Fire & Fuel

We’re one day in to the latest icepocalypse – Winter Storm Jupiter hit the Midwest yesterday (Friday) and we’re all battening down the hatches. Fortunately, we’ve only seen a couple hours of freezing drizzle in the past twenty-four hours and it’s just made the driveways and sidewalks a tad slick, but they say we’re in for it tonight and tomorrow.

The predictions about this storm were getting worse and worse on Wednesday and Thursday, and most of northeast Kansas schools closed to brace for impact on Friday. My school district didn’t close, and the past couple days have made me really worried for our preparedness, despite a cache of disaster and readiness supplies and food in our basement. Our rental has electric heat and we have no backup generator, like the other 99.9% of Americans (or so it feels). The news stations said we should be preparing for days without power – we’re forecasted to get around a half inch of ice (which apparently adds 280 pounds of weight to power lines). I’m not concerned about the first several hours or even day without power, but what if this does stretch to days? Kansas in January is miserably cold – my birthday is never without layers of coats and scarves and hats – so the worry really started kicking in on Thursday and Friday.

A view from our front room before Christmas – Kansas swings from subzero temperatures in winter to over 100 degrees in the summer.

Beginning around two years ago, my now-husband and I started collecting preparedness and prepping supplies. Evan’s approach has been one inspired by the idea that someday we might have to start over as a species, and my approach has been more natural disaster-centered. (Believe it or not, I won an award as a 6-year-old for my county’s emergency preparedness contest – 1st place for my crayon drawing of my basement during a tornado.) Together, those ideas have created quite the stash of emergency blankets, seed starter kits, compasses, toilet paper, an ax, batteries, tools, matches, water purification tablets, you name it. We’re by no means ready, but we have plenty of materials to keep us relatively safe, full-bellied, and able to piece together life in a tent.

…except for if that emergency is in a Kansas winter.

I have blankets, two emergency blankets (which you can apparently tape up on your walls to reflect your heat throughout the room if you lose power), a sleeping bag, and a few assorted candles and flashlights. If we lose power for days at a time, we have no heat besides sitting in our cars – no fireplace, no propane heat (not safe for indoors anyway), no wood stove.

Three years ago, at our old rental house, a terrible thunderstorm split a tree and ripped down our electricity line to the house. We were without power for close to 72 hours in middle of a sweltering July – the house stayed at 85 degrees at night. We kept the wood from that accursed tree for use in our firepit. So now, faced with the prospect of no power for a couple of days, the only way we can generate our own heat, cook food, or heat water would be to start a fire with the wood from that darn tree – outside on the firepit, unfortunately.

Being the brilliant people we are, we realized that this was our only option at 7pm on Thursday before the storm was supposed to arrive at noon the next day. So here we went to the backyard, bundled up with long underwear and boots and coats, to chop firewood in the dark, 25-degree night. (I told you that we are brilliant.) While Evan chopped, I started a fire and worked on grating some soap for our laundry soap, and it was surprisingly warm!


Two hours later, we (Evan) had chopped up a trashcan’s worth of kindling and logs, happily drank down two coffees and two beers, grated a full bar of soap, and experienced how warm a fire can keep you even in the dead of winter.

Now, that being said, we’ve definitely put a fireplace (or space to have a wood stove installed) on our house shopping list, because if something does happen in the future I don’t want to be caught without heat or a fuel source of some kind. Prepping and being ready for an emergency or natural disaster only goes so far when you can’t keep your house warm – and if being warm and safe isn’t essential to survival and a good homestead, then what is?



Author: CornerLotCornucopia

I'm the mother to two loving cats, a teacher to hundreds of young musicians, a wife to a musician and homesteader, and the author of a small blog documenting our journey through suburban homesteading.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s