Happy New Year? Living off the grid for four days

It’s important to learn from one’s experiences so I thought I’d share a few tips from a trip that we took over the New Year’s Weekend when Deerslayer and I decided to head up to the ranch to “see the snow”. Little did I know that it would turn out to be a lesson in preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Keep in mind that we’re from deep South Texas so the prospect of snow was worth the seven hour drive. As we neared the northern part of the Hill Country (and yes, we capitalize “Hill Country”) it became clear that the chance for snow had turned into a “major ice event”. Along the highway, hundreds of ancient oaks lost branches under the weight of the ice that now coated them. A few of the branches lay across the country roads, but more disturbingly, many had taken out power lines.

Once we got to the ranch, our worst fears were realized. The downed power lines that we had seen a few miles back were the very same ones that provided electricity to our property. That left us with the bleak realization that we would have no heat, no lights, and no water from our well! In addition to that, the cell phone tower nearest to us had been compromised. I was pretty sure I was going to die that night.

As I whimpered in a corner, clutching my lifeless phone, Deerslayer flew into action, gathering all the flashlights and fully charged batteries that we keep around the small cabin.

Tip number 1: Keep extra flashlights with CHARGED rechargeable batteries around. We have several of the Ryobi 18-Volt ONE+ Cordless LED Workbench Lights. They are an extremely bright variety with a fold-over double led light that can illuminate an area 360 degrees with several lighting and positioning possibilities. Of course, use your flashlights sparingly since you don’t know when you will be able to recharge the batteries…. unless you own an in-vehicle battery charger which Ryobi carries.

We discovered that our propane stove still worked, but the electric ignition obviously wouldn’t light the burners. Like all good hunters, though, we always keep several disposable butane lighters around… just because. Deerslayer was able to use one to turn on the stove just long enough to warm up our space. (It’s not a good idea to use stove burners as a heat source) It was a relief to know that we would be able to heat water and food.

Tip number 2: Keep several fully functional disposable butane lighters around. How often have we tried one, then another, then another trying to find a lighter that works?

After that, we headed outside once again, this time to the shipping container that we use for mouse-proof storage. It held some valuable items that Deerslayer knew we were going to need. Unfortunately, the shipping container was also completely iced over. The whole thing was covered in a thick layer of ice. Without blinking an eye, Deerslayer retrieved from the cabin a small, one-pound propane canister with a torch attachment that he was able to use to melt the ice from the lock and hinges, enabling him to access the contents. He also grabbed a ladder that he needed to reach the

Tip number 3: This propane torch was a Godsend! It attaches directly onto a 1 lb. propane canister, provides a concentrated, high intensity, adjustable flame, and has a push-button starter. I found similar ones available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Tractor Supply, and Harbor Freight for around $20. It’s also a more powerful alternative to the disposable butane lighters. Not only does it melt ice like nobody’s business, it also caramelizes sugar for a mean creme brulee!

From the shipping container, Deerslayer fetched a Big Buddy portable propane heater! It can be used inside the cabin with two one-pound propane canisters. Deerslayer had purchased the optional hose attachment that allows it to be used with a twenty-pound propane tank (which we had in our shed near the cabin). It produced plenty of heat to get us through the four nights that we were without power. The cabin is not quite 600 sq. ft. I particularly like that it has an automatic low oxygen shut off system.

Notice the bare concrete floors! And what appears to be a functional fireplace. It is not. That would’ve come in handy!

Tip number 4: If you ever find yourself at your hunting camp during the winter months (or home, or just about anyplace where there might be the danger of a power outage), the Big Buddy portable propane heater is a wise investment. It would also be a good idea to have a bunch of the one-pound propane canisters within easy reach to get you through a few nights. Consider whether the optional hose attachment for the 20 pound propane tank would be helpful…. and the 20 pound tank of propane, of course. And once again, have everything where you can find what you need with just a flashlight in case of a power outage. For important information about storing propane tanks, check here.

Tip number 5: Take your heater out of the box after you buy it and familiarize yourself with how it works. Crank it up so you’ll know how. You don’t want to be reading the directions by the light of just a flashlight.

Tip number 6: Have some shelf-stable pantry foods on hand that can be eaten cold if necessary. Canned chicken, canned veggies, canned Ranch Style Beans, crackers, bread go a long way toward weathering the storm. Don’t forget to have a working can opener on hand!

The contents of the bottom shelf was comforting as well.

Because we were able to use the stove, AND had plenty of food in the pantry, AND had a working can opener, we didn’t have to worry about starving.

The next little bit of info I found particularly helpful and just did my heart good. Several weeks earlier, just to be festive for the holidays, I’d set out some of the battery-operated candles that I’m sure you might’ve seen for sale in sets before Christmas.

Because they didn’t have a flame, they were a safer alternative for the cabin than real candles. As it turned out, they were perfect for providing a little bit of light after the sun went down so that we could extend the battery life of our flashlights. The set had seven “candles” which we were able to set around to provide just a bit of light. They had an optional automatic shut-off after six-hours. They really came in handy (and looked nice, too)!

Nice, right?!?!

Before it was time for bed I pulled out two down comforters that we keep in plastic storage containers for cold nights. We used them both.

The second day on the ranch brought more snow and temperatures stayed below freezing. Perishable foods that we brought with us would be safe. But with daylight, we were able to find our Honda generator in the depths of the shipping container. We ran it for a few hours to charge batteries and phones (just in case we got signal. We did not.) We also plugged in the fridge for a while.

The next day, the temperatures rose and the roads cleared. We were able to drive several miles to a hill where we were able to call loved ones to let them know that we were safe…..and that Deerslayer was a superhero!

Looking back on it, I am so comforted to know that, because of my husband’s careful planning and constant preparedness, we were able to survive what could’ve been a dangerous situation. We lived “off the grid”, if only for a few days. He is my superhero!

THIS is how you know that you are truly loved!

I’d love for you to share any tips that you have for surviving a “what could go wrong?” experience.

Stay safe!

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