Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live in Herefordshire with Compostman and teenage daughter Compostgirl. We have just under 4 acres of land which contains a woodland, polytunnel, small orchard, garden and veg plot. We grow our own organic produce and make lots of cider, wine, jam and chutney. We also make a lot of compost. We share our lives with Chickens, Cats, Guinea Pigs and assorted wildlife. We try our best to live a more self reliant lifestyle, growing and making and fixing and mending and re-using and re-cycling stuff, if we can.
I used to be a Research Scientist, but that was many years ago. I now work as a freelance environmental educator/writer/lecturer/Forest School practitioner and community artist; I also spend a lot of time volunteering as a Master Composter, Master Gardener, Love Food Hate Waste cookery demonstrator and hens@home mentor. Doing all this allows me the privilege of helping people have fun outdoors and live more enjoyable and sustainable lives.
This blog is a record of what I have been up to from day to day. I might write about something I have done in the garden, an article I have written for a magazine, the latest batch of chutney I have made, a training course I have attended or "just" my daily routine of cats, chickens, compost and mud.
I hope you find something to interest you in The Compost Bin, remember there are lots of "How to" guides about all sorts of stuff and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
Being prepared for an emergency
I have had a few interested questions about why we have a generator and prepare for bad weather as much as we do. So, thought this might be an interesting post for you to read.
We live on a very minor, rural lane and can get snowed/iced in. Sometimes our lane floods ( not near us) and we can't get through to the main road. Even in good weather it is quite a distance to the nearest shop, garage, post office etc. So it is not easy to just " pop out" to the shops sometimes!
We lose power quite often and as we have a bore hole and septic tank here, both of which need power to run, we are in trouble if the power is off for too long. Likewise we have a lot of home grown produce stored in the freezers, which we don't want to spoil.
When we moved here, we realised we needed to build up stores of food, water, fuel, medicines, animal feed etc. We had lots of food, wind up torches, lamps and candles, a battery and a wind up radio and could cook on the Aga and woodburner (or even using the Kelly Kettle, outside, if all else failed!) if the power went off for short times or if we could not get out of the lane.Obviously we also had clothes, bags, etc ready in case of an evacuation situation.
We thought that was enough. THEN we got caught out big time in Autumn 2002 when we had no power, after the terrible Oct storms, for more than a week.
We lost the entire contents of 3 freezers, which meant all the organic meat, home grown veg was lost- all of it apart from what we could cook and eat during that week and cook and freeze in a friend's freezer - but we still lost a lot of good food, which was very expensive to replace . (We also lost the Polytunnel cover in the gales - but that is another story!).
And without water or sewerage here (both of which need power to run) we rapidly used up the tank in the loft so no showers, no drinking water or washing water and as Compostgirl was in washable nappies back in 2002 it all got a bit dire here! We could flush the toilets with a bucket of pond water, but even so it was all a bit difficult.
We didn't starve or go cold - we had lots of food, bottled water, fuel, lamps and candles and could cook on the Aga and woodburner or camping gas ring , but rapidly realised we needed a higher state of preparedness than we had previously thought.
So we saved up and invested in a generator, and over the next few years we re arranged things so it will run the freezers for some of the day, the central heating can now be run off the genny as can the water and sewerage. We can also run the microwave and some lights off a circuit in the kitchen so by swapping what is plugged into the generator we can cook, have heating in upstairs at bedtime, keep the food frozen and get water and sewerage sorted. We can even watch TV or use a computer! It has taken a lot of thought and planning and re arranging though.
Another thing people forget nowadays with mobile phones is that they need power to charge up again - and modern land line phones rely on mains electricity as well, whereas old style phones can still use the power coming down the telephone cable! So, we have made sure we always keep an "old" style phone to hand, ready to plug in, just in case . We just bought another one to replace our very old BT phone which died after 25 years of faithful service.
We also keep a stock of 5 l water bottles just in case - if all else fails I use them in the wood for drinks for people on my woodland courses. The bottles get re used for wine making and eventually recycled.
I also now dehydrate a lot more of the garden produce for storage, rather than using the freezer.
But with the increased renewable energy products we have added to the house comes a new set of "issues" - the solar thermal tubes are wonderful at providing free hot water BUT if the mains power goes off on a hot day the liquid inside the tubes can boil and tune into gloop - which would require a lot of work to flush out and make good again. At the moment if the mains power goes off on a sunny day we would have to get the generator out to keep the system running - so Compostman has a scheme to make sure that the solar thermal system will still run even if the mains power goes off, so that is hot water in the summer taken care of.
We also don't get any electricity from the pv's if the mains electricity goes off - we would need an off grid battery system and a lot of side by side wiring systems to be able to use the electricity generated by the panels if our mains electricity went off and frankly it is not something we have got around to doing, yet.
I would love us to have battery back up from the pv's ...maybe next year?
Obviously all these stocks need to be checked , used up as their use by dates are reached and new stocks purchased to replace them.
I am sure we could do much more to be prepared for emergencies but that is what we have done so far, here. I am always on the look out for more ideas to do more.
What do you do to be prepared? Any of you have stockpiles, alternative or back up energy arrangements or such like?