Turns out we’ve been working on resilient living for awhile, just didn’t know it. Gayle & I recently complete a massive passive renovation project designed to tighten house’s envelope: super insulation in the attic, crawlspace & walls. Reglazed the south facing windows with double pane. Rehabbed an old wood burning fireplace & plumbed it for gas instead of putting in a fake fireplace, so it’s duel fuel.
All that is messy, expensive, and time consuming, but worse, it is less sexy than solar panels on the roof. But, it’s a more intelligent place to start. You can go broke trying to solarize a lossy house.
We are slowly converting most of the yard to edible landscaping, front & back. A pear and fig tree in back this fall, two new garden bed last spring.
We also collect rainwater for the plants (sun warmed water from a barrel is better for plant roots than cold tap water, particularly early in the season), but we could drink it.
Making a Living is not the same as Living Off Your Skill Sets
I made a career out of database work but, while computer work is fine for earning a paycheck, it doesn’t really translate to a usable skill in hard times. Several years ago I inventoried my skill set and pronounced myself disappointed. So since then I’ve embarked on a program of self improvement & skill-building. I’m now a beekeeper, a worm wrangler and a gardener. I’m teaching myself aquaponics & hydroponics & rented a greenhouse to sharpen my production skills.
And it’s all organic, no commercial inputs except the fish feed, which is organic too. (I’ve build huge mulch piles all over my yard from bagged leaves my neighbors throw away. By spring I’ll have lots of free organic compost.)
Not that we didn’t bring useful manual skills to the mix. Gayle and I spent 20 years learning to sail together and ended up, before my knees gave out, as small boat cruisers, first on inland lakes, but later on the Intracoastal Waterway, the Chesapeake Bay, and in the Caribbean. We lived rich lives for long stretches in cramped quarters aboard Xapic, our old Westsail 32, without things like dependable electricity or refrigeration and a limited amount of drinking water.
Small boats teach you to sail; big boats teach you about managing systems. But sailing teaches you about yourself…and your mate. Hot bunking port and starboard watches for days on end. Hanging on in the dark on a wet and rolly deck. Hanging on to each other and cowering below when it’s blowing like stink and the rain and spray sting your skin like hornets and the lightening flashes all around.
The cruising life is in our wake and well over the horizon now, but those skills of simple self sufficiency live on in this new life.
Developing a Community of Skills
We are also developing a community of neighbors & –more importantly– developing a community of neighbors with skills. We’ve got one neighbor who a woodworker, for instance. One who’s a welder. Several growers live around here, one person who sews, a an automotive wrench twirler, a bike mechanic, a cop (in another life, in a galaxy far, far away, I spent a decade as a cop myself, so by definition I’m pretty useless, except for tracking down a Krispy Kreme). But my wife’s an RN…and she’s a seamstress, too, so there is plenty of other talent in the house. And I can cook a little, so maybe I’m not so useless after all.
When it comes to skilled neighbors, we’re actually quite lucky. In this Navy town, over half my neighborhood is associated with the military in some way: active, retired, or veteran. The Navy Flyer’s are kind of useless if things go “primitive”, but like the two SEALs & 3 Marines who live around here, they’ll be useful for security. And in the Navy everyone aboard ship is a fireman, a corpsman, and has damage control experience.
What we’re doing is not perfect, but we’re working on building a resilient life in a resilient community right now, right here. We’re throwing down our anchor and setting it against the worst night, not the placid calm we expect. We’re living a life that balances surviving possible risks while living the most likely, mundane, day-to-day existence.
HERE is where we’ll likely be when disaster strikes, not some well stocked but inaccessible mountain redoubt hundreds of miles away. And HERE is where we’ll weather the storm. Set your anchor and thrive.
A major storm, a big blackout, an earthquake, a collapse of the electrical grid, a total reboot of the economy, we’re better prepared than most.