Bring It, Mother Nature

Posted by on Nov 23, 2010 in House Stuff, Preparedness | 1 comment

Bring It, Mother Nature

Have you heard that we’re in for the worst winter since time began?  Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it’s supposed to be brutal.  Just last week I said, bring it, Mother Nature.  Try me.

Well, if this morning is any indication, this season is not kidding around.  We got about 3 inches at our house last night.

Even though we’ve been busy with the beginning of lots of home updates (before and after photos soon!) Ray had the foresight to do some important winter prep last week before things got snowy and frozen.  This will mark our third (and probably worst) winter in our home, and over the years we’ve collected some crafty/DIY  techniques for winterizing that have served us well.  There are two main tasks for having a warm and dry home this winter.

1. Prevent frozen pipes

Start outside by wrapping any of your exposed water pipes (as well as any pipes on external walls in the basement) with insulated material to prevent them from freezing.  Our spigots stick out unusually far, so we like to wrap them in clean, dry rags with a plastic bag duct-taped over the top.  You can also purchase styrofoam cones made specifically for this purpose, or just use anything else you have lying around. The most important thing is to add a waterproof layer (like plastic) on the outside.  Soggy rags wrapped around your pipes will do no good once they freeze solid.

Once the temperature drops, we leave the cabinet doors under our sink open in order to allow the air from inside the house to keep the pipes a little warmer.  Another alternative is to let the faucet drip all night, but we’ve never done this for obvious water-wasting reasons.

2, Locate and prevent drafts

Here’s an awesome trick for locating less-than-obvious drafts: Light a stick of incense and hold it near the edge of a window, door, or even baseboards of an external wall.  If the smoke blows around or gets sucked outside, you have a warm air leak.  Our house is almost 100 years old with single pane windows and little insulation, so we have plenty of drafts.

If you can stick the incense entirely through the window like we can, that’s an entirely different problem.

Crafty solutions for drafts include:

  • Caulk
  • Homemade draft-blockers (I sewed a tube of polar fleece and filled it with rice).
  • Insulated curtains (I used thermal multi-layer material, but you could also use batting, wool, fleece, old comforters, or any thick material that will act as a blanket for the window.)

Stay warm and dry today!

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Do you work someplace? Then you need to have an emergency kit there.

Posted by on Oct 14, 2010 in Preparedness | 0 comments

Do you work someplace?  Then you need to have an emergency kit there.

I love emergency kits.  Not because I hope for an emergency, but because I love the power that comes from being prepared for the unexpected. Each time I jump start my own car with a portable battery, or whip out a bottle of hand sanitizer as I step off public transportation, I feel a little like Jason Bourne.  Or MacGuyver.

While there’s a fine line between preparing for an emergency and getting all worked up playing out all of the possible scenarios in your mind, doing nothing to prepare is just like sticking your head in the sand.

Most of us spend 40 or more hours per week sitting at a desk somewhere, so chances are good that if an emergency does happen, that’s where you’ll be.  So do yourself a favor – put together an emergency backpack and bring it to work on Monday!  Hopefully you’ll never have to look at it again, but if you ever need it you’ll be glad its there.

The role of your backpack is to contain everything you need to walk home from work in cold, dark or dangerous conditions.

Must haves:

  • a pair of comfy old sneakers or boots
  • an entire set of warm clothing, especially if you’re like me and don’t always wear the most practical outfits to work: socks, jeans, t-shirt, fleece and warm jacket
  • gloves, hat and scarf
  • wind-up flashlight
  • wind-up radio
  • first aid kit
  • bottled water

Good to have:

  • some cash
  • non-perishable snacks
  • multi-tool
  • foil blanket
  • umbrella and/or poncho
  • pen and paper
  • solar cell phone charger
  • reflective vest

Keep your emergency backpack underneath your desk, or somewhere that you have quick and easy access to, and you’re done!

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Preparing for Zombies

Posted by on Aug 23, 2010 in House Stuff, Preparedness | 1 comment

Preparing for Zombies

Yes, we are insular enough to think that everyone is interested in the status of our basement. It’s been what I like to call an “absorbing state” in our household for past two years, collecting junk and clutter and anything that doesn’t seem to fit upstairs. There is actually a lot of usable space down there, and it’s time we put it to good use.

Over the past month we’ve managed to clean the entire basement, remove and/or reorganize everything, and accumulate extra good stuff in the process. We now have the humble beginnings of a food pantry/storage as well as an emergency station. All thanks to a massive 4 door storage cabinet we found at the UW Surplus Store for $40! (Seriously, you can get great deals at the UW Surplus Store for your household, they’re open to the public every Tues from noon till 6pm)

Supply Cabinet

At over 6 feet tall by 4 feet wide, this monolith took over 2 hours to get it to it's final position.

We’ve got grains for days.

Grains for days

My good friend and coworker Dan, is moving to New York and sold most of his stuff. I was enamored with his explosion proof chemical storage locker from the moment I first saw it. Now it’s ours. It’s a bit comforting to be able to seal away those nasty chemicals that you hate to have, but keep because they actually do come in handy at times.

Chemical Toilet

Chemical Toilet

Our workbench continues to accrue tools and organizational hooks. Just picked up a jigsaw and circular table saw at yard sales this weekend.


This is where all the magic happens

Next on our list for downstairs is painting! Everything! Time to figure out some colors… Hopefully everything will be finished in time for the Chili Cook Off.

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