We live in snowy Canada, so it’s not uncommon for us to be warned to expect power outages. We recently were warned of an impending ice storm, with power outages highly likely. The word ‘catastrophic’ was used in the forecast description, and we were told to expect conditions similar to that of the 2013 ice storm. I did what I always do: I prepared. However, the storm turned out to be much less severe than expected. We did get freezing rain, but didn’t lose power, and there was no damage to our property. Here is what we can learn from preparing for a power outage that doesn’t happen.
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Preparing for a power outage teaches me gratitude.
It reminds me to be grateful for every convenience that we have, and to not take it for granted.
There was a time when mere survival was a full-time job. Life may have been simpler back then, but it was also much more difficult. We are extremely lucky to live in the times we do, and to have so many conveniences.
I love simple living, which has a degree of difficulty itself, but I get to do it knowing that I can turn on a tap and get running water, or flick a switch to turn on a light, or fire up my laptop and google something. I love pressing the start button on my dishwasher at the end of the day, and waking up in the morning to clean dishes. I love loading clothes into my washing machine, and pressing a similar magic button and having clean clothes.
I live simply because I ENJOY it, not because it’s necessary. I love to combine simple living tasks with modern appliances.
How reliant we are on the grid
The biggest thing I realize when we are preparing for a potential power outage, is how reliant we are on the grid. The grid is a very old and fragile system, and to be this reliant on something so fickle is a big problem.
We moved to the country this past year, in order to work on increasing our self-reliance. However, self-reliance is a journey, and it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to look at one system at a time and find ways to be less reliant on that particular system.
Preparing for a power outage that doesn’t happen, helps us to think about ways we can become less reliant on the grid overall.
We could manage a power outage of a few days, maybe even a week. But much beyond that would be difficult, or close to impossible.
It’s easy enough to stock up on some non-perishable, or easy to heat up foods. But what happens when that stuff runs out? What happens when we’ve emptied out all the water jugs we filled up?
If you lived through the Ice Storm of ’98, you know what I’m talking about.
Lessons in preparedness
Preparing for a power outage that doesn’t happen, helps me learn where our insufficiencies are.
- We had a shortage of batteries
- What was our Plan B when we used up all the jugs of water we filled up? (Luckily we have a creek, which is a source of fresh water if need be, and a Berkey to filter it).
- We were out of wick for our oil lamps (now added to our hardware store list)
- We have no generator, so if the power was out for several days, how would we deal with all the food in the freezer?
- I need a pressure canner, so I can can meat, soup, stew, etc., for easy to re-heat meals.
- We need some kind of a backup system to pump water from the well without power.
To live in a state of preparedness
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to prepare for power outages, because we would just always live in a state of preparedness.
It’s reasonable to prepare for things like job loss, drought, food price increases, and more.
The simple living lifestyle sets us up well for self-reliance.
Canning – we do some canning, but not nearly enough to sustain us for any length of time. This is something I hope to increase this year.
Heating with wood – we do have a propane furnace, but also have a wood burning insert, and my husband has a wood stove in his workshop. We have a 2 year supply of firewood. We know how to build a good, hot fire. We would be warm.
We know how to grow food – for years, we have been working on learning how to grow food. It has been more of a hobby than a necessity, but we have learned SO MUCH about gardening in the past few years. Gardening is NOT something you want to just start learning how to do when you have to do it. Because you absolutely will have failures. You want to start now so you can hone your skills. If it ever becomes necessary to grow the majority of your own food, you want to know what you’re doing. (See my post about our favourite gardening method here.)
We are on well and septic – which means we aren’t reliant on the township to deliver clean water to our home and to take away our waste. However, the downside is that our well requires electricity to run the pump. I’d like to install a hand pump, or have some kind of a generator so that we can still pump water in the event we don’t have electricity for an extended period of time
We know how to make things from scratch – which means we aren’t reliant on grocery stores. We could make just about anything if we needed to. Like apple cider vinegar from apple scraps. Or toothpaste from baking soda + coconut oil.
My husband is handy – we rarely, if ever, have to hire someone to do something, because he can do pretty much anything.
We know how to use herbal remedies – we live a natural lifestyle, so we have been learning a ton about natural and herbal remedies over the years. There is always more to learn of course, but we have a good foundation. We have a good stock of essential oils, which are extremely concentrated plant medicine, and we know how to use them. You can learn more about essential oils here.
We have a good home library – My favourite books to purchase are those that teach us skills – like gardening, herbalism, DIY, etc. We have a well-stocked reference library, so if we didn’t have access to the internet, we would still be able to look things up. You can see some of our favourite homesteading books by visiting our Amazon store here.
However, there is always more to do, and more to learn. Simple Living is a journey – and every year I try to learn something new. If you’re looking for some ideas for skills you could work on, have a look at my post about Sustainable Winter Preparedness Tips.
Ideally, a power outage would merely be a blip on our radar. Our lifestyle would be such that we would only need to make some minor adjustments. It wouldn’t be a huge hardship, and we wouldn’t have to depend on other people to rescue us because we didn’t prepare.
I believe that every family should be prepared. Not because others don’t want to help us, but because it’s up to each of us to plan for emergencies. We shouldn’t expect others to take care of us simply because we failed to plan.
There is no downside to being prepared
While it may be annoying to prepare for something that doesn’t happen, what I’ve realized is there is literally no downside.
The worst that happens is that the fridge is cleaned out, we have food pre-cooked, we have stocked up on supplies (that we will use eventually), the firebox is loaded, we have water in jugs that we will just use to re-fill our Berkey, or to wash dishes with over the next few days. The house is tidy, and I’ve taken an inventory of the supplies we need.
None of those things are bad things!
In fact, they are things that need to be done anyway, and preparing for a power outage that may or may not happen, is as good a time as any to do them.
Think of preparing for a power outage that doesn’t happen, like a fire drill.
It teaches you to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. Of course we don’t do fire drills because we wish for fires. We do fire drills because we want a dry-run to make sure everyone knows exactly what to do in the event of a real emergency. And the more often you do them, the more comfortable everyone gets with them, and they would know what the plan was, even when their adrenaline is high during an actual emergency. Preparedness is no different.