Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Well, the long-term forecast for the Pacific Northwest is for more winter storms than usual this year.  I'm still getting used to what a "winter storm" means here--unlike Missouri, where it's just piles and piles of snow, here, because of the geography of being between two mountain ranges it has much more to do with hurricane-force straight-line winds.  Beyond the direct threat of wind damage, more windstorms mean more extended power outages.

The normal state of our home is all-electric, both for heating and in the kitchen, which means that the house is pretty much disabled in the event of a power outage.  For lighting (and a not-insignificant amount of emergency heat), I do have a couple of Aladdin kerosene mantle lamps, and as a holiday gift from-us-to-us, we have a third one on the way, which we think is going to be the prettiest one so far.  I also have one flat-wick kerosene lamp, which if nothing else is nice for enough light to get the Aladdins warmed up by, along with a couple of mostly-decorative 'candle style' oil lights.

When the power went out a few weeks ago, I realized that while the kerosene lighting is nice, I currently have no way to cook without electricity, which is a major oversight to say the least.  I had originally looked at a butane single-burner thing, but the more I looked into it, I didn't like the short life of the butane canisters (only around 1/2 hour of burn time?) and how dangerous storing cans of the stuff around would be, and it started feeling like a highly inelegant solution.  It's the same reasons my sweetie and I are totally disinterested in having a gasoline-powered generator:  It's dangerous to store large quantities of gasoline, and between the engine noise and the limited amount of power produced, a generator is the very definition of inelegance, in our opinion.

Anyway, I finally found a solution that I was happy with--a kerosene cooking stove.  It has two burners of comparable power to my normal kitchen range, and both burners on full power can run for about 12 hours before it needs to be refilled.  Most importantly, the fuel of choice (kerosene) is extremely safe compared to volatiles like butane or gasoline.  I went with the wick-fed version... in a way, it feels like a kerosene lamp that you cook with instead of use for lighting.  I'm actually considering getting the big-burner one to use for canning even when the power isn't out, since it's not recommended to do it on my ceramic-top stove.  There's even an optional oven that would let me bake bread during an outage!  The basic two-burner one is on order and will hopefully be here by the next windstorm.

I don't think we'll actually need to worry about heating, with all those things running, but if it turns out we do, a kerosene radiant heater seems like the obvious choice, just to be using the same fuel for everything.

Next, I might need to think about making sure I have enough dry and canned goods, since in a truly extended outage the stuff in the fridge and freezer will eventually go bad.  A water filter would be smart too... but I feel like this is a good step in the right direction.  It feels nice to know that we are getting prepared to be able to just carry on in an outage, and nicer to know I am doing it in a way that feels simple, elegant, and true to who we are.