The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Activity keeps you warm

Cooking outsideOne of the best things you can do to stay warm is to move around.  This will also raise your spirits during an extended power outage.  I've found that if I get up the courage to jump out of my toasty sleeping bag and into the cold air long enough to get fully dressed and give the dog a walk first thing in the morning, my blood has started pumping enough to keep me warm for an hour or more.  Of course, if you have a wood stove, splitting wood is a time-proven method of warming you twice.

If you're a little less hard-core, warm foods and drinks will also wake your body and  improve your mood.  It's easy to heat a pot of water on top of a wood stove to make tea or cocoa, and then you can make a pot of soup for lunch.  You can even pull coals out of the stove to cook on top of, as I did during a ten day power outage in 2009 when we had only an exterior wood furnace to keep us warm.  A propane camp stove will do the job even better.  No matter how you heat up your food and drinks, be very careful since synthetic fabrics are extremely flammable.

Finally, know the symptoms of hypothermia and keep an eye on young children or elderly family members who might not be self-aware enough to realize they're too cold.  Early symptoms include constant shivering; pale or blue lips, ears, fingers, and toes; clumsiness; slurred speech; stumbling; trouble thinking; and poor decision-making.  You should be very concerned if you or someone in your family experiences blue and puffy skin; inability to walk; incoherent behavior; stupor; a weak pulse; and slow, shallow breathing.  Don't risk it if you're experiencing even mild hypothermia --- find a way to get warm and dry immediately.

Beyond the basics

Huckleberry enjoys the fireAfter dealing with one too many winter power outages, we saved our pennies to buy and install an efficient wood stove.  I estimate the stove will pay for itself in lower heating costs within three or four years, we cook soup and beans on the stove even when the power's on, and the cats and I love basking in the radiant heat and watching the flames flicker inside.  You can read more about our choices by following these links:

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Weekend Homesteader: December.  The 99 cent ebook walks you through the basics of planting your first fruit trees, staying warm without electricity, understanding the uses of essential tools, and turning trash into treasures.  If you're interested in other aspects of basic emergency preparedness, Weekend Homesteader: November gives tips on storing drinking water and the upcoming Weekend Homesteader: January will cover backup lighting options.

Weekend Homesteader paperbackThis post is part of our Emergency Warmth lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Stumbling, slurred speech, confusion, poor decision making? But I have those symptoms all the time.

Especially if there are kids, a 3 season tent set up inside a room will protect with some movement possible.

Comment by Errol Fri Dec 2 12:15:25 2011
Daddy --- Great tip about putting up a tent inside the house! Just like adding quick hoops under an unheated greenhouse. :-)
Comment by anna Fri Dec 2 12:25:12 2011

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