Answering the questions

17 December 2013
A week or so ago I said I'd answer any questions you had. I got two questions, both set out below. I hope both ladies are still reading.

Kate J  December 09, 2013 7:51 am

I wonder what you and hanno would do if the power went out for a long period of time. Just curious, as that seems to be the thing people plan for if they see storms or other large scale events coming. Would simple living make those times easier?

Kate, we have no real plans for living here for a long period without power although I did say the other morning as we shared morning tea that I wouldn't mind it at all. I think Hanno is more practical. : - ) The only thing that would bother me would be if we had a lot of meat and fish in our freezer. I guess we could take it over to Jens and Cathy's and ask if they'd put it in their freezer. They have a generator.

Generally though, it would be like a bit of an adventure for a while. We'd still have hot water, Hanno told me that we wouldn't have any mains power, even with our solar panels, but we'd have solar hot water, it uses a different system. So we'd still have showers and hot water for washing up.

If there was no power here for a long period of time, I think there would be problems with the water system which relies on electricity for testing and delivering safe water. There would also probably be problems with the general transport system, deliveries and the supermarkets would be short of supplies.

I guess the first thing I'd do would be to harvest all the ice in the freezers and use that in an Esky. Into the Esky I'd place a few eggs, cheese, butter and milk. With those four cold items and my stockpile we could easily live quite nicely for a month or so. Then I could stretch it out to four or five months, but I doubt I'd be seeing it as an adventure then. It would just be getting by. It would also depend on the time of year it happened. If we had a garden full of vegetables, that we do have from about late April till December or January, we'd be fine. We'd still have the fresh eggs from the chickens too and I'd still be able to collect milk from my local dairy. If the power was out in the whole region, after that first lot of ice, I'd have to store my dairy food and eggs at Jens and Cathy's. They live in the same town.

We'd eat food from the stockpile and garden.
I'd use what was in the fridge in those first few days and cook what I could outside.

Most of the cooking would be done on a camp fire. I'd bake using a cast iron camp oven.

There would be plenty of early nights for both of us. 
And a lot more time spent in the garden making sure we had a continuous supply of food. I think I'd continue writing using a notebook and a pencil.

We have a very old BBQ that we could use the grill off to cook on outside over an open fire. We have plenty of wood around here, we have water in the tanks and a creek flowing in the back yard. I know I'd miss my computer, the blog and the forum but I think I'd convince myself that missing such things would be good for me. I hope I'd gain strength from it rather than caving in and complaining about it.

To answer your question, I think I'd be more prepared for a time like that because we live a simple life and I'd also accept the hardship that came with it as just one of those things. And even it it did stretch on for a few months, while the first month would be exciting and new, the rest of it, I'm pretty sure, I'd just take in my stride - mainly because of my lifestyle.

simplyfree December 09, 2013 11:24 am
Hi Rhonda,
I have a question for you about adding more chickens to the flock. How did you introduce them into your flock. We are hoping to add a couple more chickens in the spring. We will be raising them as chicks separate, then when they are old enough we would add them to the flock. So at what age do you introduce them and how?
As for simple living we started with one thing then added another. We do what we can and your right simple living is different for each of us. Love your blog!

Hanno pruned the lemon tree yesterday and threw the branches into the chook run. Chickens love exploring and climbing and it wasn't long before our girls had sorted through those new branches.
And one of our newer blue Barnevelders found herself a new roost.
This isn't on subject but I can show you the difference in combs and wattles as a chicken ages. If you have a look at the next three photos, it will give you a good idea for what to look for when a chicken is maturing and getting ready to lay eggs.  The Barnevelder above has a small, pink comb and her wattles, below her beak, haven't grown at all. She not laying yet.
Madam above is a little older. Her comb is smallish, but bigger than the Barnevelder's and it's red. This blue Australorpe has just started laying.
And Lulubelle here is about four years old and has been a good layer for a few years. You can see her comb and wattles are fully developed and red. This photo isn't showing the accurate tone of red, it's quite a bright red. When a chicken starts getting sick, often her comb and wattles will be pink instead of red.

Simplefree, when you get new chickens you have to already have everything ready for them. Chooks bond to their territory so it's not wise to give them a temporary home and then move them again. Make sure their permanent home is ready, safe and secure. When you bring new chickens or chicks home they should be separated from the older girls to make sure they aren't bringing in any diseases. They should be placed in their new home for at least a week before they are allowed to roam or mix in with other yard animals or birds. That will allow them to bond with their new place and they'll learn where they come back to every night.

If you're bringing small chicks home, you'll need to provide warmth for them if you're in a cold climate. If you're in a warm area, a small coup out of the weather and wind, and away from the other chickens, will be fine. During the day they'll need enough space to walk around and see the other chooks (through wire) and they'll need a roost at night. They must have clean water and food every day but won't need a nest for a few months. If you want them to eat greens and kitchen scraps, introduce them during that early period and they'll be good eaters all their lives.

You can introduce the chicks to their older sisters when they big enough to cope with the bigger birds - maybe around two or three months of age, depending on their breed. If they're small birds, wait longer. On the day you introduce them to the same living quarters, wait until almost nightfall and in the twilight bring the new girls in. Generally at that time of night, the priority will be to settle for the night and with the fading light they probably won't take much notice. The next morning, be out there early to make sure the little ones have been accepted. There will be a period of establishing the pecking order, there always is, it's natural chook behaviour. You have to allow that to happen and only remove the chicks if there is a blood injury. If that happens, take at least two of them out because chicks need other chicks. If you only have three new chicks, take all of them out. If there are four, take out two and leave two if the remaining two have no injuries and seem to be coping. Keep the chicks separate until the injury has healed and try again. Good luck.


  1. We had a major blizzard in our area right after we put a new addition on our house in '77. We had just converted to an all electric house, but we had a fireplace and a pile of scrap wood from building, so the first couple of days we lived around the fire and cooked in it too - had a few candles so lived pioneer style till the storm blew out.
    There were drifts 15-20 foot high across our roads and fields, no power no phones. We had a welder generator for our drilling business so J. hooked it in to the power lines and we had power!
    Not much - but we could run one freezer till it was froze, then the fridge till it was cold, then the water pump followed by the water heater, then heat one bedroom and back to the freezer again -my job - keeping it all going as J was out hauling water to stranded cattle and helping dig out neighbors. It got to be more work and less fun each day. But we had a great stockpile and never lacked for anything - even managed to rig a clothesline over the drifts!
    Power was finally restored to all 6 weeks later - And we put in a wood stove before the next winter.!-D
    So far we have been through several blizzards, a couple of tornados, and minor flooding, and they've all been more inconvienent then anything else. It pays to be prepared!

  2. Hi Rhonda,
    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. Your girls are beautiful! Our new girls will be day old chicks when we get them. I have everything from the other girls like feeder, water and brooder lamp to keep them warm. I just wasn't sure at what age to let them in with the big girls. I love your advice of been able to see the big girls and adding them at twilight. I also didn't know they bond to their territory. I will bookmark this for in the spring so I can refer back to your advice. Thanks again.

  3. Hi Rhonda,

    I loved the 'early nights' photo!!


  4. These two questions have been on my mind aswell. Out here in the country if the power goes we are usually without it for quite some time... And the north west Tasmanian winds we get usually cut it out a lot. The last bad wind session we got start of spring pulled apart our hay barn and scattered that across the paddocks. I have candles and things and really hadn't thought about getting Ice out of the freezer to put in an esky etc. great tip :). Like you I also have backups. My parents are 2 minutes up the road and my grandparents are the same distance the other way... Usually one of us keeps power thankfully! and I am going to add some more chickens to our flock too soon so that information is very handy :)

  5. Thanks for that informative post Rhonda. I am hoping to get a couple of chooks next year so will keep that info in mind.

  6. I wonder if your water requires electricity to be pumped into the house? Is the pump run by solar as well? Our water was off for a couple of hours on Saturday - right when I was doing some baking! I went to rinse off a spoon... drat! then I went to wash my hands.... In the end we got a bucket of water out of the pool. I admired the way you continued on for months imagining what you would do. I was once without electricity for 7 days after a hurricane and it is surprising how you can manage.

    1. You're right. I had assumed we could rig up one of the tanks to the solar hot water but Hanno says it's impossible. Looks like we'd be having cold showers in the middle of the day to stay clean. Washing up would be a big saucepan on the fire to heat up the water. Still, I could last a month doing all that.

  7. What I admire about this post the most is your attitude Rhonda! I can certainly learn from that. It really can make the difference whether we struggle and complain or make the most of a situation. Although I am making leaps and bounds in a lot of ways this is something that I can afford to work on. Thank you for the inspiration!

  8. We switched out our gas heat stove with a wood burner last year and have a stockpile of wood. Last winter a minor plumbing repair turned 'nightmarish' when our shutoff valve for the house would not completely shut off. Had to dig through snow to find the main shutoff at the street (at night .. no street lights). Going without water for about a week was challenging. Thankfully there was lots of snow outside so we heated it on the woodstove to use for bathing, flushing toilets, etc. Now I keep my plastic jugs that vinegar comes in .. fill them with water and store several under each sink, and even under the house for emergency water. Sometimes you don't know what the emergency will be so it's good to have many options.

    1. Thanks for sharing your wonderful tip about the vinegar bottles, Mrs Mac.

  9. we also live out in the bush and we have lots power many times..a good tip is to fill any plastic bottles with water and keep in freezer if you have enough room, better to keep your freezer filled and it saves power too. and if you need ice to keep esky cool you can use them and when the ice melts you have water to drink...Gosh I could tel you a few stories about having no power ..but like you Rhonda we have solar panels but no good if power goes out...And as we aren't on mains water we rely on rainwater in our tank..but if power goes out we cannot have showers as power is needed to turn pump on to get water flowing...and we have a solar hot water system too.. but cannot use it if power is out...makes life very interesting to say the least on some occasions..

    1. Good tip, Sherrie, thank you. I'm thinking we could plumb our tank into the solar system somehow. I'll have to check with Hanno later because I don't know it it's possible but I don't see why it wouldn't be.

  10. I have two questions? Have you got any hints on how to get pen out of a shirt? Unfortunately my daughter washed and dried the washing before noting that her partner had left a pen in his shirt pocket.
    Second question is chicken related. my son got three chickens for his birthday this December. Best gift ever! One is a year old and the other two are three months old. I am going to read all your posts on chickens! However, my question is how can I stop the chickens chasing our cat? At the moment she runs away, but I am scared one day she may retaliate when they chase her.

    1. Iliska, if the shirt has been dried, the stain has probably set. It will be very difficult removing it now. But … try spraying the stain with hairspray to loosen the ink, let it sit 10 minutes, then rub with glycerine. If that doesn't work, try soaking it in a bucket of hot tap water to which a cap full of generic Napisan (oxy-bleach) has been added. Soak overnight and check in the morning. If that doesn't remove it, nothing will.
      The chickens are displaying natural protective behaviour. You have to keep the cat away from them.

    2. Ink can be dissolved by mentholated spirits. I'd try that first.

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  12. Thank you for your well thought answer to my question! I supposed simple living would make living easier in the event of the loss of electricity. When we lived in a very snow bound area, it was interesting to watch what happened when the power went out for, say, a week. People actually came out of their houses, met their neighbors, pooled resources together, took out their grills and made bonfires to cook over...and shared food! Once the power went on, everyone retreated to their own homes and the street went silent again. People only waved from their vehicles for a few weeks, and then all was forgotten. How sad!

    Sometimes I think we have too many modern conveniences that we totally rely on. When some disaster strikes, I wonder if people will fall apart? Will instinct take over and will they know how to cook over a fire without a tidy little propane tank underneath and an electric starter, wash clothes by hand, make soap, cook anything for that matter? About a month ago there was rumor that the electric grid in the USA was in threat of shutting off for a drill upgrade or something like that. I wondered...if it happened, would it be "survival of the simplest?"

    Thanks again for your response. I have loved your website for years!
    Merry Christmas,

  13. Hi Rhonda,
    This is also a topic that I have been considering especially because where we live can be so easily cut off from the rest of the island.
    Power outages are a frequent occurrence here, although of late it has not been so bad. Because of this my cupboard is well stocked with candles, fluid lighters, matches and kerosene lamps.
    Most houses, especially the older ones have their water tanks on towers (or stands that are above the level of the house) so that the houses are gravity fed.
    Growing up, my parents made use of any used bottles to keep a store of water handy. I do this now myself but I am also lucky to have a river to the back of my property. I also recall my grandparents kept a 4 foot stainless steel container filled with water near their kitchen. Don't recall where they got it but it had a huge flat lid and the water was always cool and clean. As kids we loved to knock on the sides and listen to the sound it made and daydream about jumping in on hot days (an absolute no no of course) =)
    Recently someone came over to fix my dryer and remarked at what a marvelous garden I had, so full of trees, 'bush' and fish. 'Surely you will never starve if anything happens', they said. And I got to thinking that maybe that was the point after all. It started out as a 'well we've got to do something with the yard', then became a 'at least we know what is in our food' and gradually steamrolled into a 'if my grandparents could do it, why can't I' plan to be self-sufficient. I just have to figure out how to get my herd of dachshunds to co-exist with a flock of chickens and I will be all set =)
    I have to admit a great deal is owed to attitude. Whilst my dryer was down, I just pulled out any long nylon I could find, strung it between the trees, hung up the clothes and kept an eye on the sky. My kids love to walk between the sun warmed sheets and we do it every day when we are holidaying by the beach so why the hell not. It is a pity I don't do it more often actually, and maybe this should be my new year's resolution, but sometimes the weather turns so frequently at certain times of the year that I often take the easier route and chuck it in the dryer.
    As to cooking, the trees provide lots of firewood. The coconut tree supplies fruit year through and I keep the outer husks and dry them as they make exceptional coals. Being an islander means cooking on a grill or what we locally call a coalpot is not uncommon. Mud ovens (something akin to a cob oven) were used long ago and my husband and I have been plotting to build one ourselves.
    We also keep a supply of gasoline handy because the workers of our local oil company are at one time or another on strike.
    I keep a stockpile of foodstuff because it is more convenient and because we are trained to do so by mother who calls to make sure we have emergency supplies every time she sees a storm approaching the islands =)
    Thankfully we have not been hit by a hurricane (our sister island Tobago is more in their path) for many years as they tend to bear North just as it seems that they are on our doorstep. There is even a saying in Trinidad that 'God must be a Trinidadian' because of how we always just manage to be spared. Even so, the local tv stations are always advising on how to be disaster prepared, not just because one day we may not be so lucky but also because some areas are quite prone to flooding.
    Of course, it does help that we take the girls camping (even if it is sometimes in our back yard) or spend time frequently at the little beach house 'in the country' where things are much more basic as this keeps us all grounded and more prepared mentally and physically for roughing it if the need arises.

    Trinidad & Tobago

  14. Thank you Rhonda for some excellent tips.

  15. Great tips. I used to practice simple living as a child. When it was pouring rain and other kids were huddled in front of the tv inside, my siblings and I were building shelters in the yard and collecting bread and water from mum inside to be our rations. This reminds me that I really must update our stockpile.



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