Tag Archives: solutions

Notes on a Resilient Community

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

rough notes on self-sufficiency

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

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

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

One acre of vegetables

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

One acre for a horse

One acre for a cow

A quarter acre for a sheep

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

A quarter acre of pond supplies fish

Barns, workshops and housing would occupy another quarter acre.

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

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

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

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

Four acres of vegetables

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

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

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

An acre of grain gives extra for fodder.

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

And the four acres of woodland.

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

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

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

how many people can live on three square miles of land

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

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

layout of a self sufficient plot

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

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

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

A Craft Interlude – Grape Juice

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

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

washing grapes ready to make juice

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

stripping grapes from their stalks ready to make juice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Your Resilience Plan – Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Art of Practical Resilience

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

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

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

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

You need to cultivate Practical Resilience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changes

With the growing stresses of over-population, the only surprising feature of a global pandemic is that it didn’t happen years ago.

After two months of extreme precautions, even the resilient community described in Recipes for Resilience (page 198) would have to consider some activities. Roofs may need mending, crops planted or harvested, essential spare parts manufactured.

In the present world, we need to think about what tasks are crucial, and start moving these into local control. Economy of scale causes inefficiency of delivery at the best of times, and is now a recipe for disaster.

For example, a popular strategy has been to cut one’s workforce, close regional offices and oblige one member of staff to spend their day driving all over the South West to attend to jobs which used to be covered by people in that area. This should never have been thought acceptable. The employer’s staff and office costs are shoved onto the taxpayer in an underhand way, via the road system where the hapless employee now spends most of their time.

In the new world, this paradigm provides a sure way of spreading infection over a wide area.

Other changes have interesting implications.

Working from home, in many cases, has proved not only possible but very popular. The empty office blocks in city centres could be re-purposed for housing. The pressure on roads and public transport caused by commuting would ease. More people could travel to the cities for leisure, without fearing the awful ‘rush hour’.

As long-distance commuting becomes a thing of the past, the pressure to build on prime agricultural land should be eased. We’ll need this land to feed ourselves.

In Britain, we’re only growing enough food for 60% of the population. As these figures come from the farming side, they already assume zero waste at the consumer end. This is as good as it can get. We need to support farmers by shortening the food supply chain, so they get a larger share of the retail price. Then they can afford to explore more resilient practices (see, for example, page 29 of the Handbook and page 6 of ‘Recipes’).

The controversial Universal Credit benefit scheme could be usefully deployed to help with sourcing farm labour without turning to international travel – another high risk activity. This work is seasonal and often involves living on the farm for a short period. As you have to pay for this accommodation, and still keep up the rent on the home you occupy for the rest of the year, this is discouraging.

The UC system is capable of covering normal housing costs during a period of agricultural work, regardless of earnings during this time. It would be a kind of micro-subsidy, going direct to the workers rather than the land-owner. A limit on farm accommodation costs may need to be factored in, and other safeguards against abuse, but at least we don’t have to get permission from Brussels to use such initiatives.

This pandemic must act as a wake-up call.  We have exceeded our carrying capacity, as described in ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience‘ (page 63).  Allowing a virus to achieve population reduction for us is both cowardly and dangerous.

 

The Handbook covers every section of the Resilience Wheel and provides a framework for you to add more information.  The Second Edition includes the full Personal Resilience Assessment.  Use this to determine where your current level of practical resilience is, compared to the minimum you need to survive, then follow the Resilience Plan to improve this.

‘Recipes’ covers the Food section of the Resilience Wheel in detail, explaining how to store, grow and prepare for maximum food security.  It contains over a hundred easy and adaptable recipes, plus seasonal gardening tips and some historical background – how the Icelanders survived 600 years of famine, for example.

A Review of Emergency Stores in the Resilient Household

After staying within the confines of the Resilience Garden for three weeks, I thought it’d be a good time to see how my food stores were holding up.

Naturally, I have the box containing the fortnight’s worth of emergency supplies, as described in ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century’. I’ve hardly touched this, so I still have a good reserve if the kitchen stocks get low.

These are unusually high. Despite my reservations about freezer stores (see ‘Recipes’ page 171), I inherited a small front-opening freezer from a lodger. I was only just ahead of the panic-buying curve in filling it up, but went into lock-down with a good selection of frozen food. I targeted fresh meat, fruit and other ingredients rather than ready meals. I’d already discovered that a partly empty freezer consumes noticeably more electricity than a full one does, so as I use the supplies, I fill up spaces with packs of sliced bread or home-made cake.

 Freezer stores for Zombie Apocalypse, day 22

Freezer stores for Zombie Apocalypse, day 22

A short power cut reminded me of the vulnerability of this method of storage, so I’ve been focussing on using up the freezer contents! The food I chose can be quickly cooked, even preserved, if the power really goes down.

The leeks in the Resilience Garden have just finished.  I bought a small sack of onions in anticipation of this. The rocket has started to bolt, but there’s plenty of wild garlic for fresh green leaves and the broccoli is ready. The potatoes are finished; they refuse to stop sprouting now, unless drenched with toxic chemicals. Carbohydrates of all kinds are out of season. This is when one turns to dried grains, pasta, rice and flour products.

Wild garlic in the Resilience Garden
Wild garlic in the Resilience Garden

There’s a few gaps showing after so long living on stores. It’s a bad time of year for fruit. I should have acquired more of the tinned and dried varieties.  I’ll have to adjust my usual diet a little to use these up in rotation. No food is wasted using the Resilience plans!

I’m very fond of little trifles, and always get a pack when I do my infrequent re-stocking at a supermarket. However, a packet jelly with frozen fruit makes six small dishes full, and a tin of custard provides enough topping for these. I should’ve put away more jelly and custard, plus some sort of cream!

Home-made trifle

I don’t like storing UHT milk as it has a relatively short shelf life and really does go off. It’s hard for me to use up, as I’m accustomed to have fresh farm milk delivered. When the milk deliveries suddenly went out of business last week, it was a bit of a shock!

It was a good opportunity to open up the bag of milk powder and get that used. Another firm has taken over the milk round now, so all is well with dairy produce again.

Local shops have regrouped and are offering deliveries as well, so I can order in some seasonal produce. I feel I need to support them, but it’s hard to find enough things I need. Rhubarb is good – mine is still too new to harvest – and cauliflower is in season. Mostly I buy more honey, which keeps forever.

In summary, after three weeks living very well on stores, I could still last for months. Tea and coffee might have to be replaced with garden herbs. I’m already out of chocolate and sweets, and the last packet of biscuits is being rationed. The reserve milk is gone, but I have Vitamin D tablets on board.

Following the Resilience Plan, not only will you be set up for food stores whenever something happens, but none of the food will be wasted!

‘Recipes’ gives detailed instructions on how to achieve personal food security and can be bought direct from the publishers.

‘The Resilience Handbook – How to Survive in the 21st Century’  has now been re-released as ‘The Handbook of Practical Resilience – How to Survive in the 21st Century’, with additional content!

How to survive? You need these books.

Food Stores – Recipes For Resilience

Storing food is an ancient human habit, taking advantage of a surplus to get your tribe through leaner times. The range of storage methods available to us today are considerable, yet fewer people than ever take advantage of them. The most popular strategy seems to be stocking up on frozen ready meals, then zapping them in the microwave. No actual cooking involved.

Is this resilient? Of course not.

In an emergency, the mains electricity may fail. After a few days, your freezer stores will be turning into a waste disposal problem. There could be extreme weather outside which forces you to stay at home.  An injury, or contact with a contagious disease, might mean you are stuck in your home for medical reasons.  You need a back up.

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


a box of emergency food supplies

This 32 litre stack box fits under an average bed and contains enough supplies to last one person for a fortnight. Porridge for breakfast, pan bread if you’ve no oven, a selection of stews and curries. I haven’t calculated the calorie intake, or added up grams of carbohydrates, just worked out a sensible meal plan covering all the food types.

A fortnight’s worth of emergency supplies can be a valuable asset to a household. Using a selection of your normal foods, as pictured, you have a back up when you run out of tomato ketchup, milk, beans, coffee. You can restock as these foods come on offer!

These stores are tailored to my preferences; what would you keep? Do you have special dietary needs?

Remember that, in some emergencies, you may not have mains services. Stick to recipes which can be achieved on a camping stove (have you got one?), or even an open fire. Learn about Dutch ovens, understand the principles of cooking and how you can use ingredients inventively.

My book ‘Recipes for Resilience – Common Sense Cooking for the 21st Century‘ has full details of this food store, plus over 100 recipes and seasonal gardening tips for growing your own vegetables with minimum effort.
Sensible preparations mean you’re never caught out.  The essence of an emergency is the unexpected, and panic buying can be dangerous!

 

Travelling in extreme weather

The best strategy is to stay in. Check forecasts with a reputable source if the news predicts difficult conditions. Consider whether your journey is really necessary. If you’re travelling to an event, contact the organisers and make sure it’s going ahead. Do you need to go out for supplies, or could you last out on stores? Can you arrange a video call instead of a visit?

It’s not always possible to avoid having to travel. You may already be a long way from home. Using a credit card responsibly allows you spare borrowing capacity. It might be better to book into a hotel for the night and continue your journey in daylight. The extreme weather event may have passed over by then.

The metrological services can predict storms with some accuracy these days, but they can move faster, or be more violent, than expected. 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.

Storms are often accompanied by heavy rain. 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.

Fog can descend rapidly and unexpectedly. It’s hard to gauge your speed when the sides of the road are obscured, so check your speedometer regularly. You should be driving slowly, and once more leaving yourself a lot of room. Keep headlights dipped, or they will just reflect off the fog bank. Only use your fog lights when you’re having difficulty seeing the tail lights of a vehicle in front of you. Turn them off when visibility improves, as they are a distraction to other drivers.

In winter, both storms and fog can be accompanied by ice or snow. These create very dangerous driving conditions. If you are caught out at night with a long way to go, you should definitely consider heading for a hotel or service area. A car park with facilities is going to be more comfortable than being trapped in a snowdrift.

snow on main road in Glastonbury March 2018

Freezing weather may cause patches of black ice, and snow can quickly turn to ice on a road surface. Be very careful when using your brakes in such conditions. Stay alert for potential hazards so that you can reduce speed carefully. Sudden braking may cause you to skid. The advice here is to steer gently into a skid – if the rear of your car is moving to the right, steer to the right. Braking hard will make things worse.

A thick layer of frozen rain on a window
A thick layer of frozen rain on a window

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.

Go slowly on ice, and concentrate, to avoid falls. Don’t turn your head to talk to companions, and stop walking if you need to consult your phone. Using a back-pack for shopping keeps your hands free for better balance. If you’re walking in a remote or rural area during freezing conditions, it’s a good idea to let someone know where you are going. Remember to tell them when you get back, or reach your destination.

 

‘Recipes for Resilience – common sense cooking for the 21st century’ contains lots of advice about keeping a good food store.  Forget the sacks of rice which you’ll never manage to eat and keep a box handy of the things you actually use!

Then make a cake, load up a film and sit out the bad weather!

 

 

 

 

 

Quarantine

“To separate and restrict the movements of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease, to see if they become ill”

Quarantined people were often allowed to remain in their homes. It’s a long time since there was a need for this to be taken seriously. The last time this procedure was used in Britain was during the flu epidemic of 1918. More recently, in 1972, during a smallpox outbreak in Yugoslavia, their government had to impose martial law to enforce a rigorous quarantine, in association with the World Health Organisation.

The word ‘quarantine’ comes from the Italian ‘quaranta giorni’ meaning 40 days. While the Black Death raged in Europe, incoming ships had to stand off from coastal cities for this period before they were allowed to land people or cargo. After 37 days, one is either dead of the plague, or free of infection. Quarantine periods for other diseases, such as cholera, were shorter.

‘Isolation’ is a more serious form of quarantine. It involves the separation of people who are actually ill from the rest of the population, usually in a facility with medical staff. Historically, it was mainly applied to lepers, hence these facilities were often termed ‘lazarets’. It’s also used where people can’t be trusted to obey the rules of self-quarantine, as in the famous case of ‘Typhoid Mary’.

An entire community can be isolated by a ‘cordon sanitaire’. The village of Eyam, in Derbyshire, saved their neighbours from the plague in 1665 using this strategy. The reverse can be applied, where a community isolates themselves from potentially infectious people. This is called ‘protective sequestration’.

These tactics were often used in Britain. Villages traded and communicated with each other through ‘wheat stones’. At a convenient halfway point, goods were placed on a large stone, or slab, to be collected. Often, there was a cup-shaped depression in the slab, filled with vinegar, to disinfect money. Place names, such as the ‘Slab House Inn’ near Wells still recall these practices.

 

The Resilience Handbook has advice about emergency isolation in your own home.  At least if you are in quarantine, you can expect mains services to continue.  Other emergencies can be even more challenging.  

Keep a distance of two meters from people who bring you supplies.  If you don’t have a face mask, a scarf over your nose and mouth will protect them from germs if you cough or sneeze.  A bottle of vinegar, or some other disinfectant, is essential and a large stash of pound coins might come in handy!

Recipes for Resilience – common sense cooking for the 21st century‘ has more detailed advice about the fortnight’s supply of food which you might need in any emergency, but which is particularly relevant now.