My early adult life took various twists and turns until, at the symbolic age of 40, we moved to our homestead in the hills. 17 acres and a lake on a Welsh mountainside.
The dream finally came true. I was where I wanted to be.
Alas life/work/business got in the way a little, and not all the grand plans fell in to place. But the self-sufficient, or perhaps better termed self-reliant, life has always remained firmly in our sights.
Now 20 years on, with the world getting hotter both politically and climatically, it seems an appropriate point to take stock and refocus our efforts.
We will be consolidating what we have already started, and we will be starting what we haven’t.
Food production will be ramping up, water provision will be expanded, energy generation will be initiated.
We will be starting in the middle and working out.
It does feel a little selfish to be focusing on the us, but I hope we can expand out from here.
Making more connections locally, producing surplus food to give to those in need, sharing resources and skills with others around with a similar mindset.
A big part of prepping is community. That is very much part of the plan.
We are not lapsed preppers by any means, but the last couple of year I have rather taken my eye off the ball at times.
But this year I am feeling rejuvenated and eager to get back on it.
>> Climate change : ‘Hothouse Earth’ risks even if CO2 emissions slashed
It made me wonder, and it made me worried.
Some people dispute the science of climate change, many people don’t.
Either way, the hard reality is that weather patterns are wobbly, and the climate seems to be taking on a life of its own.
This summer for example has seen heat records broken with abundance across Europe. Even in my usually wet and windy Wales it has been super hot and super dry these past couple of months.
My neighbour came round last night and told me his well has run dry and he is totally out of water. Up on the hills his sheep are braking through fences trying to find water as all the springs that usually provide for them have stopped flowing.
On our homestead we are just hanging on, but our garden and our trees have been hit hard.
Whichever the climate science blows, as a prepper I need to be prepared.
I have a duty to my family, our animals and our homestead to ensure we are not put at any living disadvantage from our ongoing journey to an offgrid state of being.
First stop, water
As we have learnt this summer water is a key point of inflection as the climate makes its twists and turns.
We are not connected to the mains. We have a mountain spring that fills two 5000 litre tanks.
Alongside those we have an old well and a lake. While these give us some resilience it is not foolproof by any means.
I have long had plans to install two more similar tanks just below the first two. If we get another very dry summer next year these new additional tanks will have to move to the top of the investment list.
Having sufficient water is half the story. Getting it to the crops and the fruit trees is the more difficult part.
Hosepipes and watering cans are not an efficient way of distributing water over a large area. Installing some form of drip irrigation system, particularly in the polytunnel is a must.
Then comes winter…
While summers are likely to be hotter and drier, weird weather times will likely bring colder and stormier winter times.
Our house is a 200 year old stone farmhouse. It is not thermally efficient.
We need to continue work on the insulation for one part of our winter prepping.
More importantly we need to resolve our heating dilemma.
Currently we are using oil for our heating. But this is a costly, increasingly unreliable and environmentally inappropriate option.
With 15 acres of woodland some form of wood burning system will be our way to go for heating.
We have one woodstove and one open fire in our house, but we really want to move over to a full-on wood/biomass boiler solution.
We have had the quote for the biomass boiler installation but it is a big one, so we are not sure yet how and when that will come to pass. But it is on the shopping list and when steem moons to $10 I’ll be all over it.
And then there is everything else to do !
Prepping for climatic change is a big challenge. Will it come gradually or suddenly and catastropically?
I guess gradual, but if you watch the right movies you might think differentyl.
If it is sudden and catastrophic who knows what will go down. Mass migrations could become the order of the day. Crop failures and food shortages will become commonplace. Electricity brown-outs and power grid failures will be a regular occurrence.
As I get older and the days tick by I find I am increasingly refining my goals in life.
At a certain point in life one realises that the phrase “you have all the time in the world” no longer has any bearing. Time becomes your most precious resource. And every day counts.
So dreams of opening a restaurant, or building a house with a balcony, or learning six languages, or writing a science fiction novel, or travelling to every continent, while still valid and potentially possible, have to be filtered.
The realisation, and acceptance, that you are unlikely to achieve everything in life you had hoped to is harsh but necessary.
I have now signed that pledge of acceptance and am narrowing my life plan to those things I do so want to achieve.
In fact that want is more than just a want, it is a desire I am fiercely whipping up into a compulsion.
Compulsion can be read with a negative inflection but as I mentioned in a previous blog I only have two modes of operation – full-on or not at all. I don’t do half-ar$ed.
So what I am going to do, I am going to do to the biggest, the best and the boldest of my abilities.
I have now settled on my two remaining goals – to minimise my footprint, and to maximise my impact.
Minimising My Footprint
I live on a homestead. We have our own water supply and we deal with our own sewage, we produce much of our own food and the percentage increases year on year, and we have planted 10,000 trees on our property.
We have traveled some fair distance on our journey to reduce our footprint on the planet.
But we still have a long way to go.
Our electricity usage is one area we are really keen to cut down on. In fact as I wrote about yesterday our goal is to move towards going offgrid – but frustratingly steem’s low price is holding us back on that at present.
The second big area I want to deal with is our use of petrol for car transport.
Living in a very rural area, reliance on public transport is not viable, so getting an electric car would be the next best option.
And if we could charge that car from our own solar electricity even better still.
There are a thousand other ways in which we can, should and will reduce our ecological and carbon footprint. But we are on the right path and I relish the challenge of day by day getting better and better.
Maximising My Impact
I have always been an activist, campaigning in one form or another for a better world.
I think I got it from my mother. She wouldn’t take any crap, and she was always getting involved in local community activities.
Much of my early adult life was spent working, at various levels, for one of Britain’s major environmental campaign organisations.
Then I took a few years out to set up a business and raise a family. But these past few years I have been retracing my steps and rejoining the battle.
And in the past year steem, particularly through A Dollar A Day, has opened a new channel to bring about some worthwhile change.
Now I am ready for action and I want to do more.
I have just today launched a new @communityaction project where I will be focusing most of my activity bridging the on and the off steemchain worlds.
Hopefully this will give me one more route to make a positive impact on the world.
I don’t want to have my name in lights or on a plaque on the wall, but I do want to do my bit.
And one day when my grandchild asks that fateful question “What did you do Granddad to save the planet?” I will be able to answer “Everything I could”.
Back at the start of 2017 I was looking at ways to save up the capital needed to invest in a solar PV and battery system to start our homestead on the journey to becoming offgrid for electricity.
A friend introduced me to Bitcoin that was just beginning to take off at that time, and along with the discovery of Bimble Solar who were taking Bitcoin payments, crypto looked like the way to go to raise the funds for our solar adventure.
But after only my second Bitcoin purchase, my bank blocked any further crypto purchases.
Then as I was looking for new ways to build my crypto-stash I came across Steem on YouTube. Earning crypto currency just through blogging seemed a whole lot better than buying.
I signed up. I was hooked.
Many, many, many, many hours of steeming away, and the super lucky timing of the conversion of my original Bitcoin investment into steem, allowed me to reach Dolphin status at the very end of 2017.
At the start of 2018 steem was topping out at over US$7 and my wallet value was looking rather handsome at around US$40,000.
That would have paid for the solar PV system – and for the biomass boiler I’m looking at now.
Should I have hit the sell button then?
It was tempting but I am ethically opposed to killing dolphins. So I hung on. With the upbeat mood, the moon talk in every corner of the steemiverse, $7 looked like it was the bottom not the top. $100 steem was definitely on the cards.
Little did I realise that the steem price would begin a slippy slidey path all the way back down to where it is now – just thrashing about in the shallow sub $1.50 waters.
So I have kept at it blogging, vlogging (a little bit) and pumping out radio shows to double my stake to over 11,000 SP – currently worth around $13,000.
I have just gone back to the quote I was given early last year by the renewables company. Totally by chance it was just under $13,000.
9 PV panels (2.3Kw) = $2500
Lead acid batteries (600Ah capacity) = $2000
Outback inverter/charger & solar charge controller = $4500
Cabling from barn to house = $500
Labour = $2500
Tax @ 5%
So if I squashed my account flat and powered down completely, assuming steem didn’t fall further during the 13 week power-down period, I could get my PV system paid for by crypto and steem.
But then like Snakes and Ladders I would be all the way back down to the beginning again.
I have faith, and science. I learnt at school that steem always rises. So I will sit tight, and keep grinding, til the highs return and the steemrays shine on my solar plans again.
Today’s headlines were quite an eyeful for any aspiring prepper.
“Wildfires in Greece kill 74 people”, “Many feared dead as Laos dam collapses”, “Japan heatwave declared natural disaster as death toll mounts”.
Is the world going crazy? Is the earth fighting back? Is Gaia seeking instant karma?
How much these tragedies are freaks of nature, and how much they have been brought about by human action, may be difficult to judge.
Are such disasters becoming more commonplace, or do they just catch my eye more often as I get older and I get more concerned.
As a prepper I will always have a heightened sense of concern, but as a father and as a citizen of earth it gives me ever more anxiety about how my family, my children and everyone I know will cope with this changing world.
Sometimes that anxiety spills over into outright despair.
I am for sure not yet a 5 star prepper, but I am considerably more prepped up than the average Jo on the block.
Yet when I mindport into the horrific settings of at least the first two of these headlines today I suspect in reality all my prepping would most likely not have saved me, my family or our possessions.
Could we have outrun the wild flames of Greece? And even if we had our homestead would have been burnt to the ground.
Could we have escaped the torrents of water from the collapsed dam in Laos? The same answer I fear.
And the 40+ Celsius temperatures in Japan? We have struggled with the effects of the mid twenties here in Wales.
But these things will never happen to us…
Why not? The world is changing. Mother Earth seems to be fighting back.
And as technology grows, we think we are getting smarter.
In fact all the time we are getting weaker and unhealthier, dumber and more dependent, lazier and more reliant.
Our society is becoming ever more fragile.
Our resilience is evaporating in the white heat of technology.
Our chances of survival are diminishing.
But there is a way. I hope.
You might also be interested in some of my other posts :
It is the third visit from the engineer this year.
Luckily we have a maintenance contract with Worcester Bosch the manufacturers – but they are getting more fussy now.
The boiler is only five years old and it is supposed to have a design life of 15 years but the original installer appartently didn’t do a very good and it has suffered ever since.
We have been trying to get off oil more or less since we moved here. The ever growing cost and the obvious fossil fueled environmental impact don’t taste right.
When we moved into this old, cold farmhouse there was a 10 year old oil fired Rayburn heating the house and the water. It took up a big chunk of floor space, guzzled truck loads of oil and on the coldest days sounded like an angry jet engine landing in kitchen.
But it was what we had and we didn’t have money to replace it.
Our dream was to move to a solar thermal / wood burning back boiler combo. We got an engineer in to plan it out and give us costings. But the south facing roof wasn’t strong enough to support the panels so fixing that added to a budget that was already out of our league at the time.
That plan was put on the back burner.
Then one winter’s day about 5 years ago the Rayburn blew out. That phrasing might be a slight over dramatisation but it was a sudden and catastrophic failure that involved water and oil pouring out on to the kitchen floor.
With the sudden loss of heating and hot water in the midst of a cold Welsh winter we had to make the quickest decision for a replacement boiler.
Alas with the money we had available, the speed of installation and the lure of a government boiler replacement grant of £400 our only viable choice was to replace the Rayburn with a modern oil fired combination boiler.
No time to review our solar and wood plans. That had to wait for another day.
That day may now be approaching fast.
Although today’s fix – a broken valve – was carried out free of charge under the maintenance contract, the engineer, following company policy was obliged to inform us quite forcefully of what changes we will need to implement to continue to be covered.
The list was suprisingly long – a new guard in one place, a new valve in another, moving the gas cooker as it is too close, adding this and adding that… All things that were not needed when the boiler was installed only 5 years ago and the cooker just 18 months ago – both by registered and certified engineers.
And the real kicker… in about 18 months our oil tank will be illegal for domestic use. It is single skinned, unbunded and worse of all measured in gallons which takes it just over the 2500 litre domestic limit.
For the new tank and all the other adaptations required we will be looking at approaching US$ 7000.
The time for change is fast approaching.
If we will have to be spending that sort of money to keep our wonky oil fired system running legally I would rather find a bit more money, ditch the oil and finally and joyfully head into the renewable offgrid world of wood and solar.
To reinforce this conclusion I put the question to the engineer (from the company that makes and services these oil boilers) – “With all these extra requirements and costs, should we be ditching oil now?”.
“If you were my dad, I would say get out of oil as soon as you can,” was his reply.
Sound advice, but do I really look that old ?
He even threw into the melting pot that he is installing an air source heat pump and solar PV battery setup in his house.
“Get off-grid as fast as you can” he exhorted as he loaded up his van.
Sounds like I might have had a prepper in the kitchen and I didn’t even know it!
Farewell to oil
It is looking like the time to say goodbye to oil for heating our house and our hot water is coming real soon.
I am going to check out the air source heat pump option but my natural leaning is towards the solar and wood combination. Mainly because we have an almost infinite source of wood here.
The one big elephant of course is cost.
I haven’t had full costings recently but I am suspecting we will be in the US$ 15k plus range to buy all the kit and get it installed.
That is a big chunk of change that we don’t have to hand.
You may have read in my previous blogs that the main reason I initially joined steem was to raise the capital to move us forward on our journey to our offgrid renewable nirvana.
Here comes the big fat steem dilemma. $15K is the total value of my steem account all in and powered down.
But that wasn’t the plan. If steem got to $5 then I could take the capital needed with only a third of the account and leave the rest to grow.
So where do I go from here? Just sit back and hope steem rises?
That would be the wonderful path to take but with current progress I fear I might have passed into another world before steem reaches that moon.
Steem on and all that…
You might also be interested in some of my other posts :
So prepping for a scavenging scenario is a go in my book…
Scavenging v Theft – when does the needle flick over?
Before I get into my idea on how to prep for scavenging I want to back up a bit and just take a reality check.
I am an honest citizen, so I have to take a mindcheck on when I would consider it appropriate to start scavenging.
Scavenging too early would really just be another term for theft or looting.
On my Personal SHTF Scale that I published in my last Pennsif’s Progress post I am pretty sure I would be looking for a Level 4 or Level 5 event to be totally comfortable with taking other people’s stuff without permission.
Thinking further on this, and taking into consideration the needs of family and the likely lack of available law and order (WROL anyone?), I might see even a Level 3 event as my morally acceptable entry point into active scavenging.
The line for me would though still be whether the owner of what I was wanting to take was alive… and present, or likely to be returning anytime soon.
Pow – there’s a big puff of greyness shot up there. How would I know if they might be returning to claim possession in the near future?
And what if it was a matter of live or death for my family? Vital medicines for example? Water, food…
The 10 Mile Radius Project
I live on a homestead where I plan to stay. Bugging-out would be a super last resort.
On the homestead we are stockpiling and building as much resilience and self-sufficiency as we can. But if those high level bad times do come a-calling I am also making plans to be as effective as possible in scavenging the local area for additional supplies.
Learning from the movies, the key to successful scavenging is knowing where to go as quickly as possible.
You need to know where the supplies you want are located and how to get there and back with maximum speed.
The key to all this is knowing your local area.
To help with this I have started my ‘Ten Mile Radius Project‘ to systematically search and document the useful resources potentially available within a 10 mile (16 km) radius of our homestead.
The choice of 10 miles as the radius is calculated as the distance I could comfortably walk there and back, laden on the return journey, in one day at any time of the year. This assumes the worst case of having no other means of transport.
Ten miles radius gives over 300 square miles of territory to search and document.
My starting point is the local Ordnance Survey map and a piece of string to mark out an approximate 10 mile radius centered on our homestead.
I use this as a basis for searching and recording useful resources.
If you haven’t got a paper map to hand, check out this great online radius drawing tool to get an idea of the area included in 10 miles around where you live :
The 10 Mile Radius Project – what am I looking for
I am using a mix of ways to search the area – on the ground visits, paper map examination, Google Earth maps and satellite images, local directories, local newspapers and an array of other online sources.
Most of what I am looking for, and recording, is quite obvious :
Hospitals, doctor surgeries, veterinary practices, pharmacies
Agricultural suppliers, hardware stores and anywhere that might stock generators and batteries
All of these are top level resources that will be early, prime targets that would likely be picked clean very quickly.
I haven’t even mentioned supermarkets and other food stores as they will be emptied within a day or two – even in lower level emergency event scenarios.
If you want to take this project concept a stage further you can turn it up a notch or two and hover on the edge of just plain stalker-mode.
When you level up to Elite Stalker Prepper you might start to …
Find out where all local doctors live – they might keep some emergency medical supplies at home. Likewise community nurses and vets.
Check out local gun clubs and clay pigeon shooting clubs. Can you find out where the members live – there might be guns in them there hills.
Track the farmers, farmers, farmers – they commonly have guns, red diesel tanks, and electric fence batteries.
Look up Pest Controllers – they often have guns.
The list goes on. Limited only by how far off the scale you are prepared to go.
The Big Red Bottles – My Personal Favourite
I live in the countryside where very few people are connected to mains gas.
Some people have large Calor Gas tanks, but many people use bottled gas.
While it is not transportable on foot, if the means are available grab all you can.
We use 47kg propane cylinders for our cooking. On average we use one bottle about every 6 – 8 months. We keep three at any one time.
An even more interesting use of propane is for electricity generation. Diesel and petrol are likely to disappear quickly. Fewer people will be collecting the gas cylinders. And the gas is safer to store and doesn’t, as far as I know, go off like liquid fuels.
LPG converted generators are readily available, for example in the UK :