The Big What If

Have you ever been to one of those workshops where you came away with so much information you felt like your head was going to explode – in a good way?  Well, that was my day today.  I attended Plan C for OKC at the operations center of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.  Bob Waldrop, our very own sustainability guru, has put years of research and practical application into designing a model for surviving and learning to live after a national emergency that wipes out electricity, water service, and the food supply.   He talked primarily about the three biggest needs, food, water and shelter and touched on energy, human waste/trash, medical care and security.  A lot of information!  He will be sending all the attendees his notes and “a lot of URLs” that I will share. But, in the meantime, I would like to share my notes and some recommended reading from other participants, etc.  So here goes….

WATER:  You can live without food for a few weeks, but people die without water after 3 or 4 days.  If the electric water supply grid were knocked off line, diesel pumps might be able to provide up to 50% of daily need in most major metropolitan areas – but only for a short time, until the fuel ran out.  So, how does the average family prepare for a water shortage that may last up to a year or longer?  Ideally, the best way to plan ahead would be to drill a water well in your backyard and equip it with a handpump.  You know, the kind you see in old westerns.  The farm wife goes out with her bucket and fills it with water from the well.  While this is not what most people will take the time or money to do, there are alternatives.  A water catchment system such as rain barrels is the 2nd best method, using various types of cisterns (child’s swimming pool, stock tanks, chest freezers or refrigerators with doors removed and turned on their side (no electricity, no refrigeration), trash cans, ice chests, Rubbermaid tubs, fish tanks.  Lots of things can be used to catch rainwater.  Of course, purification is an issue and there are lots of methods: boiling, settling, slow sand filters (one of the best), solarization (clear jar of water in the sun), iodine (not sure how this works).  Must keep covered to prevent mosquitos.   Conserve, conserve, conserve (use gray water from bathing, laundry, etc. for garden)

FOOD: Sources: home gardens (learn to garden and preserve food now!!!!!!!!), fruit and nut trees (many take years to produce – plant now!!), buy wheat berries in bulk and purchase a hand grinder; livestock, fishing (learn to grow catfish, talapia, etc. in barrels), hunting, edible weeds, stockpile canned good (start now!), edible mushrooms, raise chickens (check local restrictions).  Related: stockpile seeds for vegetables when they go on sale at the end of the season and put them in freezer.  Join Seed Saver Exchange and form local heirloom seed exchange groups.  Cook with solar ovens (buy or make now!)

SHELTER: if you can afford it, put thermal windows in your house now; add insulation to walls, passive solar heat, interior shutters, wood stoves, lighting (stockpile lanterns and oils to burn, candles), move multiple families in together and scavenge unused houses for material; use cellars/basements for food storage (not common in Oklahoma).  Keeping warm in the winter: blankets, using the south side of the house for living area in winter for passive solar heating, thermosyphen (?) heater, canopy beds with curtains.  NO charcoal inside, no inside generators or unventilated open flames.

ENERGY: wood, biomass, solar, wind, hydro, biodiesel, alcohol, human/animal powered, methane, cowchips, propane, recharge batteries with bicycle generator (get now!), geothermal, wood gas

HUMANURE AND TRASH: there is a way to draw methane off of human waste and use what is left as compost; other methods (old fashioned outhouses; composting toilets, Lugable Loo from Cabella’s, Watson Wick, Orchard Toilet, moldering toilet.  Collect urine separately and use 1/3 urine to 2/3 water for fertilizer.  Put backflow preventer on sewer line now!  There will be no trash!  Reuse and recycle everything.  Keep food cans, chips bags, everything will have a use at one time or another.  Use cans to grow seedlings for garden.

MEDICAL CARE: grow medicinal plants; nurses and midwives will be used more on a neighborhood/community basis when health care system collapses; elderly relatives in nursing homes will have to be brought back to the family home.  Natural birth control.  Neighborhood graveyards (no embalming available, build your own coffins)

SUGGESTED READING:Start creating a library of useful topics and printing stuff off the internet while we still have it.  Books: One Circle (may be out of print, check used book sources, libraries); World Made by Hand (fiction); Plan C; German E Commissioned Monographs (great source of medicinal plants, etc. not 100% sure of title); The Omnivore’s Dilemna; In Defense of Food; Simple Prosperity; Crisis Preparedness Handbook, Bread Builders, Wild Fermentation. Catalog: Lehman’s Non-Electric Catalog ( – order stuff now!) Websites:Seed Savers Exchange, Mother Earth News (great source of information), Rain Barrels & More, Tank Depot, Oklahoma Wildcrafting (associated Yahoo Group: OKforagehead); internet information on building bicycle carts, handcarts, etc. 

I know all this sounds foreign to the average American, but it would take so little to knock our grid of power, water, food and energy offline.  Could you and your family survive?  Do you have the knowledge and skills to grow your own food, procure water and make your home liveable without electricity?  Its worth considering – what if?

2 thoughts on “The Big What If

  1. Pingback: » The Big What If bicyclesupplycat

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