Hunkering Down

“Now, Laura, you gotta hunker down.”
-my former boss

At one of my previous jobs, my boss would sometimes feel frustrated at my enthusiasm.  He was from central Pennsylvania.  I never heard the term “hunker down” until I met him, so I don’t know if it was his expression or a central Pennsylvania thing.  He’d tell me to “hunker down” often.  We had different points of view on a lot of workplace issues, but we got along well.

Now I hear his words echoing in my head at times like this- times when we’re preparing for severe snow storms.  We really hunker down, but I think my boss and I have different definitions.

In this blogpost I will give you a quick summary of what we do here at Kevin’s and Laura’s Little House on the Prairie to hunker down when we’re expecting bad weather…

1.  We already have flashlights and candles in the house.  We don’t use a whole lot of battery-operated things, so we don’t have too many batteries. I have tons on candles.

2. We kind of count on loosing power, and that’s OK.  We live a pretty simple lifestyle, so it’s be OK if we lost power for a while.  We’ll loose the computer, the oven, the lights, the appliances and the water.  That’s OK.  We’ll be fine.

3. We prepare for not having water. We shower so we’re good to go there, at least for a little bit.  We have some outdoor plastic containers with water that can be used for flushing.  We keep bottled water in the house.

4. We put away our vehicles.  We have a garage for them all but rarely use them.  We put away our vehicles when we’re hunkering down.

I took this picture of my kids a few weeks ago, just being silly.  You can see our wood box in the background.  When we're hunkering down, I overfill it, as high as I can.

I took this picture of some of my kids a few weeks ago, just being silly. You can see our wood box in the background. When we’re hunkering down, I overfill it, as high as I can.

5. We feed the critters extra.  We give extra food to the goats, pigs and cows.  It’s a lot easier to do a quick checkup on them in a blizzard and not have to feed them, too.  We give them enough food to last a few days.  We make sure they’re all snug.  We make a backup plan if we loose power and have baby chicks (which we don’t have right now).

6. We make sure we have plenty of wood.  We heat with wood, so loosing power won’t affect us.  Our backup heat is a floor furnace, which also doesn’t need electric.  We make sure we have a lot of wood next to the front door and in the indoor wood box.  We overfill the indoor wood box with enough wood to last as maybe 36 hours, even if the temperatures are cold and we need to constantly feed the wood burning stove.  (I have a huge deck box that I keep in my living room for wood.  It holds enough wood to get us through blizzards, is durable and not too tacky and keeps all the wood debris and dirt contained.I seriously recommend a deck box like this to anyone else who heats with wood everyday. This deck box is the best I’ve found and I’ve tried a few different indoor wood holding systems.)

7. We have a propane stove.  We can use the stovetop to cook without power.  We can also cook on top of the wood burning stove.  I’ve done this in the past when we used to have an electric stove.

8. We catch up on everything beforehand.  I try to be caught up on laundry.  I’m never really caught-up-caught-up, but I make sure mostly everything is done and dried before we’re expecting bad weather.  Even if we don’t loose power, we don’t use the dryer and we can’t dry clothes on the line outside in a blizzard. We’re a family of seven and laundry is critical. We burn the trash, take out the compost and what-not, too.

9.  If Kevin has to work, he prepares to be stuck there. He takes the pickup which has four wheel drive.  He packs extra food.  We hate for him to be stuck there, but it’s happened before.

10. We’re always really supplied.  Living out here, it’s a road trip and an all day adventure to go to real stores.  We always have stuff in the house.

What do you do to hunker down?  How do you prepare for blizzards?

Posted in A Day In the Life, Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Heating the House, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe, Laundry, Laura's Little House on the Prairie and tagged , by with no comments yet.

Using the Floor Furnace

Laura’s little house on the prairie has two sources of heat.

Our primary source of heat is our woodburning stove.  Kevin and his father installed it for our first winter here.  We aim to use the woodburning stove most of the time.  It is mostly free heat.  Since our land is full of trees in various stages of dying, our wood is free.  My husband cuts the wood with his chainsaw.  We also sometimes borrow my father-in-law’s log splitter.  I (try to) stack all the wood when my husband cuts it.  Due to my uncoordination, I am not capable of operating the chainsaw, so I stack. The costs associated with the woodburning stove amount to around $100 per year at the most, including chainsaw fuel, matches, an annual new chainsaw chain, starter log, etc.  I’ll write more about that one of these days.

2010… We annually hang the stockings by the piano with care since we’reworried that if they’re by the chimney with care they’ll burn the house down.  My baby is four now.

Our backup heat source (which was the primary one for a long time in this house’s history) is our floor furnace.  Since some may be unfamiliar with those, I’ll try to explain.  The furnace itself is actually located in our basement.  It has a stamp on it that says it was made in 1940-something.  The furnace is suspended under our livingroom floor.  Our livingroom has a big grate in the floor.  The heat comes out of there.  It is adjustable, however there is no thermostat.  (It’s interesting to note that some insurance companies have refused to insure our house because of that furnace.)  The furnace burns heating oil and does not need electricity to run.  Although it keeps the house toasty, like all heating oil furnaces, it is expensive to run. We try to avoid running it and cover it with an area rug when not in use.

2012… Here is Baby3 putting a soft tape measure on the tree.We think he thought it was garland.

The floor furnace is under that rug that’s under the tree.



2008, here is the grate on the floor…It’s actually an awesome furnace because it doesn’t even require electric to work.

A view of the floor furnace in our creepy basement…

Tuesday 4/9/13 was the day of the blizzard that never was.  What we did get was wind and wind and lots more wind.  It was also really really cold.  I hate wind.  I know, living on the prairie is not the right place to live when I hate wind.  It got so bitterly cold, too.  Plus I had to dig the wood out for the stove.  I kept having to gather the wood.  We were going through the wood so fast, making sure the stove was giving out a lot of heat.  We gave up and Kevin rearranged our livingroom and lit our actual furnace.  Lighting the floor furnace is actually a process, a process which I’m actually unable to complete myself.  But, I have old pictures from 2008…

2008, the lighting process…
2008, the lighting process…
2008, the lighting process…
2008, lit..


2008, with the grate up.I know this is an old picture, but the furnace looks the

same now as it did then, as it also did in the 1940’s. Well,  we have a new carpet.

This year… We could be in one of those home magazines with

our oh-so-stylish safety gate surrounding the floor furnace,

a necessity in a house full of toddlers and preschoolers.

The first time that we used the floor furnace last season was when our glass door on the woodburning stove exploded.  My wonderful heroic neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful Neighbor, picked me up the new glass when they went to Colorado Springs. Good neighbors are such a blessing.



When the glass broke,I had to put that fire out with water to prevent the house from getting smoky.
Just starting a fire behind the new glass… hooray for no soot yet! 


You can watch a video of a new floor furnace here.  I was actually pretty surprised to learn that they still make them.

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