Homestead Planning – Cooking & Heat
A young couple asked me the other day what we thought about in our homestead planning. I had to admit we hadn’t done enough homestead planning because we didn’t know what we were in for. It wasn’t long after we moved out here to the woods that an ice storm hit. We were fortunate to lose our power for only 12 hours while parts of the state were down for three weeks. We quickly learned that life is a lot easier when you have a way to cook a hot meal, make coffee or heat water for tea and hot chocolate, and have water.
You’ll want to be able to stay warm. Electric heat is useless when the power goes out. We have a propane furnace (similar to natural gas) for backup if we’re away but it doesn’t work without electricity to start it. Our heat source is a wood stove. The power can go out all winter and we’ll still be warm.
If you’re going to burn wood you’ll need a solid supply of firewood. As a general rule of thumb a well managed woodlot in the northeast will provide a cord of firewood per acre per year without over harvesting. That doesn’t mean you’ll cut one cord on each acre. Overall the amount will work out to that amount. If you don’t have a woodlot or don’t have time to put up your own wood you’ll need to secure it some other way. You might find deals on Craig’s List or local barter boards. Tree length wood in my area this year was $185 a cord in tree length. Wood that was cut and split and ready to stack was as high as $240 per cord. And advantage of wood stoves is their flat top. You can heat water and cook if necessary.
Propane and natural gas heaters are popular. They are convenient and do a good job of heating a home if you an appropriate sized heater. Unlike firewood, they are clean. Pellet stoves provide the nice, warm, cozy heat of a wood fire without the mess and extra work. You might need a battery to run the blower on a pellet stove while the power is out.
We’re warm and have water now. A hot meal is a wonderful thing during a storm. One of our favorite meals during short outages is grilled cheese sandwiches cooked on the woodstove. If you need a good meal after shoveling snow, removing trees that have blown over or just plain want a good meal during a storm, you need to be able to cook properly. A propane or natural gas stove and oven will keep you well fed. Modern stoves and ovens usually light with an electric spark. You can light the burners with a match but the oven would have to be lit every time the temperature dropped. If you can’t or don’t want to do without an oven you should buy a stove with pilot lights, small flames that burn from the fuel source and ignite the oven and burners.
There are plenty of other things you need on a new homestead. These things will help you be less dependent on the grid and more comfortable when the lights go out. Losing our water was an eye opener and we spent the rest of the winter tightening up our homestead planning.