Category Archives: resilience

Your Resilience Plan – Housing

In a climate where cold and rain are frequent features, your house is a critical resource. Unless you can afford to build your own, you will have to make do with a standard model, not designed with resilience in mind. Very few houses in Britain can function independently of mains services (‘off-grid’).

There’s still a lot you can do. Living off-grid is a major lifestyle change, and you can cultivate the correct attitude from any starting position. Then you’ll know what opportunities to look out for and be ready to seize them, as well as being better prepared for domestic emergencies.

Heating is important. You can always keep warm by wearing extra clothes, but a cold house soon become damp. This is a health hazard. Cut the high cost of heating energy with good insulation. There are many low-cost options, such as using double curtains and draught excluders in winter.

Use any outside space you have. You can grow herbs in pots and put up a washing line in the smallest of gardens. With a larger space, cultivate vegetables or hold community gatherings.

The structure of your house may be resistant to resilient improvements, but it’s filled with furniture, which is under more control. Consider quality and ease of cleaning in purchases. Learn how to care for furniture and you can afford to spend the extra on better made, or even locally crafted, items. Buy second-hand to save energy costs and help reduce the waste stream.

Taking this further, you could learn to repair or build your own furniture. For example, your landlord might not allow you to put up shelves. Find an old wardrobe and convert it to a bookshelf. If woodwork is too daunting, try making a rug or learning to upholster a simple stool. It’s important that you learn how much effort and skill is required, so that you know the true value of hand-made goods. Always try and source materials to benefit your local economy for your DIY projects.

making a rag rug
This method uses a hooked needle to make a rag rug

These are all easy tasks, which you can carry out at any time. Suppose things go wrong in the outside world, upon which you depend? Do you know how to turn your mains services on and off? Where’s your water shut-off tap? You’ll need to know this if your system springs a leak! How would you make your house safe and secure if you have to leave it? Remember the two basic emergency situations are evacuation and isolation.

Let’s assume the latter case. You’re safe at home, but isolated from mains services and new supplies. Is your emergency food store independent of mains power? Many people rely on freezers to see them through. These are valuable in most circumstances. However, after a couple of days without mains electricity, all you have is a waste disposal problem. It’s very difficult to keep a freezer going on the sort of off-grid power you can easily access, but you’d learn a lot by setting this up.

How else could you provide essential services in your house in an emergency? What would you actually do if the water, gas or electricity went off? Make a plan. Would it see you through overnight? Could you last a few weeks? Understand what you might need and source the necessary equipment. A loft or shed are important as storage spaces for this.

For example, a well-insulated house can be kept from freezing or damp with the smallest of heaters. As long as you don’t keep leaving doors open, even a 500 watt oil-filled radiator can keep a room warm.

Never use a barbecue or other charcoal-burning device to heat a room or to cook indoors. They give off dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide, and could quickly kill you.

The truly resilient can make their own candle-powered flowerpot stove, using the proper instructions. The excitable inventor gives you full details to make your own if you scroll down, as shipping costs to the UK from the USA are quite high. Use this design and no other! All I’d add would be to use stainless steel for the inner metal workings, as ordinary steel nuts and washers are coated with zinc. Find out why this isn’t ideal, using your own research.

flowerpot candle stove
A flowerpot candle stove

Once you’ve given household resilience some thought and tried out a few ideas, you’re in a better position to assess a new place. Value a garden, food storage space and a large kitchen. Take a day trip to a historic house as your adventure for this section. Study the facilities people used before mains services.

A community eco-housing plan is the ultimate in resilient housing. It’s a major investment, so do plenty of research. Study the issues involved until you can discuss this possibility with confidence. Many communities offer places to rent. Being able to work from home opens up more possibilities.

Finding a resilient house is a challenge. Most builders of large estates are motivated by financial greed. They source cheap materials from overseas, while British farmers produce enough straw as a by-product of grain farming to build 600,000 straw bale houses every year! Research and lobbying are important. Allow no new major development to go unchallenged as every single one costs land which could be used for resilient housing instead.

‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience’ is available from New Generation Publishing, where print-on-demand ensures they never run out of copies or make you wait for an order. It contains the updated Resilience Assessment. Signed copies can be obtained by contacting me directly.

Same goes for ‘Recipes for Resilience’ your go-to book for food security strategies. Over a hundred simple adaptable recipes, plus many tips for growing vegetables and for storing food.

Travel advice

Travel is particularly difficult this holiday season. While you’re worrying whether your journey is necessary enough to satisfy the quarantine police, don’t forget to check the weather forecast before you set out!

There is a warning of severe rain and high winds for the latter part of Boxing Day (Saturday, for the many who have lost all track of time by now) in Britain. There may be some flooding, or fallen trees and cross-winds.

If you’re driving in high winds, try to use main roads, where there is less chance of falling branches. Look out for side gusts, especially on exposed parts of the road. Your vehicle can be blown off course, other traffic may be pushed into your path, or debris may fly across the road. Take care when overtaking, keep both hands on the wheel and concentrate at all times. You are not safe.

A wet road surface is slippery. Stay a good distance behind the car in front, and reduce your speed. Investing in good tyres with a deep tread helps protect you from aquaplaning. You shouldn’t attempt to drive through flood water. Even if it looks shallow, you can’t see what’s under the surface.

Hail can fall with such violence that it could break your side or rear car windows, which are not as strong as the windscreen. Try to pull over during a severe hailstorm, if it’s safe to do so.

Pedestrians can face many dangers as well. Apart from the hazards posed by drivers losing control of their vehicles, you are more vulnerable to wind-blown debris when on foot. Keep away from the sheltered side of high walls and trees where possible. If they fall, it will be in this direction.

You are unlikely to be out on foot while the storm is raging, but once the rain has stopped you might venture to walk the dog or go to the shops. Don’t try to walk through flood water, especially if it’s moving. Remember one cubic metre of water weighs a ton – as much as a small car – so a hand’s depth can easily sweep you off your feet and carry you into the nearby river.

It’s still winter, and the weather can be challenging. Pay attention!

These tips, and other advice about bad weather driving, can be found in The Handbook of Practical Resilience. It’s the go-to book for emergencies!

Resilience Lite

A few years ago, when I was doing my annual Resilience Check, I noticed my scores in the Community Networking and Emergency Planning (National Plans) sections could improve. What was I missing? I hadn’t been to a local Council meeting for over a year. Attending these, however far outside your comfort zone it may be, is crucial in developing a resilient community.

parishes in mendip somerset UK

So I went along, intending just to listen with a positive attitude. After all, these people are volunteers. I ended up being persuaded into filling a casual vacancy. Now I’m the Parish Resilience Officer!

The Council commissioned a new website, and I was asked to write a list of ‘Easy Things One can do to Reduce Carbon Emissions’. Now, I’m not a fan of simplistic solutions. ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience’, at 180 pages, is as reductionist as I usually get.

However, there are a few tips which fashionable ‘To-do lists’ often omit, and here they are…..

ENERGY – Always remember to turn devices off when you’ve finished with them for the day. Leaving them on standby wastes a surprising amount of electricity!

FOOD – Cut down on food waste by shopping with a list and planning ahead to use up leftovers. Buy food from local suppliers wherever possible.

WATER – Don’t waste water! Keep your plumbing system in good repair. A dripping tap can waste 15 litres of water every day.

HOUSING – Most houses have double glazing and good insulation these days. Try turning your heating thermostat down by a degree or two, or cutting an hour off the heating time. If you only have single glazed windows, put up a set of thick winter curtains as well as your normal ones, leaving a few inches of space between them. This double layer of cloth helps keep the cold out.

TRANSPORT – Cars are very useful, but we rely on them too much. Make at least one journey a month by other means. Cycle, or get the bus, to the market. Walk to visit friends in the next town. It’s important to support all the transport options available.

WASTE – Avoid buying disposable items. Get cleaning products in bulk and fill up re-useable containers. Buy refillable pens, start using rechargeable batteries for your gadgets.

COMMUNICATION – The ‘gate poster’ has come into its own during the pandemic. Local businesses were able to advertise food delivery services with the help of their community. Do you know where you could display information so that your neighbours will see it? It’s a good way of communicating. If you’re having a clear-out, maybe you could sell a few things rather than taking them to the tip?

CLOTHES – Take good care of your clothes. If you do, you can afford to invest in good quality items, which last much longer. Learn how to check seams, zips and labels to recognise quality clothes in charity shops.

ENVIRONMENT – Look after your local wildlife. A healthy environment is a direct benefit to you. Birds are important in controlling insect pests. Wetlands mitigate flooding. Walks in nature are known to be important for our mental health.

the resilience wheel

The full programme of achievable actions to boost your level of practical resilience can be found in the Handbook, along with instructions for creating and following a Resilience Plan. It’s not all about being careful with resources. I encourage you to go on adventures, have some fun seeing new places in your locality or further afield.

‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’ makes food security fun, with over a hundred easy-to-follow and adaptable recipes.

Your Resilience Plan – Water

Water affects your life in many ways, from carrying away waste to shaping the landscape. It’s essential for growing food and for washing, important in transport and in the national power supply. It can be both useful and dangerous. You need to know about water.

Start at the beginning, which for most people is their water bill. Take a look at it. You’re charged once for the water you use in your house, and a second time for the same volume of water as it is carried away. Apart from the water you drink, most of it flows in and back out again. The high standing charges reflect the cost of maintaining and improving the extensive infrastructure needed to make this happen, most of which is underground or at special locations.

Do you use all available measures to conserve water in your house? Many water companies include useful information in their bills to help you use less. The average person in my area, for example, uses over 180 litres a day. My daily use is 119 litres, which includes watering my food crops. You can save quite a lot of money by being careful with your water.

pie chart of domestic water use

If your guttering is in good condition, you can catch rainwater from your roof and use it to water your vegetables. ‘Grey water’, that is water used for basic washing in baths, washing machines and kitchen, is harder to make use of. One easy method is to use a hose-pipe bath siphon to water your lawn or trees in summer. Although simple adaptions in new houses could help this situation, they are not prioritised.

Many bathroom products come in plastic bottles. You can reduce this waste, avoid harsh chemical additives and support local businesses by buying hand-made soaps, shampoo bars and bath bombs. Many common cleaning products can be made at home using simple ingredients such as vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and citric acid. These cause minimum pollution of your waste water.

Never mix bleach with anything but plain water!!

Keep your plumbing system in good repair. A dripping tap can waste 15 litres every day! Make sure you have a well-fitting bath plug and you can have a reservoir of clean water in an emergency. The truly dedicated can save on bills by flushing the toilet with bath water.

Japanese style toilets where the cistern is filled by a hand-washing sink!
Or get one of these neat Japanese style toilets where the cistern is filled by a hand-washing sink!

Every section of your resilience plan has one or two adventures in it. For a day out, visit a hydroelectric power station. At Pitlochry in Scotland, you can see the salmon ladder from an underwater viewing chamber! Or go on a tour of a water treatment works and compare it to a similar tour of a reed bed system. The latter will take you out in the country, probably to an eco-village or similar interesting establishment. You could even plan a trip to one in Europe!

water wheel

There’s another adventure to tick off in the Water section. Explore a canal or river, maybe even take a barge holiday or a river cruise. Observe the wildlife and infrastructure found on a waterway, study its history.

You need around two litres of drinking water every day. If you have to find and purify this yourself, you’ll already be in a serious situation. Fortunately, thanks to the long-established infrastructures created by your community, things rarely come to this. If it did, do you know how to purify water for drinking? Could you make a simple filtration system from scavenged materials? Would you still need to boil this water?

a selection of water containers for an emergency

Finally, if tap water stops being an option, where else could you go? Do you know the location of your nearest well or spring? You could probably find an organisation dedicated to restoring such resilient assets; maybe join it.

So, this is water. You have to drink it to stay alive, and so do your food animals and crops. It serves for washing and for carrying away waste; provides power and transport. In Britain, we rarely have problems with a shortage of water, but many other countries do. If you happen to travel to such places on holiday, observe the strategies they use. Resilience is a constant learning process.

 

I did a test purchase of ‘Recipes for Resilience’ from my publishers, and had the book within 8 days. They are ‘print-on-demand’ so never run out of stock; worth considering rather than getting messed about by Amazon!

‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience’ is also available from New Generation Publishing. It contains the updated Resilience Assessment. Signed copies of both can be obtained by contacting me directly.

Notes on a Resilient Community

I made these notes some years ago, while researching for ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’. A whole sheaf of writing was condensed into a ‘mind map’, as pictured below, and set aside.

rough notes on self-sufficiency

If I need this information for an article, book or story, this serves to remind me of the conclusions I drew from the research. It underpins the description of a resilient village on page 198 of ‘Recipes’ for example.

However, other people don’t find it quite so clear, so I’m just going to expand on these notes a little.

I began the project by musing on how much land a single person might need to grow all their own food. An acre of vegetables is said to be sufficient, but you’d want more variety, more redundancy, perhaps extra food to trade for other necessities. This is what I came up with:-

One acre of vegetables

About a third of an acre for chickens – you’d get both eggs and meat here

One acre for a horse

One acre for a cow

A quarter acre for a sheep

One square yard of grain gives you one loaf; 200 square yards of grain crop should suffice.

A quarter acre of pond supplies fish

Barns, workshops and housing would occupy another quarter acre.

That’s about four acres, adding land for paths, fences, windmills and suchlike.

By that time, I was considering fuel as well. Four acres of coppiced woodland can provide enough to heat a house all year in a temperate climate.

This was looking like a lot of work for one person. Suppose you got ill? A house can accommodate several people. Farm animals don’t like to live alone. Resources and practical skills are only half of the Resilience Wheel. Community is important. Let’s add more people!

With four adults living in the house, the amount of woodland required remains the same, but we need more food:-

Four acres of vegetables

About eight acres of pasture. There’s now enough land for a serious rotation. The sheep follow the cows and horses, the chickens follow the sheep. You could bring pigs into the mix too.

Add a couple of acres of orchard, with fruit and nut trees. The sheep and chickens can forage here too. There will be beehives for honey and wax.

About half an acre of pond is probably still enough. Any more and the fish may be too hard to catch! If you have a flowing stream as well, there’s water power to consider.

An acre of grain gives extra for fodder.

Your buildings will still take up about the same area; a quarter acre

And the four acres of woodland.

That’s about twenty acres all told. The single person had to manage eight alone. I notice I’ve randomly added a few more acres into the total in the original notes. I forget why, so let’s do the same. Call it twenty-four acres to support four people, that gives us extra land for crop and pasture rotation. The animals are much happier in their little herds. The extra labour opens up possibilities.

Now we’ve almost certainly got a surplus of produce. This tiny community could even support an elderly person and children, who each need less than half the food of a working adult. Not many children, as a two-child family is the only way to sustain this group long-term. Land does not multiply itself.

Now they need some company. Let’s give each household of six a thirty acre plot, just in case they temporarily expand to eight people. Fallow meadowland is easy to grow and pleasant to have, easy to cultivate if needed. Twelve of these plots, as segments of a circle with the houses and valuables at the centre, form a circle a mile wide. We’ve now got seventy to a hundred people in a little village, bordered by a band of woodland.

how many people can live on three square miles of land

That’s quite a small community. Could it get bigger and remain resilient? Let’s double the diameter of the circle to two miles. The houses are still only a mile, twenty minutes walk, from the edge. You’ve got horses, renewable energy for tractors, you’ve laid paths. According to the expanded calculations in the picture, up to 72 households could be accommodated, or three to four hundred people of all ages from babies to the very old.

Below is a diagram of how the cultivated land could be laid out, with crops needing more maintenance closer to the houses. Sheep graze the edge of the forest, to discourage saplings encroaching. Water as in ponds, streams, rivers or even canals, may have to be worked around. Perhaps a couple of segments must be left unclaimed to host these common resources.

layout of a self sufficient plot

The coppiced woods form a circle around the village. It’d be useful to have a zone of natural forest beyond these. Fungi and game were always a fall-back plan if crops failed. Lets say a thick band of woodland, a couple of miles across, separates one of these villages from another. Your neighbours are only four miles away, an easy journey on foot – though you have horses and electric vehicles.

All the elements are in place for a fully sustainable, completely resilient lifestyle. Add skilled crafts people making luxury items, remote working because you haven’t forgotten technology and still have the internet. Unlikely? It’s surprising how resilient the internet is now that it’s been discovered!

What you can actually do right now may bear no more relationship to this than an acorn does to a full-grown oak. Remember – every majestic tree was once a nut that didn’t give up!

A Seasonal Recipe – Potato and Leek Soup

Recipes for Resilience – common sense cooking for the 21st century’ is the book you need! There’s over a hundred basic recipes, arranged to make use of seasonal foods, plus gardening advice to help you with your vegetable patch. Learn how to combine food stores with fresh produce, and your food bills could end up as low as mine!

Here’s one of the recipes from the book, using the ingredients you find in the winter months:-

Leek and potato soup

A couple of large leeks from your resilience garden

A couple of medium potatoes from winter stores, chopped small

Stock – half a litre (one pint) for two people (use a stock cube from stores)

Optional – some dried wild mushrooms. Practice with commercially available types

Acquiring the skills to collect and preserve wild mushrooms safely is quite a task. Try eating some already prepared first. You may not like the taste or texture! However, if you don’t eat animal products, fungi can be an important source of protein.

Dried foods need a lot of cooking water, so it’s best to add them to a stew or soup. Follow any instructions about pre-soaking on the packet, or online.

Slice up the leeks and sauté them in a little oil with a dash of tamari (optional). Pour in the stock, add the potatoes and mushrooms. Simmer for about 20 minutes; it’s ready when the potatoes are soft. If the mushrooms need longer – there are many different varieties – the rest of the soup is fine with that, as long as you keep the liquid topped up.

You can make this into a ‘cream’ soup. Allow it to cool so it won’t scald you, then blend it. Warm it back up, stirring in 4 fluid ounces (100 ml) of single cream. Don’t let it boil. Serve as soon as it’s hot enough.

Although richer and more nutritious, this soup won’t keep as long as the dairy-free version; it’s best eaten up at one meal.

Recipes for Resilience book in leeks

Now here’s the seriously resilient version:-

War Soup – a modern famine recipe

4 tablespoons of dried milk

1 stock cube

2 tablespoons dried parsley or whatever green leafy stuff is around, shredded

Mix the dried milk with 2 tablespoons of water until it’s creamy. Make up to half a litre (one pint). It should look roughly like milk. If it seems too thin, mix up another tablespoon of powder with a very little water in a cup and stir this in slowly to thicken it. Adding more dried powder straight to any mix often results in lumps.

Of course, if you have the packet, follow the instructions given to make up a pint.

Heat the milk gently, stirring in the crumbled stock cube and the leaves; serve at once.

Note the similarity to the ‘cream of potato and leek soup’ above. Both involve milk and stock cubes. Both can be expanded with garden forage or wild edibles. You would tend to use these recipes if protein from meat or pulses was in short supply. Milk supplies extra Vitamin D in the dark winter months.

Recipes for Resilience‘ doesn’t just cover the skills of buying cheap for stores, and growing food to supplement your monthly shopping. (Yes, that’s monthly! I go to the supermarket once a month, to buy in heavy items like tins. I spend about £40 there, including a few expensive treats. Every four months, I spend another £50 on stocking up a small freezer. That’s it. My store cupboard’s always full.)

It also explains how to cope with very serious emergencies, where the power and mains water could be out for some weeks. The sister publication, ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience – how to survive in the 21st century’ goes into more detail. You don’t have to have a cabin in the woods – and you probably won’t – to use the survival skills outlined. They work right where you are.

Can you afford not to have these books?Handbook of Practical Resilience and freezer with labels

You can also buy them on Amazon, though supporting my helpful publisher is better!

‘Recipes’ is here

The ‘Handbook’ is here

Or you can contact me and I’ll send you out a copy.

‘Recipes’ at £9 plus £3 p&p UK

the ‘Handbook’ at £10 plus £3 p&p UK

Important tips for storing food

  1. Having a good supply of stored food is a useful habit to acquire and cultivate. It’ll see you through a time of bad weather, provide a back-up in case of sudden financial difficulties, sort you out if you can’t go out due to personal illness or accident. And it will be very useful in a global pandemic where a trip to the supermarket is fraught with danger.

  1. Keep this store separate from kitchen cupboards. As described in ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’, you can fit your core supplies in a 32 litre plastic box, which will fit under many beds. This box can also come with you if you have to evacuate in your car, for example if your home is threatened by flooding. It could be vital if you have serious dietary needs.

a box of emergency food supplies

  1. Don’t store food you never eat in everyday life. All stores go out of date, usually before there is an emergency, and you’ll end up wasting food. Keeping foods which you use means you can take advantage of bargains to stock up, reducing your overall food bill.

  1. Store tinned and dried foods. Don’t buy large packets, which are tedious to use up once opened. If the packet gets broken, you’ll lose a lot of food. Get more smaller packets instead. If you have a freezer, that’s a bonus. If the power goes off though, your stores will quickly transform into a waste disposal problem.

  1. Buy survival foods if you must. Pay attention to the cooking methods. You may need to be able to prepare your emergency meals on a single cooker ring, or even an open fire. Go camping to use these up and practice being outside your comfort zone – see ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience – How to Survive in the 21st Century’ for adventure suggestions.

  1. Get yourself a copy of ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’ where you’ll find all this advice and a lot more. Learn to build food storage into your general routines so you’re never caught out. Panic buying can be dangerous!

upload R4R price by onions june 19

A Craft Interlude – Grape Juice

In the twenty years since I planted a tiny little stick, it has become a huge grape vine, sweeping around the side of the house and smothering the shed roof.Large grape vine in garden octoberAlthough it produces a tremendous amount of fruit, the grapes are small. Most of their insides are occupied by two large seeds.  They’re not much use for eating, but with a bit of effort can provide a lovely juice.

The first task is to pick the grapes and leave them in a basin covered with cold water for about ten minutes. This allows any insects among the bunches to escape, and some of the debris to float to the top where you can scoop it off.

washing grapes ready to make juice

Take the bunches out one at a time, strip off the grapes and compost the stalks.

stripping grapes from their stalks ready to make juice

Now you need to squish the fruit to extract the juice. We tried a small fruit press, but it wasn’t any faster than crushing the grapes by hand through an ordinary sieve.Small hand press for fruit juice

crushing grapes sieve and strain for juiceThe picture above shows two stages. First the grapes are squeezed through the sieve in the centre, then the juice is poured into a larger sieve lined with muslin. The smaller sieve needs frequent rinsing out, and the muslin has to be changed quite often. Sterilise the cloth by soaking in brewers’ grade steriliser (or Milton fluid) and rinsing well in clean water. Wear a plastic apron if you have one, as the whole process can be very wet.

The pictures below shows the muslin clogged with fine particles. Move the cloth around to use clean areas, but you’ll need a good half dozen pieces ready to use.

muslin used for straining juice gets clogged with residuemoving clogged muslin around the sieve to make grape juiceThe juice collected in the second pan can now be pasteurised. Always use stainless steel pans for making fruit juice.  Non-stick will work, but not cast-iron. If you use enamelled pans, make sure there are no chips in the surface.

Heat the juice gently to at least 70 degrees Celsius and hold it there for at least a minute.  Stir it to make sure the heat is distributed all the way through. You ought to use a cooking thermometer for this. However, we brought both our batches to nearly 100 degrees (boiling point), by not paying enough attention, and it didn’t harm the juice.  So if you can’t get hold of a thermometer, it should be okay to just let the juice gently bubble, then turn the heat straight off.

If it’s not done enough, it’ll ferment in the bottles, so always use proper swing-top beer bottles, or corked wine bottles to store home-made juices. Never use screw-top bottles, as they might explode.

pasteurising grape juice in a panThis is the juice just after being heated.  Note that it still has impurities in it even after the straining. We pasteurised one batch in the bottles, but these impurities rose to the top and made a mess, so we redid that batch as above.  We strained the pasteurised juice through clean muslin again, and decanted it into sterilised bottles.second straining of grape juiceNote the second straining doesn’t leave so much residue. Even with these precautions, there’s still a little sediment in the finished bottles once they’ve settled for a few days!

Rinse out the bottles, preferably with hot water.  Glass can crack if it’s too cold when you pour hot liquids in.  Note the work surface is covered with a towel; this had to be changed for a dry one at regular intervals. It isn’t a fast process; with the first batch it took me about 8 hours to fill a dozen bottles with the finished juice!

filling the bottles with grape juiceIt’s worth the trouble though. Home pressed grape juice is delicious, free of additives, and thoroughly resilient. Our next project is to try and extract grape seed oil from the residues, but we might leave that for next year!

 

 

Your Resilience Plan – Energy

During the design process for the practical resilience programme, we considered using the very broad definition of energy used by the Transition movement. While it is true that transport, farming and many other resources use energy, often in the form of fossil fuels, we found this definition to be confusing for our students.

Energy in the Resilience Wheel refers to domestic and industrial power supplies. Heating, cooking, lighting, and running appliances or machinery are the factors considered here; the direct use of energy.

We are conditioned to think of electricity as something that just comes out of the wall in an infinite stream, the only constraints on its use being the price. Then there is a problem with the power distribution network and suddenly electricity is not there at all. This lacks resilience.” (page 20)

The main concept you need to work on in this section is coming to terms with a finite power supply. You should be looking at ‘off-grid’ solutions for emergencies, which will serve you well during inconvenient power outages. The ones we are considering here are the sort of low voltage systems used in old style touring caravans. The ambitious could acquire a small generator. Neither of these will produce enough energy to run appliances drawing 1000 watts (1 kilowatt), or over, for very long.

So we begin with energy awareness. Understand your energy bills; gas, electricity, oil or coal. In Britain, over half will be used in your heating system. Adapt to this by insulating your home. Then even tiny candle stoves can keep you from freezing.

Candle powered stove, full unit with stand and base
Note – this link is to the original inventor, who helpfully provides diagrams to make your own.  Pay attention to the safety instructions.  I’ve used them for years

A 12 volt leisure battery fully charged contains a limited amount of electricity. We advise you to prioritise lighting and phone charging. A smart phone can be charged several times on this system, while a laptop will use up most of your power. Cultivate habits of economy here before they become necessary. Even leaving LED lights on carelessly can soon drain your entire battery.

A supply of small rechargeable batteries for torches and the like is a valuable asset in an emergency. Most chargers run on mains power (240 volts in Britain), but use very little. Once you have mastered the use of inverters which can convert 12 volt power to mains you can plug these into your emergency system.

Remember – when you are using inverters the electricity provided is as dangerous as any other mains power.

It’s unlikely you’ll get more than a maximum of 600 watts of mains power from a basic emergency system. You will soon use this up. This will go further if you acquire lights and chargers which run on a 12 volt supply. Inverters are convenient, but waste energy.

A small ‘suitcase’ generator can give up to two kilowatts of 240 volt electricity. These produce dangerous exhaust fumes, so must be run outside. Set up a locked, soundproofed and ventilated shed with a safe cable feed into your house. If your generator can be heard, it will not only annoy your neighbours, but may attract thieves. Generators are useful to supplement your emergency system.

Look for appliances which use less electricity. If you found a washing machine which uses under two kilowatts, you can fire the generator up to get the laundry done. Your storage batteries and devices can get a charge boost. You could boil water for flasks if you have a suitable low voltage kettle.

Understanding electricity is the key to basic practical resilience in the energy section.

There are other types of power to explore as well. Some areas of your house could be illuminated by candles to save valuable electricity. Learn candle safety. A cooker running on bottled gas will allow you to prepare foods during a power cut. Your emergency electricity will not run an electric cooker.

full sized 4 ring calor gas cooker
This full sized cooker runs on bottled gas

At worst, a small camping gas stove can boil water or heat soup. It is possible to extract gas from bio waste but not for the amateur. This would be a community project.

Local renewable energy schemes are valuable to your personal practical resilience. You need to support them – spend some time on research. How easy would it be to have such a scheme supply a small group of houses rather than feed into the grid?

Even if you’re not in a position to take your home off-grid, understand the factors involved and consider the benefits.

The page numbers are in the Handbook of Practical Resilience, which should be your go-to book. The ten tasks relating to the Energy section of the Resources Quadrant are listed in Appendix One (Your Personal Resilience Assessment).

As the familiar is swept away, you need to cultivate practical resilience. Acquiring the life skills described in the Handbook will provide the confidence to face these dramatic changes. Putting this knowledge into action in your everyday life, you can be assured that you are doing your best to cultivate a truly sustainable civilisation, despite the odds.

You are at the centre of the Wheel, the eye of the storm!

The Art of Practical Resilience

Are we about to enter the Zombie Apocalypse? Safe isn’t happening any more. Welcome to my world. You could do with some advice.

People have been encouraged to be passive consumers. Presented with a crisis, they have lost the ability to take responsibility. The modern world seems so complicated. Surely someone else understands it. They can tell you what to do.

Things have not changed that much. Strip away the shiny labels and you still have the same needs as your ancestors. Where there is wilderness to retreat to, many people are proving this. Most of you won’t have this particular option, but there is still plenty you can learn to do.

You have to learn to survive where you are. You need to understand how your life-support utilities work, how your food is produced, where the stuff in your house comes from.

You need to cultivate Practical Resilience.

Practical Resilience is a state of mind, which is hard to assess. Fortunately, this state of mind encourages you to take actions and acquire knowledge. These are easier to measure.

The Resilience Wheel and Assessment let you discover where you are on the practical resilience scale. Use them to improve on this.

Following the Resilience Plan outlined in the Handbook doesn’t involve joining groups, subscribing to anything, or even holding particular views. The book contains all the information you need to achieve an impressive level of practical resilience. You can build on this to become a real expert in areas which particularly appeal to you, connecting with people who cultivate different skills.

The Handbook is very condensed. You use it as a framework to hold additional information – internet research, your own experiences, the wisdom of your elders – in an organised way. This helps you to remember it, especially in a crisis where you might be feeling a bit panicked.

I’m planning a series of posts here to expand on the Handbook one section at a time. The tasks in each – as described in the assessment – range from very easy to more challenging. Each one improves your practical resilience, and contributes to a more resilient society. Sometimes the purpose of a task may not be clear at this level, but they’re mostly pretty obvious.

Once you’ve gained a reasonable score in all 20 sections, as described in the Handbook, you’ll have a firm base from which to progress. You’ll be more grounded and confident, less subject to being swept along by the latest media panic. Knowing what is important to your survival and welfare, you can make informed decisions.

And you should have a photo album of adventures to look back on. That’s an important part of the journey – each section has one to complete!

The second edition of the Handbook contains the latest version of the Practical Resilience assessment.  There are full instructions for calculating your own score – you don’t need to send anything off.  The book is designed to be there when all else fails, but do try and pay attention before that happens.

If food security is your favourite thing, you’ll need ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’ as well.  Full year of gardening tips, over 100 recipes and instructions for a basic emergency food store.