I may not be the smartest suburban homesteader on the planet but I’m smart enough to start thinking We Need A Generator.  After Snowmageddon, Irene, Earl, a micro-burst across town, numerous unnamed thunderstorms, Snowtober and now Sandy*, installing our own mini-grid starts to make real sense.  I’m thinking the built-in kind, not the portable.  The kind that runs automatically when the power goes off.  Which, as we now know, could save lots of stress in the Gas Shortage Next Time, too.


Expensive?  Hoo boy!  But how much would I pay for peace of mind/a warm house when I’m taking care of a young child, two cats, five ducks, oh, and my road warrior husband?  How about four grand, plus installation.  (Gulp!)  If that turns out to be too pricey for heat, light and an oversized cellphone charger, we’ll just have to rely on the rest of our former Californian emergency supply kit:

Eton radio—a classic!  Clear connection to radio stations, built-in lights, rechargeable crank battery.  Just ordered the newer version since the one we bought years ago had out-of-date cell phone connectors.  (Discovered this after the power went out, mind.)  Also, we like the one that takes AA batteries, much easier to get than D batteries in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

D batteries—get plenty.  Most flashlights use Ds, although check yours before the grid collapses.  Oh, and make sure the bulbs work, too!  (Don’t ask.)  Crank flashlights are great if you’re desperate but a powerful battery-operated one is much less work when you’re already exhausted.**

Battery-op lanterns—not just flashlights.  Great for carrying to the duck pen in the middle of the night or, more mundanely, rooting through the pantry.

Large box of kitchen matches—very handy if safe to use.

Full tank of gas in every household vehicle—we happened to do this but not because we knew there would be a gas shortage.  We just figured we might need to evacuate and shelter with family in another state.

Cash—some gas stations stopped accepting credit or debit cards, another hurdle.  No power, no e-payment.

Printed list of emergency contact numbers—even if you have a digital version, it’s great to have this handy (cell phones need to be charged—paper doesn’t).  Our list includes repair hotlines for all our utility and telecom companies.  We found out from the radio that you actually had to call the power company to tell them about your outage (?!)  We also lost Internet service twice and had to call each time.  Ditto contacting the phone company about the land-line when it suddenly disappeared a few days after the storm.***

Analog & non-electric versions of stuff—you’d be surprised what you need/crave/use.  Techo-flexitarians like me use computers but also have battery or solar-powered versions of frequently used tools such as:


Alarm clock

Outdoor thermometer/weather station

Indoor thermometer

Corded phone if you have a landline (it will work and, more importantly, ring even if your electric and cordless ones don’t)

Egg timer (if you can cook, even pasta, these are super handy without the microwave timer!)

Woolite for washing and clothes rack for air-drying

But the number one tool I used each and every morning:

Non-electric coffee maker because as long-time readers of this blog well know:

No joe?  I don’t go.




*And that’s just since we moved here in 2009!

**On the other hand, exercise-induced warming effect.

***Main advantage, even if not faster service, they called you with updates.


Resources for non-electric/electronics:




Copyright 2012, Lori Fontanes