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Monday, December 13, 2010

The Lunar Blackout Challenge--21 December 2010

Electricity—oh yes such a marvelous creation of modern society. Today, nearly every aspect of our daily lives revolves around this simple yet so complex monster. Ever wonder what it would be like to live without electricity for just one day? Read on and perhaps we can sway you into considering our challenge.

Our first motivation is an act of defiance directed towards our profit driven utility companies that insist on charging a “fuel charge” to remain profitable and pay their shareholders. Take a quick look at your electric bill and see how much you are paying in this “fuel charge”. Electric companies are regulated on how much they can charge their customers. They charge this “fuel charge” in a smoke and mirrors fashion to work around these regulatory requirements. Our fuel charge for just last month was $7.03. This equates out to an additional 6.41% additional charge to our monthly power bill. I checked my mother’s power bill recently and she is paying nearly 40 percent “fuel charge” in the Tampa area. Our primary motive in conducting our Lunar Black Out Challenge is to recoup a portion of this charge by doing with electricity for one day. We have already reduced our power usage significantly by implementing step we outlined in a previous feature. Bottom line is to save every penny we can from going to feed the corporate greed of our power giants.

Our next motivation for our challenge is emergency preparedness. We figure that under a controlled experiment, we would be able to practice our ability to function in the event of an extended power failure. This will be a dress rehearsal. Think it can’t happen to you? Take a few moments to read about extensive power failures in recent history here-- . We are confident that this will be a real eye opening experience for you. Reality for us would be a repeat of the Blizzard of 93” and we haven’t even looked at how vulnerable our power grid is to terrorist attacks. Are you prepared for an extended power failure? Hopefully the ideas we present will stimulate a little thought and you will take this challenge yourself and you will share this link and information with others to encourage them to act as well.

Now let’s get down to the challenge itself. Tuesday, the 21st of December 2010 is the official beginning of winter (Winter Solstice), but is also the next full moon. Another neat significance about 21 December is the total lunar eclipse, but it will appear beginning just after midnight on the night before our experiment. We choose the day of the full moon to conduct our experiment. Our pledge is to go 24 hours without the use of electricity or any gasoline powered equipment. Although we are in the final planning stages of purchasing an emergency backup generator, any future test will be conducted without the use of the generator once it is in place. So let’s get down to how we plan on executing this challenge. The only exception to the use of power will be the power required to maintain our refrigerators and freezers—this will be to protect the investment we have in these perishable items.
Water Supply—our water supply is from a deep water well. This requires electricity to pump the water above ground. We will turn off power to the well to avoid using this luxury. We will “pre-position” our water in 5-gallon, food-grade buckets for this experiment. FEMA guidelines state to plan for one gallon of water per person, per day. We will start our test will 25 gallons of water. We also need to factor in the water needs for our 28 chickens. Our water will be for consumption, sanitation and cooking. For toilet use, we will use an old slogan from a 1970’s California drought—“If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”. We will factor this into our water consumption. We will not have the luxury of a shower—only cleaning with available water. If you are on public or city water, will you have water available to you during a widespread power failure? Chances are slim to none.

Heat—we are fortunate enough to have a wood burning stove as our daily and primary heat source during the winter. We also have a pretty good stockpile of firewood so heat will not be a factor. Our wood burning stove will also be used to boil water for morning tea and coffee as well as a cooking surface for soup on this test. To reduce the heat output requirement, we will close off the guest bathroom, guest bedroom, office and master bathroom when not in use. An additional blanket will be available if needed.

Meals—all meals will be from available dry storage food we presently have in our pantry as well as items we canned from this past year’s garden harvest. We will not open the refrigerators or freezers at all during this test. Meals requiring heating will be done primarily on the wood burning stove. We also have a charcoal BBQ grill and a stock of homemade charcoal, a Dutch oven, three (20lb) propane tanks, a camp stove and two propane-fired burners. We will not use any electric kitchen appliances at all. Yep, we will even use an old manual can opener. In future experiments, we will be testing recipes for making breads without an oven.

Household and Outdoor Chores—we will not use any gasoline or electric powered equipment during this test. This includes chainsaws, power tools, leaf blower, lawn mower, rotor-tiller, vacuum cleaner, etc… All tasks required on this day will be done the old fashioned way—manually. We are looking at adding additional hand tools to our present collection.

Entertainment—we will do without TV and the internet during this experiment. Chances are if there is a widespread power outage cable and internet services would not be available anyway. These breakers will be turned off to further cut back on the “vampire power” running the internal clocks. We plan to catch up on our reading and play some good old fashioned board games to pass the time. Future tests will be done with a battery powered radio, but that is presently a shortfall for this test.

Communication—the cell phone will be turned off for the day. Wide spread power outages would impact cellular communications and in emergency situations the cellular would become overwhelmed in a heartbeat. We will be using an old fashioned push-button land line for communication. Even during most power outages, the low voltage telephone lines typically remain operational. So, if you want to communicate with us one the days of the full moon, we will do it the old fashioned way.

Lighting—we actually choose the day of the full moon to see how much ambient light we can get from the 100 percent disk illumination of the full moon. Our primary light sources are emergency candles and one hurricane lamp. Secondary light sources are several garden solar lights, LED headlamps, flashlights, push button LED lights. We will experiment with various lighting options during this test.

Transportation—we have elected to forego the use of our vehicles during this test. Many emergency situations could require you to remain in your home so we will leave the vehicles parked and stay in place. By doing so, we will also have at least one day per month where greedy corporate “big oil” executives will not be getting a penny from us. Call this our own little boycott on the current cost of fuel. We are in a rural area so a bicycle or walking would not be advisable, but folks who live in an urban area could get by using old fashioned transport.
OK folks, there you have it. Seems simple enough right? Just like an indoor camping experience with lessons on preparedness. Now we realize that many of you will not be able to do this challenge on Tuesday, 21 December due to work obligations. Lord knows, we would not want anyone missing work for the sake of this challenge. Here is what we propose, pick a day closest to this day that you will not be working and commit to the challenge on this date.

We will be providing an update (lessons learned) after we conduct our own experiment. We would love to get feedback from you if you plan to participate in the challenge and how it went for you. Your feedback could help us tweak our future plans as well. Remember to pass this along to others. This is one way for us all to prepare ourselves for an emergency and save a few dollars in the process. Who knows, if we can get enough folks to do this once a month, we could really make a difference and save a few precious resources of good ole Mother Earth in the process.

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe in a CrisisCrisis Preparedness Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival

Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness for the Family

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