As many of you took note this past week, plasma from a Class 3 solar flare enveloped the earth on Tuesday night and lit up the northern skies with spectacular color and beauty (except, oddly, here in north Idaho – we looked but never saw any northern lights).
Had the flare been a Class 1, the North American power system may well have been toast. But it wasn’t a Class 1, so the power grid is still intact.
For now. But the quickness with which this flare happened gave me pause for concern. Three days’ notice seems like a fair bit of advanced warning until you start going through the mental exercise of “What if?” What if it had been a Class 1 solar flare capable of taking down the grid? Could we have gotten ready for it in a mere three days?
Of course not. No possible way. We’re “into” this preparedness stuff quite deep, but after thinking it through it became apparent that we are still woefully short of our goal to live with some degree of normalcy in the absence of conventional power. What if our refrigerators didn’t work? Gas stations couldn’t pump gas? All electronic communication was shut down? Food deliveries stopped? Electric pumps couldn’t pump water? Hospitals ran on generator power until fuel was gone, then had to shut down?
See my point? When you start to think things through… man oh man, we are SO dependent on the power grid that it’s terrifying to think what it would be like without it.
So this Class 3 solar flare was a nice kick-in-the-pants wake-up call. We’re not ready. We may never be completely ready, but we still need to be more ready than we are.
In earlier posts (to read older posts on this subject, scroll down to my list of “key words” on the left-hand side of this blog and look for “preparedness”), I listed seven areas where I believe people should be prepared, as follows:
Food. Check. We’re not as prepared as we’d like, but we’re not doing too badly. (For us. We’d do a lot worse if we had to take in refugees.)
Water. Nope. Still our Achilles Heel. Working on it, but if the bleep hit the fan tomorrow, we’d be scrambling. Of course we have several gallons hanging around for immediate use, but we need water for the livestock, water for the garden, water for the pets, water for washing clothes and dishes, water for bathing…
Heat. Check. While we haven’t yet hooked up our wood cookstove, we have our wood parlor stove that exclusively heats our house through the cold Idaho winters. The cookstove will make cooking easier but we could adapt to cooking without it if need be. Also, all our current cooking is done on a propane stove which works fine without electricity, so we’d have plenty of time to get the cookstove set up.
Lights. Check. Plenty of oil lamps, plenty of kerosene. Not the greatest option for reading, but we won’t be in the dark. And because we have a few Aladdin lamps in storage, we can always increase our illumination.
Medical. Not really. We’re still building our stock of medical supplies. On the other hand, we are all blessed with good health, so the medical supplies are for “just in case,” not for present necessity.
Sanitation. Hmmm, sort of. Here in the country it’s not a big deal to pee in the woods; it’s just damned inconvenient in the middle of the night. We used to have an outhouse (yes really – it came with the house) but no more. We could build one inside of a day, however.
Defense. Yep, we’re doing fine.
Obviously water is being given our highest priority in terms of preparedness, but we’re on track to get that taken care of. It’s just a matter of a couple more months, which of course would be no use at all if that solar flare had been a Class 1.
One of the early mental exercises I did when we first got into preparedness was thinking through all the everyday disposable items we use, and then look for non-disposable/reusable alternatives. While everyone’s list of disposables will vary, here’s what we came up with:
Feminine hygiene supplies
Kleenex (facial tissue)
That’s about it. We’re pretty frugal so we try to stay away from disposables on principle. Nonetheless, we looked for alternatives. Here’s what we came up with:
For paper napkins, we now use cloth napkins.
For disposable feminine hygiene supplies, we now use reusable napkins and panty liners made by our friend Enola Gay.
For paper towels, we use cloth towels (either rags or regular kitchen towels, depending on the need).
For disposable batteries, we will use rechargeable batteries and solar chargers. This is on our short “to buy” list, but we don’t have them yet.
For Kleenex, we use bandannas. We've used them for years anyway, but we're stocking up on more (this pile came from a Dollar Store which was going out of business, so we got them for $0.50 each).
For toilet paper – the biggest mental hurdle in our throwaway society – we bought stacks of el-cheapo three-for-a-dollar washcloths from various Dollar Stores. (This is just a portion of our stash. And hey, if nothing ever happens we have LOTS of rags for the shop and farm.)
A word about reusable toilet paper, particularly the “ick” factor: If you think washing reusable toilet paper is icky, think how much “ickier” life would be without anything. No toilet paper, no cheap washcloths, nothing.
We currently don’t use these washcloths; they are among our just-in-case supplies. Should the day come when we need to start using them, my plan (of course) is to wash them separately from our other clothes. (Hey, it's no different than when I washed cloth diapers.)
We’ve also been purchasing fabric and sewing supplies for future clothing needs. Thrift stores are ideal for this, as they often have lengths of fabric for sale. And thrift-store sheets (in appropriate patterns) are marvelous sources of inexpensive and large pieces of fabric – cotton sheets for cool clothing, flannel sheets for warm – so we’ve been stocking up on those.
I’m more concerned about socks and underwear for the family, since those are not items we buy second-hand or that I have any skill in making. So we’ve stacked away at least two unopened packages of socks and underwear for each family member. For Younger Daughter (who is still growing) I purchased these items a size or two up, so she’ll fit them in a couple of years (the rest of us aren’t really changing in size any longer). I can think of nothing more lovely than having fresh new socks or undies five years post-bleep.
By the way…my husband and I were discussing this morning why it is most “preppers” are politically conservative. Not all, but most. We’ve decided it’s because liberals tend to believe the government will always be there to take care of them. That the government should take care of them. They believe this to the point of irrationality. You can point out all you want the destructive policies in which our government engages and how it violates the streamlined government set forth in the Constitution. You can point out how unsustainable and unfixable our current level of spending as well as our national debt load… and your typical liberal will simply disagree. Or deny. Or argue that these destructive policies are in fact good and necessary. Or that “someone” will bail us (the U.S.) out.
Those of us with a more realistic grasp of our current political climate know better… and so we prepare.
Just a thought.
UPDATE: Here's an appropriate scriptural quote I saw on Survivalblog.com:
"In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has." - Proverbs 21:20