Mother Earth News Blogs > Homesteading and Livestock

Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Preparing for Power Outages on the Homestead, Part 1


Four Dead, 1 Million Lose Power in Destructive Northwest Windstorm

Losing power is a reality that homesteaders must prepare for. It is not a matter of if, but when, and for how long. As a homesteader/farmsteader we have a responsibility to keep the home running regardless of “power.” Animals do not care if the grid is down! Here are some thoughts from the last power outage that impacted our homestead in Northern Idaho.

This is not a matter of bragging or pride, but the historic storm that just slammed into us amounted to a mere inconvenience. It is not that we are completely off-grid or that we do not have gaps, because we do, but our general preparedness allowed us to easily navigate a power outage and still take care of a household of 11 and more than 100 animals.

1. Keep a well-stocked fuel storage. Gas stations were closed and pumps were off, so whatever was in the fuel tank is what you have. On the local forums, people were frantically asking what gas stations were open a mere 12 hours after the storm struck, even though the storm was predicted several days in advance. Keep your tanks at least half full and keep a fuel storage that is regularly rotated, and use additives to increase shelf life. A simple way to have a fuel storage is with 5-gallon gas cans. With 10 gas cans, you can store 50 gallons of gasoline. Of course, buying a large tank that is stored in a cool, dry place that can utilize gravity would be even better. If you plan on storing gasoline for longer than 6 months without rotation, then you should add additives. It is common myth that diesel fuel will store for many years. With the advent of ultra-low-sulfur diesel, storage times have reduced significantly. If storing diesel, use additives to increase shelf life.

2. Most gas stoves will work without power as long as you can light them manually. With a significant propane or natural gas storage in tanks, you can continue to cook for a very long time. The other great aspect of propane and natural gas is their shelf life. If you have an independent source of these gases, they will last for many years and still maintain functionality.

3. If you do not have a backup source of heat, get one! We consider wood stoves to be mandatory for a prepared homestead in temperate climates. Having a good wood fuel source is invaluable. Even better is a wood cookstove that can provide not only heat for the home but also cooking, heating of water, drying of food and much more. As a long-term solution, the prepared homesteader needs to have or develop a good woodlot for fuel.

More to come in the next post!

Sean and Monica Mitzel homestead with their family on 40 acres and are using permaculture techniques and strategies for the property. The property will eventually become a demonstration and education site where they raise dairy goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, and ducks. The Mitzels have planted more then 50 productive trees and enjoy wildcrafting, propagating mushrooms, and raising and training livestock guardian dogs. Listen to The Courageous Life Podcast and read all their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.