In these days of uncertainty, where the only news seems to be confirmation that the world is losing its mind, I start thinking again about all the skills I would need to survive without the comforts of the modern world. Nearly every time I open the paper, and read about Trump, or Putin, or Assad, and all the scary slipstream of other men like Erdogan who might bring about the next and rather final war, I start looking out at the garden and wishing we grew potatoes.So here’s my finely honed list of survival skills, and where I am with them:
1. Know your mushrooms
I stay away from all wild mushrooms, because I don’t know which ones are poisonous. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that most of the ones with white gills are poisonous, so I suppose I would have to take a gamble. It’s one to find out more about in advance, as mushrooms would certainly be a good source of food (or fun for that matter).
2. Be physically fit
Higher muscle mass makes it easier to withstand the cold, and to run away from or fight the psychos that would come out of the woodwork. I don’t score highly on this either
3. Know how to ride a horse
A horse would be better than a bike, unless obviously we’re talking a nuclear holocaust, in which case it doesn’t really matter because you’d be dying anyway. A bike needs maintenance and tools; a horse just needs grass. It also acts as a deterrent, given its size. The only downside is that horses are fairly easy to steal in the night, whereas bikes can be kept inside. Still, I like the idea, mainly because I can saddle, bridle and vaguely ride a horse.
4. Fortify your doors and windows
Fairly obviously, you’d need a strong shelter to prevent people invading your house seeking food and shelter. You’d have to join forces early with the people you want in the house, who can help you defend it, and then fortify it as far as possible. I score zero on this, as we have wooden window frames that need replacing, and a front door that’s so flimsy it lets the slugs crawl underneath it. We do have a stone garden wall though, and we could reinforce the garden gate relatively easily with available hardware in the garage.
5. Grow your food
As I say, one should really be able to live off one’s own land. We have enough space to grow at least some potatoes, and could string up some beans. Carrots, parsnips and cabbages would be good in winter, and courgettes are by all accounts very easy to grow. Onions can sprout from existing ones, so we could plant them at the last minute, but other things would all take a while. We might have enough grass to pasture a sheep or goat, hopefully. And we could start by eating the fish from the pond. The trouble is that if you’ve not prepared at least a year in advance, you wouldn’t have enough to run through the year. Perhaps we could travel to my mother’s, as she has a multitude of edible crops. The problem is, it’s an hour by car, so we’d have to make the trip right at the start, before the petrol ran out, and hope we didn’t get shot in the process. Her garden wall at the front is probably too low to fortify though, so we’d be overrun quite quickly.
6. Have a skill that’s in demand
I imagine that society would become wholly reciprocal, or rather more so. People would help you if you had something to give in return, or at least might not kill you. You’d be well placed if you were, say, a carpenter or an engineer, as they can respectively build things, solve problems and maybe set up some sort of generator. Even knitting or weaving might be quite useful longer term, and sewing would certainly be useful, particularly if you had one of those old pedal operated sewing machines. Being very strong would be good, if you could carry heavy things over long distances or help put together shelters. I fail on this front too, as my only professional skill is software development and project management. Maybe someone would like some crochet?
7. Have a source of heat, or live somewhere hot
I imagine the populations of Northern Europe, Russia, western China, the East of America and Canada would be decimated each year by the cold. Particularly people living in completely modern houses with no natural fireplaces left would quickly die. We score relatively well on this, as we have a wood burning stove, and the thatched roof is quite a good insulator. We would just need to get those windows replaced first. Alternatively, I should really renew my Australian passport and acquire them for my family, but we would have to make the decision to move well in advance.
What have I forgotten?