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Surviving Winter in the Country
Tips for Wintery Country Living
It's winter in the country! It's beautiful, magical and cold! If you haven't lived in the country during the winter, I can help you with a few wintry tips to help you survive! This information is from experience from living in the country most of my life. When the colder winds begin to blow it's always good to have some help from those who have been through it.
Before winter arrives, it may be a good idea to find out about a backup heat source. Most "country folks" use a woodstove or fireplace. If you have trees on your own land, you can use the dead or damaged ones first to cut for firewood. If you don't know how to cut down trees, don't try to do it yourself, hire someone or ask a friend if they know how. If you have a lot of trees, you can even barter, sharing some of the wood for the service of cutting the trees into firewood. You may be surprised how much wood a woodstove can use, but its worth it when it's very cold and you lose your electricity due to winter weather.
You can also use propane gas as a backup. You can obtain it in small, medium or large bottles for cooking or in your gas fireplace. Most gas fireplaces have tanks outside of your house that the propane company fills. Check to make sure you have enough for the long winter. For the smaller propane heaters, there are attachments that can be used with them to disperse heat. Some people choose kerosene heaters, although the smell is a bit stronger than propane, it's all personal preference. When buying a propane or kerosene heater learn about them. Find out if they have to be ventilated or not. They can be dangerous if not used according to the instructions. Always keep propane and kerosene heaters at a safe distance from furniture, curtains or where children and animals can get to them. Please use common sense.
You may not want to wait too late in the season to check into a back-up generator. A generator can be helpful for times when it's very cold and the electricity is out for an extended time. There are different sizes, but the higher wattage will handle appliances in your home more easily without a strain on the generator. ie. refrigerators, freezers, electric heaters and lights. The generator will help, but it's for emergencies, not to run the whole house. Generators use gasoline, so don't forget to have some on hand for emergencies. A generator is nice to have, especially if you don't want to "rough it" a bit with candles, a fire or extra blankets.
Oil filled radiator heaters work well when needing heat that's safe. You can use them along with the generator if you have central heat that's out, to keep warm and keep the pipes from freezing, as long as you have electricity. They're great for garages, basements and just about anywhere you need heat. They're efficient, safe and use less electricity because once the oil gets warm/hot, it stays that way without fumes or fire.
Having supplies like snow shovels, salt for ice and the proper clothing for dealing with winter just makes sense. Keep extra coats, hats, gloves, blankets, food and fresh water so you're not caught with nothing to help you get through the tough spots.
Keep a good supply of candles, lighters and matches on hand! This is a good idea all year round, but mainly in winter! Ice can play havoc with electric lines. Candles and oil lamps are good to have for emergencies. Use caution with candles and oil lamps just like heaters.
Stocking up on foods that are easily cooked like canned soups, or even soup that you've canned yourself! When the electricity's off, it doesn't mean you have to eat junk food or out of boxes. You can cook on your woodstove and you'd be surprised how much and what you can do! I remember my Mom cooking on a fireplace! I prefer cast iron pots, pans and skillets, but others will do. Keeping the refrigerator closed does help keep foods cold when there's no electricity, but if its 30 degrees or below, you can even put some of your perishables outside in a safe place where animals can't get to them!
Batteries and flashlights are important. Rechargeable batteries are good to save money and reuse again and again. It's always good to have them around. People used to have radios to listen to the weather forecast, but now we have cell phones, laptops and other means of keeping up with what's happening around us. Alternative energy is great, if you can afford it and hopefully we all will be able to one day soon! Using portable solar modules for cell phones, laptops or other small appliances is the new way to go!
Always keep containers of water around for drinking, cooking and even for flushing your toilet! When the electricity is out, your well pump won't pump water to your sink or toilet, so you have to have water to do that. You can put the water in the tank part of your toilet or straight in the bowl. When in the tank, you can flush once. When you dump the water in the bowl, it will automatically flush. Your water holding tank or water heater will have "some" water in it, even after the electricity is off, but it will only last for a short time. Also, beware of water pipes freezing if you have no heat for a long period of time. That's why a generator is good to keep small heaters in areas to keep pipes warm. Some say it's good to leave your water faucets dripping to keep the flow going. I put a container under the faucet to collect the water to use in a kettle on my stove to keep moisture in the air! I also use snow and icicles! Waste not, want not!
Planning ahead is the best idea. If you hear about snow or icy weather on its way, make sure you have what you will need for at least a couple of days. If you have pets, they will need food, water and shelter too.
If you have to go out, to work or for other reasons, make sure you have supplies you need in your car too. Good tires, kitty litter for traction, a blanket, water, a snack and flashlight with batteries, are just a few items you'll need.
Living in the country can be great, less stressful and peaceful, if you know how to be prepared. It won't take long for you to become a real winter country survivor once you've learned the "how to's" and the right things to do to keep things flowing, even when the ice and snow's coming down outside!
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