|Willow I coppiced earlier this spring. |
The new shoots are already 18" long--by fall they will be between 4 and 6 feet long and ready for basket making.
The central idea of this series of posts is that the collapse of our industrial civilization is already underway (has been since the 1970s) and seems very likely to continue until "Business as Usual" (BAU) is no longer capable of supplying us with the necessities of life. This collapse is proceeding in a fashion that is uneven (geographically), unsteady (chronologically) and unequal (socially), and we can expect it to continue in the same irregular way. Accordingly, it should be possible to pick some places and lifestyles that will suffer less severely than others.
I have recommended moving to a small town fairly remote from larger cities in an area likely to suffer less from the worst ravages of climate change and with the local resources necessary to provide at least water, food and energy (mainly firewood) for its inhabitants. Of course, some advance set up is going to be needed if you are to put those to work effectively. In my last two posts (7, 8, links) I talked about preparations in the human or social sense—becoming a part of the local community and developing the connections you'll need.
I'm going to wrap up this series with a few posts talking about the material preparations you'll need to make. First, to cope with the continued decline of BAU and the increasingly frequent and lengthy infrastructure interruptions that will accompany it. And finally to use local resources to gain a degree of local self-sufficiency that will see you through the end of BAU.
If you've followed my advice about moving to a small town, you'll initially be living in rental accommodation to allow yourself time to get to know the place before investing in property (If indeed you can afford such a thing). Renting puts some limits on what you can do to prepare and renting an apartment is even more restricting than renting a house. In the next few posts I'll discuss alternatives for both renters and homeowners.
I've been noticing that living in an RV, van or car is becoming more of a thing all the time what with ever increasing real estate prices. It occurs to me that this lifestyle may fit in nicely in many ways with moving to a small town. I can't pretend to have any experience in this area, but I hope some of what I have to say will be useful to those who's wheel are also their homes.
The first thing to be clear on is what you'll be preparing for. For quite a while yet, if you have income or savings to draw on, you'll be able to rely (more or less) on BAU for the necessities of life. But there will be lengthening and ever more frequent interruptions in infrastructure services—the power grid, communications, the financial and credit systems, water and sewage and of course the supply chains that bring us the fuels, food, pharmaceuticals, and various other supplies and equipment that we need to maintain our current life style. You need to be prepared to weather these interruptions. And of course, you always need to be prepared for emergencies like storms, floods, droughts and fires.
You might wonder why I am not advising setting up some sort of "lifeboat community" which is largely independent of BAU. I'm not against it—if you have the wherewithal, go for it. But the cost of such a setup is extreme and the skills required to make it work are many and hard to come by. For most of us a less grandiose plan is more practical. I do think the existing social and physical infrastructure of a small town and its surrounding area can be the foundation for a poor man's lifeboat. But only after a few serious infrastructure outages have convinced people that BAU is going to be unreliable.
"Bugging in" and "bugging out" are terms I've borrowed from the survivalist and prepper communities. Bugging in refers to being located where it's safe to stay when the "shit hits the fan", while bugging out assumes it won't be safe to stay where you are, and you'll need to be prepared to leave on a moment's notice. Of course, I don't think the shit is going to hit the fan all in one big lump, but rather in dribs and drabs that will make the situation unpleasant but perhaps not absolutely dire for quite a while yet.
The typical survivalist approach to bugging out—heading for "the hills" and living off the land—is actually a pretty bad idea, even if you are well prepared. Check out the article at the other end of that link to see what I mean.
I've been advising my readers to find a safe place and prepare to "bug in". I've been settled into my own choice of location for a long while now and that's what I encourage you to do once you've moved to a place where it is practical to do so.
Unfortunately, there are still circumstances where you'll need to bug out. Things like your house catching fire, being leveled by a tornado, inundated by a flood or anything else that renders it unlivable. I have to admit we are not terribly well prepared to leave our home on short notice.
And in the kind of circumstances I'm thinking of you want to be able get out quickly with your skin still intact and not waste time gathering up stuff to take with you. That certainly true in the case of a fire where seconds can make all the difference. In floods, there is usually more warning and you want to get out before the roads are submerged and impassable. In the case of tornados you want to take shelter in your basement or the closest thing you have to one until after the tornado goes by. Then, if you home has been destroyed, you'll be glad to have an emergency plan in place.
I haven't solved this challenge to my satisfaction yet, and it's mainly due to lack of effort, and complacency. But recently I have started to think more seriously about it. Here's what I've come up with so far.
You need a plan for evacuating your home when disaster strikes. This is the kind of thing you want to think out in advance and practice occasionally, so you don't have to figure it out from scratch in a short timeframe when the need arises.
Once you're out of your house, it would be good to have arranged in advance alternative places to stay, both in your own community and elsewhere in case circumstances force you (and maybe many others) to leave your community. This may involve taking shelter with neighbours, family or friends, and ideally you would make reciprocal agreements with those people. Of course, if you can afford it, or your insurance is paying, you may decide to go to a hotel. But in a widespread disaster, all the hotels may be full, or in no better shape than your home. And insurance companies may not respond in a timely fashion.
You should prearrange a communications plan for family members who aren't home when disaster strikes, and don't assume cell phones or even landlines are always going to work. This might involve a prearranged meeting place and/or someone at a prearranged location to leave messages with.
You should pack a bag for each person in your family with:
- a change of clothes suited for the season, including outdoor shoes and outdoor clothing that you won't have had time to grab in an emergency
- soap, shampoo, moisturizer and such, especially if you need particular types
- a few day's supply of medicines
- sleeping bags, air mattresses, towels and such so as to be less of a burden when you have to drop in on short notice
- copies of idendification, important legal documents and personal information:
- power of attorney
- marriage license
- lease or deed for your home
- birth certificate
- SIN number card
- Health card (access to single payer health insurance here in Ontario) or the equivalent for wherever you live
- drivers license
- vehicle registration and insurance
- contact info for family and friends
- copies or scans of heirloom photos
These copies could be electronic or on paper, or better yet, both. If you take photos or scans of these documents they could be kept on a flash drive or on your phone. But best not to rely completely on electronic means of storing information.
There are no doubt other items that haven't made it onto my list yet, but that will do for a start.
These bags should be stored someplace safe, outside your home. Maybe in your car, in an out building that's up wind from your house, or at the home of a neighbour or friend. The problem I have with all this is I'd have to have two of quite a few things that are rather expensive, winter clothes in particular. I clearly have some more study to do, and no doubt I will eventually figure it out. But don't let my hesitation hold you back from starting to make these preparations.
Making a quick escape in winter can be a particular problem, as you ideally want outdoor clothing close to hand. Our bedroom is on the second floor and there is a ladder leaned up against the side of the house that can be accessed from the bedroom window. It would be good to have boots and gloves close to hand at the very least—it would make that climb down that ladder a lot more doable.
In my next post I'll get started on the details of preparing to bug in. In the meantime, have a look at a couple of posts on emergency preparation that I wrote early in the history of this blog. The articles I've linked to in them are also full of useful information and I can especially recommend the ones by Sharon Astyk, Bob Wardrop and Vinay Gupta at the end of Part 2
- Emergency Preparation, Part 1—what to do first
- Emergency Preparation, Part 2—what I am doing – Bugging In
When I recently reread those posts I was pleased to find I had done a fairly thorough job, and that the links in them point to web pages that still exist, even though in some cases the authors are much less active on the collapse scene that they were 7 years ago.
In the second one I mentioned a few things I hadn't yet gotten around to doing at that point. I am happy to be able to say that in the meantime I have taken care of most of those issues.
We are still storing a fair bit of water for emergencies, but I also finally got around to putting together that water filter kit, the result being a filter similar to the Berkey or Doulton/Berkefeld ones, but with plastic 5 gallon buckets instead of stainless steel tanks. We live only a couple of blocks from Lake Huron, so water is readily available, but safer to drink after a trip through that filter.
I also finally got around to cutting up that sheet of plywood and putting together a composting toilet (a la Jenkins). We also switched from peat moss to wood shavings for kitty litter. Shavings are more sustainable than peat moss and there's always a bale or at least part of one on hand if we need to start using the composting toilet. I know that for most people it is unthinkable that the sewers would just stop working. Let me assure you, it is definitely possible.
I kept an eye out for sales on generators and we picked one up in the fall of 2017. Also a couple of 5 gallon jerry cans. I start the generator once a month and run it for a while, then close the fuel supply valve and let it run dry so gunk doesn't build up so much in the carburetor. Stale gas makes for harder starting, so once a month one of those jerry can gets emptied into our car and refilled with fresh gasoline. And every six months I drain the gas tank on the generator and fill it up with fresh gas. So far it has started easily, even on cold days in the winter, but before long I'll need to take it to the local small engine shop for some routine maintenance.
I wasn't sure about getting a generator, but we store a quite a bit of food, mainly expensive meat, in our freezers, and the thought of it spoiling during a long power outage finally convinced me.
Last fall(2018) we had a chimney and woodstove installed and we heated with wood for most of this winter. The stove and especially the chimney weren't cheap, but we're very happy with the results and the money to be saved over heating with electricity.
In addition to the things we've finally got around to doing, a few things have changed as well.
The flashlight on my keychain is now the type that uses a single AAA cell, much brighter and longer lasting than the single lithium cell light I was carrying. The large folding knife I used to carry has found its way to my hiking knapsack, and I'm only carrying my smaller folding knife on a daily basis.
My old Gerber multitool is also in that hiking knapsack and has been replaced in my coat pocket by the new and superior Gerber Center-Drive Multitool. This comes with a sheath and set of 12 screwdriver bits. The screwdriver shaft opens when the rest of the multitool is closed and lines up with the center line of the tool, making it much easier to use. It takes standard 1/4" hex drive bits so you can use the bits you already own, unlike the oddball little flat bits that the Leatherman multitools take. And the knife blade is large enough to be quite useful.
After spending 31 years as a tradesman, there are a lot of things I can do if I have the right tools, and it's pretty frustrating to be stymied by the lack of a tool. This multitool goes a long way towards solving that problem.
The single knapsack that I had 7 years ago has evolved into one knapsack which stays in our car, another that is ready to head out on a hike at a moment's notice, and a "book bag" which spends most of its time in the house but comes with us on car trips.
These bags are a work in progress and idiosyncratic to our circumstances and skills. Tools and materials for repairing broken things and first aid supplies for repairing broken people are prominently featured. I started out following typical advice for bug out bags and it has evolved from there.
Drinking water is important and we have two 750 ml. water bottles that usually go with us in the car and fit nicely into compartments intended for them in my hiking knapsack. For long trips we have a 2.5 gallon water jug.
Further details are a topic for another day, but if you are interested in more information let me know in the comments.
Links to the rest of this series of posts, Preparing for (Responding to) Collapse:
- Preparing for Collapse, A Few Rants, Wednesday, 25 July 2018
- Responding to collapse, Part 2: Climate Change, Saturday, 15 September 2018
- Responding to collapse, Part 3: Declining Surplus Energy, Friday, 26 October 2018
- Responding to collapse, Part 4: getting out of the city, Wednesday, 21 November 2018
- Responding to collapse, Part 5: finding a small town, Friday, 28 December 2018
- Responding to Collapse, Part 6: finding a small town, continued, Monday, 28 January 2019
- Responding to Collapse, Part 7: A Team Sport Monday, 18 March 2019
- Responding to Collapse, Part 8: Pitfalls and Practicalities of that Team Sport Tuesday, 26 March 2019
- Responding to Collapse, Part 9: Getting Prepared, Part 1, Thursday, June 13, 2019
- Responding to Collapse, Part 10: the future of the power grid, Wednesday, 17 July, 2019
- Responding to Collapse, Part 11: coping with power outages, the basics, Sunday, August 25, 2019