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Happy Monday, friends! Regular readers of Three Thrifty Guys will know that there is occasional talk here about the importance of preparedness and self-sufficiency. My family has, gradually over the last five years, felt more and more of a need to start learning how to be more self-sufficient. We moved to a hobby farm a year and a half ago, have slowly been expanding our garden with the goal of making it big enough to provide our family’s veggies for the entire year, and are learning the art of chopping and stacking wood for the wood-burning stove we’ll install this year.
At times, our work seems somewhat pointless, especially when we consider that it took us several hours to can 12 jars of salsa, knowing that to buy 12 jars of salsa would’ve taken 45 minutes including travel.
But this past weekend, we learned a real lesson on the dangers of depending completely on others for any aspect of your needs. Where we live, our heat, stove and hot water run off of propane gas. We’re still learning the ins and outs of gauging how much propane we use, and suffice to say, underestimating has cost us some extra cash. Toward the end of December, we started to get low in our propane tanks again, so I called the propane company to schedule a delivery. They generally run 10 days or so out, so I knew we’d be waiting at least a week for our delivery, which was fine.
Then the major cold snap hit our area in the Midwest – again. Several straight days of sub-zero temps drained our tanks faster than we had planned, and we didn’t know whether or not we’d make it until our Monday delivery.
I called the propane company on the Saturday before our scheduled Monday delivery, and waited on hold for two hours only to be told that it wasn’t likely that we’d get our propane any earlier, even if we did pay the $200 “next day delivery charge”. The law of supply and demand had us right where it wanted us, didn’t it!
After conversing with the sweet gal at the propane company, she gave me some valuable tips on minimizing our propane use until Monday came around. At the time of my call to her, we were down to 7% left in our tank, or roughly 35 gallons, so this was not good. We turned down the temp on the hot water heater, shut off the heater in the garage, started washing dishes by hand instead of with the dishwasher, imposed a strict “no baths or showers” rule, and committed to cooking everything in the microwave or crockpot, hoping we’d make it until Monday.
Monday came, and I felt relief as I watched the driver pull up and fill up our propane tank for the greenhouse. I eagerly anticipated watching him then pull over to the house tank, but instead, he drove down our driveway and left!! What???? I ran out to check and see if perhaps he’d filled the house tank first and I just didn’t see him, but it was now down to 4-5%. I then ran into the house and called the propane company immediately to tell them what had happened. They said they’d call the driver and get him back here. 45 minutes later I got the call, only to be told that he was already gone, so, tough bounce, basically, they’d be back in the area on Wednesday.
After much begging, pleading and insisting that I wanted what I was promised, and many calls between us, the scheduler, and the driver, they compromised and said they’d come Tuesday morning. They came, and we were once again able to do basic things like shower and cook on our stove, but the experience really reminded me that it’s never good to be at the mercy of somebody else when it comes to survival. We are lucky that, in our house, we’ve got back up electric heat, which is what allowed our family to stay warm while running on propane fumes, but if the electric had gone out, we’d have been stuck with no other options.
Yes, you could say, if we would’ve filled up earlier, we would’ve been fine. But the take-away from this is that we don’t always know when some event is going to come and hinder our ability to use the services we depend on for our basic needs.
It doesn’t take a major war, takeover of your country, or major natural disaster to leave people without necessities real quick. As we learned last week, something as simple as a few day cold snap can have you in a tight spot that you might not be able to get out of.
I guess, for us, the moral of the story is to do what you can to make sure that you have the skills to fend for yourself in the areas of basic needs like food, water, shelter and heat. If you’ve got a good, solid backup plan, there’s a lot less to worry about.
How do you stay prepared and practice self-sufficiency?