Most of us in the U.S. have been touched by winter storms. If you live in the South like I do, then you’ve probably tossed your hands in the air and said to yourself, “Wait a minute! What happened to mild winters?!”
Fortunately for me, my friend “Survival Messenger” has had the foresight to help me (and many others) understand why we should prepare for come-what-may scenarios. She has shared everything from her favorite high-tech gadgets to trusted and ingenious homemade solutions for everyday problems. I’ve been the thrilled recipient of handy buckets and bags filled with so many helpful goodies that it’s like Christmas each time she walks in the door. But her generosity doesn’t end with physical products. Almost every conversation we have contains a gold mine of valuable information I store for future use. In January and February of one recent year, I came to know how important her preparedness values had become in my life.
After two years of searching, I finally found the homestead property of my dreams, which consisted of an old 1920s farmhouse and outbuildings on almost seven beautiful acres with trees, a spring-fed pond and plenty of room for gardens. Three months spent on needed renovations and it was time to move in. I relished the idea of domiciling happily inside, keeping warm by my toasty wood stove and cooking in my old farm kitchen. Reality isn’t always quite as fun as your mind would like to be.
Before I had moved a stick of furniture in the house, the weatherman informed us that the temperature was going to drop below 10 degrees for several days. If you’ve ever spent any time in old houses in the South then you know they weren’t built to withstand extremely cold winter. I was very concerned that my pipes wouldn’t survive without my influence, so I made the trek from the city to the farm to spend the night. I took my trusty survival bag with me. Good thing.
When I walked in the door, I knew it was going to be a long night. The old heat pump was hardly keeping up, and it was only late afternoon. My brain had been concentrating so much on inside renovations that I hadn’t stopped to think what might happen to the outside if it got extremely cold, so I didn’t have extra insulation or heat tape in place in the crawl space. The best I could do was keep the water dripping in the faucets, leave the cupboard doors open, and keep the heat up as high as possible. My beautiful wood stove had yet to be installed; it was just a wishful thought in the mind’s eye of my cold body.
I decided to scope out the warmest place in the house. I thought it was the 5 x 12-foot utility room. The heat pump sends warmed air through ducts in the ceiling and it felt the warmest in that smallest of rooms.
I know that hot air rises, so I’ll blame my decision to sleep on the floor of a house that sits just a few feet above the cold ground on my own befuddled thought process. I thought that I was smart to bring a camouflage air mattress to sleep on — the kind you stick in the water and float on. (What? Like fish won’t see you?) I have a small, emergency air compressor that you can plug into your car to inflate things, but I imaged myself in a Lucille Ball moment, sitting outside in the dark and near zero temperatures in the front seat of my car, fighting a slowly inflating mattress, so I opted to blow it up manually. Yep, you’re reading that right. I almost passed out trying to get that thing inflated (Okay, so I had a Lucy moment anyway.) After what seemed like two hours, it was full of my hot air. I covered it with a sheet and a blanket and tried to snuggle in for the night with my trusty survival bag next to me.
Within five minutes, I was feeling like I was freezing. I used my solar LED light and pulled on a pair of wool socks Survival Messenger had given me. I knew I had some emergency blankets somewhere in my bag. I did! I took one out, covered my body with it and tried to settle down. However, every time I breathed I sounded like a piece of popcorn flying around inside a Jiffy Pop bag. And the emergency blanket on top of me didn’t do much good for my underside. The floor felt cold underneath the air mattress that was slowly deflating with my weight. After a faucet check I decided to head up the stairs with all my supplies to the second floor attic. At least the hot air would rise to the occasion. At 2 a.m. I was blowing up the camouflage air mattress again and laughing out loud in my sleep-deprived delirium. I got out a second emergency blanket and put that one underneath me. Ahh. Much better. I fell asleep and actually woke up sweating because I was so hot. I ran downstairs at 6 a.m. to check the faucets. All was well. The only temporary casualty was a frozen drain pipe that was exposed to the outside. The plumber suggested pouring warm water over it, the ice melted, and I thought, “Okay, I can do this!”
Survival products used in Round I:
- Wool Socks
- Emergency Blankets
- Solar LED Light
By the time I was able to get some furniture moved to the farm, a new round of winter weather was about to move in. I packed up a few of my survival food packs and stopped at the store to stock up on bread, eggs, milk and chocolate. Again, I had my trusty survival bag chock full of good stuff when I trekked back out to the country. So what could possibly go wrong?
The first round of snow came overnight. The problem with snow in the South is that there’s hardly any infrastructure to deal with it. Only the busiest of roads get salt, and you’ll never find a fleet of snow trucks ready to plow the white stuff off to the side. Forget it if you live in a very rural area. The other problem is that those who didn’t grow up driving in snow should be
banned from driving in snow at all! There’s an art to it; it takes practice, which is why this transported Northerner usually opts to stay indoors when these storms happen. I’m fortunate enough be able to do so because I work from home.
So there I sat on the only piece of furniture in the living room — a love seat. The rest of the world was enjoying their day off while I sat on stumpy couch and worked my brains out with my hot spot connection and a computer. The snow came and went. Then the wind roared in with freezing rain. But by this time, my beautiful little wood stove had been installed, EPA-certified and all. While the ice pellets banged against the chimney and echoed down, I hauled in some wood, wearing my Toggs rain gear and using my survival safety gloves, got the stove going and decided a can of soup might be in order. I had purchased a couple of cans of organic/non-GMO chicken soup. My mouth was watering at the thought of it until I realized I hadn’t packed up all my cooking utensils. I had no can opener. Or maybe I did! I got out the survival bag, because inside lived a multi-tool that Survival Messenger had given me years before. Hooray! Hot soup was simmering within three minutes. Sadly, I broke a nail getting the can open, but not to worry. The multi-tool had a nail file. And I didn’t have a soup ladle, or so I thought. But Survival Messenger had placed one of those in a food bucket she had given me. It also contained a bag of rubber gloves, boxes of matches, mouse traps and more wool socks — all of which were put to good use during the storm.
I was getting through one of the worst winters the South had ever seen. Cars were spinning out of control on the snow and ice within every news broadcast, but I was safe and sound, letting the wood stove serve the heat where the heat pump would not, cooking hot meals and doing dishes.
After five days of snow, rain and cold, on Friday night I decided to have a real survival meal. I broke out a pack of chicken alfredo pasta and was quite surprised by the tastiness. On the last bite, Survival Messenger checked in–as she had done all week. We laughed at the weather and planned things we’d do when everything got back to normal. Then I decided to do the dishes. Good thing I like clean dishes. At the very moment I was standing at the kitchen sink and patting myself on the back for getting through an entire week on my own, disaster struck. Suddenly, water was raining down on my head — inside my kitchen! In shock, I looked up to find it pouring through a hole in the cupboard. The rain that had frozen all week long had turned into three inches of ice that started to melt, and the flashing that connected the main house roof to the back porch had never been installed correctly.
I swooped into action, grabbed some pots and placed them in strategic locations. I knew I only had minutes before really bad things were going to happen, and the freezing rain had started up again! There was only one thing to do: Call Neighbor Bob. Neighbor Bob decided to stop in a few months prior to offer his services on a plethora of possible projects. I have fantastic farm neighbors who make me feel like I’m living in my childhood again, because they really care. Neighbor Bob said, “I’ll be there in 15 minutes.” He climbed up a ladder in slippery, freezing rain with a bum knee and chopped off blocks of ice and created a temporary quick fix to the flashing. He was up there for an hour and a half. Disaster averted. (And a friend gained for life!)
Survival products/procedures used in Round II:
- Gravity Water Filter (for daily drinking/cooking)
- Canned Goods
- Survival Food
- Soup Ladle
- Mouse Traps
- Safety Gloves
- Heavy Rubber Boots
- A Good Neighbor – Great to have around in a crisis!
This week? [While I’m writing this] Flood level rains are expected in the weather forecast. Hmm. It is a good thing that I chose a piece of property far from the river and up on a high plateau. But I may need to add a small boat to my emergency preparedness list!