My children woke the other morn.
“Dad! Mom! There’s something wrong!
There’s no heat in the heaters
And the TV won’t go on.
The bathroom light won’t function.
Is it just the bulb that’s old?
Nothing in this whole house works.
It’s drafty and it’s cold!”
I rose in semi-stupor.
Stubbed my toe against a chair.
“I ought to have a candle.
I know there’s one somewhere.”
Note: Get a case of candles, matches, and hurricane holders for safety.
“Fear not,” I told my children.
“We’ll weather out the storm
Because we have a fireplace
To keep us somewhat warm.”
Note: Ninety percent of the heat from a fireplace goes up the chimney. Check into fireplace reflectors or install a free-standing fireplace that radiates heat and is 60 percent efficient. Glass fireplace doors are nice for keeping heat in the room when the fire dies down.
“We’re hungry, Mom. Where’s breakfast?
Could you make us something hot?”
We piled logs in the fireplace
And then … a sudden thought:
When cooking in a fireplace
What things should I acquire?
Just how long would my frypans last
Atop an open fire?
Note: All that wheat you’ve stored will get tiresome if you can only make ash cakes. Get a dutch oven with legs and recessed lid so you can bake bread, pies, cakes, and combination meals in the coals.
Within the house a fire glowed
Outside was cold and bleak.
Our meager wood and coal supplies
Would last about a week.
Note: Two tons of coal will heat our house for one month. We would close off most of the house to conserve fuel.
“Hooray! Hooray!” the children cried.
“Oh, this is really neat!”
I thought, “It’s good we have our food.
For a year, at least, we’ll eat.”
Note: Very approximately, basic supplies for a year, per person, include 300 pounds cereal grains, 75 pounds dry milk, 60 pounds sugar or honey, 20 pounds fats, 60 pounds legumes, 5 pounds salt, 365 vitamin tablets, and anything else you can afford for variety. (The accuracy of these figures would depend on how and where you live.) P.S.: Pinto beans are less tiresome than other beans over long periods of time.
The baby needed to be changed
And then the thought did strike:
However would I launder clothes
To keep them clean and bright?
Assuming I had water,
A fire and a pan …
I’d hate to have to wash and wring
Those diapers out by hand.
Note: A scrub board might be handy, but a plumber’s friend is easier on clothes and knuckles. You need a line and clothespins for windy days. Get a hand wringer at an auto supply shop to cut down on drying time.
We’ve always stored some water
In an emptied-out bleach jug.
We opened up a gallon,
Poured it out to drink and … ugh!
I’d also filled some fruit jars
With the water from the sink.
It was processed in my canner
And was easier to drink.
Note: A person needs one-half gallon of liquid replacement per day-plus an equal amount for other uses. Continue filling bleach jugs. Get an extra case of lids to process water in fruit jars. A king-size water bed holds 200 gallons.
“My mittens need repairing.”
“There’s a button off this dress.”
I’ve stored buttons, thread, and needles,
Extra fabric, and I guess
I could darn most things quite handily
From socks right up to suits.
But suppose the broken item
Was a pair of leather boots?
Note: Eskimos use dental floss to make and repair leather mukluks and fur parkas because of its strength and durability. Use unwaxed floss and get some diamond point needles at a leather shop. (Remember that wet leather is easier to sew.)
I have lots of baking soda
For all its many uses.
From toothpaste and a cleanser
To the cookies it produces.
Note: Also for insect bites, sunburn, poison ivy, indigestion, and as an underarm deodorant.
I’ve string and twine and medicines,
And ammonia to help me cope
With cleaning up the dirt and germs.
But how did pioneers make soap?
Note: For one mild, no-suds bar, put 1/2 cup clean, lukewarm fat into a clean plastic container. In another container measure 1/4 cup cold water. Add 1 Tbls. lye, stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve. Add lye solution to fat, stirring with wooden spoon until it looks like pudding. Add 1 Tbls. lanolin, rose water, cologne, or lemon juice, if desired. Pour into plastic tumbler, cover with plastic wrap, and wait 24 hours. Unmold, let ripen two weeks. (Pioneers leached their lye from fireplace ashes. Hickory ashes work best.)
I must save my old newspapers.
(Might there be a paper ration?)
They’re used for wrapping garbage
And make good insulation.
Soak the papers in detergent,
Roll them into logs, then dry.
They will give a bright, warm fire,
An almost free supply.
I must have thought of everything.
Oh, no. One thing can spoil it.
I have the toilet paper,
But what about the toilet?
Note: Look for an inexpensive camping toilet. It would be a nice convenience since human waste has to be handled carefully to avoid disease.
That night we piled into our beds.
“It’s cold! The wind! It blows!
How nice hot water bottles would feel
Against our frozen toes.”
Note: Water bottles for hot or cold applications could be more than worth their weight in gold.
Next day I woke up early,
And the crisis was long gone.
Everything was back to normal—
Even the TV set was on.
Water dripped into the sinks,
The downstairs lights all burned.
It was nice to have them on again
After the lessons that we’d learned.
Though yesterday was trying,
Its troubles had been shared.
Our family had decided
That we’d better get prepared.
Some folks might think we’re silly,
Like whistling in the dark.
Still, we know it wasn’t raining
When Noah built his ark.