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There was an article in the local paper recently about dry cabin living, that is, living in a small log cabin with no running water, and heated by burning wood in a wood stove. The article enumerated the perks and problems of the log cabin lifestyle that so many people around here love. One commenter to the article caught my attention and captured my thinking. He wrote that anyone who did not have at least a woodstove and enough wood to get through the winter was foolish and irresponsible. Other commenters expanded on this theme to dramatic depths of prepper extremism. But just that single thought of having a wood stove and wood to get through the winter has stuck with me.

If the power were to go out at 40˚ below zero, what could we do? Our oil-fired boiler wouldn't run without electricity, and at that temperature we'd have a couple of hours before the house began to cool. In four hours, the water pipes that spider web across the garage and feed our baseboard heaters would start to freeze, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. In eight hours, we'd have to leave. These concerns are compounded by the responsibility of having young children at home.

I'm not predicting the fall of civilization and the end of the world as we know it, but it isn't difficult to imagine a 8+ earthquake that knocks out our local coal-fired power plant for upwards of two weeks (we had a 6.2 in 1995, a 7.9 in 2002, and each year is littered with twos, threes, and fours). And in the depth of winter, it seems like a wood stove would be a minimum survival requirement.

Of course, if the power were out for two weeks, where would our water come from? So it makes some sense to have some water available. A gallon per person per day is recommended, and for a family of six to last for two weeks is over eighty gallons of water. And food? We live at the end of a long supply distribution line. Everything sold in the local grocery store comes to us via cargo ships from the port of Seattle to Anchorage and is then trucked up the rest of the way (as is our gasoline, diesel, and heating oil). Our stores have a two or three day supply without restocking, and that's it. And first aid? And propane or white gas to cook with? And gasoline for the car or generator? Suddenly, some very sane and rational steps taken to ensure the immediate safety of your family descends into wacky prepper paranoia.

So where do you draw the line? If failing to have at least a wood stove is foolish and irresponsible, and building a bunker to stock with enough supplies and munitions to live off the grid for ten years is insanity, then where is the middle ground? How much preparation is enough? 

Posted on Friday, December 7, 2012 at 01:39PM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | CommentsPost a Comment

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