Emergency protection for a freezer-full of food

joyfulguyMarch 8, 2008

I buy most of my groceries on special, and then buy more than enough to last for a short while, unless I'm concerned about their deteriorating.

I've had freezers on different occasions during my life - am now using one that was present in uncle's house when I moved here.

They do use a substantial amount of electricity, but for rural people they can save trips for groceries (unless they often run for cigarettes). And keep ice cream a lot better than a fridge-freezer combination, which keeps goods at only a few degrees below freezing, rather than down near 0 degrees F. in the freezer.

They are almost essential if people keep a substantial garden and want to preserve their own-raised veggies for use throughout the year. Many women used to can veggies years ago, but many feel that it's far more work and the quality is less attractive when ready to use. Canning doesn't require energy through the following months to keep it preserved, though.

If you are subject to electricity interruptions for longer than a half day or so, check around among neighbours to learn who have freezers. Also - who have generators, and would be willing to rent them out during an extended power outage.

Maybe make a deal to allow several neighbours to use one current generator, one after the other, when power goes out for an extended period.

Lacking a currently-available generator, maybe make a deal with half a dozen neighbours to assure access to a small generator, with sufficient capacity to power a freezer ... plus possibly some lights, portable heaters, a fridge, etc. as well. A computer, maybe ... for addicts to get a sliver of their fix??

Lacking power - some modern phones go on strike (some cell ones, too, lacking power at the local tower). Can you envision extreme teen privation??

It might be possible to set up a system to allow connecting a furnace, but it would be necessary to check local building codes, for I think that some require direct connection from entry box or a separate switch. It may be possible to break the line to install a connector, e.g. of the push-and-twist variety, to allow disconnection from the power line and connection to a generator in case of outage.

Each additional item that one chooses to serve will require either a larger capacity (i.e. more expensive) generator, or serial coverage of the consumption units, especially ones that require motors to start under load (furnace, freezer, fridge), i.e. run one first, then disconnect and connect another.

As the group plans the provision of a generator, they can follow either one of two main patterns:

1. decide on what size they can agree on, then buy one co-operatively, each contributing a percentage of the purchase price, depending on declared need. And if there were more households being served, one after the other, it would make it more difficult to have several households using the generator to power first one unit, then another. For example, serve 8 houses for 3 hours each during a 24-hour period.

Experience would show them what portion of time each household needed, running the generator on up to a 24-hour basis, if necessary.

Usually when an outage is in progress for an extended period, at least one or two of the members will not be going to work, so could move the generator from house to house as required.

If they didn't need the generator for the full amount of time available, they could serve other neighbours' needs, on a charge for service basis.

The understanding could be that if one member moves, the others would pay out that member's share, a depreciated amount from the original contribution, depending on how much service the household had had. Perhaps the other members would put up the money, or they might know of some other neighour(s) wanting to join.

2. On the other hand, if one household wants quite a bit more service than the others, that household could buy and own a larger generator than the others want, paying a larger share or most of the full price, with others contributing a smaller amount each.

Several years ago, in early spring after an ice storm, I recruited a local generator to take to a nearby community ... when people asked the fee, I said that it was a free service from our church.

Many wanted to connect their furnace, but I couldn't, as it would require hooking up by clamp to the furnace-side of their cut-off box. Though we'd disconnected the cut-off switch, none the less, should it get reconnected for some reason, we'd be feeding electricity back into the power line that the workers understood to be dead. That could kill someone.

In very few houses can one routinely interrupt the line between the cut-off switch and the furnace.

In one family's back porch, where they'd covered the freezer with coats, etc., when we plugged in the freezer just over 48 hours after the outage began, when we opened the lid of the chest freezer - we found ice crystals on blueberries in a small dish. The freezing rain had taken place in late winter/early spring and the days were mild after it.

But it wasn't August, as one man who had 400 lbs. of fresh meat called the radio station crying about, about four years ago when we had that extensive outage in the N-E States and in part of central Canada.

I tried to call the radio station, unsuccessfully for several hours after, then suggested that he load a freezer into the back of a van or a trailer, put his meat into it and drive out to a rural area nearby, asking door to door among the farmers for permission to use their generator, for many of them have one and someone, likely using his at the time, would have surplus capacity and be willing to have him plug in for a while as needed, until the power came back on.

I hope that you're all having a lovely weekend.

It's snowing and blowing, here ... I've had to clear away snow from the back door three or four times. Guess I'd better clear away from the (seldom used) front door as well, soon: should have had sense enough to have done it in daylight, right?

If I can't push the back door open, can't you just see in your mind's eye, ole joyful crawling out of a window ... jumping into a snowbank ... in a blizzard? That should be worth a picture!

I wouldn't be going anywhere, even if I could drive alone ... they're telling us to stay off of the roads ... about 500 car smashes in the area in and around Toronto, a few minor injuries, but none major or deaths.

I'm warm and comfy, as is the f c - paid my oil bill yesterday.

If I fail my licence test ... I have a freezer-full of food, potatoes, squash, turnips and beets, plus enough flour, etc. to make bread for 3 months, at least.

I'd need to arrange for acquisition of milk, for being without it would cause me major privation, and being able to get my water supply for cooking and drinking.

ole joyful

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Good luck on your driving test!

We bought a generator for camping last summer and also used it during our ice storm back in December. Since this was our second experience with a major power outage caused by an ice storm, we were a little smarter this time. We were better prepared than most people. Our experience has also made me think more in terms of emergency preparedness for other situations and what I would want to have on hand.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 12:54AM
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We've lived in rural area for about 16 years now. Nearly every winter we've had extended power outtages. Abut 10 years ago we bought a generator - mostly to keep the refrigerator and freezer running.

Fortunately we did not need it this winter, but the experience made us think about alternatives when we were planning to build our home. Our hot water heater and cooktop are propane. We have a gas fireplace that runs on propane. Last winter we had a 4 day outtage and were able to be reasonably comfortable - the gas fireplace took the chill off although it really wasn't a good heat source.

This summer we will be putting in a woodburning stove in the basement TV room for auxiliary heat.

I also keep on hand enough canned/packaged foods to make about 6 or 7 meals. We could go longer eating from the freezer.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 12:24PM
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Food will stay frozen quite a while (nearly a week) without electricity if the freezer door is kept closed. If its pretty full and house is also cold, all the better--for the food. I keep a small bag of ice cubes in the freezer as a check. If they're still cubes, all's well. A bag of solid ice indicates its thawed and refrozen when power came back on.

Relatives in Albany and NJ both need electric to run pumps for water. Guess that's what you mean as far as drinking and cooking water? The worst part of that is that toilets don't flush either. Now that gets old r-e-a-l-l-y fast. Good luck with your driving test, and keeping power. Sandy

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 2:26PM
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I haul water for cooking and drinking routinely - old uncle was a beef farmer and his barnyard was too close to the well feeding the house.

About five years ago, after his wife died and I stayed with him for a couple of months till his cattle went on pasture, I drank the water with him. He'd had three hip replacements and had quite a lot of pain in back, hip and leg so we didn't want to hear of him becoming stranded in a snowbank while doing chores (lacking kids, why he needed to keep cattle in his mid-80s is beyond me: we used to kid him, saying that we figured that he was trying to figure a way to take his assets with him).

But when he died about 3 years ago, his relatives suggested that it would be adviseable not to drink the water (it smells, especialy when hot) and in the tests prior to sale of the farm the house well failed the e-coli test badly, also the coliform test. The well serving the barn passed e-coli, but failed coliform. I drank that water sometimes last summer when watering the garden, without dire result, and my landlord said that he did, same result.

The trouble with hooking most water wells' pumps to a generator is that few of them have a feed line that can be separated easily, e.g. a push-and-twist plug in the line.

As most furnaces lack - which makes it quite difficult to hook them up, as well, as I indicated earlier.

The landlord came early this morning to plough out the lane ... but I wasn't planning to go anywhere. Arranging for a partner driver, and usually needing to drive "naked" to his/her place, even if the roads are mainly rather quiet rural ones, tends to make one avoid it for routine stuff.

I hope that you had an interesting weekend.

Maybe I'll turn my chair 180 degrees to the desk and get some stuff cleared off of it, in the coming days.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 1:58AM
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We have been lucky, but if we lose power for an extended time during the winter we would just put our frozen items outside on the porch.

I guess that is the good thing about living in a cold area? We have lost power a couple times for it has only been for less than a day, so we just do not open the freezer door.

We have an unheated basement so we could put all our veggis and non-freezer items down there. It is usually about 40 degrees during the winter.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 3:25PM
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we would just put our frozen items outside on the porch.

I'm assuming that you don't live in an area with critters? We have a local bear, deer, cyotes, racoons...

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 8:09PM
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In the days after our area lost power due to the ice storms, the daily temperatures went up to around 47 degrees. All the food in the refrigerators and freezers were lost. Many of these people had bought food up ahead in anticipation of bad weather so it made it an even bigger whammy.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 11:44PM
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Six - eight families with a freezer ordinarily containing a substantial amount of food, kicking in $100.00 each would buy a good generator that could save a great deal of food in a power outage of over a day or so.

One of the families would need to have a place to store it without being too much of a nuisance.

I like that idea of ice cubes in a bag sitting in there, to let one know after power was restored whether thawing had taken place.

As for the problem of dealing with the toilet, apart from putting earplugs up one's nose when visiting ... possibly fill bathtub half full when a storm is coming? Most families would be unwilling to forego bathing for a three or four days after power is restored until all of the water in the tub could be used up for flushing. Maybe visit a relative's/neighbour's house for a scrub?

I imagine that few families would have storage space to store some cans or a drum to fill with water prior to the storm, to avoid having to flush the water in the tub down the drain unused, after the power was restored.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 1:21AM
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All our items are frozen in glass jars so I don't believe that an animal would steal it.

Our porch is enclosed also (not heated though) so they would not be able to get into it.

We have deer, racoons and strays, no coyotes in my immediate area and only the occasional bear cub. We have turkey that live across the street though.

Most people in our area have gas hot water and cooking stoves. We also have two gas heaters in addition to our furnace. Noone I know here has a well. My brother has a sewage "chopper" as I call it. It needs to run every time it fills to push the sewage from their home out to the town pipes. They had to get a generator just so they can run that. They lost power a couple times and had to go elsewhere because, although they had water, they couldn't use the toilets or sinks as the chopper tank was full.

ugh, boy am I glad I don't have that in my basement!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 10:08AM
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My Mom often used the back porch as spare refrigeration when I was a child. Overnight it was more of a freezer, so we didn't use it for anything long-term, but for a day or two it was very convenient.

A year ago I moved from an area with underground power lines to one with above ground lines - and lots of trees. We usually have a few severe thunderstorms and ice storms each year, and can count on the occasional power outage. That's one reason we keep the freezer set at -10F. It didn't rise to zero after 8 hours without power, so I think we could go for a few days. In the rare event that there's much room in the freezer, I add jugs of water. Since the freezer may be opened a few times a day, this makes it more efficient to run, but I mainly do it as a precaution for power outages.

We do hope to eventually get a generator - perhaps in co-ordination with some neighbors as joyful suggests - but there are a few other things we need first.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 6:09PM
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Breenthumb - good tip on the ice cube thing - I never thought of that. Also the gallons of water to make a freezer more efficient. Good stuff.

scryn - where do you live that you have all the other critters including bear but still dont have coyotes? I thought they had spread most everwhere. (Next up, feral hogs, frankly I'd rather have coyotes)

Good luck on your test Joyful. My eyes are awful and I'm 'only' 51.

Also - milk freezes pretty well. So you can stock up a little and not have to drive for that.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 1:20PM
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Hello marys1000,

Yes, I have some white milk plus some chocolate in the freezer, and some coffee cream. There are little flecks of solid material after milk thaws but I don't mind that much.

That's true also of the cream and it collects on the side of my mug, which I'm not entirely impressed by, and had thought that I'd do less of the freezing of it in future. But that's not a really big deal.

I haven't checked as to which neighbours may have generators, but I'm sure that there are some nearby. My landlord may have one, as he has a fairly large amount of equipment, though I don't recall that issue having been discussed ... if it were, I can't remember it. He has several tractors, so he/(we) should probably get one that is tractor-driven: they, usually manufactured to produce long-term power, are rather expensive.

Good wishes for being able to find the easiest but most effective means of preserving your frozen food.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 5:26AM
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I live in upstate NY. Some towns do have coyotes (or a mix between dogs and coyotes) but I have never seen one in our town. I guess the turkey prefer it that way! We do have fox.

My town is a swamp land. The coyotes seem to be more in the forest areas around here.

The bears that end up in my town are just traveling through. They are usually cubs looking for their own land. I have never personally seen one.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 8:46AM
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