Tag Archives: local food

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 – 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.

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.

 

April Diary 2017

It’s been an early, dry Spring in most of England this year. Here in our southwest corner, the rhubarb is thin and the potatoes slow to come up. On the positive side, the slugs are discouraged and the seedlings are getting a good start. Watering them is a daily chore now.

Well watered rhubarb in a pot
Well watered rhubarb in a pot

Having failed to negotiate a supply of wheat seeds – it’s hard to buy a small handful – I planted some old gleanings I found in the seed box. They seem to be coming up, but look exactly like grass just now. If the experiment doesn’t work, I’ll dig over and plant out squashes, or grow a catch crop of cress.

We managed to subdue most of the really wild quarter of our new Resilience Allotment while the soil was still soft. To clear the established perennial weeds – couch grass, bindweed, dandelion and horsetail – we turned the matted turf over to a spade’s depth, pulling the exposed roots out by hand as we broke up the clumps. These went to the tip for recycling, as they can sprout again from fragments.

The rough bit of the allotment before digging
The rough bit is on the left
The weed roots we are removing
The weed roots we are removing

A layer of leaf mould covered with cardboard sheets was laid on the sections we dug over, topped with another layer of leaf mould. Holes were cut in the card and our vegetables planted through it, in a handful of compost. The thick mulch will discourage the weeds – though we haven’t seen the last of them – and give our plants a head start.

The leaf mould was free, from a huge pile dumped in the allotment car park. It’s not ideal; in this dry weather it starts to blow away, and I worry that the potatoes may not like it.

“Do not dig your potatoes up to see if they are growing” – a modern Zen saying!

There was an urgent need for a weed suppressant though, and the leaf mould was available in large amounts. Resilience gardening is about making use of local resources, in a very permaculture-like fashion.

It’s also about low maintenance. While I’m concentrating on the allotment, the original Resilience Garden is ticking over nicely. The leeks and purple sprouting broccoli are finishing now, the kale going to seed, and the new peas coming up. The wild garlic is getting a bit ragged, but other salad leaves are coming up fast. The remaining small piece of lawn takes me more effort to maintain than the vegetable patch does.

You can learn the basics of starting a Resilience Garden from the Handbook...the best way to learn is to try things out. Even a windowsill pot of herbs is worth doing!

Musing on the process of writing

When I returned from my trip to Hebden Bridge I pitched straight into completing the first full draft of my new book, on food resilience. I’ve been working on this book for some years, piecing the content together from field trips, networking events and out-takes from the Resilience Handbook. Cultivating my own resilience garden supplied me with the vegetables’ point of view!

I’ve been living on experiments for months, as I calculate exact quantities for recipes I’ve used for decades without measuring. Food resilience combines rotating your emergency stores with whatever you can forage – your own produce, special deals, community orchard fruit. This has kept me so busy that I just don’t use the supermarket any more, except to replenish heavy items in my stores.

home made marmalade jars
You can’t make just a little marmalade!

I find I become quite obsessive at this stage of writing. Once I get past 40,000 words, I encounter continuity issues, even with non-fiction. Did I write on that subject in a previous chapter? Or did I just pencil in some notes? Finally weaving all the threads of a book into a single narrative requires intense concentration on my part.

turkish style rug on a frame loom
The knotted rug pictured in ‘Diary, September 2014’ finally completed this winter

As I rewrote the ‘Table of Contents’ ready to create a master document, and reach my personal milestone – the first word count of a full manuscript – I had that indefinable feeling that it was finished. There’s still a lot of work to do – chapters to revise, recipes to refine – but the book suddenly felt whole. I can take the scaffolding away; it’ll stand up on its own!

After over a month of relentless concentration, I can relax back into my normal writing regime. The book still requires work, but not to the exclusion of all else. Spring is coming, the new Resilience Allotment is prepared for planting, new adventures await!

The Resilience Allotment
The Resilience Allotment

 

Apologies to my followers for the long hiatus! I do appreciate you, and the whole blogging community. I learn marvellous things from these windows you open into other places and lifestyles – I hope I’m giving you food for thought.

The links on this site are selected to provide stepping stones to further knowledge. Inform yourselves through many sources, and fake news will stand out like the wrong piece in a jigsaw puzzle.

February Diary 2017

It’s been a busy year so far! The astrologers say there may be a short respite in early autumn, but otherwise things promise to be relentlessly hectic.

I’ve set aside the time from January to April to finish my book about food resilience. It’s based around the seasons; it became quite disorientating, writing about the warmth of May when it was January outside.

I took a break, wrote an essay for the Nine Dots Prize then went up North on a brief networking mission. I stayed at the splendid Hebden Bridge hostel – used as a refugee centre during the 2015 floods – and spent a day in nearby Todmorden.

The Incredible Aquagarden was running a course that day, which was lucky. I caught the morning session, on soil science. It was interesting to compare the teaching styles with those of our local Feed Avalon organisation.

The Incredible Aquagarden from the outside
The Incredible Aquagarden from the outside

I met up with Estelle Brown from Incredible Edible Todmorden at lunchtime for a quick tour of their edible landmarks. The medicinal herb beds beside the canal had survived inundation, though nearby buildings had suffered badly. Pollinators’ Avenue, originally a temporary installation, was still going. The locals were fending off a planned retail centre on the site, having a perfectly good market next door.

A new mural in Todmorden
A new mural in Todmorden
the iconic police station vegetable beds, Todmorden
the iconic police station vegetable beds, Todmorden
People hang old teapots in trees to encourage robins to nest; the boat on the canal is just strange
People hang old teapots in trees to encourage robins to nest; the boat on the canal is just strange
Pollinators' Avenue
Pollinators’ Avenue

Although it was chilly and getting dark, I trekked back through the amazing park to the Aquagarden for the last part of their course. This dealt with aquaponics itself; I was able to thoroughly explore the process by viewing their demonstration equipment, complete with pet fish. This aquagarden is evolving into an educational centre, unlike the one at Mark, in Somerset, which is a commercial operation.

The fish tank and vegetable bed in the Todmorden aquagarden
The fish tank and vegetable bed in the Todmorden aquagarden
Spring courses at the Incredible Aquagarden
Spring courses at the Incredible Aquagarden

At the end, I was presented with a set of hydroponic pots to take home – and, fortunately, a lift to the railway station. You’ve no idea what a novelty local trains are to someone from Mid-Somerset!

There was some time the next day to visit Hebden Bridge before we left. The Bookcase is open again – you can buy the Resilience Handbook there now! The comic book store is back too, though there is still a scattering of boarded windows in the main street. The water level overtopped defences based on previous floods by several feet.

At the old mill, the Archimedes screw survived, though it was a near thing. Everyone had flood stories, but the millkeeper’s tale highlighted an unforeseen hazard. Tree branches caught on a bridge just upstream, creating a dam which suddenly burst, hurling a tidal wave at their mill house. Only the window glass held back this surge; fortunately it wasn’t broken by the debris. Riverside properties in similar situations could consider adding metal grids to their flood protection strategies.

Archimedes screw
The Archimedes screw generates all the electricity for the mill building. You can see some heat exchange pipes in the water at the right of this picture, which provide some of the heating. 75% of the energy harvested at the mill is resold to the Grid.

Back to Somerset, night driving in the rain through relentless traffic. It was worse than my last visit; yet more housing was planned in the area. Is there some kind of crazy motorway Jenga going on – a game to see how much traffic you can pile into a system before it collapses?

And so back to the writing desk…an icy rain sweeps the garden as I imagine the chore of watering plants in hot summer sunshine, whilst browsing on fresh raspberries…

Worried about  global uncertainty?  Buy yourself a Resilience Handbook and start learning the power of community resilience!  We need informed debates centred  around practical, ground level solutions.

October Diary 2016

It’s about time for another diary post, since it’s been a busy week here in Somerset.

Thursday was the Community Food Forum, an annual event organised by Feed Avalon. Around forty people gathered this year – its third – to network and exchange ideas. It was great to see projects like Plotgate, a community supported agriculture venture near Barton St David, developing from their initial fund raising to a successful business!

There seems to be a steady increase of interest in growing food, with new sectors engaging every year. This time there were people who work with mental health, where its therapeutic benefits are being recognised.

Saturday saw the Glastonbury Town Council hold a public consultation on possible uses for a splendid old building they have just acquired for the community. It would be ideal for a practical crafts centre; I’d like to see that combined with an ‘eco-college’ like Dartington Hall in Devon. We could explore local materials for textiles and ceramics – Somerset having a lot of wool and clay.

edible flower baskets in Glastonbury
edible flower baskets in Glastonbury

In the evening, I went to the energy evening hosted by Green Wedmore. The purpose of the presentation and following debate was to explore future energy options for the local area. The range of these on the table was impressive. Not only solar, wind and hydropower, but also biomass from the surrounding RSPB nature reserves and anaerobic digestion using farm waste.

Vince Cable, former business secretary, gave the introduction and Pete Capener from Bath and West Community Energy provided an inspiring talk on how the renewables industry is adapting to a hostile government. I chatted to a long-serving member of the parish council, who’d recently had an impressive 16Kw array installed on the roofs of her farm buildings – using panels built in Wrexham. We snacked on excellent smoked trout vol au vents from the nearby aqua farm. The people of Wedmore intend to take quality with them into their sustainable future!

Someone had brought a particularly backward article just published in the Times. After spending much of the last forty years off grid, I view people who harp on about ‘the lights going out’ with the same astonishment as I’d view a flat-earther. Lights are easy. Washing machines, even freezers, are well within the scope of a modern personal renewables system without mains backup.

Tumble driers now, you could have a point.  It’s not such a rousing battle cry though – ‘without nuclear power, you might have to actually hang your clothes out to dry!’

Meanwhile, the smart consumer is considering the benefits of making their own electricity…..

solar power regulator

The best way to start this process is by looking at the devices you use already, and finding out how much electricity they use.  In the Energy chapter of the Resilience Handbook, task eight asks ‘can you calculate how much of your home could run on a supply of 2 kilowatts?’  This level of supply is not only possible with a personal solar array, but designed to use a small ‘suitcase’ generator as emergency backup. ( More power requires a larger, noisier generator.)

Once you know the answer to this question, you’ve got a much better idea what local energy can do for you – it’s more resilient than a centralised power supply!

For more information about food and energy resilience, read ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to survive in the 21st century’

Wells Food Festival

It was a glorious autumn day, dry and sunny. The rows and swirls of colourful stalls filled the grassy spaces around the ancient stone walls of the Bishop’s Palace, spilled over into the antique Recreation Ground next door, surrounded its bandstand and carried on down the lane, where our Food For Thought marquee was.

The venue looked splendid, thanks to the lovely Laura and the Wells food group team. It was decorated with vintage bunting, lit by electric chandeliers! After an early set-up, there was a little time to wander among the booths outside admiring the huge variety of local produce on sale.

My advice – go there hungry, and with plenty of spare cash! I couldn’t resist the Gilbert and Swayne chocolates, each one a tiny work of art. Some huge chunks of fudge for another birthday present – I sampled the Marmite flavour, which was not at all awful. Then it was time for the show to begin and the 15,000 visitors to start exploring.

We were so busy that I didn’t manage to photograph the enormously entertaining Human Fruit Machine, nor even get to the cordon bleu cookery on a budget demonstrations at the far end of our tent. I spent the whole day chatting about food resilience to a stream of fascinating people. I learned that people in London still don’t have much to do with their neighbours, that mountain sheep in Snowdonia have their own culture passed down over generations. We discussed Tyre Gardening with pictures and I gave away all my ‘fourteen day stores’ recipes/ingredients leaflets.

It was a great day out, an excellent start to the Wells Festivals season!

Thanks to Sean and Elliot, the visiting chefs from the Ale and Oyster, Ventnor for the leftover pasta dough from the workshops – I managed to cook real pasta for the first time back at home!

Knowing that you have fourteen days’ supply of food gives you confidence in a situation where supplies are interrupted, or you can’t use the roads. You may not be flooded yourself, but the way to the shops could become difficult. Give the emergency services space and stay in, living well from your stores!

They’re also useful for unexpected dinner guests – and for those who suddenly announce they are vegan!

Recipe list and ingredients for 14 day food store  – download the leaflet 

For more information about emergency planning and food resilience, read ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to survive in the 21st century’

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Storing Food

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. You need a back up.

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


a box of emergency food supplies

This 32 litre stack box fits under an average bed and contains enough supplies to last 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.

There’s a more scientific estimate here. “4.9 kilograms of cereal-based products like rice, bread and noodles per person per fortnight…… 5.6kg of veggies, 3.7kg each of milk products and fruit and nuts, and 2.1kg of fish and meat.” It seems like a lot. Might not fit under the bed, and remember you have to find space for all the water as well.

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? Remember that, in an emergency, 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.

For more information about emergency planning and community resilience, read ‘The Resilience Handbook – How to survive in the 21st century’

This exhibition of food stores will be on display in the ‘Food for Thought’ venue at Wells Food Festival Sunday 9th October,  10 am – 4.30 pm, where I’ll be chatting about resilience and signing Handbooks!