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Preparedness Nuggets

A Cyberbook of Practical Wisdom for Daily Living

Part the Fourth

Book on food storage

Food co-ops

First aid for dehydrated persons

Generators and extension cords

More on generators

More on back feeding generators

Planning Guide

Storing Kroger cans

Washing clothes

Where There Is No Doctor (book recommendation)

Woodburning Stoves



Subject: Generator connections

From: Tom Troncalli <>

Date: Sun, 02 Aug 1998 15:54:33 -0400

Our system does not use back feeding, is not phase dependent, and uses a stepped load transfer to minimize overloading startups on the generator. In other words, it is simple and it works without the pitfalls of some other hookups. Here is what we did:

We have the generator in the basement on a really heavy power extension cord. I added an 30 amp RV type plug on the generator to allow 30 amp service from the generator to the extension cord. The duplex wall type outlets on generators are either 15 or 20 amp per receptacle and cannot carry the generator power with a single plug.

The other end of the heavy extension cord is connected to a heavy duty service switch disconnect and fuse box that can be purchased at Home Depot or any electric supply house for about $15.

Now I was ready to make a connection and this is where the simplistic and reliable beauty of the plan comes in. I identified a critical circuit that I wanted on standby power, like our refrigerator. I turned off that breaker and removed the switched wire from the breaker output. I lead it out to the common terminal of a commercial duty 20A three-way light switch mounted beside the house breaker panel. This 3-way commercial duty light switch is the heart of the system.

I then put a jumper wire from one of the two switched terminals on the 3-way switch and connected it back to the house breaker where the first wire was removed from. I ran another jumper from the other switched terminal on the 3-way switch to the switched and fused side of the service disconnect switch I had installed at the end of the extension cord from the generator. I had now completed the first of many transfer circuits. All of these circuits are really just a diverter switch to allow the house circuit to feed from the beaker panel box or from the generator, but NEVER both at the same time.

When the generator is running, I flip the three-way to the generator side of the switch and that circuit is on generator. If I flip it back, I am again on utility power. I could have added a transfer switch for every breaker if I wanted but it was not necessary. We have 12 circuits on our transfer system they cover every crucial circuit.

We use a very small 2.6KW Kawasaki generator because it is quiet and fuel efficient. Do not let the breaker sizes of your circuits scare you. We have many 20 amp breakers on our house panel box but if we are careful about power usage, we will never use very much current from our generator. The generator has it's own breaker so no damage can be done if the load exceeds the current available from the generator.

One beauty of our system is that it is not phase dependent or sensitive. When you have 230V single phase service provided by your electric utility, what you really have is two 115V alternating current wires 180 degrees out of phase. These wires change polarity 60 times per second. When one wire is negative, the other is positive. The potential, or voltage, between the two AC wires out of phase is 230V. That is where your 230V comes from but don't let that confuse you. The important thing is to keep the utility phases from combining in your generator system and causing problems. We no not have the power to run 230V electric hogs on our power generator anyway. Even if we used a larger generator with 230V available, we felt it was not necessary here to have 230 volts service during a temporary electric outage and the larger generator would burn too much gasoline. If you have a well on 230 volts, you may need to connect for 230 volts also. You make that decision. By staying with only critical 115V circuits, we can disregard the phase problem associated with some other generator connection arrangements.

Half of the 115V circuits in your breaker service panel are on one phase from your utility company and half are on the other phase. Chances are great that your power outage critical circuits you want to feed by generator are shared with both phases of the panel box. By connecting to the generator like we have done, all circuits are on a single phase when on the generator and isolated from the two phases of the utility power.

We have used this system during power outages for many years. I have run the exhaust of the generator through a radiator in the basement to save the heat and conserve gasoline consumption by keeping the furnace from running as much. On a freezing day, our furnace seldom comes on when we are on emergency generator power because of the extra heat buildup in the basement. The exhaust heat extractor also quiets the exhaust. The cooled exhaust goes out the back basement wall where it is whisper quiet. My exhaust system is made of regular 1" plumbing pipe and tested for leaks. I have strain relief supports on the system to prevent metal fatigue from vibration.

During Summer usage when byproduct heat is unwanted, I just disconnect the pipe union welded between generator muffler and heat extractor/exhaust system and roll the generator out the back door of the basement.

On the generator I also installed a manual gas selector valve like some trucks use. One side of the valve feeds gasoline from the generator built in gas tank. I connected an outboard engine fuel fitting to the other side of the valve so I can feed the generator with my 6 gal. boat tanks. I just place a boat tank higher than the generator and let it gravity feed. This makes refueling in the basement a safe and simple matter of connecting a hose and turning a valve with no spillage at all. I use the generator's fuel tank only while switching boat tanks so we can have uninterrupted service. This fuel transfer system is also safer in dark or distressful conditions or by inexperienced help such as kids, etc.

With twelve circuits currently installed in our house, we have at least one light and receptacle in every critical area plus our refrigerator, freezer, electric garage door motor, and security lights. If we use only lights and appliances as we need them our fuel will go a long way. While on generator, we turn off any "ghost loads" like instant-on TV's, wall chargers for adding machines, cordless telephones, etc. Those little transformer cubes that plug into the wall outlets can collectively use quite a lot of electricity (read gasoline!)

We have quiet hours after everyone is in bed and we turn off the generator until morning. We are considering installing an inverter and battery system for low demand quiet hours so the refrigerator and freezer keep running along with night lights and bathroom lights, etc. We would just unplug the main generator supply power cord and replace it with the inverter connection cord. A large single-pole double-throw transfer switch could be used but they are expensive and not essential.

I have a 115V buzzer I made from Radio Shack parts that we can plug into a non-generator outlet so when utility service is restored, we are alerted to switch back the 3-way transfer switches and turn off the generator.

We have used this system since the late '70s and it is really easy and cheap to install once you have a generator. Even though this system is not "code", it sure is safer than back feeding double-male extension cords from house to generator and hoping you have not combined both phases, and hoping you disconnected the main breaker on your panel box, and hoping you got everything done in the right sequence, and hoping you know when service is restored, and hoping.......

Sorry for the length and confusion. Anyone wanting more info, please e-mail me and I will try to clarify better.---Tom



We've had a Vermont Casting Co. "Defiant" model in our living room fireplace ever since the 1970s oil crunch. Recently got a Jotul (Norwegian) stove for our farm fireplace. Can cook on both. Some wood stoves burn pellets, but we prefer those burning real wood because pellets, especially in a TEOTWAKI-type emergency, might be hard to get. A Web search-engine like can come up with lots of wood stove articles and woodstove mfrs.' websites, all of which you can learn from.

One more thought: Don't get overwhelmed. As you inform yourself, start making lists, then tackle things one at a time. Festina lente (hasten slowly) <g>



There is a man in Scottsville KY who makes a machine which resembles the James, but it's sturdier and less expensive. This is according to a farm wife I know who has kept her big family of men and boys in clean work clothes for years with it.

BTW, I've talked to a friend who has boiled her clothes and she says it gets them really white. We live in red dirt territory and nothing is the same after one wearing around here. She says her kitchen towels are white again. The addition of some dishwasher detergent helps. Just be sure your fabric will withstand the boiling as some modern fabrics might not.



If any of you are stocking Kroger brand canned goods, this is what their code means. There are two lines stamped on the can. Ignore the second line. The first line will have something like 7H826 (canned 8/26/97)

7 Year canned

H Manufacturing plant

8 Month canned

26 Day of month canned

Also, Kroger is recommending the following as maximum shelf life:

Soup 3 yrs.

Fruit 2 yrs.

Tomato products 18 mo.

Vegetables 2 yrs.

Tuna 5 yrs.

Canned Meat 3 yrs.




Here are two choices for making a home mix rehydration drink:


One liter of clean water

half of a level teaspoon of salt

8 level teaspoons of sugar.

cup fruit juice, coconut water, or mashed ripe banana, if available


(Powdered rice cereal is best. Or use finely ground corn, wheat flour,

sorghum, or cooked and mashed potatoes.)

One liter of water

teaspoon salt

8 heaping teaspoons (or two handfuls) of powdered cereal

Boil for five to seven minutes to form a liquid gruel or water porridge. Cool the drink and give it to the child. Don't make ahead of time unless you have refrigeration, as it spoils easily.

For both solutions, give the dehydrated person sips of this drink every five minutes, day and night, until he or she begins to urinate normally. A large person needs 3 or more liters a day; a small child usually needs at least 1 liter a day or one glass for each watery stool. Keep giving the drink often in small sips, even if the person vomits. (Not all of the drink will be vomited.)

The book claims that these recipes are "more effective" than the Oral Rehydration Salts packages

I also received the Encyclopedia of Country Living, which is HUGE and has a tremendous amount of useful information, plus sources.

Robert Waldrop



We opted for a propane generator that will turn on if the power fails (diesel was way out of our budget, and we didn't want gasoline for safety reasons).

It's a Winco Packaged Standby System (Winco PSS8000). Produces 100 amps, enough to run two or three hours a day to keep basic things (furnace, well pump, hot water heater, freezers, plus a few lights) running. Has a manual override. It's in a - quote - "self-contained, sound-attenuated outdoor housing" -- a metal box about the size of an air conditioner -- which we'll install in a garden shed next to the house. The price quoted by Winco was $4,019. But the nearest Winco agency wanted about $1,600 more than that, so our electrician will try to get it for us at the $4K price. Anyway you look at it, a generator, unless you're experienced in putting one together yourself (we're not), is expensive.

For a brochure or more info on the Winco generator, call 1-800-328-0328.

. . . If you have neighbors close by, and if they're TEOTWAKI-aware, or at least preparedness types, you might be able to go in with them on a generator. Some one the mid-sized diesel gen-sets provide enough power for several homes. They're expensive, though. If you go this route, then you and your neighbors can split the cost of the gen-set, the batteries, the inverter, wiring, fuel, etc.

Another option is a gasoline/propane generator. They're much less expensive, but also have a much shorter lifespan. They also use much more fuel than a diesel.

A third option is to connect an car alternator to a small, lawn mower sized motor. There are special brackets available at The Epicenter at The Epicenter also has inexpensive inverters on the same page.

Whatever option you go with, you should have a generator, an inverter, and a deep cycle battery to make a complete system. Such a system could easily run your fridge for a year (provided you have enough fuel).

I'm in the process of installing a backup power system, so I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have, direct you to someone who knows the answer, or just commiserate.

Mike Aimino


I have a good website for generators

My husband and neighbor are working on ideas for a steam powered generator boiler for power run by wood fuel. Let you know how that turns out.



<< Date: Saturday, August 1, 1998 11:17:34 PM

From: Pearl@CITCOM.NET

. . .Thank you for your concern. In my research on this issue I consulted with electricians, electrical engineers and power company lineman. I am sure it poses no danger to the lineman who is trained to treat every line as if it were hot during their repair processes. It IS an EMOTIONAL issue with linemen. The issue I believed was that the intact ground lead from the panel box to the transformer could potentially carry a shorted current to the transformer and subject it to the lineman. Later I was told that a double throw disconnect switch, while breaking the hot and neutral leads, still had an intact unswitchable ground lead from panel to transformer which could also allow for the same effect in the event of this seemingly rare type of short circuit phenomenon. So, therefore while back feeding is potentially dangerous, and against electrical code, I believe it can, if done correctly pose no danger to the lineman.

Any other of your insights would be greatly appreciated. I have hesitated on several issues as whether or not to share them with the group due to their potential for personal injury.


Frank >>



I think this is an indispensable book for home health care--- it was developed for missionaries and other humanitarian workers in underdeveloped countries. The title is: Where There Is No Doctor (A Village Health Care Handbook) by David Werner, Carol Thuman and Jane Maxwell, published by the Hesperian Foundation, POB 1692, Palo Alto, CA 94302.

I ordered it from



Subject: Food Co-op

From: "Robert Waldrop" <>

Date: Mon, 3 Aug 1998 17:23:28 -0500

Dear friends,

As you know at various times and in various rants I have promoted the idea of food co-ops. One thing I'd like to see sprinkled through Kansas City by January 2000 are some small co-ops specializing in bulk foods, such as the tomato powder, cheese powder, and powdered milk we often talk about here.

I'm starting to boost this idea in the local community through a diocesan program, "Target North: The Church educating for Justice", which in the past has pretty much limited itself to sponsoring four lightly-attended forums each year. There seems to be some dissatisfaction within the group with that strategy, and some desire to do something a little more effective. The parishes represented here are among the more prosperous in the area.

Anyway, as part of this, I have been doing a lot of research into the bulk purchase of foods. The companies I have been researching aren't interested in selling to the general co-op, but they're willing to talk orders from a small "just-getting-started" co-op in Kansas City. "From small acorns do large oaks grow", one supplier told me.

Anyway, these are the kinds of prices I am finding:

Tomato powder, $2.73/pound (including cost of shipping, Chicago to Kansas City, with immediate 24 hour shipping)

Cinnamon, $1.91/pound

Dried egg whites, $3.00/lb (one pound equals the egg whites from 205 Grade

A large eggs)

Crushed red pepper, $1.93/pound

I've got a pile of product lists on the way, including the complete array of dried foods typically available from the storage foods industry.

The way a food co-op works (or actually, one of several possibilities) is that food is sold at cost plus a few percent to cover overhead, plus the member volunteers X number of hours a month at the co-op. Non-members could purchase products at a slightly higher mark-up (since they aren't contributing volunteer hours), or members could have a choice, pay a 10% markup (as opposed to say 4%) and volunteer no hours, or volunteer two hours a month and receive a 4% markup. As a co-op, food can be divided into smaller containers and sold that way. E.g., the price for cinnamon above was for the 50 pound box. This could be re-packaged by the pound.

People who weren't in the area, for example, could order foods for the 10% markup (these are ballpark figures for the markup), so that the tomato powder would be basically $3.00/pound, including the shipping equivalent of Chicago to Kansas City, a bit higher if the shipping were a longer distance.

These prices are for the product in ordinary commercial packaging. Anything like buckets you'd be on your own with. So far, I haven't found better bucket prices than Walton's, but a co-op probably could beat their six week shipping time.

The product list would be somewhere around 50-100 basic items, similar probably to the "Money Saving 100" list which is on my Better Times web page, only instead of the fresh produce, dairy and meats, and canned goods, the dried/bulk equivalent.

If you're interested in something like this, please send me private email or discuss it in the list. I am especially interested in the amounts of various basic foods that people are interested in. There are some things that can probably be bought cheaper in bulk "at home", e.g., it's hard to see how I could beat Sam's Club or a local warehouse grocery's price for flour or beans, especially when shipping was considered, but some of the more price or hard to find items (like tomato/cheese powders, dried veggies, TVP, etc.) could be cost effective ordered from such a co-op. Plus you would have the added benefit of helping a grassroots economic empowerment effort for the poor.



A planning guide

Take inventory: Where are you right now in terms of

preparation? List all assets, including tools and skills.

Set goals: Where do you want to be if civilization crashes? Do you want to

be ready to be totally self-sufficient, is it okay to merely

have a stockpile of essentials, or will you just wait and

see what happens?

Set your course to meet those goals: Subtract what you have

from what you want to determine what you still need.

Make your plan: Decide how you're going to get what you need

in the next 18 months. Set priorities (triage). Concentrate

on the most important or essential needs first. Set a

timetable for yourself.


If you are in the city and you're totally convinced that is NOT

where you'll want to be if civilization crashes, get out now! If you

wait, for any reason, it could be too late.

If you're in the country but don't have a working homestead,

start building one now. In most parts of the country it's not too

late to start or expand a garden: July/August is the best time to

plant crops to be harvested in fall. (See list of fall crops on

page 109.)

Construct rabbit and poultry facilities, and stock them.

Acquire the books you'll need for advice, now and later.

Plan to save seeds from open-pollinated crops. While getting

seeds next spring might not be a problem, if teotwaki happens, supplies will be skitzy.

you'll need the experience for next year's


Preserve food, from your own garden if you have one, or from

farmers' markets if you aren't that far yet. Get the equipment

and information you'll need. Better to have failures now (and

learn from them) than when they could be critical.

If at all possible after all the above, get out of debt. In any

event do NOT incur more.

If you are already comfortably situated on a working homestead

with everything you need in place, check closely to see if you

missed anything. Now is the time to start gathering

less-essential goods that will add to your security and comfort.

Be sure to rotate stores to keep everything as fresh as possible.

Consider adding to your stores to help those in need.

Make any repairs, replacements or additions you might have been

putting off: if you're going to need a new roof in a few years,

get it now instead. If you've been meaning to get a tetanus shot,

get it now. If you need dental work or new glasses, take care of

it now. Don't put off what you can do today.

And if nothing happens...? So what? you get your life in order

and live it the way you say you want to!



I just received a great little book on Low-Cost

Family Food Storage, by A. L. Evangelista,

It's available through For a very reasonable price, I might



For much greater detail about my plans for adapting my "urban homestead" to meet the looming challenges of peak oil, climate instability, and economic irrationality, see Gatewood Urban Homestead, the permaculture design for my home.

Better Times Cookbook V | Justpeace | Better Times | | Access to Energy Conservation | On Pilgrimage in Oklahoma City | Bookstore | Better Times II | Bulgar Bugle | Mutual Aid (Grassroots home and community scale disaster preparations)