Category Archives: resilience

Three Months on Stores – Part Two

From December 16th 2020 to March 16th 2021, I didn’t set foot in a large supermarket. Not having a car, I usually get a lift with a friend every couple of weeks to replenish my stores and buy fresh food. On my last freezer trip, I took up this challenge, with no warning nor special preparation, just going into it cold. Thus the project was closer to a genuine prepping event.

The rules allowed me to buy fresh produce or single items within walking distance of my home. I could use farm shops, small grocery stores and local markets, but not larger outlets. Deliveries from the latter were also out.

I learned a great deal from this project, and here are the other highlights…

The Addictive Nature of Supermarkets

This was a genuine surprise. A few weeks into the project, I began concocting excuses for myself. I should keep my stores replenished. I was missing out on bargains. All ways to trick myself into a supermarket trip. It was comparable to the strategies I’d used in the past to avoid giving up smoking.

I resisted. There was a pandemic going on after all, and 16% of infections were said to be linked to supermarket trips. Not going there was a sound decision in many ways. Good prepping.

After about two months, these feelings wore off, replaced by a reluctance to return to my former behaviour. Although I had always maintained that supermarkets were addictive, I’d considered it a bit of a joke. I never expected to realise it was the truth!

Vitamin C

There isn’t any fresh fruit in a British winter. The farm shops and local markets rarely buy in imported produce and, with their low turnover, such goods are frequently of poor quality in the small groceries. Apart from apples, I couldn’t access much fruit apart from my frozen, tinned and dried supplies. All the Resilience Garden had to offer was a dwindling supply of carrots, parsnips and leeks.

I noticed I was drinking more fruit juice than usual, got through my fruit stores faster. The take-away here is that a large bottle of vitamin C tablets is essential in your prepping stores. The sell-by isn’t great, but it’s probably worth throwing an expired pack away and replacing it to keep this crucial item on hand.

Freezer Stores

I always shunned the use of freezers for resilience supplies. Too many people clog theirs up with batch-cooking which they’ll neither use nor throw away. As these shouldn’t be kept for more than three months, they’d be of no use in an emergency either. As with all stores, the key is rotation. If you don’t eat it, don’t keep it.

With few exceptions, I only freeze ingredients – meat, fish, vegetables, fruit. In a sudden defrosting event, these can be cooked and refrozen if the power is restored in time, or preserved in other ways. Ready meals just become a waste disposal problem. My freezer plan held up well, and I made little use of the longer lasting tinned and dried stores (apart from the fruit). I could last another three months just on these, but I’m resisting this new challenge for the time being.

Transport

As I mentioned, I don’t have a car, just support the existence of one I can use. I can bulk buy if I need to. However, if I only needed to do this every three months, I could easily afford a taxi home with my shopping. The rest of the time, I’d be walking or cycling. Even less need to maintain a personal car!

Summary

The main lesson from this three month project was ‘Eat what you’ve got, not what you want.’ It’s unreasonable to expect fresh strawberries in January, to insist on salads in winter. In a very real sense, these demands are destroying the planet!

In addition, I learned:-

  • avoiding supermarkets saves money
  • supermarket shopping is a real addiction
  • vitamin C is an important item in the prepper’s cupboard
  • my freezer strategy is sound
  • I need more fruit in my stores (and more instant coffee!)
  • I could live for a long time on the food within walking distance of my home

If you ran a test of your prepping stores right now, how would it go? Try it and see!

How much food can you access within walking distance of your home?”

from The Handbook of Practical Resilience, page 3.

You can buy a copy of this book here, and ‘Recipes for Resilience – common sense cooking for the 21st century’ here.

Three Months on Stores – Part One

The last time I got a lift to the frozen food shop, I incautiously pronounced that I reckoned I could live for three months on my stores.

Go on then,” said my friend, and there was the challenge!

The Rules

The main aim was to avoid doing any large shopping run. The big supermarkets were out of bounds. I could buy fresh foods, and replenish single items which had run out, only from the farm shop, produce markets or the small grocery stores in the High Streets of local towns. These latter increase footfall by 40%, so are worth supporting, unlike the out-of-town money pits.

Furthermore, I could only walk or cycle there, which severely limited the amount I could carry! The nearest shop to my house is over three miles away. Deliveries from large supermarkets were also against the rules, but a vegetable box from an organic farm or a milk delivery would have been acceptable. I didn’t need to resort to these, however, having a few root vegetables left in the Resilience Garden.

The Extras

I cycled to the tractor shop every fortnight or so, to pick up fresh milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and eggs. Towards the end, I added apple juice, but as they sell this in glass bottles, it was rather heavy. Occasionally they stock bread, which I’d slice and use to bulk out the diminishing freezer stock. It’s uneconomical to cool empty space – it causes a noticeable increase in the electricity used.

From the grocery – the Spar in Wells or the Co-op in Glastonbury – I’d get cleaning supplies, coffee, fresh fruit and meat. Although going to the local butchers was allowed, I had a lot of meat to use up in the freezer. Half-way through the project, I’d added a subsidiary aim, to empty the freezer ready for its annual defrost. On these trips, I’d buy a few treats like biscuits or cake, observing that these were now a luxury instead of a regular feature. If I wanted cake, I’d make my own from stores.

The Finances

I carefully noted all the money I spent on extras. From 16th December to 16th March is thirteen weeks, during which I spent an average of £11 a week on all food, drink and cleaning requirements. Calculating the cost of the stores used was a bit harder.

As the freezer was nearly empty at the end of the project, from being at maximum when it began, that was an easy calculation. It costs me £90 to fill it up from scratch, which translates to £7 per week.

The tinned and dried store cost is more of an estimate. I didn’t use very much, as I was concentrating on the freezer, but these are the items I drew upon :-

Dried milk* (1 carton)

Evaporated milk* (1 tin)

Coconut milk (1 tin)

Tins of baked beans* (small, 8)

Instant coffee (I ran out of this after 2 months!)

Pasta* (one 500g bag)

Rice* (half a 250g packet)

Suet* (one pack, but the birds ate a lot too)

Flour (Plain and self-raising – about a pound weight each)

Tea (I’m now using loose tea made in a pot)

Jams (replaced with no cost in season)

Sugar (mainly for elderberry syrup)

Oats* (again, helped by the birds!)

Dried potato mash* (three packets of 2 servings each)

Tins of fruit (about a dozen)

Dried fruit* (several packets)

Tinned custard (3 tins)

Bread mix* (2 small loaf packets)

Items marked with a asterix needed used up in the normal store rotation as they were close to going out of date. I estimated that the value of these stores amounted to about £5 a week. That’s probably an overestimate, as I don’t think it’ll cost me £65 to replace them. There’s still plenty left, and I’m not an extravagant prepper.

So, adding up my entire bill for food, drinks and domestic cleaning products for three months, I was spending an average of £23 a week. Now, I’ve no idea how that compares to other households, though the UK average for one person is said to be £25.80. Most statistics refer to families, couples, or budget-reducing projects which can get this down to £15.

However, most of what I buy is either organic or locally produced, and often both. I only buy quality produce from sources which benefit resilience. I use Waitrose or the larger Co-op store for general bulk buying, as they are owned by customers and staff rather than conventional shareholders. For freezer foods, I go to Iceland, who have a strong ethical dimension.

I learned quite a lot from this project, which I’ll continue with in my next post. Some of it was rather surprising!

How much food can you access within walking distance of your home?”

from The Handbook of Practical Resilience, page 3.

You can buy a copy of this book here, and ‘Recipes for Resilience – common sense cooking for the 21st century’ here.

Your Resilience Plan – Waste and Recycling

The energy cost of waste is another factor of modern life which is subsidised by cheap fossil fuels. Goods have to be manufactured, transported and disposed of. Closing the loop to cut out the transport is the resilient way forward. Ultimately, we need to buy local and recycle locally.

Much of the waste generated by a household is packaging. You are in control of this. Consider that glass, cardboard and metal could be reprocessed in a small factory nearby. Plastic requires more specialised equipment and generates harsher pollutants, so still needs to be transported to a larger, more expensive facility.

bag from cat pouches
There are inventive ways of repurposing plastic waste!

Keeping this in mind, take steps to reduce the amount of potential waste coming into your house. Find out if you can get milk delivered in glass bottles. I buy my fruit juice from the tractor shop now, as they sell locally made apple juice in glass, not imported juice in tetrapax. Where there’s no alternative, rinse out plastic bottles before recycling. Removing organic waste helps the process and cuts costs.

During your shopping trips, study the recycling symbols on packaging and learn what they mean. If the manufacturer claims something is recyclable, is this really practical? Will your doorstep collection accept it? Where else could you take it? Can you recycle things that aren’t collected? Do some research. If the label is just ‘greenwash’, buy something else. Write to the manufacturer and tell them why you’re doing this.

recycling plastics guide

Another area of everyday life where you can change your habits is the use of disposable products. Buy refillables instead. They often start more expensive, so you have to look after them to reap the cost benefits. Cultivate a new habit, that of buying quality goods and taking care of them so they last. Pens, razors, lighters, batteries – change them all over! Look for ease of repair in larger purchases. Are they fixable? Or just another disposable product at the end of the day.

fixing mop head

Now consider the actual need for packaging. Is there anything you can buy in bulk and transfer to your own containers? Some shops allow you to refill bottles, mainly for their own eco-friendly cleaning products. Others sell dry goods in large bins, from which you weigh what you need into a paper bag and transfer it to a more robust container at home. Cut out the middle-man entirely and organise a local buying group.

Once a few people are involved in waste control, it’s worth considering local reprocessing. How could that work? Could enough people commit to buying locally made preserving jars, or animal bedding made from shredded cardboard, to provide a stable customer base? What are the barriers here?

the resilience wheel

Adapt to working from home by using those precious hours, previously wasted in a senseless commute, for community building. Organise a tour of a modern recycling plant, or other such facility, to understand the waste stream better. Form a research group, consider a business plan, talk to entrepreneurs. Recyclate is a valuable resource, especially if the supply and demand are stabilised in a circular, locally based, system.

 

Learn more about taking control of your environment in easy but relentless stages with The Handbook of Practical Resilience!

Don’t forget food security, for which you’ll need Recipes for Resilience.

 

In the Bleak Midwinter…

‘Go for a walk and see how much food there isn’t….’

Recipes for Resilience, page 42

ice on rhines

Imbolc at the beginning of February may have heralded the inexorable rise of Spring, but it was immediately followed by a spell of savage cold. Here in the Shire, we didn’t get much snow, which can provide an insulating blanket over the soil. Only endless days of constant icy wind. The broad beans may not have made it through!

The only vegetables ready to eat in the Resilience Garden now are the hardy leeks. I dug up the last of the parsnips and carrots just before the cold snap. Emerging slugs were nibbling at the exposed carrot tops, and the parsnips were thinking of growing leaves. This, of course, is why they lay down that valuable store of carbohydrates in their roots.

I’m proud of my self-seeding parsnips. It’s apparently very difficult to get them to do that. My struggle is to get them eaten! On my own I have small meals, and it’s not been possible to host roast dinners. Apart from potatoes, I just don’t eat a lot of root vegetables. I’ve learned to finely grate raw carrot into mayonnaise as a kind of coleslaw, which gets through them, but the unused parsnips troubled me.

My daughter provided me with a recipe which solved the problem:-

Chop a couple of medium, or one large parsnip into pieces and simmer till very soft. Drain and mash thoroughly. Stir in a couple of ounces of grated cheese, a teaspoon of made mustard and a little black pepper. Form into thin, flat round cakes on a floured plate and fry in shallow oil till golden brown on both sides.

The mix is quite soft, almost like drop scones (page 102), so get the oil quite hot before sliding the patties in. Turn with care and a good fish slice. They go very well with bacon and baked beans, or with any meal which involves gravy.

On the positive side, the long frost has nailed those emerging slugs, and it might be another bad year for molluscs. My raised beds are cleared and dug over, so the birds have had a good chance to raid the soil for other pests.

Resilience garden in spring cleared for planting

I’ve bought my seed potatoes, and a couple of asparagus roots to plant. The soil has to warm up a little more first. The onion sets should go in soon, perhaps this weekend if it stops raining! The autumn planting is doing well, though nothing like a crop yet. The allium family are a hardy lot. It’s not surprising that the first recorded recipe (Babylon 3000 BCE) was for onions!

Even so, you can’t live on onions alone. To survive in a Northern climate, you need to have mastered the art of storing food over the winter. The supermarket-to-dinner strategy adopted by many modern people is a potentially fatal regression.

Learn to survive in the 21st century with ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience’ and ‘Recipes for Resilience’.  

Imbolc – the start of the growing season

Imbolc is a festival very closely tied to agriculture. As people moved away from the land, from being one of the key events of the year, it fell into obscurity. Six weeks after the Winter Solstice, in the first few days of February, Imbolc celebrates the beginning of Spring. From the perspective of a high-rise window, this may not be obvious. Down at ground level though, green shoots are appearing, buds are swelling. Even in the city, the days are clearly longer.

As lambs arrived in the pastures, so did a new supply of milk for hungry stone age farmers. After months of living on preserved food, with little access to sunlight, this source of vitamin D was essential for health. Imbolc customs often involved milk. The name itself may come from ‘oimelc’, an old word for ‘ewe’s milk’.

Imbolc lambs

The winter was over in the minds of these early farmers. Whatever the weather, their thoughts had to turn to mending fences, digging the vegetable plots, putting plans into action. There was much activity around holy wells during Imbolc; weather oracles were anxiously consulted. The American tradition of Groundhog Day on February 2nd has its roots here; once it was a badger who popped out to test the air.

Imbolc snowdrops

In the evening there would be a modest fire ritual. Great bonfires and loud parties weren’t appropriate. Survival was still not certain, but depended on the coming season’s crops. Candles were lit; it was a festival of hearth and home. Women encouraged the goddess of growing things to visit, sometimes by making a special bed for her.

An element of ritual cleansing also goes back a long way. It survives in the tradition of ‘spring cleaning’, but may once have been far more important. Some stone circles are directed at the Imbolc sunrise, notably at Newgrange in Eire. The inner chamber of the Mound of the Hostages there shows such an alignment.

Although we don’t know how these Neolithic people celebrated, we can imagine how they must have looked forward to the coming of Spring!

From ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’.

Contents Recipes for Resilience February

It might seem odd to be talking about greenhouses in February, but this is when they’re most useful. Many of your ordinary vegetables can get a head start, protected from cold soil and freezing winds. The trailing exotics of summer are just a bonus! As for fresh greens, I’m not talking about Iceberg lettuce here, but wild garlic, sorrels and nettles. These start showing just as the root vegetables which kept you going through the dark months are sprouting.

For each month in ‘Recipes’ I provide a short list of seasonal foods. You need to know these to plan your stores. After Imbolc, one can expect to have eggs and milk again, so I’ve gone into a little bit of detail about our historic relationship with milk. This shouldn’t be underestimated; it’s shaped the rural landscape of Britain for thousands of years!

Finally for each month there are the recipes, all relentlessly seasonal. See how much food you haven’t got at this time of year! Leaf through the contents of your copy and see how the available ingredients expand as the weather warms up. There’s over 130 recipes, many of which are directly related to the food you can grow, or which will be in season and cheap.

For resilience tips about other essential resources, consult ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience – How to Survive in the 21st Century’

Your Resilience Plan – Transport

Begin this part of your Resilience Plan by considering how you transport yourself, for this is the easiest thing to change.

Most people can walk. Do so. Walk around your neighbourhood regularly. Exercise yourself as you would if you had a dog. Walk with a purpose as well. If it takes an hour’s round trip to get a pint of milk from a local shop, do that instead of the ten minute drive to a supermarket.

farm shop reception

The plague has trashed public transport, so it’ll need your help to recover. Once it’s possible again, use a bus or train at least once a month. Travel to the nearest city for a day’s sightseeing. Take a bus to one end of a scenic walk and a different bus home at the other end, thus freeing yourself from being tied to circular walks.

Cycling has many of the same advantages as walking, but is generally faster. However, you need a better surface, and are often forced to share the road with motor traffic, which can be dangerous. There’s a plan in Britain to develop a fully connected national cycle network, promoted by Sustrans and others.

A bicycle for hire in Amsterdam

Another key aspect of transport which you can influence directly is the movement of goods. The concept of food miles is familiar in the context of global warming. Buying local is one of the most resilient actions you can take.

So far, we haven’t mentioned the personal car. This is an undeniably convenient resource, which is why its use has been allowed to create so many problems. Pollution of land, air and water; gridlocks in cities; an annual fatality rate of over a million globally.

Decades of car use have fragmented our communities. Friends, family, schools and work-places can be many miles from your home. This complete dependence on being able to maintain a personal car isn’t resilient. Floods, snowfall or fuel shortage can bring your entire lifestyle to a halt.

traffic jam

How could you begin to mitigate this? Start by keeping your car serviced for efficiency. This reduces pollution, as well as personal expense. Consider alternative way of reaching your key destinations. How could you adapt if you couldn’t use a car? Make a personal transport plan for such eventualities. If you don’t have a bicycle, you can’t cycle anywhere!

Maybe you could exchange your current car for a smaller, more economical model? Hire a larger vehicle for family holidays? Perhaps swap for an electric or hybrid car? Many showrooms will let you test drive these. Identify the barriers to making this change.

When you’ve got your copy of the full Resilience Assessment included in ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience’*, you’ll see there’s a default score of 30% in this section simply for not possessing a car. Score even if your family has one, but you’re not the main driver, because then you’re doing car-sharing.

Lift-sharing is a way of reducing the transport burden, especially in cities. People who travel to work can offer space to others, thus saving on congestion and parking costs. There are a number of schemes which you can explore, or encourage your workplace to set one up. Working from home is obviously better all round, but some jobs require your physical presence.

Community vehicle ownership is another avenue. A group of drivers club together to own a single vehicle for the personal use of each. This is complicated, but there’s advice available. Think how often you need the exclusive use of a car. How long does it spend doing nothing?

Throughout the Transport Resilience Plan, you may have noticed links to other sections of the Resilience Wheel.

Links from the Transport section to other parts of the Resilience Wheel

All sections of the Wheel are linked, but it’s particularly clear here. For your final task, we’ll cross to another quadrant entirely. How would you design a community transport hub?

You won’t be able to do this alone. You’ll need to enlist the Community Quadrant. Such a hub wouldn’t have to be a building. A strategically placed rural bus shelter could be extended to provide covered bike racks. People could cycle there from outlying villages to catch the main bus to town. Add a noticeboard, a book exchange, solar panels, a litter-bin divided for recycling. Provide wall maps for touring cyclists and ramblers, a wi-fi booster for linking to train timetables. All this is achievable with few resources, and the support of the surrounding community!

the resilience wheel

As I’ve described in the Handbook (p178), once you’ve completed the basic Resilience Plan, you can develop your resilience by specialising in areas which particularly appeal. One of my specialities is food production and supply. My current project is to last on stores for three months, with occasional visits to the tractor shop where I can stock up on dairy produce. I can reach this easily by bicycle.

I made my last large shop at Iceland (to fill an empty drawer in the freezer) in mid-December, spending only £50. If I can last out, the next supply run where I’ll need the use of a car will be mid-March. I’ll let you know haw I get on with this challenge!

If you want to read my advice on food security, please buy yourself ‘Recipes for Resilience – common sense shopping for the 21st century’.* You’ll find tips on growing vegetables, storing food and over a hundred basic, adaptable recipes!

Recipes for Resilience book in leeks

*Also available on Amazon if you really must go there.

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.