Batten Down the Hatches

They’re calling it the perfect storm. A northern-bound hurricane working its way up the coast, combining forces with a major winter storm headed eastbound from the west. How prepared are you? Join the Mountain Farmgirl as she starts to … “Batten Down the Hatches”…

Bound to hit the most populated corridor on the eastern seaboard by Halloween, Hurricane Sandy has been unofficially nicknamed “Frankenstorm”, and it could have devastating effects. History often repeats itself, and this time last year a ghoulish pre-winter storm hit that area of New York State where I hail from, and where my mother still lives.  The 6” of snow she received last year took down trees, limbs and wires that resulted in a power outage for 5 days.  Many others from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts had it even worse than she.  There are predictions that estimate $1 BILLION worth of damage may be in store for those of us in the eastern US and New England in the coming week. But whether “tricks” or “treats” are in store for us this Halloween, we have WORK to do, gals, to get ready for whatever may be coming our way, and  there’s no time to lose.

As women, the immediate care and protection of those around us usually falls on our shoulders. And as that special breed of women, FARMGIRLS, we don’t just sit around waiting for other people or government agencies to look out for our families, our needs or our personal interests, do we?! We just naturally jump in with both feet and take control for ourselves and our neighbors. But what exactly does that entail? And how do we get prepared for a natural disaster such as this potentially dangerous storm?

Obviously, that will vary from one household to another, as we all live in different situations. For example, since moving to NH, I feel more vulnerable now than I did on my homestead back in New York. There, we’d hardly even know there was a power outage problem, let alone be inconvenienced by it. We had our own water supply, and if it failed, we lived on a very clean lake. We heated and cooked with wood.  My pantry could sustain us for months on end, if need be.  Candles and kerosene lamps would light the way when darkness fell; we had a composting toilet as well as an outhouse, in addition to the modern-type of flush toilets. Options … that’s what it’s all about!


My future holds such security once again, but at the moment, it’s another story.  Here in NH, at least for the present, I live in a small apartment in our inn. With the exception of one beautiful stone fireplace in our great room, our heat is totally dependent upon the power being on. Our water comes from the town supply; my kitchen stove is electric. Aargh …  Let me tell you, self-sufficiency is an infinitely better feeling. Yet with a little foresight, we can all get prepared to weather through the toughest of storms, no matter where or how we live… and many of us will be putting our skills to the test this week.


Obviously, we will need to start with the basics: Food, Clothing, Shelter… and then fine tune from there.  So let’s get started, shall we? Here’s how I am preparing today:


We’ll first need to get some food supplies and water stocked up in case we can’t leave our homes for a week or so. Of course, everybody else and their farmgirl sisters will be doing the same thing, and grocery stores are going to be a madhouse, not to mention being in short supply of the necessities we will need. (Did you ever really take notice of the huge selection of items at a grocery store?  The supplies seem vast and inexhaustible, don’t they? Yet I read once somewhere that there is really only a THREE DAY supply of food on the shelves for the surrounding community at any one time … and that is under normal circumstances.  This is where previous planning obviously comes in handy, and if you are ill prepared for this storm, let it be a lesson to you before the next one comes to stock up!! (A week may seem like a long time to prepare for, but roads and bridges could get washed out and trees could fall across roadways. These things happened to us last year when Irene blew through. Better safe than sorry).

Let’s start with water first.  You should have several gallons in reserve per person. Buy gallon jugs, or fill all your pots and containers with water before the power goes off. Also, fill the bathtub or some 5-gallon pails with water, which will be used for flushing the toilets. Don’t flush after every use; conserve. You can manually pour water right into the toilet bowl to flush, or you can fill the tank manually with a bucket. If you have a supply of water, such as a pond, the ocean, a river, etc. use that water to flush your toilet with, and save the bottled water for drinking and cooking only. If you run out of bottled or tap water for drinking, you can purify it using special tablets; run it through a filter, or melt down snow in winter. You’ll want to lay in about 1 gallon of potable water per person per day.

You’ll want to stock a plentiful supply of food, but think first about how you will be preparing it. If you have a wood cook stove or a gas oven, you’ll be in like Flynn, and hardly notice any inconvenience, as life will go on as normal (… well, almost!). But if you have an electric stove or microwave, they won’t be of any use during a power failure. Do you have a working fireplace? A gas grill or camping stove? You can press them into service for all sorts of cooking needs. (Use them outdoors, however). I like to boil water before the power goes out and fill all my thermos containers.  This is very useful for making soup, tea, instant oatmeal … many different things that will warm your tummies if the heat is off for any length of time.

Refrigerators and freezers won’t be working, so you’ll want to open them as little as possible, but use food from them in case the power is off for an extended period. For example, this is a great time to have a BBQ on your gas grill! You can even boil water on it in a pinch, as well as in a fire pit that you might use for campfires.
Have a lot of snack foods on hand, such as things that won’t spoil like crackers, dried fruits and nuts, hearty cereals like homemade granola, trail mix, etc. For the last few weeks my son and I have been drying fruits in our dehydrator, which are delicious high energy foods and would make a great snack. Have some fresh fruit available as well.

Depending on where you live, how close you are to the storm track, and how many trees are near your house, you may need to secure your windows.  My sister has lived in the state of Florida for 35 years – hurricane country – and I’ve observed from afar ‘the drill’, which includes everything from taping windows to screwing on plywood over the glass to protect windows from flying debris that could smash them to bits. Have plenty of blankets, candles, matches, and a first aid kit on hand. A battery-operated or solar-powered radio will be very important to keep abreast of the weather forecast and any emergency announcements in your local area.  Before the storm hits, fill your cars with gas, because if you need to evacuate, you’ll want to have a full tank. Unless gas stations  have generators, many  pumps will not work when the power goes out.  If the power remains on, however, there will be long lines, and perhaps even gas shortages. Plan ahead!


A good website to peruse on the subject of family preparedness is There is a lot of good information here which you can put into practical use, if not for this storm, then for the next!
As I write this, the rains have started and the wind is picking up. Gusts of 60 mph are predicted, and we may very well lose our power. Because of that, I am going to post this now, and add more information and pictures to it if I have an internet connection and am able. Please let me know how you fared during this critical storm. What was it like where you live?  What special arrangements or preparations did you make? How did you fare? Do you have any advice or suggestions for your fellow farmgirl sisters to help  prepare for the next natural disaster?
Until next time,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings (and prayers of safety for all) from Cathi,
The Mountain Farmgirl


By: Adrienne
On: 10/29/2012 12:18:38
All of you in the path of Frankenstorm are in my prayers. I hope everyone is as prepared as you are. My friend moved from a basement apartment in Washington, DC the beginning of October so he is very lucky to be in California and staying in touch with friends in the area.
By: Noreen Pelchat
On: 10/29/2012 12:41:16
We have been getting ready here in Vermont! The wood is in for the wood stove. We froze bottles of water to help keep the freezers cold and fridge cold. I put a large water bottle filled at each sink to brush teeth . Each sink also got a bottle of sanitizer for each sink. Fortunately we have a stream to get water to flush with. The lanterns are ready! We often loose power here. Good luck everyone and stay safe!!
By: drMolly
On: 10/29/2012 12:48:34
Good Luck to you - all of you out there. Keep safe.
By: Diana Henretty
On: 10/29/2012 13:36:27
Here in the Ozarks we stayed prepared for anything that comes our way.
After the 2007 ice storm, we learned to monthly buy supplies to put in our
little "ice storm pantry", which is an old record player cabinet. We learned
to keep solar batteries charged, is as important as purchasing bottles of
antibiotics for the pets from the local feed store, just in case we cannot
get out on our side of the mountain due to icy roads or being snowed in.
Making a list of supplies and taping on the side of the cabinet really helps too.
Our prayers are with you all for your safety, guidance and wisdom, and protection! Love from the Ozarks, Diana, Noel, Mo.
By: bonnie ellis
On: 10/29/2012 13:46:17
Cathi: Thanks for this informative blog. I sure am praying for everyone who will be affected by the storm. I wish I had a wood stove. But we do have a fire place. Thanks again, Bonnie
By: Marlene
On: 10/29/2012 14:52:55
Wishing you safety and warmth.
By: Marcia
On: 10/29/2012 16:13:01

Since I am reading this on October 29, and there are no posts I am concerned for all. Having lived in Florida for a good portion of my life enduring quite a few hurricanes I am keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers. Even participated in helping after hurricane Andrew when my husband was deployed with the Army. Will be looking for your next blog with heartfelt thanks.


By: di jackson
On: 10/29/2012 20:05:12
oh my gosh, i am now watching the weather news and it looks like you are getting hit very hard...i am so glad you are well prepared
By: Debbie
On: 10/30/2012 13:32:50
Hi Cathi!
A good preparation plan indeed! Because our cottage is off-grid ( solar powered, gas for the stove and on it's own well ) we figured we could always stay there if the power was out for too long here on the mainland... The only issue being if the road was washed out ( which it turns out is was NOT ).
We prepared for the worst and luckily for us, it wasn't that bad. But,I felt like I did when I was pregnant just before I gave birth prior to the storm. I was cleaning, cooking and in general being nervous about the arrival of Sandy! We were fortunate and our thoughts and prayers are with those less so today...
How did my mountain farmgirl sister fare?
Farmgirl hugs!
By: Roxanne
On: 10/30/2012 15:42:47
Thank you for this, I needed to be comforted and feel empowered ready to do what needs to be done.

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir