Taking Winter by Storm - Part IV (house stuff)

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of "Taking Winter by Storm"!  Missed some of this series?  Get caught up on parts one, two, and three.  Today, we'll focus on how to get your house ready for winter weather.  There will be some ideas that are free, some that require investment, and some that can be homemade/purchased depending on how much time you have on your hands.

For full disclosure, some of the product links are to Amazon, so if you order via them I would get a teeny tiny percentage.  But, I always encourage people to check out freecycle or Goodwill prior to purchasing anything!  Shall we get started?

::Outside of the home::
To prevent pipes from freezing, make sure you have insulation domes over your faucets.  I found them at Lowes for $1.50 each; a small investment that can prevent a whole boatload of damage (burst pipes, flooding, etc.)

Do a thorough walk around the exterior of your home to evaluate for any cracks, holes, or other repairs that should be completed prior to the weather getting awful.  Remember, prevention is much cheaper than repairing things after the shit has hit the fan.

If you have walkways or driveways that get icy and/or snowy, make sure you have a snow shovel.  I can't tell you how hard it is to find a snow shovel in the stores when you actually need one.  I think I bought our current one in April.  Some people use ice melt, but we rarely get weather that is severe enough to resort to that.  When possible, I try to avoid products that are chemically based, but I can appreciate the results that things like ice melt products produce!

Clear leaves and debris away from storm drains and ditches.  Living in the Seattle area, we always get flooding during the winter because of clogged storm drains!

If you have animals, make sure that you're able to care for their needs in various weather conditions.  We don't have animals - my husband's allergies actually qualify him to live in a bubble - so I trust you'll understand what yours need better than I could...

::Inside of the home::
During our Thanksgiving storm last year, a coworker of mine nearly crashed her car multiple times in an urgent attempt to get to the store.  What was so important that she risked life and limb to leave her house despite the fact that all official channels were telling us to stay put?

She ran out of toilet paper

Yes, yes, she could have used other things, but the moral of the story is to be stocked up on items that you need/use on a daily basis.  It was a good lesson for me, and something I now am pretty stringent on.  Whenever Costco has their $2 coupon for Charmin, I purchase the limit and store them in our bathroom closet.  Troy is only home every three days, and yet he uses more toilet paper than anyone I know.  His mom is convinced he eats it.  Part of the issue is that he'll pull off like 20 sheets just to blow his nose when he isn't using paper towels ("babe you don't even know the power of my nose.  Stop making fun of me!").  The joke in his family is that his parents were finally able to retire when he moved out because they didn't have to buy toilet paper anymore.

Charmin you say Sarah?  I thought you hippies only liked recycled paper products, or you know, leaves and stuff.  Shove it.  After birthing a child with a 99th percentile head and no pain meds, my lady parts and I appreciate some pillowy softness.

Anyhoo, handy things to have in-stock around the house are medications that your family takes, formula for little kiddos if you don't breastfeed, food (doy), candles, lanterns, and matches.  Something that took me over a year to realize is that if the power went out, we couldn't wash Jack's cloth diapers (well we could I guess, but um, no).  So, when he was still in diapers, I kept a pack of paper diapers handy.  We did have to use them once, and they were great to have around.  I'm not sure Jack felt the same though, "momma, these diapers are swatching my balls".  Ahem.  Charmed I'm sure.

We have a good supply of candles on hand (hello Goodwill), and we also have a battery operated lantern (gift from my parents), those flameless candy thingies for when Jack is awake (I've seen them recently at Costco), and a hand cranked (or solar powered) weather/emergency radio with flashlight and cell charger.  To date, the flashlight has come in extremely handy only in lighting up Jack's freezer box fort.  We also have oodles of flashlights and batteries that we have collected over the years.

::Staying warm::
We have a few options for heating our place when the power goes out.  None are going to make us super cozy, but all will keep us comfortable enough.  Assuming of course that Troy doesn't feel the need to just walk around in his underwear ("what babe, it's our house.  We should be able to be warm and free.  Stop throwing pants and a sweater at me and turning down the heat!")  Sigh.
Here Jack demonstrates excellent winter gear that is practical outside and inside in a pinch. 
(Anne, recognize all of Aidan and Dylan's old winter gear?  It came in so handy! Thanks!)
We have a kerosene heater that we got for free.  We have this one:pats self on the back for writing a post on how to be prepared in an emergency:

We have lots of blankets, quilts, and comforters as well for bundling up.  Add in gloves, scarves, hats, and socks, and we can keep pretty warm just layered up.

Our house is a very open floor plan with the first floor being wide open save the two bedrooms.  So, the first thing we'd plan to do is get small.  By getting small, I mean reducing the space we're trying to heat.  We have some spare blackout/lined/energy efficient thermal curtains that we will nail up to a support beam in our hallway.  That will leave us 2 bathrooms, and 2 bedrooms to try to heat instead of the living room, dining room, and kitchen (which by the way sits over the uninsulated garage).

We have an ample supply of wood for this season assuming that we stop building fires every Friday for having pizza picnics (I limit it to 2 pieces of wood).  And yet, we didn't pay a penny for the wood.  We got some from Troy's parent's (they have at least 1 tree come down per winter due to wind), a bunch from my sister who cut down some trees on their property and don't have a wood burning fireplace, and some from Troy's cousin and her husband.

Each year for Christmas, the married couples in Troy's family draw names for gifts.  His cousin and her husband drew us.  At some point this summer, her husband lost his job.  When she texted me asking what we wanted for Christmas, I knew that I didn't want them to spend any money on us.  My text back was "if you still have any wood leftover from all the trees you guys cut down last year, we'll take some".  They had boatloads still!  So, more free wood, and they didn't have to spend any precious budget dollars on some material gift.

Our fireplace is pretty big and open and it has the potential to suck out more heat than it is is providing.  If we're ever able to purchase this house, the #1 project on my list is to convert it to a wood stove.

In closing, there is a lot you can do to make sure you house and family are ready for many different winter conditions this year.  Some cost some money, some are free, and some are optional of course.  Keep your food and water supply stocked, keep warm clothes on hand, get some candles, and you should be safe for at least a few days.

Assuming of course you have enough toilet paper on hand.