Monday, February 06, 2006

Preparing a Kitchen for a Power Outage

What a weekend! A big windstorm came through our area (I saw a news report that said the closest town to us had reported the highest winds in all of western Washington) and knocked our power out. Not once, but twice. The second time was for over 16 hours. We weren't prepared for it but managed okay. Next time we'll do better.

Our house is entirely electric. Electric stove, electric heat, water pumped from the well to the house by electricity. We don't have a backup generator, so we ran out of water pretty fast thanks to the teenagers who didn't think about how the water gets from the well to the house and used what was available to flush the toilet several times. But, we have a Brita water filter pitcher in the refrigerator, and it was pretty full. That plus milk, juices, and soda meant nobody got thirsty. I'm going to save up a few empty milk jugs, clean them well, and fill them with water. I'll use some as drinking water (I'll put just a touch of chlorine bleach in them to make sure nothing yucky grows in the water) and some will be for "flushing" the toilet when it needs it and for cleaning hands and things.

The house has two wood stoves that are meant to help heat the house. We didn't buy any firewood, but with alot of smaller trees blown down it was very easy to scavenge some wood from our property. That kept the main part of the house warm enough. Having some real, seasoned firewood on hand would have been better, and probably would have made for a hotter fire. That's on hubby's list to take care of. We need to get an axe too, so that we can chop the larger trees into suitable sized logs.

The stoves aren't made for cooking on, and without real firewood I don't know if my attempt to boil water on it in our teakettle was a good test. It didn't work, but a saucepan of water did get hot enough to produce some steam. That got used for warm drinks. We could have warmed up canned goods on it, but I don't know about real cooking. So, I need to dig out our propane cookstove so that it's at hand if we're without electricity again. I need to buy extra propane cylinders for it, too. We have long forks for campfires around somewhere, so once I find them I'll put them by the stove so they can be used for cooking in the wood stove.

Any time the power goes out our first rule is "No opening the refrigerator". After our electricity had been out all night, I opened it once, to get out a few things I thought people would like to eat for breakfast, snacks, etc., and those things then stayed out. I got out the Brita pitcher, the milk, some already-cooked sausages, and a couple of jams (for PBJs). I think a couple of people sneaked in to the fridge, but since they were sneaking they did it fast, and it stayed cold enough to keep everything okay. The one thing I was concerned about was uncooked Italian sausage I had gotten out from the freezer to defrost, so as soon as the power came back on I cooked it thoroughly just to make sure it didn't spoil. It was fine. Nothing in the freezer defrosted which was good too. We were lucky though. We should probably buy a generator big enough to power house essentials for several hours, and have our coolers ready to hold food and ice in case of a really long outage.

Before an emergency is the best time to get prepared, of course. Like I said, we were lucky on several counts this time. Next time we'll be better prepared (and I've already talked with the older kids about not needing to flush away every little bit of pee when the power's out). I hope my story will help you prepare your kitchen for an extended power outage.

This weekend was supposed to be a catch-up time for me, but without electricity for my computer or my stove I didn't get anything caught up. So now I have more things added to my list! But I have two big cooking sessions photographed and just waiting for me to have time to write them up. I won't tease you any more than that!

So, how was your weekend? (I'm too sad about it to talk about the Seahawks.)

Wow, Queenie! Sounds like you had quite a weekend, and learned a lot. We're totally unprepared for something like that to happen to us. We have firewood, which is nice, because the stove is our only method of heating the house on a normal basis...but thinking about the rest of it is scary! It's a good head's up, though, so I'll have to check the place out and think about what I would do in your situation. We were rooting for the seahawks too :( I can't wait to see these two big posts!
It was a little scary, because it's the first time in a very long time I've been without power for so long, and it showed how lazy I've been about it! It may be this weekend before I'm able to finish my recipe posts, but one of them is one you asked about. I hope it's worth the wait!
Hi--I found your blog through Orangette--I loved your post on cast iron skillets. I have 2 much loved, one large, one small, and use them for everything that will fit.
Hi Lucette, and thanks for dropping by! I'm glad you liked the cast iron posts, I love my iron and don't think I could ever have enough. I have four pieces now, and am currently hunting for a very large skillet to use when we go camping.
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