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Debrief of winter ice storm 10 days without power...

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Background info: Where we live snow and ice is rare. Hot and humid is the norm except for the occasional winter storm. We built our home 15 years ago upon retireing from the military. We built the home with redundancy and alot of research. Lots of insulation, wrapped, 2x6 walls and brick. Southern facing across a lake for passive solar gain as well as the solar addons we built in.. Decidous trees for summer shade, but letting in sun in winter. We have a home with 5 acres and more acreage across the street. Our entire family of 11 live around here and close. TOO close at times. We grow 95% of all we need to eat. Lake is fruitful with loads of fish and a back up water source. .

ELECTRIC failed on the first day of the storm. Limbs and trees down everywhere and snow then arrived on top of the ice. High winds came through on the second day of the ice. No sunshine for 12 days total and still no sun today. SOLAR is not an option after 3 days because no sun to charge up. Wind back up power is not an option here. Not enough sustained winds. We have a back up generator for minimal electric and 100 gallons of fuel. we did not use the generator except to run the freezers and refrigerators and occassionally for the small electric space heaters and some battery charging for the 12 volt system we use in emergencies. Our generator is not built to be run 24/7 year round. That is an expense we dont need. . After all the 11 members of family showed up due to them not having power at their areas, things got interesting. We have plenty of cranklight lanterns and flashlights. And tons of candles and lanterns etc etc. Light to see was never a problem. Candles inside of mason jars with sand in the bottoms (ease of removing spilled wax and candle replacement) and we took foil and mirrors and placed behind the candles for reflectivity. The interior potato and snack bags were wiped down and used as reflectors. We have propane and kerosene lanterns as well. We made additional candles with our outside cooking utensils to replace what we used. Also to keep some of the family from being bored. Again, LIGHTING was never a problem. BUT, we are looking at a bicycle crank generator now as well. Since the girls all love to bike, why not let them generate electricity. Tv and computers use batteries or 12 volt plugs. IPOD batteries charged via hand crank flashlight as well as cell phones.

Cooking. We have an outside cooking area we always party in anyway. So that was a fun area when the adult beverages flowed. UNLESS you were on watch duty. No alcohol for watch duty folks. Everything worked well and plenty of wood and charcoal on hand. Wood smoker, rocket stove, propane stoves, webber grills, hommade grills, chimneas, all worked well and were adequate. solar oven was useless! WHY? (still no sun after 12 days). But The sun oven is awsome when the sun shines. Cooking and food supplies were never a problem. When that sun shines outside, we cook most of our stews in that sun oven. NO SMELL!

Heat! When the electric failed, we lost all heat. The gas heaters couldnt get the heat blown out so they do not work. Again, thinking that fuel is a commodity we never used the generator except for the food storage and other minimal uses. Sometimes the occasional electric space heater was plugged into the generator to heat up the restrooms and showers for the women. (Remember i said it got interesting when family arrived? toilets seats were cold, the shower is cold etc etc.) The guys, we just took it in stride. More on this heat subject below in the natural gas section.

Water!!! Then the water failed on day 2. It was gone for 5 days total and now a boil order is on. No problem. We had stored our water and family brought more when they came. PLUS..we caught the rain water once it started to rain with our tarps that we have on hand. Roof water isnt an option off the home due to shingles. (We should have built the home with a metal roof). We used our slow gravity sand filter system to filter all lake and rain water. Filtered Lake water was used for showers. Our showers for bathing are made from 3 gallon (pressurized by hand pumping) lawn sprayers. DEDICATED to shower use only!. We never use drinking water for anything other than drinking and cooking and medical reasons. Cooking water was on hand and stored. Water for Laundry for clothes and sheets etc etc... sand filtered from the lake. We washed our clothes and stuff in huge washtubs. We use the three tub system. One large wash tub with heated water and minimal soap. Two other tubs for 2 rinse cycles. We stir the clothes around with toilet plungers we bought andfor which we made new handles for that are alot longer so as to keep you from bending over. These plungers stay in the laundry tub area and are dedicated for that purpose only. We use a hand wringer and use our hands for wringing out the clothes. We hanged (hung??) up our clothes in our work shop on a clothes line with wooden clothes pins, so the wood stove can dry them.

Natural gas was interrupted numerous times to our area. But, no problem we had propane if needed. Heat is one area we will fix. Buying a huge wood burning stove for the house. Our shop had one in it but shops are dirty for sleeping (from the girls perspective and their debrief,). The girls never really complained, just you could "tell" they were uncomfortable with conditions.

Toilets. Ok, with no running water and no electric, it could have been a problem but wasn't. We are on a septic system and behind our shed is another septic tank and outside work restroom. All we did is use lake water after sand filtering, to flush our toilets. Plastic five gallon buckets used for lake water (our lake never froze over) to empty into our toilet. NICE! We opted out of hooking into the sewer system in our area when we built our home. NOW I AM LOOKING SMART TO MY WIFE for that!. Those folks who were on the city sewer??? they were trying to hook back up to their septics. City folks? Who knows what they did other than piss and moan to the news. Plenty of toilet paper on hand but remember guys: women use more than we men do in that area.

HEAT HEAT HEAT was the most asked about and talked about issue through all of this. (AND if we would run out of toilet paper). Old school wool military blankets came in handy. Wrap up in fleece then cover with wool and sleep. It stayed 20 degrees outside and 29 by day. Stand outside around our bonfire pit and we were good to go. Inside the home the worry of freezing pipes became a reality. We are on a crawl space and that area got cold. But, we didnt know it due to water not running anyway. But then the water came back on and now we know. We will wrap all pipes under our home. We had alot of fun times. We always talk about being ready and this was a good test. Never was it bad. Never did we do without food or anything other than the modern conveniences we have gotten used to. Hand pumps for water out of the lake worked well. We buried those lines and the hand pump is in the shop with the wood heater.

MOOCHERS! Yep. Moochers showed up. Saw solar panels. Some wanted to borrow the generator and fuel batteries etc etc. These are neighbors down the road and their "hangers on" who never want to prepare. We handed the MOOCHERS hand crank flashlights with battery charging capabilities. They didnt stay long. We did have to keep watch over our stuff. 2 hour shifts around the clock two people at a time. Fully armed with lethal and non lethal devices. See, after 4 days the roads became passable but the utilities were still out and folks started to drive around and LOOK! Look?! As in what the F are you looking for dude? You are on a private driveway posted for ever, down a private road, and you are looking? HHHmmm

We worried most about our freezers. We had just done our fall butcherings. A large cow, pig, fish and chicken and a goat. Plus our turkeys and all. so our freezers were stuffed for winter. Then we realized, why are we worrying? Its frigging 19 degrees. Roll the freezers outside of the garage. Plus snow everywhere. ANOTHER REASON for camp pee discipline boys! Anyway, hey its been fun. SERIOUSLY! For us. But not for all the folks waiting for someone to do their work for them, or the guy who put his generator inside his home and died, or the folks who put their charcoal bbq pit inside for warmth, or the folks who burned down their homes with candles. Or anyone else who suffered. Our stress was nothing. We actually have had it worse when we lived elsewhere due to our military service. Maybe our stress was small due to planning and prepping or my father who was the biggest hard ass I have ever known.Thanks Dad for teaching us to not rely on others!

Our sign on the gate leading to our place says: No tresspassing. Lack of proper planning on your part doesn't constitute an emergency on our part.

Oh, by the way, remember that all of this was over this 2012 Christmas and 2013 new years. WE all loved the holidays. It was about presence, not presents! This 2012 Christmas was Ice. LAst Christmas 2011, came the call that no parent wants to hear... We regret to inform you that your son was blown up by an IED. NOW.. That was worse than anything I could ever dream of preparing for. There is no prep for that one. BUT!!! The best part of this years christmas storm? He is alive, starting to progress and his humor while being here is amazing. He would call us sissy and how bad afghan was compared to this etc etc... But he never quit smiling, he never stressed and he taught us what was most important. PRESENCE! It is about presence not presents my son says.

Now a challenge to those who say "not that bad of conditions". You are right.. Now Go turn off your power for 10 days. Just turn it off right now. No warning. Test yourself. It is a different world with out utilities, but not the end of the world. But man when the electric comes on, it's like ...............??????

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Yeah, buddy those ice storms passed us by in my little part of Arkansas, but I've lived through that a few times. I was fortunate in that I've always had gas hot water heaters, gas stove, and back up Dearborn heaters for my central heat and air. I always enjoyed it myself and learned a lot from it.


I'm glad to hear your family is safe and well. That sure made for a holiday to remember. That was a good narrative for us. Thanks!

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Jerry, thanks for taking all that time to do a debrief. I carefully compared your information against my preps. I picked up a couple ideas that I will look into implementing.


It sounded like you had a good group with you. That is great! We went through something similar for eight days when Sandy paid a visit. Maybe I am weird but I considered it fun and challenging to!


Thanks again for the write up!.

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Copyed and saved to computer,Printed a couple of copys to hand out to a couple of friends..


Emailing to some in my Family..

Thanks Very much Jerry..This may get others to at least consider Preping....

You did a great are blessed with a wonderfull Family..

Again Thanks...

Brother Matt

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Lessons learned ???? ALOT! Most of what we know has been through a lifetime of camping, military, boy scouts, my dad who escaped a communist regime, basic common sense (that isnt so common anymore) Reading and researching off grid methods. Mother earth news through the years, and tons of books and websites.

The biggest lesson is group dynamics. PERSONALITIES! A veagan wouldnt fit in our family well. One must understand that veggies is a sign of affluence. If one doesnt believe that, then look at all 3rd world countries. Their main sustanance is meat of some type. We have alot of veggies, but we also eat alot of meat, poultry, fish, fowl, etc etc. Another lesson: Living on this lake is a good spot. NOT THE BEST SPOT BUT A GOOD SPOT. (We are actually looking to move to a more self reliant type of land). One with a spring or two, well, year round creek and one large enough to build our own 5 -10 acre pond and further from the city who is pushing a group of people our way that are entitlement mentality. Also we could better control what goes into the lake as opposed to what goes on here now. Up the river from us, the people are just idiots. They dont care about water quality. This lake is good for year round fish, and Doves and ducks and geese etc etc. We learned that Our fish traps worked great! We build them out of concrete reinforcement wire. Make like a tomato cage and cover it with fish netting. Hang it off the end of the dock about a foot above the bottom and man the crappie and bream and catfish love it. They swim in and stay. Occasionally a river otter and turtle get in. BTW: all excess nettings go for barter or released or turned into fish emulsion for gardening.

Candles. We learned that the small tea lights were the least expensive candle option. You can get a bag of 100 or more cheap. BUT, we also make our own. EASY! we use beer cans as mold or we use juice containers that are waxed cardboard. However, sand will do also as a mold. Molds can be made out of alot of stuff. We know we burned alot of candles!

CAMP Discipline must be strict and enforced. We call camp discipline that name because it came from our days of hiking and camping and military days as well as boy scout days. CAMP DISCIPLINE is: BOYS will be boys and pee anywhere if not taught proper methods. One outsider friend of my daughters started to pee next to our deck. He learned real quick that a lack of discipline will not be tolerated. PEE AND HUMAN WASTE AND laundry washouts and stuff must be disposed of properly in the disposal location.

Also, any one getting food or drink or going near the water sources must disinfect with at least hand sanitizer. We also have a bleach mix we spray regularly on our water storage. We also clean our sinks with a bleach mix after soap and water cleaning. During this time, we washed all dishes outside in our outside wash basins reserved for dishes only. It is easy to do and you use less water. Take two square or rectangle shaped rubbermauid style pans, (about 3 dollars apiece, but we prefer stainless steel sinks being thrown away by folks!) one hot soap water, one hotter water with bleach in it. USE TONGS TO get the dishes out of rinse water. PLace on drying rack and let them air dry. I cannot preach enough about the sanitation and health issues. This was a small problem with the newest daughter in law and the friend I spoke of. They came around to the goup mindset!! Or they will be gone by eviction! SPITTERS DIPPERS AND SMOKERS are an area best left to you and yours for rules. We have strict rules for that area as well. SPITTING OF ANYKIND can cause health issues! Nose tissues, must be burned in the trash fire area and all people disinfect with hand sanitizer. Tough rules? We learned that this area is a testy one with younger folks! For instance: Trading their cell phones and ipads and etc etc after wiping their noses and not disinfecting can lead to health issues. But we also learned how much the younger folks are dependent on electronic stuff and withdrawal like symptoms appeared on one member. Lasted a shortime.

We thought that we had heat covered. WE WERE wrong. We have zoned HVAC. One end of the home with one unit, the other end with another unit, and in the middle a beautiful see through gas log fireplace for ambience (that my wife wanted because it looked better than anything else) and back up to our HVAC. ALL FAILED! We are getting a wood burning stove and replacing that gas log piece of s...! Lesson learned: old school military style wool blanket are a must. Also one of my daughters makes capotes out of the wool blankets. She patterns them from the Native American patterns you can find on the web. AWSOME COATS! FRIGGIN WARM AND YOU hide your weapon easily! Even has a hoodie!

We learned through the last few years, (as my obsession with water gets stronger and stronger), that we should have a metal roof on our home.

Our solar works great. But when there is no sun?? Extra battery storage and discipline in using the energy are being addressed. ALSO, wind is not an option in our area. Studies show we do not have enough sustained wind! But human generation is possible. Hand crank lights, and a hand cranked or bicycle powered generator is our next project.

All of these lessons came from the ice storm. We also have the NEW MADRID fault and tornados and nuclear power pant and occasional flooding. So more reasons to look at a new family retreat and more stuff to learn to prepare for those contingencies.

Now, I am known to be a recycler junkie. I recycle or repurpose things for use in my life. Grills, pipe, buckets, oven grates, etc etc. Just before this storm hit, we found in a junk pile a home made, square, 3/8ths inch thick metal post hole pounder. It had two handles, one ended welded for the top and internal measurements were 6" x 6" and 30 inches long. Weighs over a hundred pounds. We turned it into a wood burning stove for outside use only. The handles we hang stuff on to dry. the top is a cooking surface and the smoke stack is out of a piece of pipe. Man that thing is great to hang out and cook on. We just layed it on a pile of blocks sideways and at 36 inches high.


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Jerry I would like to thank you for sharing you and your family's experience. It definitely allows us to put things into perspective. I too after reading your post with my family have decided to add a bicycle generator as a back-up tool with our off-grid system. Actually my wife had suggested this many months ago. I have found one that I will make for our system as many of the ones that you simply purchase are some what quite expensive i.e. $300+ range.


Did any of your family members have BOB's? Where any of them even remotely affected by their experience to consider prepping now after the storm? I was speaking with a long time friend who does not prep, but wants to and he relayed to me that his grandmother used to keep the refrigerator on the back porch near the kitchen. In the summertime it was used 6 hours on and 6 hours off with a timer. In the winter time is was completely off as it get cool in Michigan. My friend is a contractor so he has equipment like an inverters, propane for heating a customers basement or home when there is no power, a generator, but he does not store any food whatsoever. However, he is thinking about adding solar to his home by 2014.


One of things that I am upgrading is the power of my battery bank and that includes more storage power. I would like to get my solar up to a 3K watt system. I'm on a 12v system and the prices for panels have come down to as low as $1.25 per watt for 12V and I've seen them as low as $0.84 per watt or 24v. I am considering selling my 12v battery bank system and installing 24v or 48V system. However, at the moment I will simply add more panels.


Love the discipline training that went on at your home and stressing the importance of hygiene. There are so many things to take from your 2 post. As they factored in the issue of not just prepping for your immediate family but others who may make an unexpected stay.


Looking forward to hearing what else took place. Once again thank you so much or sharing. I am sure many here have benefited from it, my family being in the forefront.

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more on debrief: first please pass all of this on to who ever you all want. I MUST ASK THOUGH and then state, I have ben approached at turning this posting and all of my notes into a small booklet type handout as an example of why to prep in our area. I am not a writer. I also make syntax and spelling errors grammatical faux paus etc etc. SOMETIMES intentionally done to placate and assist folks who are always trying to find fault in things. So i do it as a grain of sand in a bed of silk sheets! LOL

Now: as for BOBS.. all of my family have bob's. also they have their BOV type bob's as well. BUT my family all lives within 20 miles of our home here. This is my familiy's BOL. They know to get here or to the rendevous spot. Now, whenever they come over to visit or bbq they are required as well to check their stores here for their family. So that leads to some interesting family BBQ's when we have them. We have monthly "all family no guests" BBQ's. This is where we plan our wills, trusts or whatever it takes to pass on our family property etc etc and to enjoy company of each other and to prep. We also have lots of get togethers without doing prep stuff. We fish, hunt, laugh cheat at cards, and just root for college sports. We live on a lake so everyone comes over and becomes lake bums. Religous and theological discussions with outsiders are left for when we all "get to heaven". HHMMM??

my wife and I and our family is 11 strong in this area. We have extended family all over. But this 11 is close and all like minded. I am the retired guy (60 years old)so i get to do most of the stuff here on the homestead and garden stuff. My wife works full time as well as all of my daughters and sons. One of my children works fulltime here with me. One is still recovering from his afghanistan IED injuries. (BTW: his name is not &%$#.) so whoever thinks that they know me is mistaken).

Let me discuss solar panels. SOLAR panels in my area detroyed us being grey! People just think that they can show up and ask for charging or etc etc stuff. Kind of like having a giant windmill for water and when no one has water they show up and want yours! It hasnt been a problem, (YET) other than the nuisance saying: "we'll just come over to your home."... To which we reply .. that wont be happening. FAMILY only! Then if they persist we answer with: that is why we "prepare in all areas including defense of our resources". More on solar, we will be adding more storage capacity and are looking at our entire 12 volt backup system. WE still have only had 2 days of sun here since december 23 2012. AND ITS RAINING AGAIN TODAY! So solar is great! And for us this cloudyness is unusual. BUT we need to get the human generator stuff going. We still are researching tht so if anyone has found something they love let me know please. As I have said before on this debreif, windpower is not an option due to not enough sustainable wind. The government even did a SADR study and said no it wont work even for the government agencies here.

Now, after our ice storm, we went into town to restock on some stuff. WE NEVER WAIT! Get it asap. BUT>> here is a problem that isnt addressed much anywhere. AFTER the disaster of "any type", if those stores didnt have generators... any perishable items are now off the purchase list for 4 weeks by our family and should be for anyone else!!. WHY? spoiled meats eggs milk fish anything! We will purchase can goods dry goods etc. One store could not tell us how long their power was off but was selling meats and shrimp etc etc!!! AND THEY HAD NO ELECTRIC or generator. But bet your booty we loaded up on Toilet paper, and dry goods. (MAN THOSE women go through that toilet paper stuff!)! BUT!!! my daughters have said numerous times that toilet paper is a luxury and wash rags and soap and water will do in a long shtf scenario. Another prep item and post storm item we did this week: WE had our septic tank pumped yesterday, so as to keep it in perfect condition and ready for use. Speaking of septic tanks, if you dont have one, you need to learn that nothing goes into that tank but human waste. NO TP or tampons or &^%$ whatever!!! All of that can cause problems someday. SO we place all of that into plastic bags and it goes down to the burn pit that is far from the house and gets burned! Each restroom has a metal stainless steel can with lid. You wipe your "region" and place that stuff in a plastic bag and tie it and then put it into the can and place the lid on it. When ever half full, the can is taken down to the pit and the contents burned. Then the can is bleach washed for disinfecting. LOTS OF PEOPLE IN CLOSE QUARTERS leads to drasticcally sharp and harsh sanitation rules or else people can get sick and die!!!! But for all of us... these sanitation rules are how we were raised! Now, some of the "inlaws" had to learn. Again, if they dont like the rules, they can leave and go elsewhere. BTW: divorces mean divorces. NO SHOWING UP when the shtf after you are divorced. PLAN FOR and PREP for yourself! SERIOUSLY!!!!

Our inventory of our stuff is back at the pre ice storm level in all areas. WE NEVER go below a certain level. Each child has stores in their own homes as well. BUT this is their BOL if it gets bad for them at their homes. We arent a perfect family, we get on each others nerves and know which buttons to push to irritate each other. BUT>> when we get together for an actual event, we go to the do right rule.

So here comes something to tell you about that most people dont want to talk about. It is probably because it is such a pain in the ass. LITERALLY! HEMORRHOIDS! Women get them men get them, but if you ever had them, imagine in a crisis situation the pain in the ass it will be. I have this neighbor who taught me something years ago. I thought he was a kkook and his lifestyle was, lets jsut say "herbacious". Now, this guy one day was sitting on his porch and sitting in a chair with a log betweenhi loins and between his butt cheeks lengthwise. He was sitting there all into his herbs and I asked him wtf is that log for. He calmly told me it was for hemerrhoids. Said he learned it from a trucker years ago. So here is how it works: Imagine a wooden baseball bat. One end is skinny and one end tapers to a fat end. Depending on what size butt you have, you sit on that bat with a rag wrapped around it and slide it front to back until it feels just right between your legs. IT IS DIRECT PRESSURE type first aid. He had a fissure and hemmerrhoids. said it always gave im relief andhe hasnt had surgery now in 18 years for the 'roids.. He said that the pressure stops all rectal pain due to reducing the roids. Well, in my family everyone has a stick just the right size for them. AND IT WORKS! You just need to try out various diameters of wood till you find out what works for you. After every bowel movement or extended ride on the tractor in the field or long vacation driving day or boat ride, I sit on mine! NOW, I havent been to the doctor for roids in 11 years! So, "sir herbacious" passed on to me a trick that i hope you all can use.

ANY one else ever used this method of controlling "roidrage" before?

to be continued.

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jerry, I just added a passive solar tracker from Zomeworks to my array. Are your panels fixed or can they track?


The company claims a 25% power gain. I will have quantitative information on that claim as I gather information over the next couple of months.

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mine are fixed. I too am looking at different opportunities for soalr improvement. BUT, I am also looking at buying and moving to another locale. So i can again build from scratch. WHEN I DO. I will document it all from start to finish in writing and on you tube. OR MAYBE find some channel to follow me and pay me??? LOL that would be coolto get paid. BUT it wont happen.

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Jerry here are two sites that I have looked over concerning bicycle generators: these units are pricey if you have the tools and resources for building one yourself (which I will do after I clear out a few projects like building my mobile battery bank for my truck).


You can look at and find how to make many of these generators with detailed instructions. Parts or the actually motors can be purchased online from various sources like ebay and any scooter supply store. The only expensive part is the motor itself which can be brought from $36 to $95 dollars depending on your requirements. The bicycle holding frame can be made from wood. Attach a chain or belt to the bicycle, then 4 gauge or 6 gauge wire from the motor to your battery bank and you're all set.

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btw whoever emailed me the picture of the direct pressure log for the rectal area thank you. I cant get it to do anything but open. so i cant forward it. It is very interesting that that picture was from WW11 and it was being taught to our military.

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Jerry, thank you so much for sharing all of this - your experience AND your debriefings. It's incredibly useful to hear about real-life situations and not just "in theory, it will work if..."


As for power supply, one of the things I'm interested in is micro-hydro, which doesn't have the same variability that solar and wind power may have. Here are a few links that may be useful for you (and others):


Otherpower ("making your own power from scratch!")


Expensive but awesome river power turbine


What it looks like to be fully off the grid


I'm also fascinated by the idea of creating my own biofuels, but that's a LONG ways away in terms of where I am in my preps:

Build It Solar ("renewable energy for do-it-yourselfers")


Also - for bicycle power, I came across these on Pinterest:


Dirt Cheap Bicycle Power


Free DIY Plans

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thank you. i will check them all out. looks like we will be having a major redo of our fireplace. At the present time, our so called fire place is actually a see through gas log decoration. Decoration because it failed when we needed it most as they say. we had lots of back up, but we will now be going to a gas log burner/wood burner. So if gas fails, we can use wood and even have another small area for cooking if needed. redundancy galore needed for heat in the cold.

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wow, I just went back through this post of mine about the winter storm we had and laughed at myself. I sit here in 110 degree days and 90% humidity with a garden that long ago gave up the ghost and wonder, wouldn't it be nice to have some of that cool temp back?? LOL

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Now that winter is back with more ice and snow, I looked here to see if anyone is still interested in our experiences. I hope so. Also, please add to this discussion with anyupdates for this year you learned from this years ice.

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