What I Did This Week To Prep

Sarah and I are having a quiet Christmas. The kids are celebrating with their mom (we alternate holidays) and Sarah’s parents are travelling, so it’s just the two of us. Since it’s the first Christmas with just the two of us, we decided to start some new family traditions. One was, instead of buying a pre-cut tree (that has to be hauled away afterward – they’re not even good for composting), or an artificial tree (that has to be stored using valuable storage space); we chose a live Christmas tree. Our plan, after the holidays, is to transplant it into a whiskey barrel and set it in a good spot in the yard. Then each year we’ll get another tree and place them together. Until–this is the cool part–we finally get our homestead, then we’ll move all the trees there and plant them permanently so we’ll have our own family Christmas tree forest. We’ll still continue to add a new one each year, so we’ll have from the oldest (this year’s) to the newest, each representing a Christmas together. We got a Blue Spruce. It was my idea, I grew up in Colorado and the Blue Spruce is Colorado’s state tree, and Sarah happily supported my decision. The tree is about five foot tall, we decorated it simplistically — and it looks beautiful.

I had a couple of minor opportunities to use our preps this last week. No big deal, but it did make me realized how nice and safe it feels to be prepared. The first one, we were up in Anacortes and had just finished watching Sarah’s mom, Libby, in a local production of Over the River and Through The Woods (she was great!). When we finally got out to the parking lot, most of the cars were gone, and an older man timidly approached me and asked if I had jumper cables because they had left the lights on in their van and it wouldn’t start. Without hesitation I grabbed the cables and, with Sarah’s help, quickly got him going again. Why is this a prepper topic? Because when we added a BOB* to Sarah’s car we also added some emergency car items, including the cables. We purchased heavier gauge wires, figuring if we needed them we wanted to be sure they’d work. Interesting to note, we were the only car around that had jumper cables (he had been asking around for a while and was almost ready to call a tow truck).

The second time was when someone (not naming names, but it wasn’t Sarah or I) let the Jeep run out of gas (coincidentally and luckily it was in the garage). We couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t start, until I checked the gas gauge… Normally I don’t let any of our vehicles get below a quarter tank (most of the time I fill up at about half tank), so I was surprised it had gotten so low. Fortunately we had plenty of gasoline right there available. I grabbed a 5-gallon can full of gasoline and the super siphon (those things are great, if you store gas you need one) and about three minutes later the Jeep fired right up. Again nothing we couldn’t have overcome with a trip to the gas station, but it was nice to be prepared.

What did you do?

(Monday: The Family You Choose)

*For a complete list of abbreviations/acronyms, and other information, open the above ‘Check Here…’ page tab.

The Hassles of Storing Gasoline

To become more self-reliant we try to determine what ‘needed’ items to store; one to think about is fuel. Though there are several types of fuel preppers store: gasoline, propane, diesel, and kerosene; gasoline is the hardest to store long-term and, yet, is the most commonly used.

My main reason for storing gasoline is for use in our (gasoline) generator during a power failure. When people believe that disaster is looming–recently during Hurricane Irene, for example–they rush out and buy generators. But how many of them think to store fuel to run those generators? Our Generac 5000 generator has a five gallon fuel tank, it will run approximately five to seven hours on a tank of gasoline. My plan is to use our battery bank (four AGM deep cycle batteries) until depleted, then use the generator to recharge the batteries while still maintaining power to needed appliances. To ensure enough energy to last most power outages we need to store a reasonable amount of gasoline. But couldn’t we just drive to the gas station and get more gasoline? Maybe, but does the gas station have power?

We also want to store gasoline for our vehicles if we had to evacuate; gasoline may either be unavailable (gas station closed because of a power outage) or there may be excessively long lines to get it. We’d also like to have enough gasoline to take with us: to ensure we can reach our BOL, and to use there if power and/or gasoline aren’t available at our destination.

As we’re discussing storage it has to be stressed that gasoline is very flammable and must be stored in an appropriate container in a safe place. It is also relatively heavy–approximately 6.1 pounds per gallon–but at about 30 pounds for five gallons it can still be conveniently handled.

It’s hard to find definitive information about how long gasoline can be stored before it goes bad. But what does ‘bad’ even mean? Gasoline is a refined petroleum-derived chemical which–over time, and compounded by improper storing and temperatures–can break down by:

  • evaporation causing it to lose it’s volatile components (necessary for igniting)
  • drawing in water vapor that can cause separation – where water, since it’s heavier, settles to the bottom of the tank
  • oxidation causing it to become sludgy which can build up inside of small parts *

There are other unknowns, beginning with how old was the gasoline when you bought it (was it fresh from the refinery or already a month old?). What temperatures has it been exposed to and for how long? Was it properly stored by keeping it tightly covered, clean, dry, and cool? So, as a rule of thumb, if you plan to store your gasoline for more than a couple of months you should add a gasoline stabilizer.

The most common brand of stabilizer is Sta-Bil Gas Stabilizer. According to Sta-Bil’s website, using their product will keep fuel fresh for 12 months; you can double the dosage and fuel will remain fresh for 24 months. It’s added at a ratio of one ounce of Stabilizer to 2 1/2 gallons of gasoline. A 32-ounces bottle costs about $12, so it’s roughly $0.40 an ounce, which is only $0.80 for each 5-gallon gasoline can you store. If you store 30 gallons (check with local ordinances on amount you can legally store) it’d cost you less than $5.00 per year.

I add three ounces of Stabilizer (I want an extra buffer) to each 5-gallon container of gasoline (including the generator); we rotate the gasoline every 12 months (staggered so we rotate 1/2 every six months). When it’s time to rotate, we just add five gallons into each vehicles half-full tank. We’ve found that pouring gas through the pour spout can get heavy and messy. So instead of pouring we use a Super Syphon; it self-primes, it’s easy to use, and it’s affordable. It takes about three minutes to syphon a 5-gallon can.

Plan ahead. If you invest in a generator, you need to have fuel for it. Remember that generator is for an emergency situation; don’t depend on a one that has old, or not enough, gasoline.

(Wednesday: Self-Reliant vs Self-Sufficient)

* Minnesota’s Dept. of Agriculture article Storing Gasoline, has good information on the specific storage problems of weathering, moisture, and oxidation