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.
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.
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 All stores go out of date, usually before there is an emergency, and you’ll end up wasting food.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.
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.
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.Although 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.
Take the bunches out one at a time, strip off the grapes and compost the stalks.
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.
The 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.
The 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.
This 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.Note 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!
It’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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
With the growing stresses of over-population, the only surprising feature of a global pandemic is that it didn’t happen years ago.
After two months of extreme precautions, even the resilient community described in Recipes for Resilience (page 198) would have to consider some activities. Roofs may need mending, crops planted or harvested, essential spare parts manufactured.
In the present world, we need to think about what tasks are crucial, and start moving these into local control. Economy of scale causes inefficiency of delivery at the best of times, and is now a recipe for disaster.
For example, a popular strategy has been to cut one’s workforce, close regional offices and oblige one member of staff to spend their day driving all over the South West to attend to jobs which used to be covered by people in that area. This should never have been thought acceptable. The employer’s staff and office costs are shoved onto the taxpayer in an underhand way, via the road system where the hapless employee now spends most of their time.
In the new world, this paradigm provides a sure way of spreading infection over a wide area.
Other changes have interesting implications.
Working from home, in many cases, has proved not only possible but very popular. The empty office blocks in city centres could be re-purposed for housing. The pressure on roads and public transport caused by commuting would ease. More people could travel to the cities for leisure, without fearing the awful ‘rush hour’.
As long-distance commuting becomes a thing of the past, the pressure to build on prime agricultural land should be eased. We’ll need this land to feed ourselves.
In Britain, we’re only growing enough food for 60% of the population. As these figures come from the farming side, they already assume zero waste at the consumer end. This is as good as it can get. We need to support farmers by shortening the food supply chain, so they get a larger share of the retail price. Then they can afford to explore more resilient practices (see, for example, page 29 of the Handbook and page 6 of ‘Recipes’).
The controversial Universal Credit benefit scheme could be usefully deployed to help with sourcing farm labour without turning to international travel – another high risk activity. This work is seasonal and often involves living on the farm for a short period. As you have to pay for this accommodation, and still keep up the rent on the home you occupy for the rest of the year, this is discouraging.
The UC system is capable of covering normal housing costs during a period of agricultural work, regardless of earnings during this time. It would be a kind of micro-subsidy, going direct to the workers rather than the land-owner. A limit on farm accommodation costs may need to be factored in, and other safeguards against abuse, but at least we don’t have to get permission from Brussels to use such initiatives.
This pandemic must act as a wake-up call. We have exceeded our carrying capacity, as described in ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience‘ (page 63). Allowing a virus to achieve population reduction for us is both cowardly and dangerous.
The Handbook covers every section of the Resilience Wheel and provides a framework for you to add more information. The Second Edition includes the full Personal Resilience Assessment. Use this to determine where your current level of practical resilience is, compared to the minimum you need to survive, then follow the Resilience Plan to improve this.
‘Recipes’ covers the Food section of the Resilience Wheel in detail, explaining how to store, grow and prepare for maximum food security. It contains over a hundred easy and adaptable recipes, plus seasonal gardening tips and some historical background – how the Icelanders survived 600 years of famine, for example.
These are unusually high. Despite my reservations about freezer stores (see ‘Recipes’ page 171), I inherited a small front-opening freezer from a lodger. I was only just ahead of the panic-buying curve in filling it up, but went into lock-down with a good selection of frozen food. I targeted fresh meat, fruit and other ingredients rather than ready meals. I’d already discovered that a partly empty freezer consumes noticeably more electricity than a full one does, so as I use the supplies, I fill up spaces with packs of sliced bread or home-made cake.
A short power cut reminded me of the vulnerability of this method of storage, so I’ve been focussing on using up the freezer contents! The food I chose can be quickly cooked, even preserved, if the power really goes down.
The leeks in the Resilience Garden have just finished. I bought a small sack of onions in anticipation of this. The rocket has started to bolt, but there’s plenty of wild garlic for fresh green leaves and the broccoli is ready. The potatoes are finished; they refuse to stop sprouting now, unless drenched with toxic chemicals. Carbohydrates of all kinds are out of season. This is when one turns to dried grains, pasta, rice and flour products.
There’s a few gaps showing after so long living on stores. It’s a bad time of year for fruit. I should have acquired more of the tinned and dried varieties. I’ll have to adjust my usual diet a little to use these up in rotation. No food is wasted using the Resilience plans!
I’m very fond of little trifles, and always get a pack when I do my infrequent re-stocking at a supermarket. However, a packet jelly with frozen fruit makes six small dishes full, and a tin of custard provides enough topping for these. I should’ve put away more jelly and custard, plus some sort of cream!
I don’t like storing UHT milk as it has a relatively short shelf life and really does go off. It’s hard for me to use up, as I’m accustomed to have fresh farm milk delivered. When the milk deliveries suddenly went out of business last week, it was a bit of a shock!
It was a good opportunity to open up the bag of milk powder and get that used. Another firm has taken over the milk round now, so all is well with dairy produce again.
Local shops have regrouped and are offering deliveries as well, so I can order in some seasonal produce. I feel I need to support them, but it’s hard to find enough things I need. Rhubarb is good – mine is still too new to harvest – and cauliflower is in season. Mostly I buy more honey, which keeps forever.
In summary, after three weeks living very well on stores, I could still last for months. Tea and coffee might have to be replaced with garden herbs. I’m already out of chocolate and sweets, and the last packet of biscuits is being rationed. The reserve milk is gone, but I have Vitamin D tablets on board.
Following the Resilience Plan, not only will you be set up for food stores whenever something happens, but none of the food will be wasted!
‘Recipes’ gives detailed instructions on how to achieve personal food security and can be bought direct from the publishers.
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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!
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!
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!
‘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!