Past and Future - Post-Apocalyptic Novel Discussion

Sharon September 16th, 2008

The Horses
  Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.
On the second day
The radios failed; we turned the knobs; no answer.
On the third day a warship passed us, heading north,
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day
A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter
Nothing. The radios dumb;
And still they stand in corners of our kitchens,
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms
All over the world. But now if they should speak,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick
At one great gulp. We would not have it again.
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep,
Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow,
And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness.
The tractors lie about our fields; at evening
They look like dank sea-monsters couched and waiting.
We leave them where they are and let them rust:
‘They’ll molder away and be like other loam.’
We make our oxen drag our rusty plows,
Long laid aside. We have gone back
Far past our fathers’ land.
And then, that evening
Late in the summer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.
We had sold our horses in our fathers’ time
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield.
Or illustrations in a book of knights.
We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited,
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long-lost archaic companionship.
In the first moment we had never a thought
That they were creatures to be owned and used.
Among them were some half a dozen colts
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then they have pulled our plows and borne our loads
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.Edwin Muir

Just a reminder to everyone - next week we’ll begin Caryl Johnston’s Peak Oil novel _After the Crash_ which is available here in downloadable form:  Now back to SM Stirling - and to Edwin Muir.  My friend George Franklin calls Muir’s poem the “happiest post-apocalyptic writing ever.”  And that’s precisely why I think it might be a useful way to explore the underlying fantasy in our fears of energy apocalypse.

This is a subject near to my heart - I wrote a good chunk of my doctoral dissertation about the black death in the 17th century and the fears and anxieties that writers expressed about an emptying world.  One of the things I found in the texts of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson and others who lived in a depopulated, partly emptied world, was that people’s fears of apocalypse were intertwined, even as they lived the danger, with their fantasies of apocalypse - that in some senses, our fears of utter disaster are the same as our fantasies.  In a way, our fears are our fantasies - we find, in some senses, that we have to go through the darkest territory of our anxieties to play out the pleasures of the fantasy of depopulation and transformation.

I think this linking of anxiety and fantasy is true both in the world of those who have undergone real disaster and in the world of some good fiction - in both Stirling’s novel and the above poem, and really in all the novels we’ve read, underlying the fear and violence is the fantasy - the pleasure of imagining a depopulated, de-technologized world in which all the structures that make people powerless are erased, and people suddenly are down to essentials, and powerful again.   But it isn’t just that.  Both texts are preoccupied with the past, with history, and about what parts of history are and are not reclaimable on the other side of disaster.

If you’ve read Naomi Klein’s marvellous book _The Shock Doctrine_ this idea of reclaiming the past shouldn’t be too surprising - traumatized survivors of disaster want familiarity, and to rebuild what they value out of what they once had.  Underlying both Stirling and Muir (and not them alone - we’ve already seen it in Tepper, and will see it in Walter Miller and several others) is this question - how far back into the past, and what parts of the past do we find inhabitable, based up on our circumstances.  Where do we have to go to find an even-partly familiar place we can inhabit again - or rather, how do we bring the past forward, and integrate it with what is left of the present.

 The most brilliant part of Stirling, I think is that where we go isn’t just into the past, but into the past of common narrative - that is of Tolkein novels, middle earth, Celtic paganism and other British folkways (we learn in the third book in this series that Prince Charles went completely batty and made everyone wear old English style smocks, thatch their houses and start Morris dancing).  That is, the familiar land isn’t really British medieval history, but a combination of what was, what an Oxford Prof transmitted in a novel to a bunch of teenagers and some realities, tempered by the present.  I find this both creative and likely - that is, whatever culture follows will probably resemble parts of the past - but filtered through our losses, our new knowledge, our hybridizations, our popular cultures.

For Muir, the trip back is shorter, but in some ways more fraught.  The return of the horses comes not as part of a story those living in a new world sought, but they come unbidden.  They are a reminder of a long past, not a moment in time, but the fact that the present was unusually separate from something that had been quite ordinary.  The line “far past our father’s land” is both a reminder of the distance from here to the world where horses pulled plows, and the proximity to it - it isn’t even our grandfather’s land we’re far past, but only our father’s.

IMHO, this shouldn’t be seen as only nostalgia - there is an element of nostalgia, of course, a strong one in both narratives.  And there’s a level of self-indulgence in both the writing and the reading of that nostalgia.  But there’s also a fascinating question there - how far removed are we really from our own past?

There have been times and places in history where our sense of our past has been very strong - and nearly every time and place in human history has had a stronger connection to its past than 21st century America.  That is, the accusation of nostalgia is often a way of suggesting that ties to the past are cheap and easy, and have little value outside that.  Often, those of us who insist on living a lower-energy life are accused of nostalgia, or willful archaism - and there’s some truth in that - but it isn’t all the truth.

Some other piece of the truth is this - industrial society operates to create a barrier between past and present that is greater than perhaps any prior cultural barrier between one’s history and one’s present - that is, the rapid pace at which ways of doing things change, and the cultural distaste for anything that seems old fashioned or poor (except in sanitized, highly self-consciously aestheticized, wealthy ways, such as antique collecting or Martha Stewart style craftiness) keeps us from looking back - or even sideways, to the billions of people in the world who live a non-industrial, or only barely industrial life.  We are unlike them.  They are far past our father’s land, the land of myth and story, not anything real, or inhabitable by us.

What is fascinating about how rapidly the past comes back in Stirling and in Muir is that both of them implicitly reject the idea that anything stands between us and our old ways other than technology - take the technology away, and the horses and the clan return rapidly.  Take the energy out of the story, and we’re still the same people, roughly - within less than a generation, the old world starts to feel strange and unreal.

And I suspect there’s actually something to that - that is, most human beings have been contiguous with their past in ways that we have not.  Some of us still are - and often, those who are are part of deliberately archaic cultures, ones struggling to find a way to retain ties to their past.  Often the extremely orthodox members of faiths, or small ethnic communities that fight to retain their identities - the Amish, the Chasidim, ultra-orthodox Muslims, the Hmong and others - for them, the past always seems close, alive, recent - in ways that it doesn’t for those who are fully integrated in industrial society.

And if it is our energies that stand as a barrier to this relationship to our past, the question becomes what price the energies have exacted, and whether there ways to get some of the price of admission to industrial society back without silencing all the radios, the electronic transmission lines and the guns.  Stirling and Muir both seem to suggest that with some leadership help, it would all come flowing back to us.  But what?  The texts we read offer suggestions, but it is hard to imagine that they’ve gotten a whole grip on what it would mean to live a life where a grandchild’s experience was contiguous with her grandmother, and the distant past didn’t seem so far away, and so uninhabitable.

What do you think? 


16 Responses to “Past and Future - Post-Apocalyptic Novel Discussion”

  1. Rebecca says:

    I had never seen that Edwin Muir poem before, and it actually made me want to cry. I’m just not sure what else to say at the moment.

  2. Susan in NJ says:

    Thank you for posting the poem. I was trying to find it and having difficulty. I found it very moving.

  3. Rosa says:

    That poem makes me cry, too. But it also makes me remember that I am totally afraid of cows (horses not so much) - we visited a beef lot a while ago and I remembered again how gigantic and not tame beef cattle are. We’ve lost not just the infrastructure, and most of the humans who had knowledge of how to work with oxen and horses, but also a lot of the diversity of breeds and especially the smaller, smarter, tamer non-industrial breeds. There’s no easy way back. Maybe we can trade agribusiness advisors for some people with practical ox-plow experience? That seems like an unfair trade, though.

    I’ve been thinking of this in an antiracist context lately too - the “price of admission” for immigrants has been, largely, assimilation - give up your language, give up your history, give up your specificity, give up the “weird” vegetables and family ties and religious observance, and you too can get a share of privilege! But then, if your kids decide it was a bad deal, they may not be able to get the recipes and the tight family ties and the language back. So then, we build a new culture…out of the ones we broke? Whose are they? At least farmers physical culture doesn’t get watered down if you pick up their style of coppicing or managing water runoff…I think.

    Totally separate, this makes me wonder if the Millenial’s lack of adolescent rebellion has to do, not with helicopter parenting and weak, dependent young adults but with continuity of experience between post-Boomer parents and their kids? We’ve had consumer culture for long enough now that 3 generations have/are growing up in it.

  4. Traverse Davies says:

    Rosa, you should meet my son. The irony is that he is not rebellious towards me, but to society as a whole. His hobbies include exploring abandoned buildings, learning survival skills and making weird devices. He is friends with many who share these interests as well as martial arts, politics, anarchy, social decay, etc.
    These kids give me hope for the future, because when I see them I know that humanity won’t fade out because things get too difficult…

  5. says:

    Then after the “black death” came the Renaissance, largely because the overcrowding and lack of resources for the poplulation had been solved by nature. This gave people breathing room, allowing them to express themselves in science and art as they could never do while competing for resources such as food and shelter.

    There will be another large scale winnowing of humans by nature, just a matter of time. But I place total confidence that mankind will prosper as never before when he comes out of it with reduced numbers but greater resources available for all.

  6. Rosa says:

    TD, those are my people. I’m a little old for that crowd these days, but that’s how I spent my 20s.

    They’re more resilient than the cubicle people, but the skills needed for living off the waste of industrial society isn’t the same as the skills needed for building up a new one - if you look at anarchist subcultures, for instance, we’ve taken two decades to stitch together things (soccer leagues, book fairs, coffeshops) that the overculture ALREADY HAD. And we failed at building them free of sexism, racism, and hierarchy, too.

    I feel like I’m evangelizing a lot about him lately, but reading these Kim Stanley Robinson books makes me think he’s clearly on the side of the freegans and what he calls feral people, people living outside the system. I suspected after Antarctica - you can read it as a discussion between different schools of anarchist thought - but the climate change books make it really clear.

  7. homebrewlibrarian says:

    While the people that make up the history of my family in the US were immigrants, it took less than two generations for the agricultural lifestyle practiced by my parents families to disappear. Grandparents on both sides had kitchen gardens; one side had just enough livestock to support the family and sold some extra produce plus my grandfather’s nonfarm job as an auto mechanic and the other side raised chickens and sold the eggs and then raised steer calves for meat. By the time me and my sisters and cousins came around, our parents barely even grew flowers much less vegetables and had become suburb dwellers. And I’m 49. My parents and grandparents are all gone and there is no one to ask about living a low energy lifestyle. So for me the verse in Muir’s poem “We have gone back/Far past our fathers’ land” brought me up short because it WAS my father’s (and mother’s) land when that lifestyle ended.

    While I keenly feel the loss of generational experiences, I’m heartened because it was not so long ago and there are still those who live that lifestyle. There are those still around who can teach raising chickens or goats or gardening using sustainable methods. And then there are plenty of people who can share their experiences with living with less energy - bubble wrap on the windows to keep heat in, passive solar warm air generators (the guy with the cardboard box with pennies stuck to it stands out), using warm bricks or hot water bottles to keep your feet warm, etc.

    At least for me, going back and beyond my father’s land may not be all that long and arduous a trip. I just wish those nearest and dearest to me felt the same way.

    Kerri in AK

  8. Kati says:

    It was my first time reading that poem as well, and other posters aren’t wrong about the sadness it illicits. I didn’t cry, but it certainly tugged emotionally. And there is definitely that feel of nostalgia that you mention, Sharon.

    Your comments on the distance between our present and our past are also incredibly accurate. There are many moments I wish I’d had more chances to talk to my grandmothers (esp. my dad’s mom) about the Great Depression and WW2, as she went through both at ages when she should have remembered some detail. However, by the time I was old enough to even form half-realized questions about these eras, she was too far gone to relate anything of importance to me. (She and my Pop-pop were born in 1915, were 14/15 at the point that we entered the first Great Depression. I’ve got an “artifact” from that age, when Pop-pop gave Mom-mom the first gift he’d ever give her, a tiny framed poem about friendship. They were about 13.) By the time I was able to formulate really coherant and relevant questions, she was gone from this life altogether. But, I imagine what life may have been like for her, at the beginning of the first Depression, in Baltimore, as a young teenager. They were, both families, fairly well off from what I understand. My Pop-pop’s dad was a railroad engineer. Mom-mom got to do some traveling in Europe with her girlfriends when she was in her late-teens or very early 20′s. My uncle (on that side) was born at the tail end of the Depression, 1939 or thereabouts. I wish I’d had a chance to learn from Mom-mom some of the details of life in that time. Something other than the scattered second and third hand accounts I read in books relating that time.

    My other grandma was a seamstress until about 10 years before she passed away. She was younger than my Mom-mom, but I know that her first husband fought in WW2. He died not more than a couple years after that war ended.

    There has always been that sense that if you took 15 year old Katharine Boteler from Baltimore in 1930, and put her in 29 year old Kati Arm—-’s (me!) life in 2008 Alaska, she wouldn’t know what to make of our world. The cars, the electric and dishwasher and clotheswasher and dryer, the strong, steady hot water for showers, the job in which her granddaughter (myself) goes about every day wearing not just slacks, but “working denims”. Rather than catching the bus once a month to the nearest (or favorite) department store for picking up essentials like hose and gloves and hankies and such…. I stop at Fred Meyers on my way home from work. The grocery shopping isn’t done with a basket (or a small push/pull-cart) at a bunch of local mom&pop grocers, butchers, and green-grocers, and the heavier or larger purchases delivered to my home. Instead I hop in my car once a week, buzz down to the all-in-one mass-market grocery store, and bring home from 2 to 8 large sacks (MY crocheted grocery sacks, at least!) of groceries in the trunk of my own car, carrying them inside myself.

    I can see some of the differences at the broader level, but I can only imagine some of the things that Mom-mom might have actually seen or bought & used in those days. We’re not REALLY that distantly removed. Less than 100 years yet. But it’s IS a completely different world, as you’ve said.

    And still, there are things that _I_ know how to do that both my grandmothers did: baking and cooking from scratch, crocheting and sewing and a bit of knitting, gardening, mopping a floor on my hands & knees. I may not be able familiar to living low on electric, though I’m trying to get lower. I may not be familiar with taking public transport in a day-dress and hose to the department store, though that’d be somewhat more possible if our public transport in this town was actually effective enough to do ANYBODY any good. (The only folks who don’t mind taking public transport in this town are those who’ve got hours of spare time to wait for busses and endure the circuitious routes our busses take to get where they’re going. No such thing as “the shortest distance between two points” as far as OUR public transportation board is concerned, in our town. The rest of us avoid it, if we’ve got a choice. And I say that even hating having to drive. I hate personal motorvehicals, I hate having to have my driver’s liscense. My parents always teased me that my ideal sitch would be having my own chauffer to do the driving for me. I’d ACTUALLY prefer to be able to regularly take the metro like we did in Paris.)

    The fact is, while you’re right that we are VERY far removed from the days of our own parents and grandparents, we haven’t necessarily lost ALL the skills that saw them through hard times, or even every-day matters in past times.

    While I think Sterling’s stories are a little overly optimistic that enough people will be around that know how to use a sword and plow a field with REAL horsepower, I think that there ARE still folks around who do it the “old fashioned” way, and there are PLENTY of us who’re interested in learning as we find a moment out of OUR every-day to do so. Given the choice, I’d LOVE to get rid of my living-room TV system (can I keep the computer room TV? *wink*) and replace it with a spinning wheel and small loom. I haven’t yet convinced my hubby over that, though. *grin* I think it’s possible that as we really enter this next Depression, we will see a great amount of hardship…. No large change will come without death and pain to some. But I’m hopeful that the skill-sets I’ve learned, the skills my neighbours have, and our combined properties will hopefully see us through, even if times get awfully slender till we really get the hang of it. (I’m frequently tallying the skills my neighbours have, a couple of us are gardeners, though some with more experience than myself. Some of us are fabric & yarn crafters, again with varying levels of skill. One of us is a vet-tech. One is a military guy with a real knack for mechanics. A couple, like my hubby, are all around labor without a lot of real skill. One is no help to anybody, between his laziness and his ACTUAL physical imparities. There is construction experience, hunting & trapping experience, teaching experiece….. I think we’ve got half a shot at making a go of it, at least.)

    Some interesting thoughts, Sharon. Thanks once again for keeping us thinking about what we’ve got, what we need, and what we need to do about it.

  9. Heather Gray says:

    Sterling may have been optimistic in his scenarios of having some of the right skilled people around, but then again the focus is mostly on the survivors, not the people who didn’t make it. So among the survivors, having those kinds of people in the mix makes sense, as a part of the reason they survive — not just Pam, Chuck, Norman, etc. (swords people in the Bearkillers, Mackenzies, PPA, etc.), but also the farmers, the carpenters and builders, the mechanically-inclined, the weavers, and more. Not all of them survive, but many managed to live long enough to impart some of their skills and knowledge. And of course another major survival component was the various groups’ efforts to build community, however eccentric those communities might seem. And another important ingredient was people’s willingness to learn and to work, especially since most of them didn’t seem to come from families with multi-generational occupations (Luther and his family being one of the exceptions, out by Corvallis).

    It is kind of scary how quickly skills can be lost. A friend of mine has been learning to sew as an adult and is slowly improving. She wants to be able to tailor, not just follow a pattern well enough that it more or less fits, but to understand construction. It’s been hard for her because her mother took great pains to become a successful professional and never taught her children anything that could be considered ‘blue-collar’. My mother felt we should all be able to at least hem pants or skirts and sew on a button — including my two brothers. We all had to learn to cook at least a few basic dishes, help in the garden, etc. She didn’t learn gardening from her mother but was part of the 70s scene of trying to do more at home, live more naturally, etc. — well, except for needing a big-city-fix once a year or so. Now that she’s less able-bodied she’s glad to live in a more populous community, where fortunately they have an excellent public transportation system so she doesn’t have to drive. For the few times she needs a ride (doctor’s appts. and the like), she can get rides from friends in her senior community.

    I found out this year that there’s some folks in our town who know how to do timberframe construction, which is pretty cool. They still use a crane to lift the timbers, but while watching them work on a garage I could picture it being done with a support frame and a team of horses. And happily, there are still horse and oxen pulls in this area, so I know that isn’t a complete pipe dream. And aside from the crane, no other power tools were in use — various types of hammers and mauls, no nail guns, etc. I guess a lot of the past from 100 years ago is still around, but it may be harder to find in some places than others.

    One of the things about choosing the area Stirling did for DTF is that it’s a mix of wilderness, countryside, suburbs, and city. Doesn’t have quite the depth of old-time knowledge of the Northeast, but they do have some, plus there are folks there trying to regain some of those skills, just like the folks on this list, who are from all over the world. I just hope there are enough of us to help each other along the way…

  10. Ani says:

    One of the things that most struck me in Stirling’s book- the whole series actually, was the sub-cultures that arose and how different they ended up being from each other in many ways. Each group adopted the values of their leaders, added their own twist or whatever and a culture was born. New languages arose as well, even if based on Tolkien! Really interesting I think.

    In terms of the skill set, I would tend to agree with Heather that very likely the most highly skilled were more likely to survive- the sedentary overweight NASCAR fans might survive in the short term perhaps by use of force,but long-term I would doubt it. So it would more likely be fit, clever and skilled people in general who would have their wits about them enough to survive- that and say not being an an airplane(other than Mike’s) when the “change event” happened.

    It is interesting to contemplate how different our lives are now from 100 years ago- and how children lead such different lives than their grandparents or great-grands did- and to wonder how it would be if it all slowed down in terms of change…….we don’t really evolve that fast as a species….

    Re: the concept of appocalypse and an emptying world- I have to confess to having mixed emotions about that whole deal. There is a part of me that would love to see a much emptier quieter slower world- and I live in a very rural area of a rural state to begin with- I sort of wonder what it would be like to live on the coast, in a sparsely populated area where the shellfish and fisheries have all come back and the pollution is gone and the wildlife abounds- and I could basically live there fishing and gardening and wildcrafting and such- with people around but not tons of them- a very different life than possible now. That does seem really nice to me- but I don’t want to contemplate that it would by necessity involve the loss of billions of people- and of course I wouldn’t want them to include anyone I care about and so on- so this gets kind of messy….. but yes- I’d imagine that there is something of a “forbidden fruit” deal to the whole appocalypse fantasy thing- we sort of want it for many reasons while recognizing that it’s not nice or acceptable to want this in any way.

  11. Rebecca says:

    One of the things about ‘Dies the Fire’ that I can’t get over is that firearms don’t work. Ok, some of the newer ones that have modern electronics I can see but the older ones are mechanical and it specifies that the powder doesn’t work. Neither does dynamite. This bothers me because, at the core, these are basic chemical reactions were talking about. Mess them up, and we’re screwed in a whole host of ways.

    Ok, that’s my geek side coming out. ;-) Now, in a real collapse most firearms wouldn’t be of much use for very long because of the lack of ammo, but there are some that will still work off of homemade ammo. Plus, as long as someone out there knows how to make black powder there will still be explosions. Not that I like the idea, but still. So, we could have hang gliders attacking castles and dumping bombs.

    Something I hadn’t mentioned is that this book gave me nightmares, which most PA books don’t do. I think it’s because the issue of rape is really explicit in this book and being a survivor makes that issue a lot more vivid. It also makes me worry even more about the world we’re heading into.

  12. Texicali says:

    I think that in part the past seems uninhabitable because we don’t allow ourselves to believe it is “possible.” Take air conditioning, many people don’t believe that it is possible to live where we do without it. We found that it made living here a lot more enjoyable if you dont have it. You go outside, you dont hate the summer as much. On the other hand we are bashful to invite folks over during the summer because we dont have ac, and everyone is used to being cool.

    Living in a contiguous experience with the past also takes skills. Skills that most of us have to consciously reacquire. My mom’s dad worked in a lumber mill, had a kitchen garden, a cows for milk and meat, chickens for eggs and meat, hunted, and fished. If you see the hillsides around where they lived it is clear that the lumber mills are destroying the habitat and streams, but he knew how to work with his hands. Luckily we gardened a little, had chickens and turkeys, and canned a little growing up. It wasn’t really enough to teach me how to do it, but it was enough to teach me that all of these things were possible.

    To some extent that is the role of all the super-skilled people in Dies the Fire. You need someone to either directly teach you exactly what to do so that you know how. Or, watch someone completely ordinary do something, which then gives you the confidence to know that you too can do it. The second method works better for lower skilled tasks, not recommended for fencing or blacksmithing.

    Skills are good, but what all the books really point to is the establishment of community. When the shit hit the fan groups formed. Lucifer’s Hammer had the cannibals and the fortress, the second book lacked community and everybody almost died, Tepper had women’s country and the garrison, Dies the Fire had the various bands. In all cases the more autonomous you were the more likely you were to die or be weird creepy folks (the religious nuts in Tepper). Looking back in my own family it is clear that my grandparents generation looked forward to regularly mixing with friends in a way that I do not. My mom’s parents were square dancer’s, member’s of the Grange, and active in the community. My dad’s parents ran a pharmacy/dry goods store/soda fountain/restaurant. He was active enough in the community that there are events and schools named after him now. My family growing up pretty much only went out into the community for sunday and wednesday church. And now a part of a couple we only really go out for sunday church, or maybe drinks on the weekend. It is a continuous narrowing of the circle. I am not terribly social by nature, but I recognize that this is likely a problem and part of what separates me from the contiguous experience with my forefathers/mothers.

  13. Hummingbird says:

    Haven’t read the posts yet-will later and contribute my 2 cents.

    I am coming late to the discussion because of a dramatic dress rehearsal for the energy apocalypse here in Southern Indiana. We have been four days with no power, no phone service, roads blocked by trees and gas stations running out of gas due to a freak windstorm on Sunday that produced hurricane force winds for several hours.

    I was a good check on our preparedness efforts, and in general we did quite well. We had food, water, alternative means of cooking ( a camping stove to make coffee in the morning, a solar oven and a small charcoal grill to cook the meat we were in danger of losing. We had a wind up radio with TV sound to help us know what was happening and 2 windup flashlights to sit and read in the dark evenings. (Granted the TV sound will no longer come in on this radio after February.)

    The freezer was full of fruits and vegetables, but we had filled it with ice and wrapped it in blankets and everything came through just fine. Some may have lost a little quality, but is was all at least partially frozen.

    We had a solar shower to shower outside, 2 efficient vehicles full of gas as well as a couple of gas cans.

    All in all, our preparedness efforts paid off in relative comfort during this time. If the outage had gone on a couple of days longer the freezr contents couldn’t have been saved, but it did OK for four days!

    We learned some things. It would be better to dry more of our produce instead of depending on the freezer. We need to plan the garden so that we can eat out of the garden for a long period rather than depend on storage. You can never have too many candles.

    Thanks Sharon for getting me thinking of preparing in an organized way.

    More book dioscussion tomorrow, I hope.

  14. Sharon says:

    Hummingbird, I’m so happy to learn that this was useful to you - and I agree with you about the freezer - IMHO, nothing goes in the freezer I can’t either can up quickly or afford to lose.


  15. S.M. Stirling says:

    Skills are actually more widespread than people think.

    Just for one example, there are 3.5 -million- bowhunting licenses issued every year.

    And there’s a convention of horse-archery afficianados in Iowa every year, too… 8-).

  16. Sharon says:

    I actually agree with you about the skill thing - although at a personal level, I’m willing to bet that horse archery will probably drop below “mending” in the utility, barring the US government suddenly developing alien space bats. BTW, I do find it funny that no one in your book ever thinks that this was a secret government plot gone wrong ;-) . Personally, I’d bet that was the first assumption.


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