Resilience


When the council started taking down some of the large trees around our estate I asked the fellers for the mulch and logs from the closest. They were only too happy to oblige so we got a huge pile of mulch – now providing paths around the garden and protection to the orchard.

The logs sat in a large pile while I asked for advice on what to use on them, and the advice came back that (beyond just a basic saw) I needed a splitting maul, not an axe as I was expecting. It wasn’t expensive – we got ours from the local Machine Mart – but it does an amazing job.

Here’s what we started with:

Here’s the result, a good pile of split logs ready for our yet-to-arrive woodburner:

handpumpAnother nice resilient piece of equipment. Assuming you’ve got some local water storage – hopefully big rainwater tanks – you need to be able to get to the water in case of long power shortages, where mains water is likely to be unavailable and power cannot be spared for electric water pumps.

Here’s what you need, a nice traditional Cast-iron hand pump. It’s only £35 and should last a lifetime. If you’re not planning on getting little kids to do all the pumping for you there is a matching stand available for another £35 which brings it up to a reasonable height.

Another one to add to the shopping list!

Whether you’re out building snowmen or huddling around a radiator, now is a good time to reflect on how prepared you are for these type of events. If you can’t get your car out, then consider how much food you have stored. How long can you stay at home without getting hungry? There are a range of things that we can and should be preparing for. luckily the Government has taken a lot of the hard thinking out of it by preparing the National Risk Register which shows how likely and how severe events can be. They have a great section on the Considerations for Families in a range of emergency situations. Even more interestingly, there are  Community Risk Registers  developed for every area of the UK – use Google to find your closest one. Ours is GM Resilience for Greater Manchester, and I’m hoping that the website isn’t an indication of how prepared Manchester is – half the links don’t work and the latest Community Risk Register is 2006/7!  

Actually I’m wrong – the link says 2006-7 but when you download the register (here) it is from Sept 2008. It has quite a comprehensive list of events, all ranked with their likelihood and severity.  The one that particularly stood out for me looked at fuel shortages, and has a 5% chance of happening within 5 years :

Significant or perceived constraint on the supply of fuel. E.g. industrial action by contract drivers for fuel.

  • Filling stations, depending on their locations, would start to run dry between 24 – 48 hours.
  • Panic buying would exacerbate the situation.
  • Replenishment of sites would take between 3 – 10 days dependant on the location.

They have also rated the chances of  a loss of water for three days (0.5% chance) or for a week (0.5%); loss of power across the whole region for a day (0.5%), or for three days – causing civil unrest! (0.05%)

I think it’s interesting to look at these from a personal preparedness point-of-view, and also to view them with peak-oil-tinted-spectacles. What happens when these things start to become regular, or prolonged occurrences? What happens when they all start to converge and occur at once? If they are planning for Civil Unrest as a result of losing water for three days, what do they think will happen if we all have no fuel, power or water for a week?

Good Size Log Store

Good Size Log Store

Huge numbers of people are putting in Wood Burning Stoves, Boilers and Ranges at the moment. They’re doing this for a number of reasons: to beat rising gas and electricity prices, to reduce their carbon footprint,  or to improve the resilience of their heating system in the face of peak-oil based supply issues.  The first challenge appears to be actually getting hold of a stove – apparently Dunsley have a 6-month backlog on orders for some of their stoves, And Stovax reported a 50% increas in orders in the last quarter of 2008. Once you have your stove though, how resilient is it likely to be? Unless you have your own woodland you are dependant on a supplier – so will there be enough wood for everyone who is currently putting in a stove or range?

The Guardian recently discussed the problems there are with firewood supply, and there are some of the facts:

  • Current UK consumption is about 1,180,000 tonnes a year.  Only 1m of those are produced in the UK, so we’re currently importing 15% of our firewood needs.
  • However, if you’re not fussy about what you burn, then there are 2.5m tonnes of burnable wood going to landfill every year – so if you see a skip full of random timber or broken pallets take it home and burn it – you’ll be helping the UK become firewood-independant.
  • Demand is increasing at around 25-30% a year, and resulting shortages resulted in price increases of up to 30% at the end of 2008.
  • The increase in demand is particularly resulting in an increasing supply of green, un-seasoned logs that will need to be stored for at least a year before being burnt.
  • There are wide price variations across the UK firewood is most expensive in the North and West, and cheapest in the South East.
  • The Government is working to bring another 2m tonnes of firewood to market by 2020. They say this will be enough to heat 250,000 homes (an average consumption of 8 tonnes/yr/house).

With the current supply chain under significant stress, the easiest way to ensure that your wood-fired stove or boiler continues to provide heat is to make sure that you have stored enough wood yourself. The general guidance is that wood should be stored for a year to reduce its moisture content from the 70-50% it is when felled down to an ideal <25% for burning. If you haven’t been through a full season with your wood-burner yet the general guidance is that an average house will consume 8 tonnes a year – around 12 m³, depending on your level of insulation, how hot you keep the house, whether it’s also heating your hot water etc. So – how much wood have you got stored? Two months supply? Less?

If your wood-burning stove is essential to your heating/cooking/hot water then you need to take wood storage seriously. Build a wood store – a shelter with a roof (clear if possible), open sides, and use pallets for the base and to divide sections to maximise airflow. Preferably split it into at least two sections so that you can have one section “seasoning” (drying) and one section that you are burning. Store the wood end-on to the airflow after chopping it to the right size for your stove. Make the stack as tall, long and thin as possible to maximise airflow.

Do that, and your wood-burning range can provide a really resilient solution to your heating, hot water and cooking needs.

Resources

foodstorageThere are a heap of problems to watch out for if you’re planning a large store of food:

– making sure that it doesn’t get eaten by a whole range of pesky critters
– keeping it dry
– keeping it safe from everyday accidents (getting knocked off the shelf, shelves collapsing, earthquake – that sort of thing)
– knowing what’s where
– making best use of storage space

This post over at powerswitch has some great ideas on storage and a link to this great site selling commercial storage containers these come in white food-grade (pricier), or cheaper blue. These stack, come with click-on lids, are designed for a tough life so shouldn’t break and spill all your valuable produce, and are probably pest- and waterproof if you get the ones with no holes.

Here’s how Adam uses his:

I use a simple colour code to remind me of the contents
White=food, drink, water.
Red=pre-pack parrafin, candles, oil lamps, oil cooker, and related spares.
Brown (ventilated)= clothes and blankets etc.
Blue=Tools, electrical and mechanical spares and supplies.

Another thing to add to my shopping list!