Hey! It's cold outside!
That always seems like a shocking revelation when the first chill of autumn hits. We understand that it comes intellectually, but when it actually happens we are always surprised. We wake up one morning to find a cold house because we forgot to turn on the heat and all our winter coats are stored where they are hard to reach.
I think we could cite this as another example of how far modern society is from the basics of survival. We are so far from needing to survive the winter that, for most of us, preparing for football season is the only preparation for the cold weather. If the heat actually went down for an extended period of time, most of us wouldn't know what to do.
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I was reminded of this yesterday when a friend from high school up north re-posted a plea for help from a single mom whose power had gone out. It was 40 degrees in her house and she asked if there was anywhere to take her children. But the sad thing is that in the meantime she hadn't even thought of wrapping them up to better face the cold.
While this might be a pretty extreme example of not knowing how to deal with mundane things like the cold weather, it really does show how far we are from the basics of surviving as a society. While those of us who consider ourselves prepared are in much better shape with our knowledge of survival, there are still things our ancestors did that many of us are unaware of and are not prepared for. Furthermore, the way we build our homes does not lead us to live without all the luxuries that modern society has to offer.
So what would you do if the power went out and you didn't come this winter? how hot would you be
I don't want to delve into the subject because that's not exactly what this article is about, but we all need alternative ways to heat our homes without electricity. Be it a wood stove or kerosene heaters, we need to have something on hand to heat at least some of our homes. This is as fundamental a part of prep as stacking food.
But what saddens me is how few preps actually have enough fuel to survive the winter. I've seen a lot of prep homes where they have a woodstove installed, but they only have a string of firewood to burn. According to people who regularly heat their homes with wood, four to six whole rows of firewood are needed to get through the winter.
Whichever off-grid heating system you choose, make sure you have enough fuel to get you through the tough times. whatever these hard times are.
Can you top up your fuel?
Another area where preppers tend to fail is ensuring they have the opportunity to refill their fuel after using it up. Even if you have enough firewood to get you through this winter, what next? In a long-term survival situation, you may need to gather enough firewood or other fuel to get you through each winter.
This is complicated by other people trying to do the same. People who are not prepared will destroy abandoned houses, cut down trees in neighborhoods and do whatever they can to survive the first winter. It is highly unlikely that there will be firewood available in the city, even in the suburbs, for any of us to get through a second winter.
You will need funds to collect firewood outside the city and bring it home. If we assume that there will be no gasoline and we cannot use our cars and trucks to transport this wood, then it becomes extremely difficult to harvest this wood, even if it is only a few kilometers away.
The other option is to find an alternative fuel to burn in your wood stove. People have made fireplace logs out of newspaper for years, and some enterprising preppers have found ways to add additional materials, like sawdust and leaves, into the mix. While newspapers don't deliver in a post-disaster world, there's plenty of paper to collect, allowing you to develop your own off-grid brand of fake firewood. But I would start now so that you have the recipe and mixing equipment ready.
But then again, that's not really the topic of this article.
Expand your ability to stay warm
Although our ancestors had fireplaces or wood stoves to heat their homes, that's not all they did. Most houses only had a chimney to generate heat. If only they had a fireplace and a woodstove in the kitchen, this family really got along very well.
Still, they've managed to find ways to stay warm through the winter, even if their homes aren't thermostatically controlled to a comfortable 75°F. The same methods would likely work for us, though we may need some modifications to use them in our modern homes. Even better, we can use them now and reduce our energy bills without waiting for a power outage.
Use only part of the house
Homes are much more complex today than they were 100 years ago. What we think of as an average suburban home would likely have been a mansion, or close to it, except for the fancy carpentry that mansions had in those days. But as for the size and number of rooms we have, you would definitely be impressed.
But all these rooms are a problem. By and large, any fireplace or wood-burning stove is a one-room appliance that can only heat one room in your home. The heat from there does not reach the adjoining rooms well, simply because of the small openings that our doors are.
Fortunately, although this may have happened accidentally, newer homes tend to embrace an "open plan concept" where the living room, dining room, kitchen and family room are all open to one another. This allows heat to radiate and warm the entire living area of the house. This doesn't help the rooms, but if you have a newer home with this open-plan lifestyle, you can be sure there will be at least some warmth throughout the living area of your home.
And the rest of the house? Lock it up and don't use it. While all of these bedrooms are nice to have, you can all sleep on the living room floor in a pinch. If it's too cold, don't even try to heat the rooms; Use the warmest part of the house.
Another thing that made their home designs so much more effective than ours was convection heating. Yes, our ancestors were far ahead of us, although their houses were much smaller and simpler than ours.
What I'm specifically referring to here is a sleeping loft open to the space below. As heat rises, this would be the warmest part of a house, regardless of how well the fireplace was working and how cold it was outside. Children usually slept in this attic, although in some families they all slept.
The open house concept I just talked about can help here if you have a two-story house designed for it. Cathedral ceilings and balconies allow the heat from the fireplace to rise and warm the space on the second floor, as long as people remember to leave their doors open.
But what can you do if you don't have such an open second floor? It's one thing to open the ladder instead of having a closed one. An open staircase allows for more air circulation between floors and brings some of that heat upstairs. Just make sure you don't remove a load-bearing wall before you start cutting.
Another great way to bring warmth upstairs is to cut the vents between the first floor of the house and the second. A simple hole upstairs covered with a trellis allows heat to rise without affecting the use of the house.
If the house partially has a second floor with mansards, it is quite possible that there is space under the eaves that is above the first floor and is not used by the second floor. If so, this area can easily be converted into an air vent by cutting openings in the floor and wall of the upstairs room. Just be sure to insulate the joists, which are probably not insulated yet.
There's a reason why felling trees and chopping wood was a winter occupation. Not only were the farmers too busy to chop wood during harvest time, but the winter woodcutting served to heat them twice, once while chopping the wood and the second time when they burned it.
Our modern sedentary lifestyle is not meant to keep us warm. We would all be better off if we were a little more active. This is especially true in cold weather, when many people have a hard time feeling warm. Save those heavy physical projects for the winter and do them when you can't put them off because it's too hot.
wear warm clothes
As I said about the woman in the introduction, she is so obvious that she shouldn't be mentioned; but I mention it anyway. The truth is, we're all so used to central heating keeping us warm that we don't even bother with warm clothes.
I have a lot of cool sweaters that I don't even wear in the winter because they're too warm. While they're comfortable outdoors, they're certainly not when I'm at home. Therefore, they usually sit on the dresser and wait for the coldest hours.
A few years ago I lived much further north in a house where my office was in an unfinished attic. In the summer I got a really nice breeze in the attic which made it bearable and in the winter I wore these sweaters. Although I had a kerosene heater in the office, I usually only used it to ward off the morning chill; As soon as the cold passed, I turned it off. I could comfortably work in the 50° attic as long as I wore a thick sweater.
Stack the blankets and share body heat
Speaking of years up north, we had a blanket on our bed that felt like four inches thick. It actually wasn't. It was an ordinary comforter to which two more layers of thick quilts and a layer of faux fur were added. It might sound a little weird, but it sure felt good on those cold winter nights.
Believe it or not, comforters aren't just for decoration; they were supposed to keep us warm. If yours isn't, you may need to hoard more. I have never seen a law limiting the number of blankets and duvets that can be placed on a bed. Families did this in the winter, and they still do in Mexico and other countries where central heating is not as common.
The other thing they did was share beds. Now I realize this can be a problem in our culture today, but back then all kids used to sleep together so they could stay warm. Mom and Dad didn't sleep on opposite sides of a king-size bed; They held each other all night. Not only did this keep her warm, it was also good for their relationship.
Use a bed warmer
The old bed warmer was one of mankind's great inventions. You've probably seen one; a copper frying pan with a hinged lid and a long handle. People used it to heat the sheets before putting them between them, which made the bed much more comfortable.
Contrary to popular belief, they didn't put embers from the fire in the bed warmer. If they had, their beautiful white sheets would have turned black. Instead, they heated stones in the embers of the fire and then placed these embers on the bed warmer, often wrapped in a cloth.
If you could find a warmer bed today, you probably wouldn't want to use it, as it's an antique. But that doesn't mean you can't do it yourself. All you need is a metal skillet with a lid; Aluminum or copper would be better. Add a hinge so the lid can be opened without detaching from the pan, and swap out the existing handle for a longer one. Most skillet handles attach with just one screw, so changing handles isn't too difficult.
Use a heat stone
Speaking of rocks, the idea of using rocks as a portable heat source was common in the old days. In particular, they used soapstone, which was heated in the embers of the fire and wrapped in cloth. This can be taken in the car, placed under the seat and warmed up when driving into the city. Between the hot stone under the seat and a blanket on your lap, people felt much warmer. Those who were behind the car sat with their backs to the seat to also enjoy the heat.
Soapstone wasn't just in the car either. When people went to church, they brought it with them to warm the family pew. Have you ever seen pictures of those old churches with pews? This wasn't for snobbery; this should help keep the heat away from your soapstone.
If it worked for them, it would work for us too. I've never tried it, but I figure if I'd put warm soapstone in my uninsulated, unheated attic all those years ago, I wouldn't have needed that kerosene heater. All I had to do was place the stone on my desk and place a blanket over my knees. I would be fine between that and my sweater.
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