Category Archives: resilience

Food Stores – Recipes For Resilience

Storing food is an ancient human habit, taking advantage of a surplus to get your tribe through leaner times. The range of storage methods available to us today are considerable, yet fewer people than ever take advantage of them. The most popular strategy seems to be stocking up on frozen ready meals, then zapping them in the microwave. No actual cooking involved.

Is this resilient? Of course not.

In an emergency, the mains electricity may fail. After a few days, your freezer stores will be turning into a waste disposal problem. There could be extreme weather outside which forces you to stay at home.  An injury, or contact with a contagious disease, might mean you are stuck in your home for medical reasons.  You need a back up.

Tinned and dried foods keep well, even in challenging places such as your loft or shed. Only store what you’re prepared to eat. These stores will need to be rotated as they go out of date. Your survival recipes should be planned to incorporate any other food which might turn up – garden produce, a delivery of rations, a community food share.


a box of emergency food supplies

This 32 litre stack box fits under an average bed and contains enough supplies to last one person for a fortnight. Porridge for breakfast, pan bread if you’ve no oven, a selection of stews and curries. I haven’t calculated the calorie intake, or added up grams of carbohydrates, just worked out a sensible meal plan covering all the food types.

A fortnight’s worth of emergency supplies can be a valuable asset to a household. Using a selection of your normal foods, as pictured, you have a back up when you run out of tomato ketchup, milk, beans, coffee. You can restock as these foods come on offer!

These stores are tailored to my preferences; what would you keep? Do you have special dietary needs?

Remember that, in some emergencies, you may not have mains services. Stick to recipes which can be achieved on a camping stove (have you got one?), or even an open fire. Learn about Dutch ovens, understand the principles of cooking and how you can use ingredients inventively.

My book ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century‘ has full details of this food store, plus over 100 recipes and seasonal gardening tips for growing your own vegetables with minimum effort.
Sensible preparations mean you’re never caught out.  The essence of an emergency is the unexpected, and panic buying can be dangerous!

 

Can you make jam?

The second edition of ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’ is due to hit the shelves in a couple of months. The draft Personal Resilience Assessment, currently free to download here, has been updated and is included in this print copy.

In the Handbook, I present practical resilience as a course. You can work out your current basic level with the assessment and improve this using the Handbook. Unlike sustainability, practical resilience can be measured.

The assessment isn’t just another list of ‘100 things you can do to save the planet’. It’s a professionally constructed set of questions, chosen from thousands of options and tested for over a decade. Safely sharing our team’s abilities in practical resilience was a challenge.

The tasks described are all designed to lead on to higher levels. Take the innocent-looking question from the Practical Skills section – ‘Can you make jam?’

Preserving surplus fruit is a valuable skill, and one which the resilient individual should certainly possess. So much for the basic level, and you can stop there.

empty shelves 1 mar 18

Do you – or your neighbours – have food stores kept in a freezer? After two days without electricity, these will transform into a waste disposal problem. You can salvage frozen fruit by turning it into jam, if you know how. If you’re in the habit of making jam, you’re likely to have spare sugar, empty jars and the right equipment.

Follow the Resilience Plan into higher levels and you realise that a strategy to deal with this rotting food could be important, if normal services are severely disrupted. The Local Strategies chapter touches on this, but you would have to think about it yourself, preferably in advance of any need.

Firstly, take photos. Contact your insurance providers if you can. Then preserve as much food as possible before it goes off – how long have you got? Double bag the rest and bin it outside. Make sure cats and rats can’t tear the bags open. Keep enough deep plastic or wooden stack boxes with lids to hold the whole contents of your freezer in case there isn’t room in your bin.

Suppose you don’t have an outside space for rubbish? This is where established relationships with other people in your area come in handy. If you’d paid attention to the Handbook, you’d be part of a local group and can discuss this problem with people in the same situation. Maybe someone will come up with a plan. Perhaps you could contact the nearest recycling plant, arrange to gather up the food waste yourselves and bring it over, if there’s a car trailer available.

So, can you make jam?

 

‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’ goes into more detail around food – growing, storage and preparation. Find out how to improve your personal food security in cheap and achievable ways. There’s a recipe for making raspberry jam from frozen fruit.

The first edition of ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’ is still available here.

Don’t delay – buy today!

Quarantine

“To separate and restrict the movements of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease, to see if they become ill”

Quarantined people were often allowed to remain in their homes. It’s a long time since there was a need for this to be taken seriously. The last time this procedure was used in Britain was during the flu epidemic of 1918. More recently, in 1972, during a smallpox outbreak in Yugoslavia, their government had to impose martial law to enforce a rigorous quarantine, in association with the World Health Organisation.

The word ‘quarantine’ comes from the Italian ‘quaranta giorni’ meaning 40 days. While the Black Death raged in Europe, incoming ships had to stand off from coastal cities for this period before they were allowed to land people or cargo. After 37 days, one is either dead of the plague, or free of infection. Quarantine periods for other diseases, such as cholera, were shorter.

‘Isolation’ is a more serious form of quarantine. It involves the separation of people who are actually ill from the rest of the population, usually in a facility with medical staff. Historically, it was mainly applied to lepers, hence these facilities were often termed ‘lazarets’. It’s also used where people can’t be trusted to obey the rules of self-quarantine, as in the famous case of ‘Typhoid Mary’.

An entire community can be isolated by a ‘cordon sanitaire’. The village of Eyam, in Derbyshire, saved their neighbours from the plague in 1665 using this strategy. The reverse can be applied, where a community isolates themselves from potentially infectious people. This is called ‘protective sequestration’.

These tactics were often used in Britain. Villages traded and communicated with each other through ‘wheat stones’. At a convenient halfway point, goods were placed on a large stone, or slab, to be collected. Often, there was a cup-shaped depression in the slab, filled with vinegar, to disinfect money. Place names, such as the ‘Slab House Inn’ near Wells still recall these practices.

 

The Resilience Handbook has advice about emergency isolation in your own home.  At least if you are in quarantine, you can expect mains services to continue.  Other emergencies can be even more challenging.  

Keep a distance of two meters from people who bring you supplies.  If you don’t have a face mask, a scarf over your nose and mouth will protect them from germs if you cough or sneeze.  A bottle of vinegar, or some other disinfectant, is essential and a large stash of pound coins might come in handy!

Recipes for Resilience – common sense cooking for the 21st century‘ has more detailed advice about the fortnight’s supply of food which you might need in any emergency, but which is particularly relevant now.

Brexit and the Resilience Garden

Many people in Britain are growing their own vegetables for the first time. In a country which currently only produces 60% of its food supplies, that’s always a good move. It’s taken the uncertainties of Brexit to bring this home.

Emergency planning is the same motive that inspired me to create the Resilience Garden over a decade ago. I feel for those people out there at the beginning of their journey; the frustrations they will face and the triumphs they’ll enjoy!

allotment with resilience garden soil

There’s a lot to learn about resilience gardening. so much that I had to write another book about it. Here’s a selection of top tips from ‘Recipes for Resilience‘ :-

  • It’s all about soil. Look after it, feed it, don’t tread on it. Use raised beds, keep to paths.
  • A planting chart on your wall saves having to leaf through books or websites with muddy hands.
  • If you don’t have an outside tap, fill a bucket with clean water ready to rinse your hands. You’ll need them clean and dry to handle seeds.
  • Look after your tools; give them a wipe and put them away at the end of each session.
  • If you’re using stakes, cover the ends with padding so they don’t poke you in the eye. It’s hard to see them from above!
  • Collect old buckets and basins. Placed strategically around the garden, they will harvest rainwater for you, saving a trip from the tap. Make sure wildlife can escape from the water, and watch out for slugs moving in underneath.
  • You have to squish slugs and snails. Sorry. Once hedgehogs and thrushes would have done the job for you, and if you poison your pesky molluscs this day will be so much further away.
  • You also have to thin out vegetables like carrots. Steel yourself to compost those little baby plants! Avoid this trauma by becoming an expert at sowing thinly.
  • Cultivating vegetables is a compromise between what you like to eat and what the garden wants to grow. Allowing the garden to win gives you much less work. Leeks are just as useful as onions.

Do not dig up your potatoes to see if they are growing!

Happy gardening!

Spring flowers in the Resilience Garden

Recipes for Resilience‘ covers the whole growing year, with gardening tips, seasonal recipes and historical background.  I’m excited to announce that the book is now available through Amazon and other regular outlets!

Meanwhile, I’m having to change publisher for the Resilience Handbook as well – if you want one of the limited first edition copies, order now!

How to be realistic about storing food for Brexit

Listen to my interview with Sam Mitchell of the Collapse Chronicles here, where I describe the concepts and history behind ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’

It’s very likely that nothing untoward will happen in the UK just after the 29th of March.  If it did, however, such a range of disasters have been forecast that you could hardly say you hadn’t been warned.

From the point of view of community resilience planning, the Brexit scare is a useful dress rehearsal.  With extreme weather, increasing global conflict and resource collapse, we’re bound to be ambushed by difficult situations in the near future.  Emergencies don’t normally book a calendar slot.

The possible effects of Brexit problems are centered around resource transport and distribution.  As I’ve pointed out in ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’, this system is far from resilient and needs steady progress in local sourcing to improve.  The abundance of single use plastic packaging is directly related to the way we move food around.

It’s unlikely that utilities will be affected, unless fuel shortages result.   Your freezer food stores should be safe in the Brexit scenario though I recommend using dried and canned food for your emergency stores as a rule.  A couple of days without power, and your freezer stock has turned into a waste disposal problem!

Store ingredients, not ready meals.  There may be some fresh food growing nearby, preferably in your own garden.  A random selection of rations may turn up.  Work out what’s useful to help combine a range of foods into a good meal.  I find gravy granules worth keeping, for example.

a box of emergency food supplies

Above is the demonstration box of 14 days stored food; the waterproof plastic container fits under most beds.  I wrote a blog post about this back in 2016 while researching for my next book ‘Recipes for Resilience’.  Below is a picture of the Resilience Garden, regularly described on this website.

Resilience gardening is designed to be low cost, in both time and money.  Replacing hand to mouth living with a combination of storage and forage allows you to ride out short localised problems without having to risk going panic buying.

If you don’t have a garden, get some potted herbs and practise keeping these alive.

Always keep food which you eat in normal life.  Even tins go out of date, so you’ll have to rotate an effective store.  Buy canned food with no added salt; in a different sort of emergency, you may need the water.

During a prolonged resource shortage, your neighbours may run out of food before you do.  There is a great deal to be said for establishing community food gardens in your area.  Paying attention to this can lead to a whole new local economy, as at Todmorden, Lancashire.  The Aquaponic centre and the Incredible Edible Farm, pictured below, came from grass-roots initiatives.

The fish tank and vegetable bed in the Todmorden aquagarden

 

Incredible Farm Todmorden

I hope that the Brexit palaver will focus people’s attention on the fragility of a system dependent on imported food.  Buying local is more than just a slogan – it’s a survival strategy.

Buy ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’ here while you still can – and look out for ‘Recipes for Resilience’, which has all the instructions you need to get started on the path to food security.

Ice and Mirrors

There was barely time to repack my bags before I had to head off for a few days in London.  I took a Berry’s Coaches bus to Hammersmith in the morning.  My neighbour was part of a group of retired Girl Guide leaders – we began to chat when she commented on my lucet.  Not many people would know what one was!

I navigated to my destination in the far West of London – the very area ravaged by H.G.Wells’ Martians – by bus. Regular travellers may complain about the incessant destination announcements, but they are vital to the tourist

My sister and I took the train from Surbiton to Waterloo for a day out on the South Bank. The Tate Modern had an outdoor exhibition by Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliasson, called Ice Watch.  Thirty blocks of ice from Greenland were arranged in a rough spiral, reminiscent of standing stones, and left to melt, as a statement about global warming.

ice watch exhibition at tate modern london dec18 1

Some of the ice had veins of subtle colour running through it.

ice watch exhibition at tate modern london 5 dec18

It became very cold that night.  I wondered what kind of statement it would be if the ice gained weight instead, and whether the effect of the cold weather on the pool of water the exhibit generated had been properly considered

We climbed the stairs to the Members’ cafe, which has a good viewing balcony.

ice watch from the members balcony at the tate modern december 2018

The traditional vista with St Paul’s cathedral was impressive too.

classic london skyline from members balcony tate modern dec18

The Hayward Gallery also had an interesting exhibition, called Space Shifters, featuring mirrors and transparency.  The rocks and pillars in the picture below changed colour in a most intriguing fashion as you walked among the frames, some of which were filled with glass.

colour changing rocks at hayward gallery london south bank december 2018

yayoi kusama at hayward gallery london south bank dec18

This picture is of ‘Narcissus Garden’ by Yayoi Kusama.

oil reflections richard wilson hayward gallery dec18

The exhibit by Richard Wilson was genuinely unsettling.  The metal structure is a walkway projecting into a room filled with used engine oil right up to the very level of the handrail.  Although the oil is deep black, it holds a perfect reflection of the upper half of the room.  The walkway narrows as you go deeper in.  One is held by the illusion, yet at the same time aware that to touch the edge of the walkway is to court disaster – at least for your clothes!

As a country mouse I always find the South Bank entrancing.  It seems to me to be the real heart of London, with the booksellers’ market, the colourful skateboard arena, and the performance artists.  This vibrant street life takes place against the backdrop of the art galleries, the famous Globe Theatre, the London Eye.  If you tire of land, you can lean on the handrail and watch the River Thames rolling slowly to the sea, washing scraps of history up along its gravel shores.

It’s a good place for reflections.

 

The ice blocks have melted now and there is a good timelapse film of this, which can be found on Olafur Eliasson’s website.  Like its subject, the film is already vanishing into the sea – this one of the discarded ephemera from yesterday’s social media.

It’s easy to find beginnings, new news, the latest topic.  Discovering what happens next, how it ends, is far more difficult.

Next post, by popular demand…..How to be realistic about storing food for Brexit

 

Reflections on 2018 – the Year of the Earth Dog

A strange year, which somehow seemed to span two or three, yet provide hardly any time for writing.

I’m sure the dramatic contrast of heavy snow in March with the searing drought of June contributed to this illusion.  It was certainly hard work to grow food, and we’re going to redesign the allotment towards even lower maintenance.

It’s being replaced by more raised beds in the Resilience Garden, to fully utilise the south-facing aspect.  When I worked at outdoor events, this area was paved to store equipment trailers; now the slabs look untidy, so I’m just creating another layer on top.  Our experiences with the allotment validated our use of raised beds in difficult growing areas.  One day town car parks may return to the market gardens they once were.

I completed my photo diary of Towntree Farm in all its seasons.  It’s a pity I couldn’t catch it under snow, but I’d never be able to get there through the lanes!  Now I just have to sort the pictures and decide what to print.  I plan to make an album as a gift to the farmer.

Statue at Towntree farm

Having retired from event services, ambushed by a lack of pension, I supplement earnings from my writings  by cleaning in some of the high-end bed and breakfast places locally.  The sense of ambience developed by arranging festivals is a completely transferable skill.  A room cannot be cleaned properly for a new guest in under an hour – if I can’t have that when travelling, I’d rather go to hostels.

However, there are only a limited number of hours in the day to accomplish this.  Visitors start to leave at ten and new ones will arrive by four o’clock at the latest.  The work should be done by then – many cleaners prefer to be unseen by guests, like invisible fairies!

The nature of the job is thus that one must work six days a week to earn enough to keep a house going at even the most basic level.  A room in a shared house would be easier to manage, but this is part of the resilience agenda where I encounter barriers.  Shared housing is increasingly popular among young people in cities, but not well supported elsewhere.

Despite the hard work and general air of gloom over the latter part of the year, I did manage a couple of short adventures.  My daughter took me to Cardiff to see Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ musical show, which was awesome!

waiting for the show to start war of the worlds dec18
waiting for the show to start

The whole concept is unique, harking back as it does to a book written 120 years ago, and the performers did it justice.  The way in which sound, lighting and special effects can be combined these days would surely delight the original author, whose love of science was well known!

We stayed at the Park Plaza Hotel, which was pleasant and well situated.  We were able to walk from the central station and leave our luggage at the desk, since we were early for check in.  Xmas shopping was in full swing; we picked up novelties like chocolate spanners and giant marshmallow teacakes, which haven’t made it to rural Somerset yet.

A rare double decker carousel entertains Xmas crowds in Cardiff
A rare double decker carousel entertains Xmas crowds in Cardiff

An excellent buffet breakfast in the morning, and more retail therapy in the big city, before returning to Somerset by train and bus.  I’m using public transport, instead of driving, far more these days – another car on the roads doesn’t seem helpful.

The Park Plaza Hotel grows some of its own kitchen herbs
The Park Plaza Hotel grows some of its own kitchen herbs – very resilient!

There was barely time to repack my bags before I had to head off for a few days in London….but that’s another story

 

When I speak of the plans based on ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’ I refer to ‘Level One’.   This is, as described in the Handbook, the very basic level of practical resilience which should be second nature to any citizen, and is easily achievable even today.

The universal understanding of key infrastructure is crucial.  Remote, centralised systems should be moved towards local  management.  We need to become a resilient civilisation, and start the long process now.  There are clear, measurable goals at every level from personal to global.

I’ve refrained from describing further levels until now, collecting feedback on the first stages of the Resilience Project, but I have been exploring them.   The work I’m doing on food security would be about Level Five, I suppose.  It’s embedded in a much deeper lifestyle change though – living as though resilience was already happening.  What would be the same?  How might things change?

Buy ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’ from this site, not through Amazon, so that the project actually benefits from your purchase. 

As the song says don’t ‘give all your money to millionaires’!

Next post – Ice and Mirrors

Damage Limitation

Certain seagulls, who lay single eggs on cliff faces, prefer larger eggs to smaller. This can be observed by providing gulls with false eggs to nurture. They will reject their own egg in favour of one so large that the bird looks ridiculous trying to cover it.

There wasn’t any need to programme an upper limit into this genetically controlled behaviour. There were other limits on the size of egg likely to be laid, and no other birds of that size used this precarious habitat.

Humans are social creatures. Alone, we are poorly equipped for survival compared to other animals. Small family groups are also vulnerable, due to the long periods of child care required. In general, the larger the group, the better. Genetically controlled behaviour leads humans to feel more comfortable as part of a large group; other limiting factors controlled group size.

Most isolated humans would feel impelled to join a group, the larger the better. Advertisers, religions and political parties exploit this impulse to the hilt. Join our label, be part of our congregation, follow our leader!

Such unfeasibly large groups must sever their relationship with the land which supports them, such that other instincts like resource conflict seem irrelevant. These instincts do not go away, however, but simmer deep in the subconscious, informing behaviours which seem incomprehensible on the surface.

Competition for territory comes mainly from members of your own species, who require exactly the same resources as you. An expanding tribe would eventually encounter the borders of another group. Conflict might ensue, each group against the ‘other’.

In modern times, this was played out in destructive wars between nations. Now that it is far too dangerous to fully indulge this, different ways of identifying the ‘other’ are employed by primitive instincts trying to surface. In the absence of clear group markers, this leads to confused behaviours.

These instincts, around the potential of resource scarcity and the need to defend a ‘territory’ which cannot be defined, need to be brought into the open and dealt with honestly. We have indeed exceeded the carrying capacity of the entire planet, by a good long way, and urgently need to manage ourselves down from that while we can still prop up the process with non-renewable resources.

There’s no point looking at Science for answers. Science put the solution on the table back in the Sixties – efficient, cheap family planning. If we’d prioritised resilience over economic growth in the Seventies, Britain would be in far less trouble now. We may even have achieved the Age of Leisure as depicted in old science fiction novels, instead of having to work harder than medieval peasants.

However, it’s better to cry over split milk than to try and put it back in the bottle. Although it’s past time for an easy answer, there is a way forward. Start at ground level, resist the allure of labels, and consider what you couldn’t do without. Food, water and electricity are a good start.

Grow a resilient, sustainable civilisation underneath the worn out ways; the old will fall away like a broken eggshell as the new emerges.

I’ve done my bit by writing ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’….now you need to read it!

Food, Travel and Practical Resilience

Things have felt pretty relentless this summer – no sooner have I dealt with one thing than another challenge comes forward! Many other people seem to be experiencing the same problem; if you’re one of them, I think October should be a bit calmer. It’ll be a ‘new normal’ though.

With the struggle to keep the vegetables watered, we’ve had to let half of the Resilience Allotment go. The soil isn’t only poor, but infested with smothering weeds and disease. The brassicas succumb to a white mildew, peas dislike the exposed site and potato blight is endemic (because it’s ‘such a good idea’ to plant sprouting supermarket potatoes).

Beans, garlic and courgettes do well, and the raised beds used clean soil imported from the Resilience Garden so the potato crop was small but healthy. Due to years of selective weeding, this soil is full of seeds from edible plants. Left unattended for awhile, borage, marigold, rocket and spinach flourish. Unlike the perennial weeds they replace, these plants can be pulled up easily and composted.

allotment summer 2018

Towards the end of autumn, I’ll clear the ground and plant broad beans and garlic. Instead of the allotment area, I plan to build a few more raised beds in the garden. It’s easier to cultivate food plants nearer home when you have a busy lifestyle!

However, growing just that bit of extra food has meant far less trips to the supermarket, with a considerable saving in money. I got caught out the other day though. Hungry, and with a day’s wages in my pocket, I popped into the local supermarket to get a little piece of steak and some mustard. The bill for all the things I didn’t really need came to over £25! And I forgot the mustard!

Food is a major part of community resilience. It’s such a large subject that I had to write another book (‘Recipes for Resilience’ – out soon!) just to cover the basics of gardening and cooking.

Travel, on the other hand, benefits your personal resilience, as well as providing a welcome break from a dull or oppressive routine, You don’t have to go far – take a picnic lunch and buy a Day Explorer bus ticket. Pretend to be a tourist in your local area for the day.

Travel takes you out of your comfort zone and lets you practise carrying just what you need to get by. Combine it with attending a workshop on your chosen craft, or even go on a survival course for maximum resilience!

So that’s why I write a lot about food and travel. There are many other aspects to practical resilience however, and I’ll spend some time this winter going over the other sections of the Resilience Wheel.

Keep paying attention!

the resilience wheel

 

July Diary 2018

The hot dry weather continues.  Here in Somerset, we’ve only had about five days with even a light shower of rain since Easter.  It’s been a relentless round of watering; not so difficult in the garden, but a real challenge down at the allotment.

allotment irrigation

This gravity fed system delivers a trickle of water to the tomatoes and courgettes, but the barrel has to be topped up manually.

allotment view July 2018

The raised beds are filled with a mixture of leaf mould, shredded paper and soil imported from the Resilience Garden.  This is full of seeds from useful, fast growing annuals which are shading out the perennial weeds.   Borage, marigold and poppy can be seen in the picture; lower ground cover is supplied by scarlet pimpernel and blue speedwell.

These are easy to pull up, and good to compost, unlike the bindweed, horsetail (outwitting vertebrates since the Triassic) and couch grasses they replace.  Most of the weeds have to go to landfill just now, which deprives this poor soil of even more nutrients.

horsetail plant collecting dew
A horsetail shoot collecting morning dew in its specially designed leaves

We took some time out to go to the Scythe Fair in June.  Adventurous visitors could sail down the River Parrret and catch the horse drawn bus to site!

horse bus scythe fair

Most people came by car though, and this is finally becoming a problem.  It’s a wonderful event and its popularity means that some formalities will have to be put in place.  Perhaps it will lose some of its rustic charm…

rope machine demonstration at the scythe fair
A demonstration of rope making

scythe fair signwriter

….or perhaps not.  Suppose it was possible to close the whole lane for a day, so visitors had to leave their cars (in a convenient field) and walk or cycle to the event?   The locals would need to go along with the plan too, and not use their cars for a day.

The management felt that was too radical a concept – and I agree.  It’s a shame that everyone is so attached to their cars!

I’m just about to set off on another adventure, spreading the Resilience word …more when I return!