Today, we’re dealing with the aftermath of a major winter storm that swept across Nova Scotia in the past 24 hours, dumping more than a foot of snow and blowing that snow into drifts, some five feet tall. I’ve done my share of shovelling, including clearing the large deck before it collapsed from the weight of three feet of snow and clearing paths to feed the animals. My oldest son was out ploughing driveways and hauled out my son-in-law when he got stuck ploughing five o’clock this morning. My youngest son has been out shovelling with a crew since 10:00 pm Sunday night. It’s 3:00 pm Monday, and he’s still not home yet. He’ll be one tired and hungry fellow by the time he rolls in.
It is February, and I think of this month as the snow month. January is the cold month. March the ice month.
Of course, this is relevant to Nova Scotia; other locations will see the seasons differently.
This is the second storm in a week. Last Tuesday February 2nd, we dealt with a major wind, snow and rain storm that blew our electrical panel. We spent two days without power and only after replacing the fuse panel, sinking two 10-foot ground rods into the ground and building a platform to meet safety code did power surge through the wires again.
In the meantime, I cooked on a Coleman stove, provided light with candles, flashlight and a Coleman lantern and kept the house relatively warm with a prophane Coleman heater and making soup. Soup? Yes. Cooking a steaming pot of soup for two hours heats up a room. As always, I made my Onion Soup, which I posted to my McGyver Blog: Onion Soup Recipe for the Trail.
Thankfully, the tropical storm that blew threw brought mild weather, and the sun came out and it reached 15 degrees Celsius. This helped keep the inside temperature in the high teens.
Winter is not the time to lose power for days, but being prepared definitely makes a huge difference.
Flashback to 2003 when Hurricane Juan hit and we lost power for a week at the end of September, things weren’t so smooth. My kids were five and under, my youngest only nine months old and eating pureed food. It was warm, so we didn’t worry about heat, but cooking was a challenge. I had no heat source, so I heated my baby’s food over a candle. I had a decent flashlight and glow sticks. Yes, glow sticks. Each night, the kids had a glow stick hung at the top of their bed to give them security in the dark. I also placed one on the floor in the hallway and one in the bathroom. They gave enough light to provide guidance.
I didn’t have money to buy all the things at once to make life without power easier, so I paced myself. The first year, I bought the Coleman stove. I bought good quality, so it would last. Sixteen years later, and that stove still works like a charm, and it’s been used many times, including on camping trips. The key is to keep it clean and stored properly.
Next, I bought a lantern. It takes four D batteries and hangs on a hook in the kitchen for easy access. One Christmas, I bought each of the kids their own mini lanterns, which they’ve used for power outages and camping. Eventually, I bought another lantern, the heater that attaches to a small prophane tank and a large battery pack, which was on sale for half price at Canadian Tire. The battery can power my laptop, table light, radio, Internet box and other items with low draw. It can also charge cell phones.
Now, when the power goes out, I go into camp mode. I haul buckets of water from the cistern in the basement to use for the toilet and washing, set up the stove and plug my laptop into the battery pack. Regardless of the storm raging outside, I can be cosy and write with a cup of tea.
NOTE: Prophane can be used safely inside with equipment designated for indoor use, but other fuels can NOT be. Many homeowners use prophane to fuel kitchen stoves and like all equipment using this fuel, it must be maintained. If leaks are suspected, do NOT use the item. Always use equipment as intended. That means the stove is not a heater, so don’t light the burners to heat a space. Use them for cooking only. Also, don’t cook over the flame as if a campfire. That means don’t roast a hotdog over the flame. Fat can drip onto the heat surface and cause major issues.
I see many people who don’t know what they’re talking about warn against using all such equipment in the house. Don’t listen to them. They don’t know the difference between camp stoves and heaters that use prophane and those that use kerosene and naphta. They also don’t know some equipment is designed to be used indoors. They spread a blanket safety statement over all equipment regardless of fuel and design. That’s like saying don’t drive any vehicles in winter because none are good in snow.
Know your equipment. Read the labels. Use it for what it’s meant for, and you should have no problems.