Friday, February 26, 2010

Eating In - With A Twist

We had beans for dinner last night ... and Boston brown bread. I'd never made brown bread before. The recipe calls for cooking the bread in tin cans, but when the only tin cans one has in the house formerly held dog food .... I decided to make the bread using the "cans" most of our stored food comes in ... that is, pint-sized mason jars ;).

The batch made six pint-sized loaves of bread. We ate two of them yesterday - one for lunch and one for dinner, and a third we had for lunch today (with our beef stew, cooked on the woodstove, but more on that in a minute ... ah! Suspense :). The other three jars I sealed and have stored for later.

As we were finishing up our dinner of baked beans that slow-cooked in the crock-pot all day, the lights winked off.

The electricity came back on about 4:30 pm today (Friday), just under twenty hours after it went out. Deus Ex Machina was in the process of loaning our generator out to the neighbors, because we have everything we need and would have only used the generator for the freezer ... but not until we needed to, which wasn't, yet ;).

Both Deus Ex Machina and I have recently finished reading Alex Scarrow's Last Light. I made him read it, because I needed someone to talk to about the book. He's such a good guy ;).

He read it, and we talked about it, and as I suspected, most of our thoughts were pretty much the same. Whether naive or not, we both believe in the ultimate goodness of people, and we believe that most people, even in that situation (where the government has gone on national television to advise the masses that there is likely to be some scarcity for a few days), would not degenerate so quickly into the barbaric behavior that was described in the book.

What really surprised us both, though, was stuff like people drinking river water without first doing something to make it safer to drink. I guess I just have a really hard time believing people are so stupid and careless and ... short-sighted.

Even in the worst of our schools, the average person has had both basic biology and health class, and we ALL know enough about microbiology to understand where disease comes from. We all know that drinking, potentially, contaminated water is dangerous, and that to make water safe to drink, most of the time, simple boiling is enough. It was just hard for me to believe that, even in the worst case scenario, people would so fully lose their senses.

It was a very good book, though, and it got me thinking about what I would do, if I knew for certain, that *it* was all over, if the President came on the television and told us that all of the world's oil reserves were compromised, and we would need to start relying on the small reserves and oil fields on our own soil (which is not even enough to power our current transportation infrastructure for a day) and that as a precaution, rationing of all food, water and fuel would commence immediately.

If I knew, what would I rush out to buy?

I wouldn't go to the grocery store. We may not have enough food to do us for a year, but between what we're going to grow, what we currently have access to through nearby farmers, and what we can forage, we'd probably be okay in that respect.

So, what would I get?

Personally, I'd like to power down a little more slowly than what we experience when we have a power outage. It would be nice to have access to my computer, for my girls to be able to enjoy a DVD, for us to be able to keep our freezer running until we've had the chance to eat all of the food in there. So, I'd find some solar panels and battery chargers and set-up a small power-generation plant.

Then, I'd head over to a place where I could buy winter coats, snowpants, and good, quality shoes and make sure I had at least one set of winter gear, one-size-up for each family member. I'd probably go to one of the sporting goods stores for these items, and while I was there, I'd buy a few more pieces of castiron cookware and another camp latern ... and maybe one of those really cool Berkey water filters ;).

Then, I'd go and buy a couple hundred yards of fabric, needles, thread, patches, yarn, scissor sharpeners, and any other clothes making supplies I could think of.

Then, I'd head over the hardware store, and I'd buy several gallons of paint, a couple of really good snow shovels, another ax, another bow saw, several pounds of nails, a good file for sharpening things, and if I could find it, a manual drill.

Then, we'd probaby go to the grocery, and most of the food would be gone, but we wouldn't be there for food for ourselves. I'd buy all of the dogfood they had in stock, because those damn dogs aren't eating my chickens or rabbits ... or us ... or each other :). If they still had any sugar or nuts or chocolate or coffee or tea when we got there, I'd buy that too.

At home, we'd fill up every container in our house that has a lid with water from the tap. I'd also fill up the rainbarrels from the hose outside. I know that sounds silly, but if we didn't know for certain there would be rain within a few days, it would be good to have stored 150 gallons of water, plus all of the bottles and such.

Other stuff at home, we could do a little at a time, and as we would likely not be going anywhere, time (for once) would be on our side.

We might have the starving hoards coming to our door, and when they do, we'd give them one of the bottles of water we'd saved. When we ran out of bottles, we'd have the Berkey filter, which we could fill with water from the brook. If they could find something to hold the water, we'd give them some.

As for food, we'd take them back in the woods and show them what they could eat ... and maybe I'd be able to spare a loaf of bread or a couple of biscuits.

The thing about Scarrow's novel that most disturbed me was the self-centered attitudes of most of the characters. Yes, things were awful, and it was scary, and things got very bad, and then much worse. But it happened so quickly, and I have a very hard time believing that it would degenerate so far, so fast.

But the real thing is that we have to stick together, especially if things get that bad, that fast, and I know that I could never cower in my house while I listened to thugs beat and ... worse ... my neighbors. I'd be over there, even if it meant the thugs did the same to me, because the truth was that, in the book, eventually, the thugs did it to everyone, but if the people had banned together, from the beginning, maybe the thugs wouldn't have been successful. There is safety in numbers, and if we don't fight for each other, if we allow ourselves to lose our humanity so that we can live just one more day, as far as I'm concerned, there's not much to live for.


  1. Hm, interesting premise. I always wonder what the masses would do. Would it be like the Hollywood portrayals? Worse? Better? Hm.

    Thanks for the inspiration. I'm helping Dr. MS come up with 25 diseases for his students. I'll add giardia after reading this post. ;-)

  2. good post - if you are really going to be looking for these items I'd make a list, make copies, carry them with me, hubby and in the truck. Then, when passing thrift stores or yard sales I'd look for items on the list. It's amazing what one can find when just looking.

    I know this is going to sound sort of stupid considering what other parts of the states are contending with, but south Florida has had record cold temps, and not just for a day or 2, but up to 2 weeks at a time. So, as we lost a fruit tree and some veggies, I've been looking for, and found, fitted twin sheets - they fit over our raised beds! Looking for these now, as the snowbirds are getting ready to leave, means low prices and a better chance than waiting till next January.

  3. Great post. Got me thinking about what I would do, as well. There is strength in numbers, for both good and bad. I plan on being on the "good" side.

    By the way, how did the bread taste. I've never tried to make that type of bread.

  4. I hadn't heard of "Last Light," will have to check that out for sure. Sounds like it's similar to "One Second After" and "Lights Out."

    Most people might be good, but that still leaves a lot that are not, and it only takes a few of those acting together to make things get medieval real fast. I'd be ready for extreme violence, especially from large groups. Mob mentality lets people not take blame personally for the actions of the group (in their minds, anyway), and violence levels often are much more extreme than what the individuals involved would do alone.

    Drinking untreated water reminds me of sailors of old drinking sea water, knowing what it would do. But on land one could at least boil the water.

    Concerning "what would I do" if I knew the power would be off soon and for good, all sounds good. I'd get a solar power setup now, except we now rent.

    On giving - I'd give to a local charity/church if possible so people folks wouldn't keep coming back to you - and know you have stores of food and other supplies. That could be very dangerous as truly hungry people will do what the have to.

    If you want to bug-in, building a neighborhood network would be good, if those around are like minded.

  5. @ Bezzie: That's funny! You might also try cholera ... isn't that transmitted through the water supply?

    @ Bellen: Good idea! I like going to Goodwill occasionally, and I have all of these plans of things I want to get, but when I get there I can never remember what I wanted :). I should be writing it all down!

    @ jjmurph: The bread was (is, because we still have a couple of loaves in sealed canning jars) good. It's, basically, raisin bread without the cinnamon flavor. One of my daughters won't eat it, because she doesn't like raisins, but everyone else enjoyed it ;). I'll make it again, and since I can get six loaves for my trouble, it's definitely worth the time.

    @ suburbansurvivalist: I hadn't considered donating to a local church or charity, and that's a good idea. My thought, though, was for the people who would be knocking at my door ... well, hopefully, they'll be knocking at and not trying to knock down my door. But never fear, I am fully able and ready to defend myself, if that becomes necessary. I think it's quite possible that things would get Medieval, too, but not as quickly as it happened in Scarrow's book. Definitely find a copy of it and read it. It was very interesting.

  6. Another book series everyone might like is the Emberverse. First book title is "Dies the Fire," and the 'fire' is electric - no power, no guns, no steam engines, etc. That got me thinking :) and now I'm learning.

  7. Very good post. Pretty in line to conversations my family and I have had recently, in fact.

    A few oddments I'd add? (And actually have in place) We have a small solar system - enough to run some lights and power small electronics. Which means all the books (fiction, nonfiction, a HECK of a lot of how to and manuals) that are stored on the computers would still be handy. And enough juice to run the creature comfort of music players as well. Life saving? No... but for the same reason I have and can play several instruments (ditto the spouse) - music doesn't just soothe the savage breast, it reminds it what it IS to be human. It isn't just about survival. Animals survive. I want to thrive.

    Also, even though its just my husband and I at the moment - after reading sites like yours, the Emberverse books Lorri mentioned, and others - I've started picking up books of all age ranges at yardsales and the like. There will be kids one day - ours, or others around us. A book is always something to hold onto in the dark nights.