When the Power Goes Out

All across the country this spring, there have been storms taking out power (and, of course far worse).  My cousin in Alabama was affected earlier this year.  Thankfully she is ok, and was able to drive to Nashville to stay with family for a few days until the power came back on.  This makes me think a lot about disaster preparedness, and I know I’m not the only one.  Sharon Astyk and Greenpa both commented on the CDC’s article about the impending zombie apocalypse last week.  Northwest Edible Life asked about balancing energy consumption and preparedness (which gave rise to this post for me).

We aren’t really in a great place yet as far as being prepared for a natural disaster.  We’re pretty good about preserving food in the summer, enough to get us through the winter, but really nothing long term.  While we’ve been living without a fridge now for the last four weeks, I know we couldn’t hack it without our freezer.  The ice to keep everything from spoiling is pretty crucial.  We keep the majority of our preserved food in there as well.  Without power, we’d be coming up short pretty quickly, especially in the summer time with regards to our meat.

Happily, here in Colorado, the most likely time for a prolonged power outage would be the winter, and that in it of itself mitigates some of the potential damage to the freezer-stored food.  In the case of a power outage that was not during the cold or not soon to be resolved, I really think this is a place where community can help.  Our neighbor, for example, has a couple of generators. But he is a bachelor and has no food stock piled what-so-ever (I’m pretty sure he buys food everyday for each meal). So we could really come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, wherein, his generators help keep our food from spoiling, and we feed him. Of course, generators are only temporary as well, and in the event of something extending past that, we’re pretty much screwed.

We could definitely dehydrate, but only if we do it ahead of time, as both our food dehydrator and oven are electric and power company dependent.  While we could prepare a lot of herbs and some veggies this way ahead of time, I’m not a huge fan of jerky.  So that still leaves most of our meat vulnerable.  We don’t have a pressure-canner either, and a boiling water bath is not enough to safely preserve meats.

One meat preservation option we’ve considered is the possibility of smoking meats. We’ve been on the hunt for an oak barrel that we can use to make a smoker in our yard, as I saw done at the local living history museum last summer. We watched them smoke two chickens in a barrel over bricks dug in the ground. It was super cool and we’ve been wanting to do it ever since. This could even be done in the winter, in an emergent situation, provided you already had the hole for the bricks dug.

This reminds me a lot of Little House in the Big Woods.  I love how detailed the descriptions Laura gives for how the Ingalls family preserves meats for the winter.  Smoking venison and hams, freezing sausages, and putting up salted pork in the attic.  This always makes me wonder what exactly salted pork is and how it tastes, and what the process is.

So I’d like to know what systems others have in place?  Are you prepared for a disaster, whether a short term one, like a weather related power outage, or a long term one, like peak oil or zombie apocalypse?  How are you preserving meat for long term storage?  Are you building community food systems, so that in the event of a disaster you have resources other than your own to draw from?  Is it practical to store meat in the summer time?  (The Ingalls family did not, all their meat storage was just for the winter.)  How else, besides freezing, are you storing food – canning, root cellars, dehydrating, salting, smoking????  Do you have recipes to share?

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Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Food, Preparedness, Sustainability | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “When the Power Goes Out

  1. I have been thinking about this issue a lot too. I don’t have the money to go crazy – but we do have a dehydrator and I just bought a vacuum sealer. Small steps. There’s no reason we shouldn’t plan ahead. :)

  2. I’ve been thinking about that too. Being prepared has been on my mind, and I’ve read a lot of blogs about it lately. I really need to get past the thinking stage though. I love, love, love the little house books for that same reason. It amazes me what was done to prepare and store food prior to electricity, we’ve lost so much of it, and I’d love to bring a lot of it back.

  3. We have two freezers full of meat.

    We have a generator and some gasoline stored to keep us covered during a short-term outage. We can provide electricity to the freezers on an alternating basis to keep the meat frozen.

    For an extended power outage we have stored propane gas and plan to use our camp stoves to help can up the meat. We have cases of jars and lids on hand for that purpose.

    I’d like to think we’d be prepared, but who really knows until you’re in the situation.

    • Anisa

      Moo Mama – A couple questions – how long can you store gasoline? I thought that it went bad after a while? Obviously you can rotate that out regularly… just curious.

      Also will a camp stove get hot enough and is it big enough to can meat in a pressure canner? I don’t really know how hot it needs to be – we’ve never done it. Just another curious question.

      Do you have recipes for canned meat… either for the canning or for the using after it’s canned?

      As to not really knowing until you’re in the situation, what about doing a “disaster drill” for a weekend or week, and seeing if you could do it? Might be an interesting experiment!

      I think I might take the course of canning some of that up before a disaster and then saving fuel for cooking meals if needed???

  4. Our emergency protein is much in the form of lentils & beans. If our freezer went out, we’d lose our meat. And bean & lentils require some sort of heat source to cook (and water) so it’s not a fail-safe.

  5. We used to be better prepared than we are now. At one time I had several plastic totes of shelf-stable food and other necessities stored in the basement. I’d like to get back on the prepping wagon this year!

  6. There are far too many of us that share your predicament. Living in NY, we too have the winter months to aid us during an outtage, but there is another option… Solar panels. An inexpensive kit can be purchased for only a few hundred dollars online, and batteries can be purchased lightly used from your local electric company to help offset costs. Then you can at least run a couple appliances. Our kit was under $500 complete, and can run a full-size upright freezer (energy star), and an electric oil heater to keep us warm at the same time. The systems available are a lot cheaper than they were even a year ago, and it is definitely worth looking into!

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