How "sustainable" are you right now?

Frederick, MD(Zone 6a)

We are rural in that we are on a well, septic, etc.

We asked ourselves the other evening after the power went out due to thunder-bumpers, just how long we could go. Being on well and septic, y'all know that we had no water (no elec to pump) and that means no toilet facilities and no - well, you get the picture :)

DH was able to go out and start the generator to get us through the day, but it made us wonder....just how sustainable are we right now if there was let's say a 2 week (ackkkkk!!!!!) period when we had no power?

How would all of you make do? Just curious and love to hear your thoughts and ideas!


Jacksonville, TX(Zone 8b)

Dea- do you not have a tank for your well? We have a 250 gal tank....which has thankfully serviced us nicely through several power outages. Of course, that's no long term solution......

I'd like to look into solar for the well.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6a)

We do have the 250 gallon but when the power goes, it still won't refill a toilet :( It's just a buffer, rather than a reservoir. In a desperate mode, we can open the valve at the bottom and fill buckets for the toilet.

Solar power is in the future plans for sure!

Franklin Grove, IL(Zone 5a)

Trish, how do you get the water out of the tank? Gravity? and where is the tank located?
We've been talking about investing in a propane generator as a backup - our heat is propane so we already have a 100 gal. tank. That would take care of water, heat and freezer. We've attended the local county energy fairs yearly. Solar options increase every year and the rebates and tax incentives make it look like a better and better option. (Renewable too).

Jacksonville, TX(Zone 8b)

Wow. I honestly never gave the whole thing much thought! I just assumed that everyone with a tank would have water during electric outs.......

Yes, I suppose our tank is gravity fed. The tank sits at the well house which is maybe 100 feet away, and slightly uphill from the house. I'm not sure what you mean by "buffer/reservoir"....does that mean that your tank doesn't actually keep 250 gals in it at all times? I'm pretty sure that ours doesn't keep the whole amount in, but it does keep it at 3/4 or more full. So, whenever it gets below that line, the well pump kicks back on to refill it back up. This feature may be like that for everyone, or it may be part of our set up to reduce the hydrogen sulfide that we deal with.....I have no idea.

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

good thread for those thinking of solar one thing tho if you stay on the grid after geting solar if you dont have battreys when the Eltric goes down so wont your Solar if you dont have batterys . ive been learning to make solar panels so far i have 3 not big ones but they work. i have propane heat to . i all so have a Gasoline generator but i bought a kit now it will run off of Propane gas now to wich is a lot cheaperpropane srores better then gasoline. i have 5 50 gallon rain barrells that i keep full i also have a small RO water System to its called Bare Bones About 90 bucks . if any ones going to buy a whole house Generator make sure you get a transfer switch to id get the manual one my self. also one of my 50 gallon rain barrells is siting right out side by the bath room window

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

well, let's see, being as realistic as i can at the moment... if the power goes out, i have NOTHING (well, i will still have city water). but next week dyson is going to help me with a pumping system (unfortunately still elecrtic for another year until i can afford a solar panel) for my garden. it will be fed my my 3 springs amd ultimately feed my house as it used to.

i'n not concerned about batteries to store solar power for water, as i can easily put 2 cisterns up the hill behind the house to gravity feed both garden and house. i may have to take a shower in a trickle, but i can get clean. that takes care of water for house and garden.

i have a really good airtight woodstove made by vermont castings so that pretty much takes care of heat. we have a 19 acre woodlot, so except for gas for the chain saw, we are okay. actually i do own an old 2 man crosscut saw if necessary, just wish i had a mule and a long chain.

food should be no problem even if not a well balanced diet, between my root cellar and my big dry inside pantry at least for a year (depending on how many people descend on me). i'm only using heirloom seeds this year so i can save some. monsanto's new terminator terminology scares the daylights out of me.

What plans do you envision when there is no gasoline, and no propane available?

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

i can convert my Generator to use Bio Fuel old cooking oil And unless the sun goes out ill have lots of Eltric

Frederick, MD(Zone 6a)

That's the key now , eh? Not that this will happen, but we want to be prepared.

The pantry is stocked completely along with bottled water since we're on a well, for 6 months, not a year :( On the new homestead --- hoping still this will come to frutition...we have all the woods we need as we're only clearing enough for the house. That will satisfy any need for cooking fuel as we have plenty of saws and axes.

We are hesitant to install a fuel tank at the new place but are considering it - just weighing the benefits versus storing fuel. Right now, we have a 500 gallon propane tank. Wondering how safe it is to store for a long period.

Solar is new to us and we're just now doing good research on what we can achieve.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

dea.i have said it before.... but get mazria's book and do your homework long before deciding on what kind of solar, or even investigating solar. it's a lot like learning math tables looooong before you get to trig.

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

what is mazrias book?

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

paul, it's a 600-700 Page book by edward mazria called the passive solar energy book although it covers a LOT more than passive solar. my copy is the expanded professional version. if you'd really want a copy, you'd have to search more than amazon.

it's a primer on the fundamental concepts of solar energy, heat theory and thermal comfort. mine has 4 clear overlays in a back pocket to calculate the amount of solar radiation on any given site, and also an overlay for shading calculations. it's an amazing reference book, and mostly about how systems work (or don't!)

Vegas,NV Filbert, SC(Zone 7b)

Here I am doing great if I have a power outage. We are on city water and sewer so that is taken care of. We refused to have our wood fireplace converted as so many neighbors did when the gas company offered a free conversion. So heat is not a problem and is neither cooking because I am fairly adapt at cooking with fire. During the summer I have a portable airconditioner that runs on a marine battery. This was compliments of my mother insurance company. It will only cool a 15X15 room but that is okay we can all sqeeze in the same room to sleep and cool off.
I would loose alot of freezer food as my dry storage is limited but we would be okay for at least a three weeks, but it wouldn't be the healthiest of diets at the end of that last week.

My biggest concern would be if we were to have a water contamination issue here. All of the valley water comes from one source. Trucking water into the valley from other areas is almost laughable.

Now for the SC house.
We are on well and septic system but have already purchased but not installed a solar well pump. The whole set up was quite pricey but with the amount of power outages the area is prone to it was well worth the price. We are planning on a propane generator to run a good chunk of the house once we get there using a manual switch to change it over. We have a wood fire place for heat and cooking and will have an outside fire pit for summer cooking.

Hopefully we will be able to get all of these things into place before something were to happen but only time will tell.
Now that I will have dry storage space and land for a garden I plan on canning and storing with the goal of 6 months food supply.

Darius, I tried to do a search for that book and I can't find any place that has one. Guess I will have to write that down on my list in my purse.
I have a small notebook that write stuff down in that I am looking for that is hard to find or I need exact measurements for. Such as I am looking for a certain color of brick to repair an area on my FIL house. I have picture of it in the note book along with the odd measurements. So if I stumble across someone selling or giving away old brick I can see if it will work.
Opps off subject again.

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

Carat if you are on City water and sewer how is that ok if the power goes out?

Vegas,NV Filbert, SC(Zone 7b)

My sinks, toilets and hoses all still have water and work during out power outages.

You made me think.... OUCH

I actually went out and turned off the main breaker to the house to verify this, and yes, all my toilets and sinks still have water..

This message was edited Jun 29, 2007 9:59 AM

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

Right But What Happens When the Water Company Has No Power how will they pump water to feed the lines?

Vegas,NV Filbert, SC(Zone 7b)

Ahhhh, I get what you are saying now.

The water plant here is partly wind and solar powered. Considering we our yearly rain fall is less then 4 inches per year and we always have some sort of wind it is about the only smart thing that this county has done. We have had times that the area surrounding the plant has lost power for a few days and we have never experienced a water loss. YET!!!!!

To bad that in about 10 years at the rate people are moving here and wasting water their wont be any left. The county purchased the wind turbines and solar panels on a tax bill about 5 yrs ago and it is a 20 yr tax bill.

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

Most Water Plants Have a Priorty List if theres Going to be a Shoratge of water Hospitals Nurceing homes Fire Dept Police Stations Etc Etc you may want to get some 50 gallon rain barrels and keep theam filled up the small air cond is a good idea with the marine battrey but dont for get to get a battery charger that battrey will last about one night you can buy a 12 volt solar battery charger on e bay for around 3o bucks its worth it that site i put up above this is for RO water Systems i got mine there 79 bucks cleans 50 gallons a day Paul

Vegas,NV Filbert, SC(Zone 7b)

Paul, actually I did check that site out and bookmarked it when you were posting about your solar powered rain barrels.

Rainbarrels are just not a possiblity here in this Las Vegas house. We are in the process of trying to sell this house and those would just not fit into the landscaping or the neighborhood CSR's.

This is one of the very reason for us wanting to move. Las Vegas is more into living only in the present. People here don't remember the past they blow it up and no one seems to want to look to the future of how what they are doing is going to impact tomorrow.

I used to work with a couple that owned a home on what was then the outskirts of town. They dug their own well and septic system. Then a few years after that a housing development was built just beyond them bringing city water and sewer to the area. Within a year or so after that the county managed to force them to hook up to city water or face high taxes and fines.
I really don't remember how the county managed to do this but I do know that they tried to fight it all the way up to the surpreme courts and still had to connect with city water and then pay all their legal fees. They moved from that home to somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Kansas. Last I heard they are happy and back on well and a septic system.

I am curious about something though.....

Can an old well or septic system that has sat dormant and unused for many years be restarted (for lack of a better word) or would a new ones need to be dug. And can you have more then one well on a property coming from the same water table?

Here is my reason for asking. I THINK we have an old well on our property. I am still trying to research through the assessors office if it was an opperating well, an original rejected proposal or an attempt at one that maybe didn't hit water and was plugged up. This well is much closer to where I want to put my greenhouse and gardens. I think it would be wonderful to have two wells if possible, both being solar in a perfect world.

scio, oregon, OR(Zone 8a)

We have an old hand-dug well for water in addition to our usual water well. You can drop a bucket down all year for water. It has served us when there was a power outage. If it was long term, I guess we would have to make an outhouse on the property somewhere for THAT business!

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

i guess so if you can find it where do you plan on moveing to?Beth you should have that water tested most Countys do it for free just to make sure its ok

scio, oregon, OR(Zone 8a)

Yeah, both wells were tested 15yrs ago when I bought the place. They should be okay. Lots of water here in Oregon.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

RO's are good systems as long as they are well maintained. the home (peritoneal dialysis) systems i sold did pretty well overall but one woman almost died because the filter was taking out too much magnesium (or not enough, i forget, it's been years since i even thought of it).

i will probably put some kind of filter on the water from my spring next year when i install it into in my house with a solar pump and a cistern uphill to gravity-feed the house. I still want an old-fashioned hand pump by the sink like my grandma had, and i even actually own one although it's never been used! came from Lehman's.

i have no clue how my city water reaches the house. i do know the reservoirs are way up the mountain but surely they pump it somehow down where are somewhat flatish. i just know i want OFF city water, and off as much elec. as i can slowly do.

most solar options are not viable for me due to the degree days here.

casey, i have a second copy of mazria's book i will send you when i get my books from storage. it's missing the charts in the back sleeve but i'd guess they could be photocopied on transparent paper from my set. never figured how i lost the first set, and with my transit, i did a LOT of layouts.

Flora, IN(Zone 5a)

We are rural and our power goes out regularly. We have a large stone fireplace inside, firepit outside and lots of wood along with chainsaw and woods. There is a creek just over the hill large buckets and teenagers to haul water. My short fall would be food maybe I need a large storage of dried beans.Being former primitive campers helps a lot with survival skills.

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

any hunters

Flora, IN(Zone 5a)

I use to hunt with my Dad but my youngest child is mostly vegan and I now have to buy cage-free eggs. Go figure.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

paul. i hope for a deer from one of my neighbors this year, almost NO toxins used locally since there is no commercial farming.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

If I can jump in, Phicks ~ your city water scenario came true here when hurricane Rita brought too many refuges to our small town. Then blew the lights out... we have 3 water towers. But the refuges were housed in schools and other public buildings and they flushed and showered and ran water unnecessarily and guess what! Less than 24 hours and the water towers were drained. Not a new thought but I hope never to be dependent on anyone besides the Lord and ourselves!

We have deer and enjoy venison here. Which presents another question ~ any thoughts on how you would preserve a whole deer? Without electricity to run the freezer? Without electricity to run the Excalibur dryer? Without electricity to run the range so you could can it? Have to share or eat lots fast?

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

pod, I can most of mine. even with no power i can get enough temps from an outside grill or brick oven to make it work.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Good going on the canning. I also can meats. I have a propane range w/ pilots. We buy 500 gal so would last a long time. My DM canned on a wood stove. Tough job in the heat but I know it can be done. With the grill and brick oven, you could also dry meats easily.

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

You Can Smoke some All So Make Jerky i all so keep a 2 burner camp stove and a lamp plus a heater to all run off of coleman fuel the stoves could run off of K 1 fuel i keep a few cans of fuel you can buy breif case solar panels cheap that will charge a 12 volt battery i have a 2 burner eltric burner that the battery will run to

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

Does anyone have a smokehouse?

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

i have a smoker i use wood

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

apparently the shed end i use for tool storage used to be the smoke house. the chimney cap is still there.

Flora, IN(Zone 5a)

My son loves to smoke meat and does so regularly. He has one of the large drum smokers. Anyone ever smoke deer meat? My Dad makes a real good sausage out of it that doesn't need refrigeration.

Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

i make bratwurst and deer jerky

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Hi, Everyone! I find all of this info very interesting. I've been wanting to go this direction for several years (since being without power due to an ice storm for 14 days several years ago back in Omaha). My husband and I now live on 15 acres in Ky. We have a large kerosene heater which we heated with the first winter here, a coleman stove, coleman and oil lanterns, lots of flashlights and a large smoker grill. Since we have 5 acres of wooded land, we have access to lots of dead wood. Do need to buy a chainsaw though! I'd love to have a well, because the county water is awful. Not sure about how to store water for drinking. Have read lots of info, but just can't seem to grasp the how-to. I do keep several milk jugs filled with water in the freezer to thaw if needed. We are going to put gutters on our mobile home to catch and store rain water. I stated storing groceries a few months ago. Probably have 2 -3 months of everything we'd need as far as frozen meat, canned and dried foods. Still need to stock up on some more dairy items, cleaning and paper items. The garden is coming along well and am going to try my hand at canning and drying foods this year. We do have chickens which should start laying in a few more weeks. That will help alot, too.

Would like more info on the briefcase size solar panel???? We are trying to figure out how big a greenhouse to add onto the south side of our home. Husband Al is starting to understand my desire to being more self-suffient and more energy-conscious. Yes, it's about saving the earth, but it's also about saving money. My elderly MIL constantly complained about the hundreds of dollars she paid every month for gas and electricity. We are totally electric here, so need to start working on getting away from the grid.

If I drifted way off this forum, I'm really sorry. I have been reading so many. In a way though, all of the things I mention all go hand in hand.


Lakeland, FL(Zone 9b)

id swich to propane gas for heat and cooking

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