Saturday 27 August 2016

Last preparedness post and some garden pics.

Sorry for the break in posting. This is partly because of our holiday and then because of a garden full of produce that needs attention and also there is much happening with the Civic Society at the moment. I have managed to read a few blogs but that is all I have done blogwise.
So I'm now "back in harness" and have much to write. Firstly I need to complete the Preparedness posts.
Thanks to those who have joined in with ideas and experiences, from surviving hurricanes and floods to 9 months without electricity! Suggestions of work gloves, underwear and identity documents to add to the "Grab Bag" (Sol, Joan and Tricky Wolf). Joan and TW both point me to the SAS Survival Guide. Anon in the US reminds me that in tough times it is more than possible that cash points etc won't be working, so keep some cash with you.
Angela Merkel is clearly reading these posts and is advising Germany to keep some stocks in! Resulting (obviously) in empty shelves etc! Whatever AMs reason for this advice, if nothing else it might help a few more people consider being prepared.
Over forty years ago David and I watched a TV serial called "The Survivors". The scenario was that 90% of the world's population had died from a virus and those who remained had to learn how to survive. We watched it avidly saying to each other "We would do that better" and  ",Why don't they do such and such?".It was the flame that fanned our ambition to be self sufficient. Of all the sudden disaster story lines I've always thought this to be the most likely to happen.
 My guess is that extreme long term survival situations are likely to be predictable. Climate change, oil and world food shortages etc. may well creep up on us, but creep they will, giving us time to realise that harder times are ahead. Armageddon-type situations are far less likely but would also result in a situation where nothing is the same ever again and we will need to pit our wits to survive.
Eventually your food stores will run out (and you can't eat money) which brings me back to.. SKILLS.  Tricky Wolf suggests bushcraft and foraging skills, which I consider to be the most essential skills to practice and hone. I'm not suggesting you go native in the park for a few weeks ( I have a picture here of thousands of people sleeping in the park in the middle of town!) but read books such as the SAS Survival handbook and watch a few prepper videos, just to put ideas in your mind. Nobody can do everything, but we all have some ability to develop. These skills we can take to the table in our group/ family Come the Day.
You don't need to live in the country either. before we moved to our smallholding we lived in a semi-detached house in a large estate. here we kept rabbits for the pot -  just three large hutches attached to the back of the garage and a run on the lawn and foraged greens from the roadside were needed to produce 60 rabbits a year (could easily have been more) We grew great beans against the fence on the rabbit poo, learnt lots of ways to cook rabbit, cured the pelts and made some slippers and a (bizarre) Davy Crockett hat!
Joan from Wales has a great idea that I will personally take up. Like many of you I have bookcases full of "how to" books on sewing, cooking, preserving etc. Joan rightly says that we can't put all those books in our Bug Out Bag. She keeps an exercise book in which collects only those recipes she will use (looking at your recipe books I'll bet you only use a couple or so from each book) or prints out  "How To" blog entries, similarly she copies out basic knitting and sewing patterns. I'm really excited at this idea. I have already photocopied and reduced in size a page on seed saving and a basic hat pattern reduced to the absolute minimum space. I personally have much of this knowledge, but to collect it together for my nearest and dearest to use too is equally important to me.
 As I have written these post I have realised that a 100 posts wouldn't cover all I and others have to say. I would like to discuss the social aspect of survival (of the fittest? - I hope not!) as a retired Social Worker I find this particularly interesting but don't feel I could do it justice here. Suffice to say that being able to get on with others is probably the most important skill you could learn if you wish to survive. I don't subscribe to the hunker down and look after yourself in isolation in the woods type of survival as I believe it only works short term (unsustainable) and even though living with others is difficult it is essential to well-being and future growth.  Anybody disagree?
Finally, how do we defend ourselves when SHTF - "S**** Hits The Fan"?  If you are the only person in your street who has food and heat how long before your neighbours (or a marauding gang) ask and then demand you share your hoard? ooh er. There are many who will not hesitate with an answer and while I know that being able to defend you and yours will require a weapon I hesitate to suggest it as it flies against everything I believe in. I would always want to negotiate, but know that not everything is negotiable and not everyone would negotiate and are likely to be armed themselves. So I guess my answer to my own question must be that should things start to look really bad we would reluctantly arm ourselves. You have no idea how hard it was for me to write that!
As they say at Uni... "Discuss" let's hear it folks!

Only a lighter note (how could it be anything else?!) Here are some photos of part the garden which is so overgrown this year, partly because of the weather but mostly because it has rather got away from me this year. Hope the colours and fecundity lift your spirits!
 The potatoes (Sarpo Mira) have absolutely taken over. I do hope the crop is as big as it promises to be. In this picture you can see that it has grown over the box hedges and onto the path. Sunflowers and beans ( Moonlight, Borlotti, Butter and Prizewinner) behind and entrance to the chicken run/orchard.
 The sweet corn (Lark) is good this year too, with large ripe cobs.
 The marrow patch. While we were away some humungus marrow grew in hiding (photos next time)
 Looking across the potatoes to another bean row ( Emergo, Lazy Housewife, Cobra) with blackberries behind
 One of the Hop (bines?) Fuggle.

That's enough for today.
I look forward to your input/ views/ arguments !
Love Gillx
PS I seem to have lost a couple of followers.. is it the depressing posts or the long gaps between posting I wonder?!
PPS I will probably bore you with a couple of holiday shots next time.
PPPS And I shall start discussing preserving the crop.

Thursday 11 August 2016

 A Short Break                                                                                                                                          Just a quickie to explain a little bloggy break I am about to take.
We have been very busy getting ready to  go on a family holiday. .. ALL of us!!
"We have rented a large house in Manorbier, near Tenby, South Wales. David and I, our daughters, a son in law, the grandchildren and their partners are all going. 10 of us plus Sammie the dog, who cannot be left as he has too many issues. A house sitter arrives as we leave. Getting organised to leave the place in the hands of a non-family member has been challenging, but she is a great person who I worked with for many years and was her manager for my last 6 years in employment. She was a trustworthy worker who used her initiative and worked brilliantly unsupervised. She is also great fun, keeps horses and has a boyfriend who keeps pigs and chickens.
 Isn't she perfect for the job?!
Copious lists and instructions re. chicken, cat and parrot idiosyncrasies have been written and festoon the kitchen. Animal supplies have been bought in, foodstuffs she might like are in the fridge and freezer, bedrooms have been freshened, watering systems for livestock and greenhouses have been simplified etc etc.
So, tomorrow we are off for the week. I am taking my laptop, as are my daughters as they are both studying at the moment.. I hope to finish the prep for my next blog on preparedness and also have a couple of documents to get ready for our civic society ( which I have to do as we are nearly at the deadline for planners)
BUT, I also have my new (yes I actually bought a new one, I had my old one for 10 years and that used to belong to my daughter!) swimming costume and my paints, my flower, insect and seashore reference books, some knitting and we have lots of games in case it rains. Oh yes, and some rather fine scotch I was bought for my birthday in June.
So here we go for a rare event, a holiday to make special memories with those we love
Back soon

Friday 5 August 2016

Being Prepared Part IIIb

So we've started to stock up on items for our bag. It will take a while I'm sure. If money is no object no time at all, if less so, one item at a time and you'll soon get there. That's really the easy part, but you can't always throw money at a problem and it could be argued that there are some circumstances when money will be of no use at all.
What are the practicalities of say, leaving your home for a while? This will depend on how much support available form the community/government, but you should consider the possibility of that safety net not being available for a few days at least.
 Sounds obvious, but can you use all the contents of your bag? If the situation has called for the Grab bag, the contents are pretty basic, if you have assessed that you will need to be away for a little longer and maybe camping out, alone in the dark in the pouring rain with a couple of upset children is not the time to read the instructions to equipment. Perhaps you could have a practice scenario (without terrifying the children, make it fun!)
So what if you don't need to leave your home, but are thrown on your own devices.
If you are "lucky" enough to have the space to  grow and preserve and stockpile  and stack and burn wood and practice self sufficient crafts then so much the better, you have the skills that will be useful, nay essential, "Come the Day" (in America this is called SHTF-  "s**t hits the fan") I know that I don't have to tell Self Sufficiency buffs this
But what if you haven't land/garden/allotment/workshop?  You can still prepare yourself and those you love for tough times by -

                                      Building up your skills set.

Cooking - where do I start with this? If you can't cook, now is the time to start as Come the Day Macdonalds and Pizza Hut will be closed! Don't bother with "posh" stuff like sushi, unless you live by the sea and even then you are unlikely to be able to roll it, wrap it and dip it in a fragrant sauce - rather think prizing limpets off rocks and eating them raw.
For the purposes of surviving you should look at basic stuff that keeps your tummy full, your energy up and with a dose of vitamins and minerals to keep you as healthy as possible. At this stage this can be fun, so learn some cooking skills while you have the luxury of time, ingredients (and money?). As a minimum, learn to make bread either with yeast or soda bread or flat bread. I promise you that once you have learnt this skill you will be so proud of yourself and you will impress no end of people!
Learn to use different carbohydrates, especially as they store so easily- such as rice, cornmeal, oats, quinoa (how DO you pronounce that?) cornflour, pasta and wheat as different types of flour.
Practice some simple meals from scratch that use just one pot. While you are likely to have some ready to use sauces in your stash (and quite right too) these wont last for ever, so learn to make a basic tomato sauce, to which you can add spices and flavourings to make chilli, curry, bolognaise and a basic white sauce to add herbs onion, cheese etc.
 Learn to make these dishes using basic equipment that does not require electricity other than to cook and preferably can be cooked over an open flame. Though I know that there are plenty of people who have kitchens bursting will all sorts of unnecessary gadgets that took a huge amount of environmentally unfriendly resources to make and run these pieces of eqipment are and actually knives, lemon squeezers and mincers by any other name! If you can afford them, why not? but learn how to do those tasks manually too.
 While you are having fun learning new skills in the kitchen have a go at preserves - jams, pickles, wines, juices, whatever, just get the skill theory under your belt.
I could write several posts just on cooking, but what I really want to do is just give you a flavour of what you need to consider and what is possible. As a minimum, practice simple meals that you can make with the contents of your cupboards.

 I know several women who make the most wonderful crafts, quilts and the like who have never made a pair of trousers, a child's  nightie  or a simple top, who have never replaced a zip or darned a hole in a sweater. I guess they have never had the need nor the interest. To these women I would say build on your skills and ensure you have a skill for Come the Day. To those men and women who don't sew, you can either attend a night class, or a knit and natter group, learn to hand sew or buy yourself a sewing machine from as little as £30, with some real bargains on Ebay and then use good old U-Tube tutorials. To be truly self reliant you could buy yourself a treadle or hand powered machine. I remember feeling pretty smug sewing with my treadle machine when we were without power for six days a few years back (I have an electric machine too)

Making skills
Sit down and consider all the things you buy regularly. What would you struggle to do without? When the shelves are empty can you make  these items yourself ? Soap, something to blow your nose on, loo paper, feminine hygiene products. Go on. give it a go and see what you come up with. ( I would really like to know !)

I would also suggest that you use your local library (as long as it is still open grrr) and borrow a few well chosen books about self-reliance, useful crafts, make do and mend, basic cookery/preserving etc. Then you can decide which book you feel will be worth buying. Is there anybody out there in blogland who would like to share a basic list that they have found useful?

Then there are Doing skills.
Seriously consider what you might have to offer if things really do get tough. There are skills that you could develop now that could be so useful in the future. If you are a "townie" what do you have to take to the table if you present yourself at your friends/relatives homes in times of need? I watched half an hour of a new reality programme called "Eden" the other night. I couldn't watch for long as I found myself shouting at the screen, but the programme does demonstrate how difficult it can be to live with others and how people soon resent folk they see as "passengers". This is more a subject for my next post.
This post has been long enough, so-
I thought I would introduce a couple of pictures that have nothing to do with the subject, to break up all this script. When collecting a swarm a couple of weeks ago we found that we already had tenants in the spare brood box we had ready to house a swarm.

Pesky mice!
And here is the swarm taking itself in to join their queen. (once we had cleaned up the frames!)

Back soon with part IV
Hope you will join me and join in.
Welcome to the 3 year Challenge. Great to see you here.