My Ten-Day Test-My-Preps Adventure – Part 2, by St. Funogas

(Continued from Part 1.)

I started a to-do list for when the test is over. It started with:

  • Can 12 quarts or more of water.
  • Figure out how much water the plumbing pressure tank holds from 50 psi down to 0 psi
  • Many others, mentioned below.

I went to bed that night at 21:30. In the fifteen seconds it took for me to fall asleep, a quick thought passed through my head: How nice it was to have complete darkness, able to see all the stars out of my loft window with no little lights from the television and DVD player, the computer’s power strip, the night light downstairs.

And so ended Day One.

The Manual

One of the immediate realizations on Day One was that a Manual of some sort was needed, especially for Day One when most of my mistakes were made. You don’t want to be sitting around brainstorming on Day One about things so critical. This is important when the SHTF and helpful when Katrina comes roaring into town as well.

Keep in mind the Manual is for an actual real-life SHTF situation, not just for a preps test.

My Manual sections will include:

DO THESE FIRST! – Short and sweet Page One with the utmost important things like taking care of the freezers and turning sink-faucet valves to half open. When the SHTF, read page one as a group before doing anything else.
Large-font, clear headers on each page.
Prioritize the must-dos in order.
Refrigerators and freezers taped shut and freezers quickly consolidated if necessary, then get them running on the generator if it’s during the warmer months until the solar panels can take over in the morning. This will vary with the time of year depending on the ambient temperature. The time of year will also cause variation on what’s in the freezer so the generator is a very temporary fox while a plan is formulated on how to preserve the contents. This will be a very important high-priority item for my Week One.

Inventory important things using sheets with fill-in blanks so I don’t forget anything: fuel, water, all batteries including 12v, etc. Again, this is very important for TEOTWAWKI, not a trial run.
Propane Usage – turn off the valve at the tank. Then read the manual to see how to get the propane plan activated.
Alternate electricity-switchover instructions and photos.
Alternate water-switchover instructions and photos.
Written instructions on every little thing so any family member can do them in worst-case scenario.
Menu for Week One and most importantly Day One. I don’t want to waste time figuring meals out the first few days and I want to be reminded on Day One, not Day Four, that I have those Mountain House freeze-dried foods in the back of the pantry. I’m not a fan of MREs as a prep item but they’d be an excellent option as a Week One option.
Keychain flashlight around my neck for the duration. Even after ten days I was still flipping on lights or looking for a flashlight before remembering it was hanging around my neck. Each visitor should have one around their necks at all times. To-do list: Stock up on more coin batteries in 24-packs ($11.49).
Map to where the Thin Mints are stashed in ammo can #17.
Practice the manual – Quarterly along with my fire drills. It needs to become muscle memory so I don’t have to think of a single thing on how to proceed during that first week after the grid goes down. I need multiple copies, at least one of which never leaves its designated spot in the end slot of the shelf with the survival books and Alas Babylon-type novels.

Day Two

The day wasn’t stressful, rather an adventure trying to get everything done while the sun was shining. There were lots of “YES!” vocalizations. I was very curious to see by the end of this experience how well I had prepared. I was about to find out.

With the microwave out of commission, I couldn’t squeeze “coffee” and “saucepan” into the same brain cell to reheat some coffee I had. It was a challenge to figure out how to get around that. Then I had the “duh” moment: try a sauce pan, you idiot. I used more saucepans during these 10 days than I’ve used in the past year. No microwave available for heating dish water, reheating leftovers, boiling coffee water, etc. I had the same duh moment again that afternoon when I didn’t have the microwave to heat dish water so I washed them in cold water. I was almost finished when I remembered that nice set of copper sauce pans hanging from a beam right above my head. The same ones I used this morning. An important lesson I learned over and over again is that when out of my normal routines, the things I take for granted are no longer available and it takes several days for new habits to get ingrained into new routines.

I got my 12-volt water system primed and running. I didn’t do it last night because in my rapidly progressing geezerhood I have the manual dexterity of a quadriplegic starfish. I was worried about dropping parts in the dark. I also already had enough water to get by until morning with the five+ gallons that were in the plumbing pressure tank. That was enough to take a two-gallon shower and fill up my water bottles before bed.

09:15 Clear skies, good day for solar panels. I activated a special accessory of my solar panel inverter, discussed below in the section on electricity.

I tested my 350w inverter that runs off a 12v battery using my reading light, which failed after 15 seconds. The lawn mower core I was using didn’t have enough charge. (For those unaware, a “core” is the old battery you give to the store when you buy a new battery.) The last time I did this test I used an old car-battery core which performed better than expected so I was very disappointed this time around. I’d have to improvise for the reading light next to my chair.

I’ve used a composting toilet for the past 8 years so no sanitation worries.

The temps in both freezers rising fast. I was experimenting to see how long it would take to get to the uncomfortable range. I too slowly discovered this was a bad time to be experimenting. You idiot! At 12:30 finally plugged the shop freezer in and set the dial to lowest temp. Note to self: do all testing before the SHTF, not after it starts.

I was very exhausted by 19:00. I went to bed and was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

By the end of Day Two I had put together a list of the ten most common phrases I had discovered early on that I’d need to get through this experience. Here they are in order of most common usage:

1. YES!
2. You idiot!
3. Prayer of the faithless: “Come on come on come on come on come on…”
4. Duh!
5. Oh yeah baby!
6. Not suitable for a G-rated blog.
7. I KNEW I should have moved that from my wish list to my cart.
8. As soon as the grid is back up…
9. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
10. Hindsight is 20/20.

Day Three

I woke up at 04:04 worried about the freezers not being able to get back down to temperature. I called myself an idiot again for experimenting at such a crucial time. The freezer held mostly 120+ lbs. tomatoes for canning. I could spend a long day or two getting them all processed if the freezer couldn’t hold temperature but there was WAY too much to be doing this week instead of spending time on canning. The freezer was now becoming a worry.

I was also worried about getting the 500-gallon water tank topped off using the generator. It was 80% full at the beginning of Day One so I had enough time to address more pressing things before the generator.

I had to move the house refrigerator/freezer stuff to the shop freezer. Next time get everything consolidated within 30 minutes of the grid going down. Bananas have a low freezing temperature so were mush in both freezers. I had to get them into the solar dryer ASAP. I just bought 20+ lbs. so no frozen smoothies during this test. This was a big disappointment since they make quick meals and are part of my established routine. I drink them daily so it would have been my best no-thinking-required food item. I had a large store of butter and cheese which I bought on sale a while back so I put a few in the freezer and left the majority in the refrigerator, which was now a storage cabinet instead of a working appliance. Luckily I had tested butter a year or so ago and I knew it could go a long time without refrigeration as long as it wasn’t too soft. From backpacking experiences I knew cheese can be carried in a hot backpack and still be edible after seven days, though very greasy and not in a recognizable shape. The butter and cheese in the harvest freezer were for comparison purposes with their room-temperature counterparts after the grid-down test was completed.

Surprisingly, this test let me know some things to add to my preps which I don’t even use right now, such as cellophane wrap for drying those 20+ lbs. of bananas. With no hospital emergency-room availability during TEOTWAWKI, there was an important item I needed to add to my preps. My biggest health concern when the SHTF is having a major gash accident with a knife, chainsaw, table saw, axe, etc. I need to secure some of the Celox and Curad Bloodstop blood-clotting agents mentioned by D.D. in Arizona in his article What’s in the Rest of My Bags and Why – Part 1.

While rearranging my smaller 100w solar panel setup I discovered the inverter has two USB charging ports on the bottom. These will be important for charging all sorts of things after the SHTF such as phones with their many non-communication functions: calculator, camera, lists, notes, etc.

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 3.)