How to Prepare Your Homestead for Wildfire

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I’ve never, ever thought about fire as much as I have this year…

I know that some of you in other parts of the country are dealing with too much moisture and cool temps. But, we are the exact opposite here in our corner of Wyoming.

We’ve had various wildfire raging all over the parts of Wyoming and Colorado that are somewhat close to where we live. As I type, there is a out-of-control wildfire burning in the areas north of us. Last I heard, it was over 90,000 acres with little containment. That particular fire isn’t threatening our homestead at all, but the smoke blew in yesterday and turned the sky snow-white as it blocked out the sun. I could barely see the landmarks less than a mile away from our house…

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Although in the past, I’ve complained about the serious lack of trees out here on the prairie, this year I am thankful. Generally, grassfires are somewhat easier to estinguish than the fires in timber. However, with the epic drought conditions we’ve been suffering from this year, that doesn’t mean our property still isn’t at risk from fire.

All it would simply take someone tossing a cigarette out the window on the road bordering the backside of our property, and our pasture could be on fire in minutes…

Obviously, there is a lot to think about when it comes to preparing or evacuating in the case of a fire.

I spent some time the other night talking with my husband about our fire preparedness plans. He is a volunteer fire fighter and shared some great ideas that I thought some of you might find useful as well.

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Ultimately, God is in control of well-being of my homestead, and I won’t lay awake worrying about it since He know what will and will not happen. However, we will be taking a few extra precautions this year to make our home and structures more defendable in the instance that a fire visits our land.

(Please note- this is not meant to be a comprehensive list. I am not a fire science expert. However, I hope it will get you thinking towards prepardness, as that is the most important first step.)

Preparing for a Possible Fire:

  • Clean up piles of trash or brush piles. If fire fighters are trying to keep the fire from reaching your home, you want to have as little fuel for the fire laying around as possible.
  • Cut down dead trees and shrubs.

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  • Keep your grass and pastures short. We have several large areas of unfenced grass surrounding our house and barn. Because they are not grazed, it’s easy for the grass in those areas to become quite tall. My husband spends a considerable amount of time on the tractor mowing each year to make sure those areas would provide as little fuel as possible for a prairie fire.
  • Think about natural barriers. Things like green grass, bare dirt, roads, or rock are all helpful natural fire barriers. Obviously, it depends on your homestead as to which will work best for you. The goal is to slow down an approaching fire as much as possible.

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  • If you are building or remodeling a structure, take note of non-combustible building materials. Choosing safe shingles and siding is something to consider if you live in a dry area. This website has some excellent info regarding building materials, location, and plans.
  • Have heavy drapes or curtains on your windows that you can close in the event of an approaching fire.

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  • Have plenty of hoses and keep them readily available during fire season.
  • Consider planting a “fire mix” type of grass seed. This is new to me, but this page from Colorado State has tables and info about different mixes of grass seed that are more fire resistant than others.
  • Store firewood or hay stacks away from buildings.

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  • Make sure your animals are clearly identified. Use ear tags or brands to mark your animals in case you must cut fences to free them in a hurry.
  • Talk to neighbors to find out who might have a truck with water pumping capabilites. If I were ever to spot a fire close to us, I would first call 911, and then immediately call the neighbor down the road who has a small fire truck. I’m betting he could probably be here quicker than anyone else.
  • Have a plan of where you can take your family and your animals in the event of an evacuation.

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  • If a fire is in the area, but you aren’t sure if it will be an issue for you or not, have your truck and trailer hooked up and ready to go in case you need to transport animals in a hurry.
  • Store important papers such as social security cards, birth certificates, or animal registration papers in a fire-proof safe. Or, have them in a bag that you can easily grab in a hurry.
  • Check out this website from the Colorado State University for more ideas and checklists.

Hopefully, if you take these steps in preparing your homestead for fire and they will be completely unnecessary. But, even so, it never hurts to be prepared.

Like I mentioned above, this isn’t a comprehensive list- just some of the things I’ve been thinking of this year.

Although winter is a ways off, I’m already praying that we get a lot of snow this year to help make up our severe moisture deficient… Hopefully I’ll need the Homesteader’s Blizzard Checklist come January!

Do you have any other tips you can share in the comments?

Don’t forget to pray for the wildfires raging in many parts of the USA. And while you’re at it, I’d love it if you would pray for some rain to be sent my way as well. :)

(Thanks to faithful reader Denise for suggesting this post!)

This post was shared at: Simple Lives Thursday, Frugally Sustainable, Your Green Resource

 

Pondering Alternative Water Sources

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Once again, my husband and I have felt an increased urgency to be better prepared.

Though things like food (stored in our frugal buckets, of course!) and a milk cow are important, we have both been shying away from addressing the real elephant in our homestead preparedness:

WATER.

Our little part of Wyoming can be dry. Really dry. We are still coming out of a drought, and though we usually get some good moisture in the spring, sometimes we can go weeks without a drop of rain in the late summer/fall.

If we were ever to be without power for a length of time, our biggest downfall would be there is no way to run our electric well. (Thankfully, we DO have our own well. That’s a start.)

Though we might be able to store enough water for ourselves for a little while, our animals would be in trouble. If you are expecting to have chickens, dairy animals, and a garden to help sustain you during a power outage, then they need water, and lots of it.

A few of the ideas we’ve pondered so far:

1. Storing water in 55 gallon drums. Like I mentioned above, this would work for us, but not our critters. Plus, you then have the issue of keeping it fresh, etc. Perhaps a partial solution, but not a full one.

2. Solar/Wind Powered Electrical Systems. While we would still LOVE to do this, there is no way we could afford it right now. As we work on our preparedness, we like to implement things that we can use even in our every-day life, not just during an emergency. A small wind turbine is still a possibility, since hubby is employed in the wind industry, and can pretty much fix/troubleshoot/take apart any turbine that has ever been made. But as a immediate fix? Not so much.

3. Rainwater Collection. I am still intrigued by this idea, as we have a lot of square footage of roof area. However, in order to implement this, we would need to install gutters on our house, shop, and barn, as well as rig up some kind of storage system or cistern. I worry that with the minimal amounts of rainfall in our area, that all this work might still be in vain.

4. Hand powered pump jack. This is the most promising option for us so far. We have looked at installing a back-up hand powered pump. Ideally, we would need one that connects into our current system, so we could still use the electric pump as long as we had power. The biggest issue here? Price.

5. Getting Creative. As we weighed our options, we tried to think outside and box and get a little creative. We then remembered that we have an extra well on our property. It is actually the original homestead well, drilled in 1910. It has an old, broken hand pump attached to it and sits nestled in the lilac bush. Although we’ve looked at it a bit in the past, we’ve never really considered it, until now.

In progress...

Last week, on one of our beautiful spring evenings, we fired up the tractor and hubby went to work. It’s not easy taking apart something that has been sitting unattended to for decades! We were able to lift the pump jack off with the tractor and determine that there IS water at the bottom!

The next steps involve pulling up 200 feet of pipe and seeing if/how we can fix the pump at the bottom.

The plan is to get it running again and hopefully be able to use it as a full functioning pump jack, in addition to our electric one.

My imagination ran wild as we were dismantling the well. It made me so excited to think that we were reviving an actual piece of old time homesteading history and making it usable again.

Isn’t it cool how things come full circle?

The old pump jack

I bet the original homesteader never imagined that there would be 2 young adults, 100 years later, in an age of amazing technology, trying to breath life into his ancient project.

We are still a long ways off, and many things would have to happen for this to work, but I will keep you posted on our progress!

What ideas/plans do YOU have for alternative waters sources or back-up? I would LOVE to hear your ideas!

I shared this post at the Homestead Revival Preparedness Challenge #10

We Got a Milk Cow!

Last time I went to the grocery store, I got angry.

Though our real food transformation has greatly decreased the amount of food I purchase at a conventional grocery store, there are still some items for which I don’t have local or homemade sources.

Last shopping trip I went to grab a package of butter and was shocked to see that the prices had risen nearly a dollar since last month. Butter and cheese are 2 things that we use a lot of, and I don’t quite have the capabilities to make them at home yet.

My irritation in the store that day got me to thinking about how much I really dislike being a “consumer.” I’ve become spoiled on the things we are able to produce ourselves (eggs, goat milk, vegetables, etc) and I get a bad attitude when I feel like I have to be dependant on a store to provide me with necessities. We just assume that the food will always be there and will always be the same price, but that is not a guarantee.

Then my thoughts went even further… What would happen if the price of food really skyrocketed or there become a shortage? What then? I can tell you one thing, I don’t want to be the one standing in line for a government handout of margarine (or anything else for that matter)!

So what was my solution to the problem? Clip coupons? Buy in bulk? Start collecting newspaper ad inserts?

Well, I suppose all of those ideas would have been feasible, but instead we decided to go buy one of these:

Meet Oakley, a Brown Swiss/Guernsey heifer. Don’t worry, I still love my goats, but my husband and I decided we needed a larger quantity of milk as well as CREAM. She’s due to calve in July, so I have several months to get her gentle and prepare for this new venture.

Yes, it most definitely was an investment. But, not only will she benefit our grocery budget right now, she also makes us more self-sufficient in the event of crazy food prices or a disaster liked we discussed last week. Once we start milking her, I plan to make all of our cheese, butter, yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, and buttermilk at home. Plus, we can feed the excess milk or whey to the other animals we have, further reducing our feed bill.

So, even though this preparedness step doesn’t exactly fit into a 5 gallon bucket, I believe it’s a important part of our family being prepared.

And also because, dang it, nothing is going to come between me and my butter.

A Frugal Source for Food Grade Buckets

For the last year or so, my husband and I have felt an increased sense of urgency to be prepared for whatever the future may throw at us. Whether a blizzard knocks out our power for a few days, or we experience a major natural or man-made disaster, we have decided that we want to be the ones who are able to help others, instead of needing help ourselves.

I know of many other folks who are feeling this exact same way. I can’t help but think that it’s not a coincidence… Perhaps God is giving all us a bit of warning. Amy, from Homestead Revival, has really inspired me this week to step up our preparedness.

After watching the earthquake drama unfold in Japan, I have been hit with the realization that it is entirely possible for something like that to happen to us in North America. Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not laying awake at night worrying, nor am I paralyzed by fear. But, I do believe we need to have a calm, confident sense of urgency in having a plan for if/when disaster strikes.

Some of the very first steps in prepardness simply involve thinking. My husband and I have started talking more about these topics and thinking through how we would stay warm,  have water, or put food on the table if we were to be without electricity for an extended period of time.

We have some food storage, but not nearly enough. So, after watching the earthquake coverage, I’ve been inspired this week to really work on increasing our supplies. I picked up 50 more pounds of dry beans, 25 pounds of lentils, as well as some more canned goods this week.

Obviously, the biggest issue in stocking up on food is how to keep it dry, fresh, and bug-free. Many people use food grade, 5 gallon buckets to store grains and legumes. There are many place to purchase these buckets online, but I wanted to share a frugal tip with you today, as a part of Homestead Revival’s Preparedness Challenge #1:

Check with your local bakeries and grocery stores and ask them if you can have their empty icing buckets. Sometimes, even donut shops have them.

I am able to purchase rinsed out frosting buckets from our local Albertsons for $1 each. I’ve been able to obtain both 3 and 5 gallon sizes. I bring them home, give them a thorough washing, outfit some of them with Gamma Seal lids (those are the orange and black lids in the photos), and they are ready to go!

Another place to check would be various restaurants. Some establishments have policies stating that all buckets must be thrown away (which is dumb, if you ask me), but many places are more than happy to give their buckets away or pass them along for a small price. It never hurts to ask!

So this week, I’ve picked up two loads of buckets and have them washed and ready to fill. It’s a small step, but an important, and frugal one, towards being more prepared.

Look for more upcoming posts about preparedness and food storage. It’s time to get serious!  And be sure to head over to Homestead Revival to check out the Preparedness Challenge.