Being prepared is always important when winter weather arrives, but this is especially true when you are a homesteader or living off-the-grid. Heavy snows, ice storms, or other weather events could very well leave you stranded or without electricity for days at a time. Homesteaders should make sure to have a contingency plan in place to prepare for a snow storm or other extreme weather events.
Your priorities may vary a bit depending on your homestead’s unique needs, but in general, there are 4 main priorities to plan for when bad weather hits:
Priority #1: Water
When I know that there is a high likelihood of losing power or of big storms coming through, the first thing that I do is I run water into our bathtubs. We are on our own private well and when the electricity goes out, I don’t have electricity to pump my well. Therefore I don’t have any water. We’re also on our own private septic system, which means I can flush toilets into my septic system, but I’ve got to have water to put in the toilets to flush them!
The second thing I do is I fill up the tea kettle, then any of our extra pitchers, and water bottles. We do have some water we keep in reserve and plastic, but honestly I don’t like to use that very much because the plastic breaks down over time, so I keep a few different glass pitchers and containers on hand.
Next I fill up water for all of our livestock. This is really important for us because we have a herd of cattle and I’ve got my chickens. Our number one priority is making sure the livestock tanks are totally topped off. We keep a livestock water tank heater plugged in which keeps it from freezing.
Priority #2: Heat/Back-Up Electricity
We use our generator to keep deep freezers and refrigerators running, which is our main priority when the power goes out. This time of year, we have one big deep freezer that’s actually out in our pump house, so when the power goes out, it’s full of meat and it’s cold enough it really wouldn’t matter if the power went out. But inside the house we’ve got our refrigerator and then we also have an upright freezer that needs powering to keep all of our meat (all of which we raise, hunt or catch ourselves) from thawing and going bad.
…My freezers are the primary spot where we keep all of our meat and a few things that don’t really lend themselves well to canning, like summer squash, spinach, broccoli… Those are things that just don’t hold up well when canned, so I keep them in the freezer.
We’re looking into getting a generator that we can hardwire into our house… And then when that happens, then we can just power up the generator and we could power most of our house.
Also, we do have a wood stove, so luckily we don’t need to worry about heating our house when the power goes out. If you don’t have a wood stove for heat, check out 10 Ways to Keep Warm Without Electricity here.
Priority #3: Food
Now, because I know we’ve got plenty of food on hand, I don’t have to worry about going to the grocery store. But I do start thinking about how I am going to cook our food without power.
In decent weather I can cook and even bake outside in our Dutch oven that we use in our fire pit. But in bad weather I’m going to be inside using my wood stove to fry or heat things up on top of it. I can’t do a whole lot of baking though.
There is a baking box that you can get for your wood stove that sits on top of it. We haven’t gotten one of those, but it’s something I’m going to look into in the future. For now I can’t do a lot of baking when we get extreme weather like this, so yesterday I did up a whole bunch of sourdough blueberry muffins so we would have them on hand and ready to eat when the power went out.
I also made regular sourdough dinner rolls and baked them, and then I made a big pot of beef stew knowing that I can easily heat up that beef stew on top of the wood stove if the power goes out. So I do some baking and cooking ahead of time so that we have things that are ready to eat or heat up.
Priority #4: Light
When it comes to lighting, we can run a lamp or two off of the generator even while it’s doing the freezers. I also make my own candles. I do beeswax and lard candles in mason jars. So we’ve got plenty of candles. But I’ve got an oil lantern that we use that gives off more light than a candle so we use this a lot when the power goes out.
We’ve also got headlamps, which are wonderful when it gets dark early and you still have to go do livestock chores. We have quite a few of those so we can use them in the house too if needed. But the oil lamp really does give off the most light.
I always make sure that I’ve got my WIC and that the oil lamp is full and I have back up oil in the closet. That way I always have extra oil on hand if I need to refill my lantern.