Return of the Prepper #8 : Proof of Egg

Today we got our first egg of the year.

That might not sound such a big deal, but it is still January, it is still cold, it is still winter and we only have one chicken.

So well done old girl!

As I mentioned in a recent post I am experimenting with cutting down the externally sourced feed.

I am now just giving the hen and her companion guard goose corn every other day. Instead I am giving them more food scraps and providing piles of compost for them to dig through. I am also investigating meal worm breeding again.

Their compound is over a quarter of an acre so they have a good area to roam around, scratch and graze.

Although we are vegetarian rather than vegan we don’t tend to eat that many eggs these days. Half a dozen eggs per week will more than enough.

In the brighter, warmer days our one remaining hen will just about manage that. But to give us a bit more resilience and longevity on the egg front I will be looking to get another two or three hens in the spring.

I hope they will get along together.

We probably won’t get a rooster at present, particularly while the goose is still about. When he goes I may reconsider that particularly if we are wanting to raise some more chicks by then.

If we do start getting a surplus of eggs with the extra birds we could always pass them on for vaccine production.

With the current coronavirus outbreak growing so rapidly, once a vaccine has been developed it is going to be all eggs on deck…

I was going to write about the dramatic growth of the coronavirus again today, but the situation is changing so rapidly I feared I might I get my facts scrambled.

It is turning into a very serious situation. Definitely not something to yolk about.

If you do fancy a little horror story before bedtime, check out the graph in the bottom left corner of this webpage…

In the meantime it’s goodnight from me, and it’s goodnight from Jim.

[ images from @pennsif ]

Return of the Prepper #7 : Coronavirus – don’t panic, do worry

I had planned to have an early night and not make another post about the Coronavirus outbreak, but I must admit I am getting worried.

The media of course is picking up the headwind and beginning to go into overdrive with ever more attention grabbing headlines.

So I spent the afternoon seeking out some more direct and authoratative sources of information to check the situation for myself. The data I found is beginning to look a little scary.

The numbers of infected and dead so far are still quite small – ‘officially’ 2,019 confirmed cases and 56 deaths. But it is the rate of growth in the numbers that makes me worried.

The confirmed cases number is up from 1,438 yesterday – an increase of 40%, and the deaths up 33% from 42. If these sorts of numbers are sustained that means the outbreak is doubling in infection and death every 2 – 3 days.

And there are now numerous first hand accounts coming out of China suggesting the official figures are being significantly or even dramatically under-reported.

There are videos of doctors collapsing on the floor, nurses screaming in panic, and hospitals generally being overrun.

People in China are taking great risks to get the information out. This video particularly hits home hard…

Some might call into question the authenticity of such social media sourced information, but personally I am largely believing it.

There is now too much circumstantial evidence coming from the official sources to make one believe that the more extreme social media reporting is not without substance.

The Chinese Government is locking down an increasing number of major cities across the country, including now Beijing, and well as closing many major visitor attractions and halting tourism trips.

If this shut down continues it will begin to have a significant impact on the Chinese economy. The Government would not therefore takes these steps lightly.

This economic impact will begin to spread around the world. The supply of the products and parts produced in China could start to dry up quite quickly.

In Wuhan, at the centre of the outbreak, the authorities are super fast-tracking the building of two new hospitals to provide more capacity to deal with the rapidly growing number of infected people.

They have also announced that 24 general hospitals will be transformed to help look after the infected patients.

These steps do seem quite dramatic for the supposed number of infections reported so far.

The Twitter feed of China’s largest newspaper, People’s Daily @PDChina is a good source for official information.

Looking at the continually updated map from John Hopkins University will give a good overview of the global spread…

So far infections outside of China are quite small in number. But they are growing.

The first case in Canada, in Toronto, has just been reported. Other countries I am sure will be added to list over the next few days.

If you want to make your heart skip a beat or two, take a look at the graph presented in the bottom left corner of the John Hopkins University map page. Of course axes can be drawn to different scales but that orange line sure does look like it is heading into the world of exponentialism…

It is late at night, and at 3am one’s sense of the dramatic can become heightened.

Taken that into account I think I can hold back from panic, but I have certainly moved into worry mode.

I will round this off with a little dose of irony.

Last night I managed to order another couple of boxes of anti-viral and N95 masks still at a reasonable price.

I got the dispatch and delivery notification this morning. They won’t arrive for another two or three weeks.

They are being shipped from China…

[ image from ]

Return of the Prepper #6 : Coronavirus – am I bothered, am I prepared?

Pandemic looming or storm in a teacup?

I am sure everyone has by now heard about the growing outbreak of a new coronavirus.

The new virus emerged apparently from an animal market in Wuhan in eastern China just before Christmas.

The number of people infected is now nearing a thousand. The large bulk of these are in China, but isolated cases are beginning to appear in other countries in south east Asia, and increasingly around the world.

The first outbreaks are now appearing in Europe with three cases in France, and there have been two cases now in the USA.

To date 26 people have died, all in China.

The World Health Organisation has so far declined to declare a Global Health Emergency, and the Chinese Government claims it has the situation under control.

The outbreak however has come at the worse possible time for China as today is the Lunar New Year holiday when many millions of people travel to be with their families.

The Chinese government has implemented strong measures to contain the spread of the disease including cancelling major public events, closing visitor attractions like the Forbidden City in Beijing and Shanghai’s Disney Resort and banning travel in and out of a growing number of cities across the country.

In the UK there have been a number of suspected cases but so far all have tested negative.

It is however widely accepted that it is only a matter of time before confirmed cases appear in Britain.

Until that point concern here in the UK is likely to be moderately subdued.

Social media, particularly Youtube and Twitter, is beginning to light up with reports, updates, projections and speculations – some measured and well researched, others easily drifting toward hyperbole and sensationalism.

This report from DW gives a measured update on the situation…

As a prepper my concern level is a little more heightened than most. Receiving an unexpected email this evening from the teacher saying that my daughter’s Chinese lessons on Sunday have been cancelled has done nothing to lessen my prepping alert thoughts.

The big question is how do you prepare for a disease outbreak situation like this?

The number one answer of course is to stay away from people, and particularly large crowds, as much as possible. That is a bit easier for us in rural Wales but two of our daughters are studying in big cities, and our younger one is still at school.

I don’t forsee the wearing of masks happening in the UK yet awhile, but I already have some N95 masks in stock just in case. However experts suggest most masks give very imperfect protection as they do not form a full facial seal.

Washing of hands very regularly is reported to be more effective. Carrying hand sanitiser is also useful.

Canadian Prepper on YouTube gives a good rundown on ways to prepare for a potential pandemic if it goes that far…

My best advice – keep informed, stay alert, be prepared.

If you want the official line keep an eye on the World Health Organisation…

And their Situation Reports…

In the meantime I am just hopping on to Amazon to order a few more face masks…

Goodnight and stay well.

[ image from ]

Return of the Prepper #5 : 100 seconds from Doomsday

Today the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists made its annual Doomsday Clock pronouncement.

This year the clock has moved another 20 seconds closer to midnight. It is now set at 100 seconds to midnight.

This is closest the clock has ever been to midnight – the point of imminent threat of global disaster.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was an organisation set up in 1945 by a group of University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project.

They created the Doomsday Clock in 1947, “using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet”.

Every year the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board together with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 13 Nobel laureates, examine the current global threats and determine whether to set the clock nearer or further from midnight.

The Doomsday Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies in other domains.

This year’s moving of the clock to 100 seconds to midnight is a reflection of both the growing threats of nuclear war and climate change…

Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.

On the nuclear front the Bulletin’s Board cite the continuing tensions in relations between the USA and Iran and North Korea, along with the ending and undermining of several major arms control treaties and negotiations during the past year.

On climate change they state…

This limited political response came during a year when the effects of manmade climate change were manifested by one of the warmest years on record, extensive wildfires, and quicker-than-expected melting of glacial ice.

Alongside these two major threats the Bulletin also consider information wars, and continued developments in biological engineering, hypersonic weapons and space weapons, and artificial intelligence as all increasing the global threat level.

To put this new clock setting in context it has previously ranged from 2 minutes to midnight in 1953 with the advent of the more powerful Hydrogen bombs, to a much more hopeful 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 following the end of the Cold War and significant nuclear weapons cuts.

Since 1991 the Clock has been on an ever diminishing path until it reached 2 minutes to midnight in 2018.

I am sure there will be detractors who dismiss the Doomsday Clock as attention seeking from the prophets of doom, but as a prepper I am quite willing to take notice, both as an indicator and a warning.

It certainly does nothing to lessen my growing sense of urgency to turn my prepping dial up to max.

And to top it all, the Bulletin in its pronouncement made no reference to the ongoing threat of global pandemics. The current coronavirus outbreak in China is a worrying reminder that that threat is always only a couple of mutations away from becoming reality.

These are dark and dangerous times we live in.

Sometimes it is so, so very hard to see the light at the end of the funnel…

The full 2020 Doomsday Clock Statement from the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is available here…

[ image by Gerd Altmann from ]

Return of the Prepper #4 : Prepping in Old Age – how to prepare for that?

I am not old, but I am not young. I will be 60 this year and I know life is changing.

My health is not too bad, no major life threatening ailments for either my wife or I. But we both have minor issues that have the potential to get more serious and more impacting on our lives and lifestyles.

Part of our prepping is planning for all eventualities. One of these is declining health, and particularly mobility.

Our style of prepping is very much focused around the bugged-in, homesteading, grow your own, self-sufficiency model.

That does require quite a bit of physical labour – chopping wood, shifting compost, digging beds etc.

While I can still do most of it, a back injury is already preventing me from lifting and carrying heavy weights for any distance. This is likely to get worse over time.

So we must plan, and adapt. Find ways to achieve the same but with less manual labour.

In the garden for example I am, as much as possible, moving to perennial crops that will stay put in one place and continue to produce food year in, year out without much physical input.

I am also moving over to the ‘no-dig’ method of growing food as promoted by Charles Dowding…

At some point when funds permit it would be useful to invest in a powered wheelbarrow to allow me to move heavier loads more easily.

I didn’t even know these these existed until I did a search on Amazon and found there are quite a range of models available. Alas mostly in the region of $1000 and upwards. They are mostly battery powered so potentially could be charged from solar PV.

Something like this might be good…

If we really want to go to town, my dream list would include an electric gator type vehicle for moving around our property. I don’t know how much these cost but an adult sized one of these would be good…

There is probably a whole bunch of equipment we might want to get in the coming years to make prepping lighter on the body. A log splitter for example would be useful.

Perhaps the ultimate older person’s preppring gear will be an exo-skeleton. In my Future Diary 2030 series I thought these were a thing of 10 years time, but I have now discovered they are already arriving in Japan…

The physical labour side will be a major part of prepping in our advancing years but there will be many other areas to consider. Some I am already aware of, some I am not.

Building up stocks of any medications we may need to take regularly is one thing to plan for.

We might also need to consider how our diets might change. Also our mobility and what sort of vehicles might be best suited for us.

Most of these issues do have something of a negative twist to them.

However one area where I think there might be some positive gain with getting older will be community networking.

As I gradually move to retirement and cut down my employment, I should have much more time to get involved with local organisations and activities. I am looking forward to taking on some volunteer roles in local community groups. This will be a great way to improve our connections in the local area.

Having a strong and diverse local network is a key element of a good prepping strategy.

As this is a fast approaching area of prepping for me I would be interested to hear of any tips and ideas from other older preppers and homesteaders of how they are adapting in their advancing years.

Thank you.

[ image from ]

Return of the Prepper #3 : What am I prepping for?

In a comment on yesterday’s Return of the Prepper post, @livinguktaiwan asked what I am prepping for – “a natural disaster or for some unfortunate reason you have financial difficulties?”.

That is a perfectly reasonable question and one that I do ask myself regularly.

As a keen watcher of post-apocalyptic movies it is quite easy to get carried away with heroic visions of fighting off hoards of zombies, leading the resistance against invading aliens or being the gallant survivor whose immunity provides the miracle cure against some virulent plague.

But the reality of course will likely be much more mundane. With my age, health and limited resources and skills I would be unlikely to fulfil any such dramatic roles.

Prepping is about being prepared for difficulties at all levels – from losing one’s job and income to being snowed in on the mountain to strikes causing food shortages to everything beyond.

I have over my years of prepping developing a little ‘disaster scale’ to measure my prepping activities against.

I gave this scale the grandiose title of…

Pennsif’s Personal SHTF Scale (PPSS)

Threat Level Threat Area Examples
0 Family house fire, death of immediate family member, loss of main source of income, major illness
1 Local major flood, explosion at a chemical factory
2 Regional widespread flooding, terrorist dirty bomb, severe earthquake
3 National extreme weather destruction across the country, multiple terrorist attacks in several cities, government collapse, cyber attack on the electricity grid
4 Continental outbreak of war with Russia in Europe, major pandemic, terrorist detonation of a nuclear bomb
5 Global major meteor strike, worldwide pandemic, outbreak of nuclear war between USA and Russia / China


I am sure someone, some body or some worthy institution has codified this in a much more elegant and robust fashion. But this works for me and acts as my onboard scale for planning and prioritising my prepping activities.

Every prepper will likely have some variation of such a scale, and every realistic prepper will likely know what point on that scale that could actually deal with.

Personally while it might be bold and brave to aim for the big #5, in reality the best my family could readily cope with would be #3.

Moving up to the continential type threats of #4 might be doable with some luck and good fortune but I think it would be all survive and no thrive at that level.

So for the here and now I set the targets for our family preparedness squarely at be ready for level #3 threats. Maybe in some areas, overspill of our preps will move us up to #4.

Certainly, with only a casual glance at the news these days, with incidents in Iran, with the latest Chinese coronavirus outbreak and with ever hastening climatic dramatics, it is not difficult to make a strong case for seriously wanting to up our prepping activities to be ready for level 4.

That though can begin to get just too awful to imagine and contemplate.

That is the stuff nightmares made of.

Time, I am sure, to go to sleep…

[ image from ]

Return of the Prepper #2 : Tins v Freeze-dried for long term food storage

Like any good prepper building up a stockpile of long life food is part of the plan.

Traditionally the go-to route for any hardcore prepper is freeze-dried ready meals from the likes of Mountain House, the Wise Company or My Patriot Supply.

These can come in sachets, tins or buckets, with shelf-lives ranging from around 7 years to 25 years.

In the UK the choice of producers is much more limited than in the USA. Mountain House has stopped producing in Europe, so I believe anything still available here is old stock or imports.

Generally these freeze-dried meals are also considerably more expensive in the UK than in the USA where they are much more widely available.

Over the last few years I had been buying some of these products for long term storage. I had managed to collect about 6 weeks supply, and had been planning, when funds permitted, to buy much more – maybe eventually even a year’s worth.

But they are very expensive – commonly up to £5 / USD6.50 per meal – and because of the price, not rotated in with our general eating plans. Therefore they can represent a lot of locked-up capital that is not then available for more immediate prepping needs like investing in solar power.

So recently we have decided to swap our long term food prepping strategy to building up a good supply of tin foods, along with some dried goods like beans, rice and pasta.

Tin food is much cheaper than freeze-dried, and can therefore be much more readily rotated in with our general food consumption.

If you shop carefully at the discount supermarkets like Aldi you can find decent unbranded tin food with up to 2 years marked shelf life (and more in practice) at very cheap prices.

Common products like baked beans, soups, broad beans, sweetcorn, assorted beans, tomatoes as well as tinned fruit, rice pudding and custard are commonly only 20p – 50p, and there often 4 for 3 type offers to bring the price down further.

Pasta and rice are also quite inexpensive and will commonly have a shelf life of up to a year.

This tin based prepping strategy might not appear so long term and mobile, but we are very much thinking in terms of bugging-in not bugging-out. And at our age (approaching 60) thinking 25 years ahead does feel rather extreme and almost inappropriate.

So our current food prepping plan of action is…

  • Collect up to 12 months supply of common tinned foods (baked beans, vegetables, fruit, creamed rice etc)
  • Buy only products that we like and commonly eat
  • Look out for offers and bulk buy opportunities, and buy as cheap as possible
  • Manage the stocks carefully and ensure good rotation so the oldest are always used first
  • Buy 6 – 12 months of dried goods (beans, lentils, rice, pasta) as shelf-life permits
  • Hold up to 3 months of more short life products like flour, UHT milks, sugar, tea, etc, and rotate well
  • Supplement all this with as much fresh and preserved home-grown produce as possible.

I would also like to learn more canning techniques to increase the amount of our own surplus garden produce we can put by. Canning is nowhere near as common in the UK as it is in the USA.

Depending on the exact nature of any emergency I think we can ensure we would have up to a year’s supply of food that is sufficient in calories and in nutrients, and varied and enjoyable enough to eat.

To date I have been following an ad-hoc path of buying as and when offers and funds have allowed. But now I am adapting a more strategic and more methodical route – even bringing a spreadsheet into play.

We are upping our own food production and buying in 3, 6 and eventually 12 months supply of tinned and dried goods.

Finances will have some influence of course, but the plan is to reach full capacity by the end of the year.

What’s your food prepping strategy?

[ images from @pennsif – note, the first image is from before we became vegetarian ]

Could you live for free on plastic bottles…?

When I was young in the 60s me and my friends would regularly scout around our neighbourhood collecting drinks bottles that had a deposit on them. Lemonade, Corona fizzy drinks and beer bottles were the most common ones if I recall.

I can’t remember what the deposit was on each bottle, maybe a halfpenny or a penny, but if we were lucky we would earn enough for a good stash of sweets to take back to our camp in the cow field.

Today we visited the Swansea Marina Tesco while our daughter was at a Chinese event nearby.

We generally shop at Aldi these days but we wanted to go to that particular Tesco superstore as we had spotted that it was one of five taking part in a trial plastic bottle ‘reverse vending’ recycling scheme.

The scheme, launched in September 2018, gives customers a 10p Tesco voucher for every plastic bottle they return.

As well as Swansea the other stores in the trial are in Borehamwood, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham…

The scheme accepts bottles up to 750ml in size from Tesco or major brands such as Coca-Cola.

We took 11 bottles, and nine were accepted by the machine giving us a voucher for 90p to spend on anything in Tesco.

The scheme is supposedly limited to 10 bottles per customer per day, but the family in front of us put in 61 bottles and got £6.10. I think they ‘beat the system’ just be doing it in seven batches with a separate voucher for each.

When we first saw the machine in December there were a couple of women filling it up with bottles collected from their work colleagues. They got £23 towards drinks for their office Christmas party.

A Tesco press release of April 2019 mentioned that the highest amount of bottles returned in one day was 1,052 in Edinburgh’s Hermiston Gait Superstore…

Plastic bottles are all over the place alas, and as the Christmas party women showed it would not be hard to collect considerable numbers.

That gave me the idea for any enterprising soul living near one of these Tesco participating in this trial.

If you could collect just 50 bottles a day you could get £5 in vouchers to spend.

I am pretty sure a single person could eat and drink moderately well on £5 (US$6.50) a day at Tesco.

It probably wouldn’t be too difficult to get even more than 50 and dine in style.

I wonder how quickly Tesco would catch on to this. Maybe a couple of friends working together and shopping at different times of the day and night could fly under the radar.

Anyone in Swansea, Borehamwood, Edinburgh, Manchester or Birmingham up for a challenge?

Live for free and save the planet at the same time…

[ images from @pennsif ]

Return of the Prepper #1 : Keeping chickens for free?

Currently we are down to one chicken and one guard goose.

Our flock of hens was up to about 14 the summer before last but due to age, foxes and buzzards the number has since dwindled. But we were not too fussed as we were spending a lot on feed and producing more eggs than we needed at peak times.

I’m looking to get a few more this spring, but not too many. Many another four or five hens and a new cockerel.

And more importantly I’m looking to have a zero input chicken operation.

Relying on externally sourced corn or pellets is expensive and not self sustaining.

From a prepping point of view I want to move to a system that will continue regardless of what is going on in rest of the world.

Having a cockerel (or two) means we would be able to keep rearing our own birds regardless. Although we would need to introduce fresh bloodlines from new cockerels every year or two to prevent inbreeding.

That is where community resilience would come into play. Hens, cockerels and eggs are great for local bartering and swapping. We have done quite a bit of that already.

Feed-wise we are not looking to raise birds for meat as we are vegetarian now so a high input diet is not needed.

We only give the birds a small amount of mixed corn each day now but I think with better planning that could be eliminated altogether to make our egg production zero cost and totally self-sufficient.

Because of foxes in the area we can’t let the chickens free-range even with the guard goose in action, but they do have a good sized fenced compound to roam in.

That compound will be doubling up as a second orchard this year with the planting of at least dozen mixed fruit trees. In a few years windfalls from the trees will add to the diet of the chickens.

I have just been re-watching Justin Rhodes “20 Creative Ways to cut Chicken Feed Costs by 100%” video.

Some of his suggestions are a little hard core for the here and now – using animal carcasses and roadkill for example. And others such as slaughter by-products and excess cows milk don’t fit in with our operation.

But others are quite usable. We don’t produce anywhere the quantity of food scraps and kitchen waste as Justin’s much larger family appears to, but what we do produce already does go to our flock. Surplus eggs also go back to them when we have too many to give away.

Soldier flies, worm composting, forage crops like buckwheat, blackberries and winter squash are ideas I am going to try.

I’m interesting to hear other ideas. Do you keep chickens? Do you buy in food, or are you self sufficient?

That’s it for now. Time to sleep.

I wonder – do chickens dream of electric eggs…

[ images from @pennsif ]

Return of the Prepper

As I mentioned yesterday, one of my resolutions for the year is to get back to the ways of the Prepper.

Before I came to Steem, prepping was very much my thing with a good dash of homesteading thrown on top.

I’m not a Doomsday Prepper guns and camo type. I’m more Good Life wind and two veg.

My prepping journey began in the 70s with John Seymour’s ‘The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency’ and trips to the Centre for Alternative Technology.

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.

Stay tuned for what comes next…

[ image from ]

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