Monday, April 14, 2008


You have to build your home if you want it to really meet all your needs. I know, this project is starting to sound ridiculously expensive right? But it doesn't need to be because you aren't building a McMansion are you? You are building a farmers cottage. A two story stone and concrete home with an attached stone barn. The stone will come from your own land. The concrete will come from Home Depot. Your house will have two rooms on the first floor and three on the top. The bottom floor is a large country kitchen equipped with a wood or solid fuel Stratford boiler stove and a free standing double sided Inglenook fireplace which will be the only thing that separates the kitchen from the family room. Ceilings should be kept low to avoid heat loss. The Inglenook fireplace should be used for heat and baking. The family bathroom should be off the kitchen to save on plumbing runs.
In floor heating should be used throughout the bottom and top floors . The upstairs should be three small bedrooms with vaulted ceilings to trap heat. Each room should be equipped with a ceiling fan to recirculate heat.
No one wants to freeze to death in their own bed so a specialist will need to be involved to make sure you are making the absolute best use of energy for heat.And that your roof is made of steel and your insulation is second to none.
Having a conservatory that is well insulated can be an excellent heat sink, a poorly insulated one will make your life a misery.
The well insulated conservatory should be east facing and be off the kitchen. It should provide all the natural light for the first floor. Having windows everywhere is a bad idea if you want to conserve energy.Your lighting should provide heat as well.
Skylights are a better choice for lighting the upstairs. Solar tubes will bring in natural light to each bedroom and limit heat loss .
Your home will need a basement. A strong leak proof basement. Most of your cost for your home needs to be invested into the foundation and the creation of a double basement.
You are going to experience some intermittent security issues when people notice you have smoke coming from your chimneys. Don't forget that some people are going to notice your building and some will be aware of it's advantages to survival. This is where some ethics bending is going to occur. It's up to you how far your ethics will bend before they snap. Taking up arms and shooting strangers may be your thing but some of us don't bend too far that way so an escape hatch will be necessary.
Your escape hatch should be as well provided for as your regular home and it should be unbreachable.
I would advocate a security system of extreme deterrence though. Your property should be fenced and electrified. Your home should be built in the manner of a fortress. Avoiding the use of wood eliminates the risk of being burnt out of your home. Using stone and rock deters easy entrance. Adding solid steel rolling doors to cover the conservatory and the front entrance continue to deter. (Think "I am Legend")
Violence should be a final act of survival. If you plan the building of your home well no intruder will have the time nor resources to burrow their way in.
Do try to remember that it is not a crime to add fellow survivors to your home. Community will need to be rebuilt and it would be nice to have already created a relationship with your potential new neighbours right?

Now on to plumbing. A septic tank with weeping tile is an easy choice but there are composting toilets on the market that come in kit form and are relatively easy to manage.You could add a gray water system that diverts sink/shower/laundry water into run off to trees and gardens if you only use organic cleaning supplies. Using both you can avoid the cost of having the septic system installed and avoid any septic disasters that will leave you vulnerable unless you had the foresight to offer to roommate with a septic expert.

Your house will have three sinks:kitchen, bathroom and laundry. The Stratford boiler stove will provide hot and cold running water to the sinks, the shower and the laundry. There will be hot and cold water access to the barn . There will be a separate smaller boiler stove in the secondary basement on standby with it's own access to the secondary well. This will be a safety buffer in case of violent people or violent weather. Be prepared even if you believe your defenses are impenetrable. A composting toilet will be a true necessity here
You will be using wood from your own woodlot but there is no excuse for not bringing in a good supply of solid fuel..that would be coal. I think we can be forgiven for any acid rain emissions here as we are trying to survive remember?

So you have heat and running water within your home.
Now on to a renewable energy source. If you are incredibly lucky and you researched well before you bought you may have access to some form of geothermal energy. The holy grail so to speak. You will definitely need an expert to help create this system. You can also use wind and solar. Both are getting less expensive and you can use them in combination. You also have a running creek and a pond, what could be more perfect for a water wheel? A water wheel that could provide energy and a water wheel that could be used to transform your grain and corn to flour.
You will only need energy for doing laundry and some lighting and of course for entertainment as the boiler stove and the Inglenook fireplace should be more than enough to cover your cooking and heating needs.
Lighting can also be provided by oil, battery or friction lamps. I would avoid oil lamps as no one wants to have to render fat to keep them going and your oil supply is going to nonexistent as the masses will have hoarded every drop within the first three weeks of any true breakdown in civilization . Your political leaders all have security plans and they will include getting and guarding the gas and oil. You aren't going to be seeing the President using a windup friction flashlight any time soon. But because you are smart you will have hoarded every friction lamp and flashlight you could find right? Your battery supply will be a thing to behold.

I guess the idea is to be be completely self reliant for everything you need. That includes water, food and shelter. It also means security. I hope it wont be all Stephen Kings The Stand(minus the hand of God hopefully) but it sounds pretty likely to me that some of it is possible. If you want to survive you have to be able to defend your little plot until the insanity burns itself out along with the pandemic, the energy crisis, the limited clean water supply, the lack of food etc, etc, etc.....

It may take years for things to get better because they are going to get very bad. Because no politician will have a quick enough answer for each problem the problems will begin to cascade. If every other country is struggling with the same problems no one can come to the others aid. It can only be controlled for a short time militarily and if you have a) a small or nonexistent army b) your army is somewhere else or c) you have some army but they are burnt out and disinterested then gaining control over a populace that has devolved into a panicked mob will take some time and some resources. Resources which I may have mentioned are scare.
Somalia is a perfect example of what is waiting for us if each system breaks down enough to create a cascade of failures in all the systems. No water, no food, no leadership, no grid, no oil, rampant disease, starvation...genocide. To the survivors go the spoils. It took that country twenty years to become a wasteland and a new home for AlQueda.

The final issue is health care. It's all well and good to have hot and cold running water with a good sanitary system. You can avoid e-coli/cholera related disease. You have heat and a good cooking stove so you avoid frostbite and food poisoning. You have a well thought out food supply and an active organic garden so you avoid diseases of malnutrition.
But what happens if you get appendicitis? Or you pick up some parasites from the livestock?
This is not something you can really pre-plan for because most of your requests will make you look insane or worse criminal and you really, really don't want to be in jail when civilization decides to vacate the premises.
You better have a well stocked first aid kit that includes an entire pharmacy and the drug book that goes with it. I think you can probably skip the anti-depressants though. You'll be a little too busy to get depressed. I wouldn't skip the anti-anxiety aisle though. A healthy stock of Xanax could be as valuable in the first three weeks as clean water.
You need to take some big risks here and get to the pharmacy before everyone else does. I just can't see getting your doc to write thirty thousand prescriptions in a week can you?
This is really the only time violence may be a necessary tool. 99% of the people trying to rob the pharmacy are looking for the Vicodin and the Oxycontin. We want the antibiotics, the pain killers and the wormers. We want everything they have just in case. In fact we may need to raid more than one pharmacy if it all goes to hell because we will have no idea how many people we may need to care for. People who want narcotics very badly are going to be prepared to fight for them so we are going to have to be better prepared and want them more.
We also need to raid the hospital for everything in their operating room. No one wants to try to remove an appendix on the kitchen table using a friction flashlight, a kitchen knife, some eyebrow tweezers and a corduroy iron on patch while the patient is awake. We will need the real deal.
Luckily the hospital will either be deserted or complete bedlam and sneaking out what we need while dressed in full isolation gear isn't going to be all that difficult. The hard part is avoiding being recruited to provide care to plague carriers. It's best to go at night or right before the dawn.
So hopefully you now have that well stocked first aid kit. All you need now is the directions for the human body. That you should have prepared for. You should have spent some hours on the internet getting precise instructions with full colour pictures on the most common emergency surgeries. You should already know how to cast anything that can break.
We should already have stocked up on all our livestock medical supplies though if it looks safe enough it couldn't hurt to raid the local vet for IV supplies and animal drugs. The premise ( and hope) is this disaster is going to be slow moving. There is going to be enough time to get educated about a lot of things and to have supplies to meet the challenges for almost all of them.

What I am saying is there is hope. You don't have to become a raving lunatic paralyzed with fear. You have everything you need to survive anything at your finger tips.
You don't need oil to live, you don't need the grid to survive.
All you need is a clear head, a lot of courage and some simple planning.

You can continue to listen to the bullshit your politicians spout about dependence but you don't need to be dependent on the things civilization has built. You can depend on the things the earth has built. Like wind, water and sun. Like seams of coal and forests. Like plentiful seed and animal dung. On stone ,rock and clay.

Someone once wrote that the two most important words ever written are "Don't Panic". Give it a try because if everyone held their shit together there wouldn't be a disaster at all.We would all sit patiently and resist the urge to raid The Great Canadian Superstore, the liquor store and the gun shop. Imagine how much shit could be avoided if we eliminated drunken assholes terrorizing people with AK47's over that last bag of sugar and the red licorice nibs.
It might give our leaders a chance to get a plan in place that leaves us a little hungry , quarantined and isolated ,occasionally in the dark with a permanent boil water advisory but with a fighting chance to survive a disaster that will ravage and destroy every other country that lost it's shit in the dark.

If we fail the Don't Panic rule I sure as hell hope you have that nice homestead I have described.
I hope we will be neighbours so we can share a laugh at the utter stupidity of the human race.


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