Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A dark wintersolsticeday

I had actually hoped to spend the wintersolstice differently than we did. It was devoid of frost and snow and it was plenty wet, grey and windy. The day after the wintersolstice, 22 december, we were hit by a powerout, the longest we have experienced here so far. Power went off at 10:30 app. and came back on just after 20:30. The probable cause for that was the unexpected stormy weather we had.... again. Many a tree went down and powerlines were hit by them on several places around the municipally. Keeping in mind that it gets dark at about 15:00 on a dark, grey and cloudy day and you'll see that there were plenty of hours of darkness left to see (or not see) that we need to take more precautions in case we suffer from real trouble, as in a prolonged powerout with low temperatures.
The most obvious thing we did, was light the fireplace and plenty of candles, so light was no issue and neither was warmth. What did become an issue was ventilation! With all of us in the livingroom, the fireplace going, the candles alight, the air was becoming stale quite fast. I noticed when I started to develop a headache and we were becoming sluggish and sleepy. I started opening the doors at regular intervals, which helped, but I will be thinking about a less cumbersome solution.
During these hours we encountered several problems, which made life unnecessary more dificult.
First of all we did not have enough water. We abandoned the previous routine of keeping a few liters ready in the fridge. Instead we took to freezing water and storing it in the freezer. Getting it defrosted rather quickly in reasonable quantities proved to be problematic. The upside of this was that the refridgerator was kept cool, by placing these frozen waterbottles in the it. This however did delay the thawing of the ice even more.
So the first thing I did when the power came back on was securing an ample supply of water. Just in case...
A further waterrelated issue was the toilet. With a family of five it will be used frequently over such an extended period. The guys could go out, but not always, and the girls simply could not. Luckily we had a supply of bottled mineralwater in the cellar. This was long over date (if that is at all possible), so we used that to refill the toilet's watertank.
We also have a full deepfreezer and that kept the temperature quite well. This did include several 1,5 liter plasticbottles of water. Yet I also realised that, if a powercut would last longer, like 24hrs., all that food in the freezer would start to thaw, meaning up to 40kg of meat and at least 10kg of vegetables plus the rest would be spoiled! So there's a dilemma; keeping the freezer full at all times or find alternatives to storing food that easily spoils.
Preparing a decent meal (or more) is a bit of a challenge too. It is one thing to cook or bake something for yourself or maybe for 2, but for a family of five with 2 hungry (pre)teens it involves a little more than just whipping up an omelette over a campingstove. Time for one thing.....

Our ability to keep ourselves busy and pass the time was also tested. I happened to notice that especially my son was having a bit of a hard time, but also the girls found it difficult to find something to do. This goes to show much accustomed they are to electricity. This after all was somehing very different from a planned evening spent by candlelight and a fire. The girls eventually managed and started playing games, but my son kept an ipod and headphone glued to his ears... The Mss. and I spent most of the time reading, but we too noticed that it does take a little getting used to. The psychological effect is a part not to be taken lightly.

It is becoming more and more obvious that our house was built during times where there was an abundance of fossile fuels and electricity. The central heatingsystem requires electricity for its pumps. The watersupply too. Even our ventilationsystem comes with a powerdriven fan. 
So that leaves me/us with the following challenges to tackle;
How to keep the cellar and the rooms therein free from frost without a functioning heatingsystem and no fireplaces?
How to prevent food from spoiling during a prolonged powercut (24hrs+)?
How to ensure adequate ventilation without excessive loss of warmth indoors?
How to keep up supplied with enough water?
How to make sure we have access to personalhygienefacilities at all times?

For now the christmaslights are working and I'll have plenty of time to think things over...


  1. Glad things ended on a positive note, in so much as you got through it without too much trauma and learn't a thing or two to help you in the future.

    I've been a closet survivalist for years, it's the little things that happen often that most people ignore.

    Take care.

    1. Thanks.
      Yes, it did make a few things quite clear.

  2. Maybe in the future a smell generator with a breaker on it that will engage your generator at the moment the powerloss accures. They don't cost much. If the power outage duration is also in the night you can at least sleep a couple of hours without to worry about freezing water pipes and your ventilationsystem. You have them in several wattages and I think a 1500 watt/hour is more then enough.

    1. Thanks for the ideas.
      But generators + add ons are quite expensive around here (or at least what I saw) + they are noicy, fossilfuel operated and too much of a shortterm stopgap solution.

  3. Hey Ron,

    I just found your blog and I can tell you what - I like your style. Being a non-obedient, outdoor oriented, walker of the Old Ways, I just really appreciate what you are doing here.

    Keep going!