Shortages Can Induce Deep Drama, and Making Do-It-Yourself Fire Logs, by Heghduq

I live in the Midwest. With the recent snow storms hitting the area there has been an abundance of snow and ice. We have had record levels of snowfall for the month of February. It comes as no surprise that the state was ill-prepared for this. As a result there is a statewide shortage of road [de-icing] salt. The distributors are out of stock and it is unknown how long it will be before they will get more. To those of you who have never had the pleasure of driving on winter roads in the Midwest, you may not understand.

Now mind you, road salt is one of those items the can wreak havoc on a vehicle’s undercarriage and body panels. But this can be minimized with regular car washes. However, without the road salt major travel routes used for transport of goods and to move workers to provide services become treacherous. Travel to work now becomes a survival situation by itself. Most people with any common sense with stay hoe, if at all possible. However there are some families that this is not an option. This combined with accidents can and has caused lost wages increased medical costs and of course shortages and/or delays in goods and services.

A good example is the semi truck carrying goods for the local grocery store slides off the road and rolls over or it hit by another vehicle that has lost control due to road conditions. Now in this age of interstate commerce where stores only stock what is on their shelves if the supply distribution network is disrupted the store runs out of stock quickly. Business as usual grinds to a halt or is reduced to a snail’s pace.

Most people I know complain about how much of a hassle it is dealing with [state] D.O.T. salt trucks, but in the end the service they provide is worth the hassle. No salt on the roads means no stocked shelve at the store.

This simple item and lack thereof has major repercussions to the commerce in any community. This shortage is bad enough that the state has resorted to using sand to try and supplement the salt shortage. Sand is not nearly as effective and when the snow and ice melt the sand goes with the run off faster than the road salt. That and once laid if it snows on top of the sand and then gets packed down and becomes ice, then the sand becomes ineffective. It is trapped between the ice layers. Unlike salt it will not melt the ice to make the roadway safe to drive on. So now we have conditions ripe for more accidents that cause further delays and disruptions in the distribution lines.

It is a wise investment to have some road salt on hand, just in case [, for your own driveway]. If you know you will be in the center of an incoming winter storm, then stock up on extra food and water and be certain that you have backups for heating and lighting. A secondary source of heating in the winter months is crucial. If you have the time and money invest in a wood stove, as a bare minimum. Install it in an area that will be easy to keep warm and not cause a fire hazard. Make sure that it will pass a fire code inspection, wherever you have it installed. Be sure to have all the necessary knowledge and tools associated with its operation and maintenance, such as chimney cleaning. If you will be using it on a regular basis make sure you know how to clean it, and do so regularly.

A lot has been said about having propane heaters but these fall under the category of needing to special fuel for this type of heater. Now don’t get me wrong, having a couple of these around won’t hurt, but when the propane is gone and there may not be any available to replenish it what would you do then? Having a good wood stove might be a bit more work but the payoff is worth the extra effort and care needed. If you run out of firewood, your house and yard are filled with alternative sources of fuel. Just be careful about what you use as fuel as some items will give off toxic fumes. If you live a simple life then most of your wood furniture can be used as fuel, but be careful when selecting what you will use as fuel. [For liability reasons, I add these disclaimers:] If you use furniture be sure to thoroughly strip it of any varnish and paint. Never use any treated wood designed to repel water. Pressure treated wood has been infused with chemicals to reduce the effects of water damage associated with prolonged exposure to the elements. How ever a good percentage of the furniture in you home has no such treatment as they were never intended for prolonged use outside the home. The latter of course would be in the event that you have exhausted your supply of wood and are unable to go out and forage for more.

In a short term emergency there should be an abundance of fuel for your wood stove but in a long term situation it will be increasingly difficult to acquire fuel so be frugal in its use and stock up. Not only is the wood stove good for heating but is also good for cooking and other uses associated with fire. (Such as melting lead for bullet casting, and so forth.)

Here is something that can be of use in this situation: City-Grown Fireplace Logs

Materials Needed:

  • Used Newspaper
  • Large Slicing-Size Kitchen Knife or Scissors
  • Elmer’s White Glue
  • Broomstick

Note: Please be very careful when working with knives (Adult supervision!)
Lay used newspaper sections opened to full single page size on a convenient flat working surface. (Consider doing this on a table)
Arrange to have all “folds” on the same side for convenience.
Use a knife to slit all folds to create a stack of single loose sheets.
Using a salvaged broomhandle, positioning it atop the pile of loose sheets. Wrap the top sheet as to tuck it’s near end into the area being rolled.
Continue to roll that sheet around the broomhandle by rolling it away from you until it has almost wrapped itself around the broomhandle.
Return the broomhandle with the paper rolled on it to the starting position and tuck the next sheet between the roll and the first sheet.
Continue this process until you have made a “log” of the desired diameter.
Finish by the addition of a few spots of glue to fasten the outermost sheet.
Remove the broomhandle form, by twisting it within the formed “log.”
Kids like to use the colored sheets from the Sunday paper as the top cover sheet.

These logs can be made from almost any paper product if there is plenty around. You can also use cardboard for this but it will be a bit more difficult and you will have to compress the cardboard for before rolling to remove the space that is made by the corrugated center of the cardboard. This is where having very active kids come in handy. Lay out the cardboard on the floor. Preferably a hardwood floor or tiled floor. It has to be solid. Have the kids jump up and down to flatten the cardboard. Be careful that it does not slide around during this or you kids might be picking themselves up from the floor and have bruised backsides. Once the cardboard is flattened proceed with the log construction as mentioned above. This type of log will be a bit more dense and heavier than the newspaper log. I have yet to test and see if it burns longer that the newspaper log or not. The results should be about the same though.

This is great for those of us who purchase bulk items that come in large boxes. Two things happen here. The first is you are recycling and the second is you are reducing the amount of space that is taken up by the cardboard. You can use an unused box to store these logs in. If stored properly you could even use these as a little bit of a security measure. Having several of these boxes set up in a manner [as “bait” for] a would-be thief planning to steal some of your stocked supplies. Imagine the look on his face when he opens his ill gotten gain only to find it filled with more cardboard and old newspaper rolls. All the while you have hidden your stash under the floor or someplace nearby and overlooked by the thief. Sure, you might be out of a good heating fuel but better that than valuable food or water or other crucial item that you need. You can always get more paper and cardboard a lot easier and 99% of the time for free as opposed to losing ammunition, firearms or any other vital item that may be a bit more difficult or expensive to replace. Hope this helps, – Heghduq