Winter Check


We’re expected to have some snow later today, with temperatures dipping into the teens overnight, and I’ve learned at least one thing since I’ve moved in here–check all the outside vents to make sure they haven’t come off somehow. If they’re off, that lets in cold air that can freeze pipes.

Actually, I’ve learned two things–double-check the bladder tank in the barn to make sure the heat tape is still plugged in, nothing’s tripped or anything. My tank is now also wrapped in an insulation blanket. I should be good to go!

By the way, I don’t have a generator here. If I did, it wouldn’t do me any good because I never could start that generator at Stringtown Rising. I can’t pull the starter hard enough. I tried and tried. If I’m going to have a generator, I need a button-start generator. And those are expensive. (Any generator is expensive, but they are even more so.) In any case, I can’t afford any generator, so I will be doing without this winter. If the power goes out and it’s freezing, I’m going to find every blanket in the house and pile it on top of the insulation wrap on that tank!

For heat, while there is free gas here, the heat in the house comes from a gas furnace with an electric blower, so it will be no good in a power outage. There is a fireplace here, but it has a very small Buck Stove insert. You can hardly get two small logs in there at the same time. It’s for looks. However, there is a gas wall unit in the studio, so the heat would stay on there and that is where we’ll be headed. Public water has been brought to this property and I’m planning to have it hooked up in the studio as soon as possible because in times of a power outage, public water would still be running. Having an alternate water source in the studio will also mean that if something is wrong with the well, I can get the public water there. If something is wrong with the public water, I can get well water in the house. Options are GOOD. The water heater is gas-powered, so in the case of a power outage, I would even have hot water over there. If there is a long power outage, I would be warm, and could flush toilets, take hot showers, even cook (lighting the gas range in the studio with a match), and wash dishes. If I had to haul water from the studio for the animals, I could. So, I may be generator-less, but that’s my winter power outage plan at Sassafras Farm. I’ll manage, and it won’t be too bad.

Well, I don’t have the public water hooked up yet. But I do have the plumber coming back to take a look at that on Sunday and tell me what it would take to tie it in to the studio’s plumbing, cutting the studio off from the well. (Public water in the studio is also a requirement for a commercial kitchen, so tying in to the public water will serve an additional purpose for the future.)


  1. gingergoat says:

    I’ve been keeping up with your trials and tribulations. :sun: Now you have a PLAN. That is good. My motto – plan your work and work your plan.

  2. MrsB says:

    I know they are expensive – but you might look into a natural gas generator – since it is free – Honda makes one and they can hook it up so that as SOON as your power goes out, the generator comes on.

  3. TeaCup says:

    Wow…finally logged in THREE TIMES! Oh well.

    I am glad that you have a long-range and short-range plan too! Also glad all those vents and the heat tape are where they’re supposed to be. You’ve had enough challenges this year for a month or three already!

    Blessed be —


  4. Michelle B says:

    Every year in the fall, we put a small square bale of hay in front of our house vents (we have 3) and then in the spring we use them for mulch in the garden. Sure wish I had a backup plan half as good as yours! :moo:

  5. Bev in CA says:

    Suzanne, add this to your plan. Someone close to you, a neighbor, might have a smaller generator that can be hauled around in the back of a pick-up. Smaller does fine for one appliance. A lot of people can’t afford to buy a generator. My DH used to go around and pull up to a neighbor’s house. Use or make sure they have a heavy-duty 12 guage or better cord for the freezer to plug into. Sit and visit till the freezer turned off. Usually an hour or so (if your freezer hasn’t started to thaw.) Your freezer is then good to go for another 12 hours, as long as you are not opening and shutting it a lot. Have some gas on hand to fill their tank. Then give them pickles. LOL, any homemade goodies are appreciated. Irish Cream and coffee will hit the spot if it is cold! Your freezer is the one thing that hurts when your power is off. A lot of money is involved. Cover your freezer with a couple of quilts till the power comes back on. That helps.

  6. Glenda says:

    It sounds like you have everything covered.

    The best money we ever spent was for the propane powered automatic generator. It comes on every Thursday and runs for 10 minutes as a test. So far it hasn’t required any maintenance.

    Most pumps don’t work if the power is off…so public water would be a good thing.

  7. brookdale says:

    Oh, hearing that makes me feel so much better for you! There’s always a solution, isn’t there?
    Have a great winter!

  8. Runningtrails says:

    You will get there, Suzanne! You will!
    I can’t do that pull start thing either. I make hubby start all the pull start power tools for me or buy them with an alternate push button start. Occasionally I can get the chainsaw started without bothering him to do it, but most of the time he has to start it and hand it to me. Once these tools are warmed up good, I can start them, but not cold.

  9. mb96210 says:

    :wave: I am so proud and happy for you. I can live out my fantasies of farm life while sitting in my cozy urban 10th floor office. I come from a long line of strong willed and straight spined women and you set such a good example for Morgan and a lot of other women who think they could never do something. Keep up the good work. You are getting lots of good advice from your readers and friends and total strangers rest easier knowing you have a back up plan. You go girl and by the way–I love Clover. Wish there were more pictures of her.

  10. JOJO says:

    :happyflower: Suzanne, since you have free gas, you can purchase gas heaters that do not have fans, you just turn the handle and light them, much like a gas stove, it would certainly generate enough heat in your downstairs to keep you comfortable. You should be able to find them in most small town hardware store, or an Amish store.

  11. Flowerpower says:

    I am glad to know I am not the only one who cannot start anything with a pull start. Just cant pull it hard enough to start. Sounds like you got it all covered. I have thought about putting the gas ventless wall heater in my kitchen. That way somewhere could be warm if the power went off but so far that has not been done. The gas heater with the blower will not work at all without power? Shame.. :happyflower:

  12. JOJO says:

    :happyflower: PS
    Suzanne, I also meant to add, you may want to do some checking online and check around to see if you can find a larger used buck type stove for your living room, so many times people will have items in a barn or shed that they dont need any more, you may be able to pick one up pretty cheap or even better. A good way to find something like this is to put adds in a local paper or a “wanted” post in some of the local stores that have post boards. The one saving grace, the prediction if for a fairy mild winter–hopefully this is true, and you can be more prepared for next winter.

  13. Old Geezer says:

    Suzanne — from someone who did roofing, plumbing and heating work many years ago, ask your plumber to check if that gas water heater needs electricity in order to work. If it is at all modern it probably does need it. If it is the really old fashioned kind with a gas ring sitting under a big cast iron tank then it probably does not.

  14. grannysu says:

    We have free gas too, Suzanne, and it’s awesome. BUT it can also freeze off. Ours froze two weeks ago. So keep that possibility in mind and if you have it, also the number of your Well Tender. He’s the one who comes out to see what the problem is.

    A kerosene heater might be a useful thing to have–just in case, ya know 😕 We don’t have a gas generator yet, either but I think one is in our future. We’ve managed so often with the power off it’s not too big a hassle. Oddly, the frozen gas was more inconvenient than the power being off! We have a gas fridge now, so the problem is on the other foot so to speak.

    Maybe the snow will give us a miss. We can hope anyway.

  15. doodlebugroad says:

    I’ll toss in my two cents from past experiences. . . stacking straw bales around the foundation of the house will help keep wicked winds from blowing in under the house; a portable kerosene heater does great in a power outage and you can heat a saucepan of soup on top.

    I have found tons of valuable self-sustaining information in Backwoods Home Magazine… even today while I don’t live on a farm, I read the articles and learn a lot.

    Best wishes in this journey.

  16. easygoinglady says:

    I would say its very likely Lehmans hardware in Kidron, Ohio would have that type of generator. They specialize in all kinds of NON electric devices and provide equipment of all types for Amish and those that live off-grid.

  17. KarenAnne says:

    Suzanne, the Independent Woman. Think how proud your future grandkids are going to be of their grandmother.

    I have a gas heating system that has an electic pump. Mutters…

    Not sure if I understand what Old Geezer is saying. I have a relatively new hot water heater and it requires no electricity.

    I have a small space heater that runs on propane in my emergency stores. I am not sure I would actually have the guts to try it, since I think I’d either asphyxiate myself or blow the house up.

  18. brookdale says:

    Yes, like doodlebugroad says, stacking hay or straw bales around the foundation certainly will keep out a lot of those cold winter winds. When I was growing up in rural Maine many years ago, our house didn’t have a cellar either, and my father would first put tarpaper all around the house and then bank it with evergreen boughs he would bring in from the woods. Recently I have seen people using poly and bags of leaves for the same purpose. Anything that will keep the wind from blowing through. Your floors will feel a lot warmer too.

  19. twiggityNDgoats says:

    A few days ago I posted on my blog about converting a gasoline portable generator to run on our well-head gas. Although I had someone install the regulator for the conversion, the kit comes with good directions. The post is titled “The Quest for Power” in case anyone is interested. We haven’t used it in an outage yet but it works very well and runs our house the way it is set up.

  20. Lierin says:

    It’s good to have a plan. We used to just keep water for short term power outages before we built ourselves a farm. Now we have almost 200 animals that require a lot more water than we do ~ and we don’t have a stream. We sat down and planned some more, and now we have two plans. First, we bought a hand pump for the well. Second, we bought a mess of 5 gallon food grade barrels. The barrels are covered with old horse blankets and a black tarp (solar heat). Eventually we want to add a solar unit to the well pump.

    We actually use solar power for hot water in the summer. 200 feet of black hose coiled on the roof produces water so hot it scalds. For the winter we have a holding tank in the loft and copper tubing (mostly free/scrounged)that wraps around the woodstove chimney and has a faucet on the bottom.

    What we’ve learned (or had drilled into our heads) is that if you want to live out in the country it’s better to learn the old ways that people used before there was electricity, plumbing, etc. We used a sawdust toilet for two years while we were building ~ and they don’t need any water. We still have it handy.

    We bought good oil lamps because while we have candles, we also have cats (and dogs with long tails). The lanterns are safer. We also wired for a 12 volt system and invested a teeny bit of cash in some led lights. No generator required, but you will need some rather expensive batteries. The plus side is that it can all be tied together with solar. We’re now working on that … one panel at a time.

    You’ll get there Suzanne. Honest! Don’t be shy about telling people what you are looking for. As others have mentioned, there may well be someone right down the road with one of those thingamajigs collecting dust in a shed or barn. Having electricity and running water is great … knowing you’d be comfortable without either is a worthy (and doable) goal.

    And, lol, eventually I’ll get done working on all of these practical things and have time to catch up to all you’ve done in your kitchen, the soap and cheese making, etc. Kudos to you!

  21. TeaCup says:

    Lierin, DH & I used the LED track lights we have in the kitchen during the past long power outage here. I thought we used a car battery to run them? Not sure. I’ll ask him tomorrow and post what he says.


  22. twiggityNDgoats says:

    That is very interesting about requiring public water for a commercial kitchen. That would certainly limit one’s options in a rural setting. That’s a great idea to have separate water sources for your house and studio.

  23. Old Geezer says:

    Point well taken, KarenAnne. Some gas valves may have a low-voltage electronic control module which is why it is worth at least taking a look. My statement about “modern” units was probably too broadly stated.

  24. hallowes says:

    Suzanne, we have a pto generator that hooks up to the tractor. They are at least half the price of a regular generator. Hooking it up is the hard part, but once that’s done, you just turn the key on the tractor and engage the pto to start it. It’s loud, but it runs my whole house. All of the major on-line farm supply store’s have them.

  25. holstein woman says:

    Suzanne, do you think you could check and see if you can interchange the two water sources for the Studio?

  26. MousE says:

    Suzanne, last summer I had an outdoor contract that required use of a generator. I had two to choose from, and my favorite was a little Honda generator, that was SO EASY to use, and went forever, and was really quiet too. It’s rated at something like 10 hrs on one gallon of gas. It’s the Honda EU2000, and trust me, it’s very very easy to use and so light, at 45 pounds, and compact, about say 12 inches by 18 inches by 14 inches. I know, tiny, right? It generated 2000 watts of power, perfect for emergency use, I reckon. Maybe one day, eh! I sure hope you don’t need one. You’ve probably had your fill of adventures for the moment!


  27. Willamette Valley Girl says:

    One of the things I love best about CITR blog is COMMUNITY!! it’s like reading letters from home- which translates into “loved ones”.

    Thanks Suzanne to you and all your/our friends (fellow BlOGGERS).

    Farmers UNITE!

    WVG :chicken:

  28. Zusiqu says:

    You might want to consider installing solar panels. Then an electrical outage wouldn’t be an issue.

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