area. Someplace where the chickens and the dog have room to run, and the neighbors are considerably more than 6 feet away. Never mind the fact that I’d need to sell this house to do it…I worry that trying to do that alone will be a completely bad idea. I think I’d be lamenting the lack of extra hands pretty quickly…like Bill.

    Where’s Bill? Maybe Bill and I need to get together. Sharon, can you arrange that? A little apocalyptic match-making?

  24. Susan in Seattle says:

    The link didn’t work in my comment… it’s You know, so you can find me Sharon…for the apocalyptic matchmaking ;)

  25. ctdaffodil says:

    We have more in place now for a disaster than before reading here. Still probably have quite a ways to go though. But I do feel more secure.
    I went through the kids bug out bags last weekend…very glad I did - It was all summer clothes, swapped out the shorts for sweatpants and windpants, added fleecys that the kids aren’t nuts about but are warm

  26. MEA says:

    I keep wanting to hit that snooze button, too.

    I was very, very stupid yesterday, and tasted some candy cane coffee because it smelt so good and I thought that just a little slip wouldn’t hurt. Ha, let’s just say I left work quickly and early and made a number of stops on the way home. Which meant I saw the insides of a lot to stores I don’t usually see, and noticed the sparcity of goods and shoppers. I also tried to pick up cheap soap and socks for a woman I know on line whose 8 years old chronically ill son wants to pass out gifts to homeless people he passes on his way to hosptial treatments. Ha, there was nothing cheap.

    When I checked the life after peak oil breaking news website and read about the jumping numbers of homeless in SF, that was my wake up call to the fact that while I’ve been wigeing about the growning numbers of homeless and hungry and bemoaning my shrinking deposible income, I’ve got to do something more that knitting watch caps out of scraps of wool. They have, I say with no false modesty, a wonderful aestic of constrained art, and the soup kitchen is always asking me for more- but let’s face it, all the caps in the world ain’t going to fix it.

    So, I’m waking up to the question of what can I really do? Foster child? Nope, can hardly look after the two I have. Give lot’s more money? Let’s not go there. Plant a row for the hungry? Not in December. Vounteer more time at the soup kitchen? Not if I’m going to keep my emissions low.

    The alarm is ringing, and I don’t want to shut it off until I have plan.

    Any ideas?

    Please let me know.


  27. Bill in Tennessee says:

    I don’t trust the municipal water system to deliver in a crunch, when their pumps shut down. Part of my prep includes a few “Survival Straws”, an amazing water treatment device you actually drink through. It will treat 5,000 gallons and has no replaceable filters, etc. It’s NOT a filter. Details can be seen by searching at It’s a fine and frinedly family business in Fulton, NY. $23.95 as of June ’08.

  28. DiElla says:

    I live in Tulsa, Ok. Last year at around this time of year we had an ice storm eerily like the one up north now. We were out of power for 11 days. Thats a really long time when you are living it. On day 5 we purchased a generator. It made life a little better but everything we did was a hugh effort. We do have a wood fireplace and it was our only heat source until we got the generator. We could still cook because our stove is gas but with an electric start. We had plenty of matches so we could start it.

    We were literally buried under tree limbs and had to dig out, we could barley get out any of our doors. We have a chain saw and friends and family members with chainsaws. It still took us almost three days to get our car and house cleared. We cooked all our meals, partly to use up the food in the fridge and partly out of necessity, all the stores and restaurants were closed. The gas stations were closed, our town was pretty much shut down.

    I would say that today we are more prepared than we were but I think we did pretty well. We are tough, hardy, handy people who do what has to be done. I hope I don’t have to do this again but if I have to I know I can because we are prepping and planing for it.

    Sharon, I just found your site and have been reading your archive but don’t know how you heat your house, I’m curious.

  29. Pony says:

    After years living in the country where I could have a big garden, orchard, animals and could compost, cut firewood etc, we now live in an over-55 condo community in a suburban area. As we are both well over 55, even though we’ve thought of moving further out to have more land, we decided not to and are working to make the most of where we are, and trying to support our own community.

    We have a Pea Patch area here and we have our plots, plus we have space in our patio for plants in pots, including herbs. I grow starts in a sunny window in the spring and compost scraps in a pail with layers of soil.

    A couple of years ago we had a bad storm following snow and ice with lots of trees down, power out for a long time and it was hard to go anywhere. It was a great wake-up call for the community. We now have a well-organized Emergency Preparedness committee in each neighborhood, with captains for each area, a walkie-talkie system, first-aid equipment, members with CERT training, and generators in a couple of community buildings to provide heat and a place to cook if the emergency goes on for a while.

    It’s a good thing awareness has been raised as we are on a storm watch now. It is much colder than normal for here (Seattle area), with ice and snow from the last storm on the ground and it is hard to get around but tomorrow we are expecting a big storm with extremely high winds which will probably bring down trees and the power will go out. It is to followed by more snow. Yuck. Pretty but I grew up around here thinking that snow belong up there - in the mountains- and you drive up there to play in it. We are hoping the phones will keep working. Last time cell phones were out but wired phones were OK.

    But that is just a short term emergency. Yesterday we had a meeting at our house with a dozen other people in the community and talked about how to help our neighbors, some of whom are beginning to have trouble paying their bills, since costs are so much higher than when they moved in here 15-20 years ago. Lately it has been harder to sell condos here and there are a lot on the market, so just moving (unless they have to move to assisted living) is not really an option. We are going to have a public meeting and share some of our ideas with anyone who wants to come.

    Sharon, if you have time and the inclination, I hope you will write something about what older people in senior communities can do to forward the effort.

  30. Lynda says:

    I live in Central Mass. which got hit pretty hard by the Dec. 11 ice storm. We made out pretty well during the 6 days we were without power, with 2 woodstoves, 4 oil lamps, and a generator. The bad side was that our cellar flooded before we got the generator going, and the flood knocked out our furnace. Don’t know when we’ll get it repaired, but we’re managing nicely with the woodstoves and the solar/electric water heating system we had installed this summer.

    Things I learned:
    - We HAVE TO fix the water problem in the cellar. We live in a 19th-century farm house with a dirt cellar, on the down side of a ledge-covered hill, from whence comes storm runoff that makes a regular appearance in our cellar. We’ve had a lot of yard/ditch work done outside to direct runoff to a gravity drain and dry well, but we need to extend the drain area.
    - We need a second sump pump, with battery backup
    - Keep ‘D’ batteries on hand at all times
    - Keep cash on hand-the ATM might not work
    - Keep oil lamp supplies on hand
    - Keep extra water on hand. We have town water, so had running water the whole time-it just wasn’t hot.-Heated it on the woodstove. BUT you never know when the town-supplied water flow will stop.
    - Don’t put off putting together a bug-out bag!
    - Give some thought to a real emergency-preparedness plan and involve neighbors. How could we help each other?


  31. madison says:

    I’m a single mom in the Willamette Valley in Oregon and we have been without running water for three weeks now (we were out of town for one of those weeks). We live in a 30 foot 2008 new travel trailer and the outside water hose froze (newby trailer owner mistake, ooops). Luckily I always keep 8 gallons of water in storage in the trailer, and an empty 7-gallon blue water bin. I was able to refill with water from the RV park rec room, which didn’t freeze and we had no large problems adapting, with washing (still in the solar shower) or doing dishes (just took longer). Shame on me for not wrapping my pipes. We were snowed in for a week.

    I had enough food, snacks, catfood and propane, and my 5 year old and I walked a 1 1/2 mile round trip to the nearest town for milk twice and carried it home in a backpack. My son thought all the snow and no school was a grand adventure!

    I also had time to finish scrapbooks and teach him how to play checkers :) He double jumped me once. Humiliating.

    We didn’t lose electricity, but my trailer will click into battery mode if we do, so we have heat as long as I have propane. Still, kinda scary there at 20 degrees and howling winds and the first ice storm I’ve been in since a childhood in Washington and Montana.

    If we lose electricity, I discovered I need a way to charge my cell phone. That was the most vulnerable system.

    Next year I do not want to be in a trailer - I’m seriously seeking an intentional community in OR/WA/north CA to get into. I am craving an off-grid balecob cottage with a woodstove…. I can just smell it and feel it under my hands in my imagination. I’ve been thinconsidering it, but now I’m motivated and absolute!

  32. madison says:

    Oh, and I’m going to buy a Buddy LP heater with another large LP tank connector for heat. And a woodstove when I have the money will go into my storage unit for when I have my place. And a solar battery charger, for when we actually see the sun. :)

  33. Scarlet Payano says:

    Very interesting blog post thank you for sharing I have added your blog to my favorites and will be back :) By the way this is off topic but I really like your web page layout.

  34. Plastic Holder says:

    we are using plastic kitchen faucets at home because they are very cheap and you can easily replace them if they broke “’

  35. pamper swaddlers says:

    I agree that you should stick to the green palette. Green was a very popular accent color in craftsman homes and it will do really well with the black and white as well as the blue living room. Try a sea foam green or (if you are bold) a true kelly green to get that nice vintage feel. If you prefer to bring the antique black/white tiling into a more modern scope, try a mossy green. I really love your decision on the hexagon floor, I’m sure the remodel is going to turn out well.

  36. says:

    74. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing some research on that. And he just bought me lunch because I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

  37. Stanley Westmorland says:

    Thank you for that write-up, this genuinely aided me a lot.

  38. Val Kalchthaler says:

    Is the home alarm system you are talking about a wirless system? And I hear the celular based monitoring services are far more secure as there are no telephone lines that can be cut. Awesome website, great range of content.

  39. Homer Ouchi says:

    The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I mean, I do know it was my choice to learn, but I truly thought youd have something fascinating to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you can repair in the event you werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

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