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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lunar Blackout Challenge--After Action Report

On Tuesday, 21 December 2010, just moments after midnight on the night of the winter solstice and full moon, we voluntarily experienced a power blackout.

We disabled power to everything in the house with the exception of the power to our refrigerators and freezers. The following serves as our after action report and lessons learned from this experiment.

Although we set our battery powered alarm clock for 7:00AM, we decided to sleep in and didn’t wake up until nearly 10:00—oh the joys off retired life.

Because we did not have our heat pump running through the night, we awoke to a temperature in the house of 65 degrees. Our first order of business was the get the wood burning stove up and running for the day. The outside temperature was right around 40 degrees. The wood burning stove would serve much more useful than simply providing heat for the house. Without power, our stove and oven were not operational.

After getting the fire roaring, the temperature inside rapidly climbed to 68 degrees and our first test of cooking on the stove was our next order of business. I used my trusty old camping peculator to brew a pot of coffee to get me jump started for the morning. Lynne, cooked a simple breakfast of instant oats and mixed up some dehydrated milk for the oats. In a few short minutes, we had a hot, nutritious meal for breakfast.

I will note that we get our water from a deep-water well. Without power, our well was disabled and we had no running water to meet our needs for the day. Because this was an experiment, we “pre-positioned” 25 gallons of water. This water was stored in food grade 5-gallon buckets. We would use this water for all of our needs and keep track of our consumption.

We put a plastic dish basin in the kitchen sink and heated water on the stove so we could clean the dishes from breakfast. We kept this water and used it to manually flush the toilet when we had to get rid of solid waste.

The wood burning stove proved to be more than adequate to heat the entire house. We closed off the office, guest bedroom, guest bathroom, and master bathroom. At one time during the day, the inside temperature reached 80 degrees. This was mainly due to the outside temperature remaining about 40 degrees.

The weather for our experiment did not cooperate for outside activities. We had a steady rain for most of the day, so I deferred on doing outside manual chores. Our plan was to not use any gasoline equipment or power tools of any kind. We will save those tasks for our next test. Furthermore, the cloud cover limited the ambient light during the day which limited the amount of light coming through the windows. We found that our bedroom provided the most amount of ambient light due to the number of windows to allow the light to shine through.

We did our reading in the bedroom due to the amount of light. Because we were functioning without power, we did not have the distractions of the television or computer.

Shortly after noon, Lynne began to prepare her lentils and brown rice soup on the wood burning stove. We were even able to sauté onions and garlic in a skillet on the stove. The soup simmered for several hours before we were prepared to enjoy it. To add to this simple meal, Lynne, made some flatbread from scratch and we enjoyed this with our wonderful soup.

As sunset began to approach, we began the process of providing adequate light. We fired up the three oil lamps and lit a combination of emergency candles and tea lights. This lighting was supplemented with my led headlamp and Lynne’s led book light. To enhance the lighting from the candles, we placed several candles on a mirror which reflected additional light.

For entertainment, we did without the television set and computer and were able to have some good old fashioned conversation. Much of our discussion was based on our experiment and how early day settlers were able to function without electricity. We were delighted to learn that we were able to function just fine without the power meter rotating like a merry-go-round. We did a lot of smiling as we finally came to the realization that we were 100 percent on target with our desires to live the simple life. To further our entertainment needs, we both were able to catch up on some of our reading. After dinner, we even played a dice game by candle light and had a great time just relaxing and playing a leisurely game. We won’t even mention the other forms of entertainment, but the day turned out to be a really remarkable day.

By 9:00PM, we were both ready to settle in for the evening and I loaded the wood burning stove prior to retiring for the evening.

We awoke the following morning at about 7:00AM and we restored the power after being off for a total of 31 hours.
Total water consumption for all of our functioning needs for the day was 9 gallons.
So, what did we learn from this little experiment? We learned that we can indeed function just fine without the luxury of having electricity. We adapted our daily routine to incorporate simple pleasures in life and sit back and really enjoy each other’s company without distractions.
We learned that the simple meals prepared on the wood burning stove were more desirable than any restaurant served meal. We also looked at future menu options and will explore these even further on our next experiment.
We learned that we need to expand our after dark lighting options and are exploring some rechargeable battery powered lanterns to provide additional lighting.

We learned that a battery powered radio would provide us the ability to listen to weather reports during any power outage. We will begin our quest for a radio in the immediate future.
We learned that rain barrels will allow us additional “grey water” to use for flushing toilets without using clean drinking water. We learned that the FEMA estimates of one gallon of water per person may be adequate to sustain life, but does not factor in the ability to function adequately in an emergency. We will be stocking a minimum of 50 gallons of water in 5-gallon buckets for emergencies. This water will be treated for storage and rotated every 6 months.

We learned that with a well stocked pantry, we could survive for an extended period of time. We are taking inventory and will be adding to this stock on a regular basis. This fits right into our long-term storage and self-sufficiency plan.
We learned that our original plans for an emergency backup power generator will be modified significantly. We determined that we will not need a larger generator to provide for our emergency power needs. We will use an emergency generator to keep our refrigerators and freezers at operating temperature, operated our water well once a day, operate our water heater once every day or two and provide only basic power requirements. Let’s face it, in an emergency situation, the generator will consume fuel. If we run the generator continuously, we will run out of fuel real quickly. The key words here are “emergency generator”.
Bottom line to this test is that it was very successful. We both enjoyed our day with out power and have decided that our next test will be on Wednesday, 19 January, 2011 (the next full moon). In fact, it was such a peaceful day that Lynne even suggested doing this once a week.

For any of you that may be inspired by our simple little experiment, we invite you to join us on the 19th of January 2011 for your own experiment. We will guarantee you that with the right perspective, you will enjoy your experiment as much as we enjoyed ours. If you may be having any doubts about doing your own experiment, just ask yourself one simple question—“Am I prepared to function during an extended power outage with the resources I have available today?” Only you can answer that question, but why wait until it becomes a crisis situation.

As always, we would love your feedback and will entertain all questions.

Here is a simple checklist provided by the American Red Cross

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