Category Archives: survival skills

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.

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 – 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.

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.

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 – Food

In Chapter Three of the ‘Handbook for Practical Resilience’, the Food section is used as an example to describe the role of the tasks provided in achieving your personal resilience.

Ideally, you would be sourcing many of your basic foods from local suppliers either directly or through shops, deliveries and markets. You’d know most of the people involved in the food chain personally. You’d grow a lot of fresh produce yourself, or harvest it from your community garden.”

If you have reached this level of food security, you are doing very well. However, not many people in Britain will be able to tick all these boxes, so we’ll look at the other end of the scale.

You buy all your food from a large supermarket, eating mainly processed meals. You can’t cook and don’t know anyone who can show you how. If you have a garden at all, your landlord won’t let you grow vegetables. In an emergency, you would depend on food aid being brought to you rather than being able to support yourself on surrounding resources for a while.”

This is not a resilient position to be in. You don’t have any control over your food supplies.

empty shelves 1 mar 18

Imagine a scale from one to ten, with the highest score being for the ideal situation. Where do you think you are on this scale? What actions could you take to improve your score, and what barriers might you need to deal with?”

The first strategy you need to consider in the worst-case scenario is storing food. Supermarkets – and cash and carry shops – are useful for sourcing large amounts of tinned and dried produce. They have handy car parks, so you can transport these easily.

Ready meals are a waste of space. You need to be able to put basic meals together from ingredients. This is far more economic, both in cost and storage. With cooking skills, you can make the best use of the sort of random selections available during shortages. You can also plan ahead, shop with a list and work out how to use up leftovers.

It’s unlikely that you’ll have enough land – several acres – to supply all your food needs. Even a pot of herbs on the window sill can provide essential vitamin C if you are obliged to live on stores for awhile. Using whatever growing space you have will help you cultivate the skills required to grow food. At the very least, this will help you partake in informed decisions about community or national farming strategies.

An important factor in your personal resilience is the amount of food grown in your immediate area – within walking distance! At present, food growers have difficulty selling their products at retail prices. They are forced to go through commercial buyers, who take most of the profit.

If you move your food shopping away from supermarkets and towards local markets, high street shops and farm deliveries, you are moving a considerable amount of money back to food producers. This will enable them to continue, and food will remain accessible to you.

The first five tasks in the Resilience Plan for each section are achievable with no extra resources, just a few changes of habit. The fifth task in the Food section is to research a balanced diet. This is useful for your general health, but more important in a prolonged food shortage.

Vitamins and minerals are rarely scarce in normal circumstances, as people can eat a lot of food. Where you have to ration stores though, it’s very important to be aware of these. ‘Recipes for Resilience’ covers this in more detail, and outlines a simple list of food stores which can fit under a bed, or other small space. You can build on this to fill any available space you have.

a box of emergency food supplies

There is more that you can do as an individual to support local food production. Some community initiatives may exist in your area. Join a buying group or food co-op, learn about community supported agriculture. Start your own scheme, referring to the Community Quadrant for help.

Take your growing projects further. If you have a garden, dig up unproductive lawn areas and start growing vegetables. Apply to your local council for allotment space. Encourage the planting of food trees in public spaces.

Many people think the height of survival skills is to be able to forage on wild plants. There will not be enough of these. With practical resilience, you’re better off learning how to determine whether out-of-date tinned food might kill you or not.

A knowledge of native edibles is useful in your Resilience Garden. With selective weeding, you can ensure that you have a base layer of these hardy self-seeders. If you have to neglect the garden for awhile, they will carry on without your help for several years.

The final task is a research project, designed to lead you into more complex issues around food. The concept of default meatis that which can be produced by feeding domestic animals on the waste created from growing one’s own vegetables.

You will observe, when you do this for yourself, that there is a great deal of leafy material, peelings and other by-products. These can be composted directly, or fed to livestock for meat, eggs and milk. In Russia, 40% of food comes from individual small-holdings.

So these are the ten tasks to accomplish in the Food section of the Resilience Wheel. You can hurry through them, or take your time, gradually increasing your food security skills. Remember that you only need to score 70% in each section, so even if you have no chance of accessing land in Q8, you can still pass.

The Food section of the Resources Quadrant is one of the subjects I’ve chosen for further development (as described on page 178). As you work through the plan, think about your own areas of particular interest. Where would your personal skills and experience be best applied?

Page and chapter numbers refer to ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience’.  The ten tasks relating to the Food section of the Resources Quadrant are listed in Appendix One (Your Personal Resilience Assessment).

Food security, storage and growing are covered in detail in ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century‘, along with over a hundred useful recipes.

Both books are available from Amazon and Waterstones, but it’s more resilient to support the publisher direct.

 

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!

A Message to Preppers

Many animals depend on their DNA programming to drive quite complex behaviours. Birds build nests, frogs sound out mating calls, fawns couch hidden in long grass. We call this instinct.

As humans, we can feel ourselves above such primitive activities. We admit that DNA affects our physical bodies – eye colour, facial characteristics, hereditary diseases – but our minds are surely our own. Culture and education shape our thoughts and feelings. We are Civilised.

Deep in the Jungian shadows of our beings, other influences lurk.

As a species, like any other, we inhabit an environment which provides all our needs. This has a carrying capacity. Only a certain number of us can be supported by it. Our DNA adapts slowly and is barely past our hunter-gatherer stage, where this number was really quite small. It responds when this capacity is exceeded. Territorial behaviour is stimulated. Survivors get to breed, while exiles may starve. DNA cares for nothing else.

Humans are complex creatures however. In our recent evolutionary path, we have discovered the advantages of large temporary gatherings. Trade helped small communities thrive, celebrations were fun, and genetic material exchanged which delighted the DNA.

To adapt to this, our core programming developed an over-ride, to avoid aggression when in an unfeasibly large crowd. This over-ride is dependent on large crowds being okay, the way things happened to be right then. People would, of course, soon disperse back to their own territories to gather more resources. No problem.

For thousands of years, this is how it was.

Even though this strategy wears thin when city dwellers are constantly surrounded by more people than any natural environment could sustain, it has held up. Population density has thus increased well beyond any carrying capacity, because people have allowed themselves to be deluded into a belief that more resources were a short distance away. After all, there was little sense of threat, no significant shortages, everyone seemed calm enough….

Suddenly this has changed.

Thanks to global communication networks, there is now a sense of threat everywhere. This danger is perceived as coming from other people, not from natural disasters. The over-ride has broken. The individual is abruptly conscious of population density, and experiences a rising panic.

These feelings are thrust into the subconscious. People don’t want to face them, don’t want to consider solutions, none of which are comfortable.

These daemons cannot be suppressed. They are right, and they know it.

Irrational behaviours boil up. People are becoming more aggressive, more tribal, keener to identify the ‘other’. Intellect is becoming increasingly desperate in denying the power of these forces. Talk of new farming techniques, artificial food, space colonies – these are paper shelters in a tsunami. Every time a human goes outside in a city now, the whisper from the dark says ‘see, there are too many people here’.

We are all in considerable danger.

Population has to be managed down to carrying capacity. The religious, political and ‘economic’ barriers to a severe but fair form of family planning  must be removed. If this can be achieved, perhaps all that is valuable about civilisation can survive the coming storm. Intelligence needs to be applied to solutions, not ever more cunning strategies of denial.

Speak out before you flee with your grab bag! You’ve little to lose and much to gain.

Think about it.

Normal posts will be resumed soon….

I’ve been puzzled by the storm of hate on social media, especially Twitter, and took some time to carefully consider this as it is likely to impact on resilient behaviour.  Large numbers of people seem to have lost the plot, though others are more engaged in positive community building than before.  The latter is not attracting such widespread attention.

The resilience student is advised to remain calm and consider their position.

Don’t Panic