Everything You Need To Know, In Order - Part II

Sharon July 24th, 2008

Ok, I’m going to try and work some more on the list of necessary skills.  So five more entries on this subject - and more coming.  Last time was the absolute minimum - but I’m still working on a list of everything you might ever need to know.

1. How to have a sense of humor about stuff, and how to shake off your distress and go on.  How to be kind when you are pissed off and grumpy, but it isn’t anyone’s fault. 

We just had a massive flood here - 7 inches of rain in a few hours. My garden was under 2 feet of water - and I had just spent five days painstakingly planting all the fall garden in the blazing heat.   My basement was full of water and I was sumping at 2 am.  The unprintable people who fixed our roof 3 years ago and did a bad job, and came back this year after we threatened to sue and said they’d fixed it were wrong - we removed 17 *QUARTS* of water from various vessels in our dining room - and that doesn’t include what ended up on the floor.  So I have been practicing this skill set.  It really does make a big difference, both to the people around you and also to the person forcing themselves not to be a jerk (of course, I am not talking about me…;-)).

2. How to wring the most out of everything.  Extreme thrift

a. How to minimize waste and minimize expenditures - reducing need, using care and good management skills.

b. How to take care of your stuff so it won’t break, how to repair and patch it if it does

c. Repurposing of now useless things, making do, creative compensating for things you lack.

3. How to have sex well.

a. How to navigate sexual dynamics and power relationships so that everyone is safe, having fun and acting consensually.  Teaching children the same - when to, when not to, what consent means, etc…

b. The risks of pregnancy, how not to get pregnant when you don’t want to, and the simple fact that no strategy is perfect if it involves heterosexuals and the most commonly used orifices, so - how to be prepared to have a child.

c. How to make your partner happy, if you’ve got one - this will only help in tough times.

 4. How to Grow Stuff

a. How soil works, basic botany, plant identification, a general understanding of the conditions specific plants need and how to create them, a general understanding of plants that will do well in your conditions.

b. How to use basic tools - physical skills for gardening. Hoeing, shoveling - these can be done well or badly.

c. How to recognize diseases and pests, how to recognize when things are ready to harvest, how harvest correctly.

d. Seed saving and basic plant breeding and genetics.

e. Composting and maintaining soil fertility.

5. How to Handle Water

a. How store water, use it thriftily, reuse it safely and thriftily and not contaminate it

b. capturing water for use or reuse as many times as possible, and as efficiently as possible, using swales, run off, etc…

c. Source of contamination and how to purify water

Ok, more coming…handling wastes, cooking, health, arts, building…


19 Responses to “Everything You Need To Know, In Order - Part II”

  1. MEA says:

    Grace under pressure. Sorry about the flood. I think the garden under 2 feet after 5 days labor in the blazing sun is great reason to be pissy.

    I think number 2, how to wring the most out of everything is very germain to your situtation right now.

    You and Erik have, I am sure, thought of this, but I think getting a good roof on the house right now might take presidence over just about everying thing, inc. number 3.

    Good luck.

  2. Sharon says:

    You mean it might be more important than sex ;-) ?

    Seriously, you are right, and if absolute worst comes to worst,
    we do have the money to replace the roof - but I have not yet
    given up on getting the people who screwed up in the first place
    to fix it for free. I think I can convince them that it will cost them
    more to not fix it in lost business and trouble from me than it
    will to fix it.


  3. Traverse Davies says:

    Regarding #3 B and C… if you don’t have a partner then your assessment of risk for B changes, and a perfect strategy presents itself! Although, I suppose abstinence does the same thing (but is a lot less fun). Come to think of it, so does being gay… so there you have it: three sure fire pregnancy prevention strategies.

  4. Sharon says:

    Taverse, of course you are right. I wrote in haste and should have mentioned sex between heterosexuals. There are many ways of minimizing the risk of pregnancy even between them, of course.


  5. Survivalist News » Casaubon’s Book: Everything You Need To Know, In Order - Part II says:

    [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Everything You Need To Know, In Order - Part II Ok, I’m going to try and work some more on the list of necessary skills. So five more entries on this subject - and more coming. Last time was the absolute minimum - but I’m still working on a list of everything you might ever need to know. Casaubon’s Book: Minimizing Waste With Preserved and Stored Food July 24th, 2008 [...]

  6. Meadowlark says:

    What I thought about 4 and 5 was that we are hoping to “learn it all”, but perhaps we don’t have to.

    And now, as part of my campaign to have World War Z as our October book, :) I reference something from it -

    A man is relating a story about being part of “Radio Free Earth”, an international radio dispatch. They sent out a near-constant radio broadcast. “Much of it had to do with basic survival: how to purify water, create an indoor greenhouse, culture and process mold spore for penicillin.”

    Perhaps we will help one another in ways we haven’t even thought of. I know someone earlier here or on another sustainability blog talked about “community centers” with classes and knowledge sharing.

    Oh, and for the record, while World War Z SEEMS to be about Zombies, it’s really about reclaiming the world after a devastating collapse.

  7. abbie says:

    I absolutely agree about having a sense of humor and being nice when you’re upset. It can help to diffuse a lot of potentially dangerous situations. As a high school teacher, I have learned how to be nice when I’m very angry, and how to treat people with respect who don’t treat me that way. But in the end, it’s worth it because it makes the situations better.

  8. caelids says:


    What??? This is a really intelligent blog and I am enjoying reading it-and you are an excellent writer, Sharon (I do plan to get your book), but teaching children how to have sex? C’mon!

    Part of the reason society worked in the pre-oil era is that the social fabric was held together by norms that contributed to everyone’s good. Fifteen year olds having sex wasn’t one of them (whether they knew how to prevent pregnancy or not).

    May I suggest that the Sexual Revolution and the widespread promiscuity that has resulted from it came about as a sympton of the cheap energy we had in such abundance. There was no need to preserve “sexual capital,” in other words. There was enough surplus value created by the economic boom provided by cheap oil that it was feasible for people to have “one night stands” and be “swingers.”

    May I suggest, instead, that we have seen the era of “Peak Sex” come and go-and thank God! I know many people who read this blog aren’t religious, but I personally anticipate a return to a sense of self-control in these matters. We are not going to be able to pull birth control pills out of a hat while we are scrabbling for our livelihoods, and to attempt to preserve the outmoded social practice of “casual sex” using some kind of natural method is very far-fetched.

    Sorry to be a critic, Sharon, but I’m fast becoming a loyal reader, too.

  9. Rebekka says:

    “Part of the reason society worked in the pre-oil era is that the social fabric was held together by norms that contributed to everyone’s good. Fifteen year olds having sex wasn’t one of them (whether they knew how to prevent pregnancy or not).”

    Oh come ON! Of course it was. Fifteen year old girls in the upper classes were often married already. And if you think 15 year old peasants were somehow less horny than 15 year olds now, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong! Basic biology hasn’t changed since the pre-oil era.

    Teaching children how to handle their sexuality is more effective at preventing pregnancy and diseases than social norms that, in fact, didn’t contribute to everyone’s good - with particular reference to girls who did get pregnant, and were shamed, turned out of their communities etc.

    It’s very easy to view the past through rose-tinted glasses. But anyone who thinks the sort of social mores about sexuality in pre-oil society contributed to women’s good isn’t just wearing rose-tinted glasses, they’re wearing blinkers. Shame if you got pregnant, becoming the property of a man when you got married - to the point where he could rape you and beat you, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him, because you were his property - these social norms did NOT contribute to women’s good, even if they did stop SOME 15 year olds from having sex and/or getting pregnant.

  10. MEA says:

    I agree with the above.

  11. Sharon says:

    I’m going to broadly agree with Rebekka and MEA here - and while I didn’t literally mean “teaching them how to have sex - I mean who wants to learn that from their parents - I was being cute, and meant “about sex and its issues” the truth is that societies have organized sexual relationships in many complicated ways for centuries - for example, in 17th century Germany, people didn’t marry until well into their 20s, but almost all brides were pregnant at the time of marriage - because betrothal was legally as binding as marriage. In some Native American societies, girls were allowed sexual freedom as soon as they were old enough, and if the partnership didn’t work, the child was raised by the tribe and extended family. In some medieval European societies, girls of the upper class married in their early teens - certainly, however, sexual experimentation had consequences - it always does.

    All the evidence suggests that open discussion of sex and sexuality is far more effective than abstinence education. A recent study, for example, showed that those trained in abstinence were no less likely to get pregnant, and were more likely to have anal sex, oral sex and contract STDs. The evidence on abstinence training is in, and it doesn’t work.

    The sexual mores of the future are going to be complex and different from today, and social pressures are probably going to play an important role. But they are more complicated that simply putting in a quarter and getting out a particular result.


  12. MEA says:

    My understand is that in the good old day (in Europe) the problem for society wasn’t that it was bad for teensage girls to have children — it was bad for them to have with teen age boys who couldn’t marry or support the them and the offspring.

  13. caelids says:

    I stand by what I said. Perhaps I didn’t qualify enough-

    1. I’m not suggesting we go back to the past, even if the “past” could be defined and standardized and somehow “enforced.”

    2. I’m not suggesting that injustices against women that were endemic in those societies are warranted or excusable in any way.

    3. I’m not suggesting that it’s bad to educate your children about their sexuality and the proper way to handle it.

    Let’s not let this take over the discussion. I know this is not Sharon’s main point.

    I just wanted to get out my main point-that we have seen an era of excess in that area, and eventually all things return to the mean.

  14. Central_PA_Chris says:

    “I just wanted to get out my main point–that we have seen an era of excess in that area, and eventually all things return to the mean.”

    Really? Look at the native populations decimated by syphilis (and other STD’s) spread by travelers/traders/conquistadores/missionaries. Look at the nature of mankind, look at ancent art, look at STD rates in civilized cultures in eras past, look at historical birth rates. I’m not sure you are right that there had been a greater era of sexuality in the past 50 or so years of oil boom. I’m sure many modern (and ancient) religions thrive(d) by painting the current era as one of immorality to separate the saved from the sinners, but I’m not sure our current crop of sinners is more wicked now than 100 or 1000 or 5000 years ago.

    If there really was a era of peak sexuality, I’d bet that giving women basic rights has had more effect on that development than oil. Though one could argue that it was cheap abundant energy that got us barbaric men to cede those basic and vital rights to women as they were of more value out and about in society and working that chained to a wood stove. In an era of reduced energy we are likely to see freedoms of both men and women shrink, totalitarian governments arise out of democracies and possibly women loosing some of their hard earned rights. No sir, I will not drink or celebrate the return to a more virginal era at that cost.

    Hello all, I’m a semi-long time reader, first time poster. Is it polite to post a bit about myself/introduce myself and why/how I ended up trolling peak oil/energy slowdown sites and why I have gravitated to this one in particular?

    Have a good weekend,

  15. Jade says:

    I’m interested, Chris. I enjoyed your spot-on comment above!

  16. Sara says:


    Everyone has a valid point to make and none of us have our thoughts completely worked out perfectly when we respond. Yet each of us can pause and re-read our replys to be sure we are kind.

    We can express our thoughts and disagree politely, with kindness.

    It will take all we have in strength and fortitude to be people that can help one another in this *transition* or Long Emergency.

    Let us begin now.

    Sara, Alabama

  17. Orchid says:

    FINALLY! something on the prep list that I already know how to do well-
    and post menopause no pregnancy risk to worry about ;)

    With the unprecedented privacy in the large US homes, it seems likely to me that kids are less aware of their parents sexuality than every before- and more likely to be exposed to a unrealistic models on television and the internet.

    My best friend grew up in a very small house with seven siblings. She (jokingly) claims to still be traumatized from catching her parents in the act but she knows where she and each of her brothers and sisters were conceived and sex was not a dirty word in her family.

    Maybe as our spaces shrink, kids will grow up with a more balanced view of sex.

  18. Central_PA_Chris says:

    My story in a nut shell: I’m not a city folk. Grew up in suburbia in the middle class, maybe upper middle by the time I headed to college in ’90. Had lots of outdoor time and experience, fishing, camping, hiking, and toting along with mom and her copy of “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” on my grandparents 14 acre cabin property that backed up on a pile of public land in NE PA. So grew up playing in the dirt, catching snakes, turtles and the occasional sumac lemonade. Dad was a manager, responsible, analytical, strong, and had a strong personal responsibility ethic. So I got a does of outdoors, work ethic, enough brains to keep me alive and a world view that things change and that’s not always good for people/civilization.

    I think it was in high school in the late 80′s that I started to realize that the culture around me was not sustainable (though I doubt I could have articulated that thought quite that succinctly). That unease, sense of something wrong coalesced into the conclusion that we are so far separated from the consequences of our actions and choices that we have abdicated most of the responsibility, cost and pain of those choices and actions from them. i believe that the bill eventually comes due. Peak oil is one symptom of that, but I think it’s much deeper and more disturbing than Peak Oil (as if that isn’t disturbing enough).

    Went to college at Penn State, graduated, worked with wildlife, started a small consulting business. Bought a house in small town PA on .5 acre, got married, got divorced, cashed out of the house and that part of my life for a larger chunk of land. Been shaping that, subdivided a couple 12 acre parcels off to pay off the land and development costs (wish me luck on selling those in the current housing market), almost have the pole building workshop & office building done, setting up a yurt as bedroom for the fall/winter. With some land sales luck I’m hoping to get out of debt, dig some ponds, enlarge the orchard and maybe, just maybe get around to building a house, but when I weigh ponds vs house, ponds come first, heck solar panels might come first on the office/workshop.

    I believe in peak oil, (and global warming, soil depletion, fish stock depletion and many other bad, bad things) did lots of reading starting with Mr Savinar’s bleak outlook on the future, followed the trail from there. My path lead me to numbers of drill rigs, individual country profiles and production curves, read many books and a few papers and all the online info I could get. Change is inevitable and it certainly seems the bill is coming due soon for many, many sins, externalities which have gone unpaid, and debts incurred. I’d guess it’s about 20% chance of a big fast crash, but more than likely it will be slower, a downward economic cycle leading to depression opposed to the implosion seen by Savinar/Kuntzler. I’m not one to think the lights are going out in the next year, but I do think keeping them on is going to be much more expensive as we move forward. My particular preparations for things slowing down are to spend $ on good insulation, geothermal heating (low energy usage and can use energy at night off peak to heat), big workshop (wood and metal) and trying to pay off/stay out of debt.

    I like growing things, but my work busy season is summer and I travel for months on end, so I’m into season extending tactics/low maintenance edible landscaping. A combination of tactics from “square foot gardening” and “solar gardening” suits my lifestyle and time as I work on larger landscape projects/orchards and working to pay the bills.

    This particular site is one I’m attracted to because Sharon’s writing is great and it’s not just doom and gloom. It’s doom and gloom with useful tips and discussion about things that I had NOT thought about or read about elsewhere.

    That’s me,

    P.S. It would be nice if the site let us edit our posts. It’s always easy to find word choice/grammar etc when re-reading a day later.

  19. Online jobs work from home says:

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my weblog thus i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!
    Online extra income

Leave a Reply