This post was sparked off by a reading of a blog post by Wotan's Krieger on the 'Smart Meters' which are today spreading around the population. Wotan's Krieger gives a dire warning of how these could be used to switch off one's energy at a moment's notice, thus plunging an individual or family into a dire situation, especially during the cold and wet winter months. He also warns that, of course, our water supplies could soon see such 'Smart Meters' installed, with the intention that our water could also be cut off in an instance. This post was in the fourth part of his books published by Black Front Press.
Now, whether you already have a 'Smart Meter' or whether you do not is not the question. What is today a 'choice' will tomorrow be forced upon us all, so the best plan is to take it for granted that one day you will be in this situation. This applies to electricity, gas and water supplies, all of which need to be considered and addressed as soon as possible. Think 2030 - Act Now!
The idea of growing our own vegetables and fruit is to try to become as self-sufficient as we possibly can, which is a very hard uphill task because of the problems that one encounters at every level. But we also need to consider alternative energy sources that would see us through a crisis where our energy supplies were cut off completely. There are so many things to consider when tackling this problem, but after a week spent wild-camping with no company except my old dog, Sam, so many ideas began to come into my mind. I would highly recommend anyone 'self-isolating' for a short time where one has to use one's ingenuity in thinking up how to get over the many problems that arise. Even if you do not wish to go out into the wild, a few days camping in one's garden without the use of the facilities of the house would at least be better than nothing. I found that I had to think hard on so many alternatives to the normal way we live, and this helped to come up with new ideas that should be tried and tested. Here I am going to put together some ideas on my own experience of the past week -
FIRE - Fire is needed for warmth and for cooking, but it is also needed to heat up water for various things (which I will get to next). Those who use log-fires at home would be far better off than those who do not, and there is little one can do to change this in the modern gas or electric centrally-heated houses. And, I am afraid the alternatives to gas and electric are few and far between nowadays. Here I will give a couple of examples of an alternative -
1. Calor Gas Heaters are still available, and these can easily warm up a room; in an emergency the like of which I am talking about living in one room if the weather was extremely cold would be the best means to survive. Or, you could use two heaters, thus using two rooms.
2. There are forms of eco-fuel that can be burned indoors, but this needs care and you should ensure that whatever is used does not give off fumes such as carbon monoxide.
3. In regard to both cooking and water-heating, as well a heating a room to a very small degree, there are camping type stoves that are designed for indoor use. Again be careful since this must be a specific type that is designed for indoor use.
4. Oil lamps are still available and give out a limited amount of heat; also, candles would keep the temperature above zero in a small room.
5. Warm layers of clothing would also be fine, together with some form of heating.
In regard to cooking most people use barbecues nowadays, and some form of barbecue could be built for use in an emergency. Of course, some form of shelter from the wind, rain and cold would also be needed. This should ideally be heated by fire, although gas canisters can be used too. You could build a type of open-fire to cook on. Of course, again some form of shelter from the wind, rain and cold is necessary for this.
Camping-Gas appliances can be used too, as well as home-made small wood-stoves that are easily made. The Kelly-Kettle or M-Kettle would also become useful for boiling water for cups of tea or coffee. These are in fact more efficient than the camping-stoves in cold weather, since the gas freezes in these and runs very slowly.
WARM WATER -
Warm water is needed to wash with, to wash dishes with, and to generally clean and tidy the place now and again. This is one thing that I did look closely into when wild-camping because there is always the need for warm water for something or other. The following were experimented upon -
1. A Solar Shower - I bought this from Amazon for around £20.00, holding around 20 litres of water and running-time around 10 minutes. Problem - the Sun did not come out for three days, and in the woodland I used there were only certain areas where enough sunlight got through. I tried it out when I got home (of course, the Sun came out then), and it took around 3 hours to heat from cold tap-water to 98 degrees Fahrenheit, which was not so bad really. It seems to be strong and capable of some use, but who knows nowadays. My advice here would be to protect the solar-shower from the wind since this slows down the heating time somewhat.
2. Use a large saucepan, or better still a 'hotpot' on a fire to warm the water; this, on an open fire, is the best method to heat enough water for wider use. Keep the water hot by leaving it above the fire but letting the fire go down a bit.
3. There are 12 volt water-heater elements, or even car glow-plugs, that can be used to heat water in a plastic container. A strong car-battery should be used, and a powerful solar-panel to keep a good charge in the battery. Here, of course, wind-power could be used to turn an alternator connected to the 12 volt battery. Both alternatives would get over the problem of lack of sunlight or lack of wind. An alternative to these would be some form of small petrol or diesel powered engine that would drive an alternator connected to the battery.
Nowadays a small quiet generator can be bought quite cheaply, and I have one that creates 1200 watts which I have used for various different projects, and taken with me whilst camping too. This can generate enough power for power-tools, charging of power-tools, charging of electronic gadgets, boiling a kettle of water, and many other uses that I cannot think of here. Mine is petrol, and you would need a supply of petrol to run it, as well as oil to top up when necessary. It is quite economical and would run for some time. This would also generate enough power to light a number of bulbs for lighting - something that could be considered for use in creating an alternative lighting supply. You would need to keep the generator dry outside in some form of well-ventilated shelter.
ALTERNATIVE LIGHTING -
A 12-volt lighting system could also be rigged up for use around the home; of course, this could be made totally portable and self-contained so that it can be moved from room to room. You should already have considered placing torches in areas where you can quickly get your hands on them for use. 12-volt electrics are safer in term of shocks, but still as dangerous in terms of creating fire, so ensure you know what you are doing when rigging up some form of alternative supply.
Candles and oil lamps can be used for lighting although they are not so light, nor are they so safe as some methods. But both do give off light and some heat, and are better than nothing.
ALTERNATIVE WATER SUPPLY -
During the autumn and winter months there should be no difficulty in getting water through the amount of rain we usually have. But during the spring and summer months things can be more difficult. It is thus essential that some form of water-storage is set up.
Drinking-Water - This needs to be purer and cleaner than water used for other purposes, so some form of filtering-system should be used to clean the rain-water collected. It also needs collecting in clean containers after running through some form of filtering-system. Done this way it can only be better than the chlorinated stuff that comes form the tap nowadays. As with the other things I have mentioned, some form of temporary set-up would do to start off with, doing enough to give time for setting up alternatives when the time comes. But remember, you could last 30 days without food, but only 3 days without water, so water is the priority. You will need to assess your own needs, and the needs of the family if you have one, and then work out how big a water-container you would need to get through at least a couple of weeks or so to give time to work out an alternative.
Washing-Water - This need not be so much trouble, but it would need to be clean enough to use to wash yourself, your clothes and the dishes. If this is done ecologically the water can be used for the garden afterwards.
Garden-Watering - This is where the problem will lie, if you are growing your own fruit and vegetables. A great deal of water is used, but since it need not be so clean as that of drinking and washing then more of it is far easier to collect, though a large container would be needed, or regular water from a stream or river nearby. There are other forms such as drilling to the water-table, which are more expensive but more of a long-term solution.
The best solution with water is to start to look around your own area for ready supplies of water that you could tap into where necessary.