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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lights at the end of the hallway

Well, I'm back. More or less. By the gracious donation of a second hand computer from my best friend and sister, Bonnie, there is the steady glow of my LCD monitor once again! The data thought to be lost in the FRED disaster, can be recovered (at considerable expense).

So, here I sit. Staring at the dashboard and wondering where to start with an explanation of the lessons learned over the last month.

My morning sojourn through the vegetable patch has reminded me to write on the subject of food storage and general gardening. Both of which are skills necessary for survival. Even if it's just a simple matter of canning a few beets and growing some low maintenance staples like potatoes.

I will be posting my gardening adventures on my website and other bits on looking after yourself by way of being green on my hippie site

For the prepping end of things, I tend to not have a lot of cash to experiment with new gadgets and gizmos. Yes, I have strategically located flashlights in the house, which are checked on a regular basis for battery power. With the exception of rechargeables for my digital camera I don't bother with a lot of rechargeable anything. I have a corded telephone, so no worries about depending on cell or voip in any sort of outage.

I have a small LED lantern that hangs on a chain on the patio that could be brought inside to work with. But in a "down" situation where I'd be cooking on the BBQ, it's fine where it is.

For lights inside...I like to do things the old fashioned way. Candles.

Yep. Candles. Man survived many moons and Canadian winters by simple candle light. Now before you hi-thee off to the corner dollar store, take a moment and reflect...DON'T BUY CHEAP CANDLES. The dime store candles are made of poor quality ingredients and frequently use leaded wicks. Both of these are detrimental to your health. If you are going to be indoors with open fire for any length of time the last thing you want is to be choked out by fumes and soot.

Do a little research into candles and you'll find there are a fairly wide range to choose from. Not all are created equal. Following are listed in order of personal preference...

BEESWAX: Beeswax is a special material, something man is incapable of replicating. It is somewhat brittle at low temperatures, and soft and malleable at warmer temperatures. It starts to become soft around 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit; its melting point is between 143 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beeswax is a very stable material. Researchers and archaeologists have discovered beeswax thousands of years old (in pyramids for example) and pointed out very little deterioration. Beeswax is insoluble in water, in fact it's been brought up from ship wrecks after years under salt water and is still in good condition. The best in clean burning waxes.

SOY: Soy candles are made from soy wax, which is hydrogenated soybean oil. Soy wax is often mixed with fragrances to produces scented soy candles. They are available in supermarkets and specialized stores and can also be bought online. Soy releases very little C02 into the air, and is clean burning. It also has a lower melting point (about 120 degrees) than beeswax and therefore the candles tend to burn a little faster. Soy candles hold their shape well and are very easy to clean up after since like beeswax, they tend to evaporate rather than melt over themselves and leave wax everywhere.

PARAFFIN: Paraffin is a petroleum based product. It tends to burn hotter and faster than beeswax or soy. Paraffin candles have a higher melting point (145 - 150 degrees) than soy and vegetable candles. Not only can this make the candles more dangerous, the candle will burn faster because of the larger flame needed.

Paraffin also tends to lose its shape, especially in pillar candles. It has a tendency to mushroom over and lose its shape as it burns down. Soy and vegetable wax pillars hold their shape and burn a relatively straight cylinder down the candle.

The type of wicks in the candles is equally important. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Candle wicks should be cotton and NOT treated with lead. This is quite common in cheap candles (since it slows the burn time) but it is VERY unhealthy.

My suggestion is to find yourself a good health food store and talk with the manager. MUCH of the time, if you are looking to stock up on beeswax or soy candles they will cut you a very good deal on small case lots.

The sizes of candles are somewhat irrelevant. Tealights (the little round ones) of good quality will generally burn 4 - 6 hours. Votives (the little stubby round ones) will usually go about the same, or an hour or so longer. Pillars (taller, heavier, round) will generally last for about 8 - 10 hours.

Candles don't require any really special storage conditions (dry, clean, accessible) and the batteries don't go dead. They generate light, and are portable. Since they are an open flame, they also generate heat.

My partner, Pat, has always teased me about my tightwad ways. I light candles rather than turn on the furnace. It's effective usually until about the end of October or mid-November sometimes even later in the year.

I have found that 12 tealights and 2 pillars once lit will nicely warm a 12 x 24 room in a little less than an hour. Smaller spaces take less time. For the apartment dwellers in our readership, you could effectively stay warm for 4 - 6 hours with only a dozen or so candles.

Candle light serves a two fold mission. Heat and light. They are both practical and comforting.

Beexwax and vegetable waxes are both renewable resources. Candles are also relatively simple to make (I will save that for future experiments).

These suggestions are based solely on the premise that you will NOT have to grab your bug out and go. Candles wouldn't exactly be a lightweight alternative!

And as with anything of the elemental variety - respect it. Observe all precautions! If you can afford it - get hurricane covers for your taller candles, and always keep tea lights well up from the floor on solid shelves and holders.

What did you learn to do today?

PS: Don't forget to keep a stash of lighters!


  1. Light a piece of spaghetti and use it to light all those candles you love.

  2. Well kdonat, you suckered me into trying to light a piece of spaghetti (or in my case angel hair pasta, it's all I had open).
    And I'll be darned, it worked!