Tag Archives: Survival skills

I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside … Even In A Zombie Apocalypse

16 Sep

In a zombie apocalypse, there are two main struggles for survival. One against the zombies and the other to get enough food to survive. Believe it or not, one of the best places to be to ease both these struggles is where the sea meets the shore. Humans have always prized such locations because of the protection they can provide and the abundance of food they offer. We know this because throughout the world, we find evidence of ancient middens made up of the shells of millions of discarded oysters, mussels and other seafood. These middens were created by humans over hundreds and thousands of years as our ancestors foraged for food. Their sheer size and the length of time over which they were laid down show just how important these habitats have always been for human survival.

Why is this? Well, twice a day, driven by the power of the moon, the sea recedes, revealing a bounty of potential food items ranging from crabs to oysters, limpets, cockles and even small fish. With even the slightest amount of effort, you can easily gather enough food to survive in just a few quick minutes, and that beats having to fight other survivors for the last remaining can of spam in some suburban supermarket.

Of course, not all shorelines are equally productive, and you need to select just the right kind of beach if, after the end of the world, you’re going to set up camp and live off the sea like so many of our ancestors once did. At first glance, you might think that a broad, sandy beach would be best, but while they are attractive to look at, they’re like marine deserts. There’s food there, but you’ll have to work hard to find it and you’ll struggle to scrape enough together just to keep you alive. Instead, you’d want to head for a rocky shore because it’s here that the real bounty lies. This is because, clinging to the rocks is seaweed, and where there is seaweed, there’s life in great abundance. When it’s covered with water, this seaweed sways majestically in the currents, and forms the marine equivalent of a tropical forest. Once the tide goes out, this forest collapses, but it pull back and you’ll see the abundant life that lies below, just waiting for you to harvest it. In as little as five minutes, you can have enough to feed you all day, leaving you plenty of time for that other crucial element, surviving the zombies themselves.

As it happens, rocky shorelines are also great places for building a safe and easy to defend camp, especially if they’re littered with small islands. It’s no accident that such islands have been used as places of safety by humans since before recorded history began. The water acts as a defensive barrier that is harder to breach than anything you could build yourself, and even marauding zombies will struggle to cross it. Why? Because, as everyone know, zombies can’t swim.

Of course, the occasional zombie may still reach an island, and that means you’ll need to have some sort of defensive structure to which you can retreat whenever danger threatens. In my native Scotland, ancient buildings, known as brochs, bare testament to how others have solved this problem in the past, but in the event of a zombie apocalypse, it is unlikely you’d have time to build such structures yourself. Instead, you’d be better off seeking out a structure that’s already there.

Luckily, rocky shorelines and islands are just the place to find a type of building that would be just perfect. What buildings are these? They’re lighthouses. Built to withhold the worst that the sea can throw at them, lighthouses are build to last. They also have a single point of entry, and small windows, often set high above the ground. Add to that a viewing platform at the top from which you can pick off any zombies which make it to your island base, and you can see why they’d make a great place to seek refuge.

So there you have it. If you select just the right location, rocky shorelines can easily meet all your zombie apocalypse needs: Food, shelter and protection, and if one were every to happen, you can bet that’s where I’d be heading. And even if there isn’t a zombie apocalypse, they’re still worth checking out, especially if you have young children. They’ll enjoy the thrill of pulling back the sea weed to see what wonders lie beneath, and while they’re having fun, they’re also learning how to forage for their own food – should the need ever arise.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Why the waters’ edge is the perfect place to survive in a zombie apocalypse. Plenty of food (especially on rocky shores highly tidal areas, more than capable to supporting populations – as indicated by ancient shell middens laid down over hundreds of years by hunter gatherers). Can escape out to sea if attacked by zombies (assuming zombies can’t swim!) or other people. Larder opens twice a day, and on top of that fishing as well as setting traps for crabs n lobsters, spear fishing, Can find lots of potentially useful things by beach combing – the detritus of modern society washed up there, offering many useful things – what was once trash is now valuable to survival. Also makes moving around much safer (no ambushes etc) just as in days of old before land was claered and made safe

A Knotty Post-apocalyptic Survival Skill

12 Jun

Tying proper knots seems to be becoming a bit of a dying art. At one time, every boy scout (and presumably girl scout, too, but as I was never one of those, I can’t say for sure) knew how to tell a sheet bend from a sheepshank and would never be caught tying a granny knot instead of a reef knot. However, in the age of video games, bungee cord and duct tape, I suspect few people nowadays could even name a single type of knot let alone know how to tie it properly. At the most, they might know how to tie their shoe laces, but few will know it’s called a bow knot.

Now, you might well ask, does this really matter? Does your average man (or woman) on the street really need to know how to tie a knot properly? After all, when is he or she ever likely to need to do it? The answer here is, emphatically, yes. Why? Because one day it might just save his/her life. We never know what’s just around the corner, or when civilisation might come crashing down around our ears, and if that were ever to happen a knowledge of knots will prove incredibly useful and will help you live while those around you die. Okay, maybe I’m over-stating things a little there, but knowing how to tie knots properly is definitely an important survival skill, and not just in a post-apocalyptic world. Knowing how to tie knots properly can come in pretty useful in real life emergencies too.

Below, I’m going to show you (with the help of some rather useful videos from AnimatedKnots.com), how to tie five knots which I would consider essential to know. Yes, there are others, but these five will cover about 99% of all the possible knots you’ll ever need to use. However, before I do that, I want to consider how you tell whether a knot is good for using in any given situation or not. There are three parts to this.

First, a knot shouldn’t slip in any way unless you want it to. This means that (for most knots), once they are tied they shouldn’t move along the rope no matter how much pressure you put on them. This is particularly important if you are tying a rope around yourself where any slipping can result in serious injuries, but more of that later.

Second, a knot shouldn’t come undone either under pressure or when pressure is removed from it. That is, the knot should remain tied for as long as you want it to. It’s surprising how many tied knots, even if they are tied properly, will eventually work themselves free if you use them in the wrong situation (as anyone who has tripped over their own shoelaces will be able to testify!).

Finally, and this will seem odd at first, you need to be able to untie a knot quickly and easily when you want to. Why? Well, knots, by definition, are temporary structures and are designed to be undone when needed. After all, if you wanted to do something more permanent with a rope, you’d use a splice rather than a knot (but that’s another matter altogether). Instead, knots are meant to be a short-term solution which allows you to use a rope for a specific purpose, and then undo them again so you can use your rope for another purpose afterwards.

The importance of being able to untie knots again was brought home to me when I was about 20 and was sailing off the coast of Labrador in Canada. We were towing a heavy motorboat and as the seas around us rose as a we entered a storm, we needed to lengthen the tow rope to stop the motorboat plowing into the back of our yacht. The only problem was I’d been a bit sloppy with my knot tying and had accidentally used the wrong knot to secure the tow rope to the yacht. There was a frantic twenty minutes as I wrestled with the knot, as the motorboat alternated between threatening to sink and threatening to crash into us, before I finally got it undone and we were able to lengthen tow rope so that the motorboat remained far enough away that we could safely tow it. Needless to say, the bollocking I got from the yacht’s captain for my mistake meant that ever since that moment, I’ve always made damn sure that I get my knots right!

So, what are these five essential knots?

The first is the bowline. If you need to tie a rope around yourself for any reason whatsoever, this is the only knot you should use. This is because it is the only one guaranteed not to tighten under pressure and accidentally crush your internal organs to a pulp or, indeed, slice you in half! You might think I’m being over-dramatic here, but I’m not and many an inexperienced knot user has come to a grizzly end because they didn’t know how to tie a bowline properly. So here’s how to tie one:

The second is the sheet bend. The sheet bend is a charmingly simple knot that is amazingly strong. In addition, unlike many other knots, it doesn’t require both sides of the knot to be made from ropes of the same diameter. This makes it my go-to knot for joining two lengths of rope together.

The third knot is round turn and two half hitches. This is actually a combination of three separate knots (as the name suggests, a round turn and two knots known as half hitches!). If you need to secure a rope to something, like a branch, or to tie the a boat to a pier to stop it floating away, this is the knot you should use. This having been said, I would generally recommend three half hitches rather than the standard two, just to be on the safe side, and you can even add a fourth if you’re really paranoid. You should, however, never tie this knot around your body because at its heart it’s a slip knot, and it can, and will, tighten under pressure.

The fourth knot is the good old-fashioned reef knot (which is also known as a square knot). This is perfect for joining two ropes of equal thickness, or joining two ends of the same rope together. Again, it’s a deceptively simple knot, but one which is easy to get wrong. If you do, you’ll end up with either two half hitches, which will mean the ropes will separate under pressure, or a granny knot, which is almost impossible to get untied again, especially in a hurry.

The final knot isn’t really a knot as such, but is exceedingly useful. This is the square lashing. With square lashing, you can tie two poles together, and from there you can make a lean-to to give you shelter from the elements, a stretcher for emergencies, secure supplies to roof racks, build a raft and many other useful things. Thus, knowing how to do box lashing properly comes in useful on a surprisingly frequent basis. Here’s how it’s done:

So, that’s knots for you. If you don’t already know how to tie them, get practicing now, and if you do, you can start developing your skills further. How about doing them blindfolded, or in the dark? How about doing them as fast as you can? Or with only one hand? Can you, for example, tie a bowline one-handed? These little tricks might not help you impress potential partners at parties, but they might, one day, save your life!

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Forever Autumn: A Post-apocalyptic Survivor’s Favourite Time Of Year

25 Sep

Those of you who like your 1970s concept albums based around early twentieth century post-apocalyptic fiction will know where the first part of the title of this post comes from and it happens to be one of my favourite songs so I couldn’t resist shoe-horning it in. However, this post has a serious side for those interested in post-apocalyptic survival.

Autumn (or fall as it is known in some parts of the English-speaking world) marks the transition from the heat of summer to the cool of winter, and in almost any post-apocalyptic situation it will be the only time of year when you won’t have to struggle to find food. This is because you’ll be able to find food everywhere, just waiting for you to pick it, catch it or shoot it – or at least that’s how it is in Scotland at this time of year. However, if you want to be able to make the most of the bounty that will surround you, you’ll need to know what you’re doing because making a simple schoolboy error can result in at best a badly upset stomach and at worst a long and painful death.

So what am I talking about here? Well it’s what has come to be known as wild foraging. In its most recent incarnation, this is a trendy new middle-class pastime endorsed and encouraged by a flock of celebrity chefs, but when I was a kid this was just a way to make money stretch by getting food for free (I don’t think I ever ate store-bought jam until I was well into my teens). Wild foraging is, quite simply, making the most of the food that is available all around you in the countryside, and sometimes even in the city. At this time of year it’s everywhere and knowing how to exploit it will be a key skill for post-apocalyptic survival.

Wild brambles are everywhere in autumn, and you can even find them on any waste ground in most British cities.

Wild brambles are everywhere in autumn, and you can even find them on any waste ground in most British cities.

Just to show you how much there is, this is what I found along a half mile stretch of a long-distance pathway called The West Highland Way that’s within a day’s walk of where I live in Glasgow. Firstly, there’s brambles. Brambles, known outside of Scotland as blackberries, grow almost anywhere that’s left unattended and in autumn they provide a super-abundance of large, black, tasty fruits. There’s two secrets to picking them. The first is to wear a thick glove on one hand so you can push the thorny runners out of the way without getting hurt. The second is never to pick anything that is below the height that a dog can lift its leg (if you’re wondering why, it’s the same reason you shouldn’t eat yellow snow!

Known as haws, the fruit of the hawthorn tree can be used to make a tasty jam.

Known as haws, the fruit of the hawthorn tree can be used to make a tasty jam.

Hawthorn trees and hedgerows are also awash with their bright red fruits by late September. Haws are most often turned into jams and jellies, which can then be stored to provide sustenance throughout the long winter months, but you can also eat them raw from the tree (apparently according to this source – I’ve never actually tried this though). You can also eat the leaves of the hawthorn tree (they used to be known as the poor man’s bread and cheese because of their flavour). These are tastier when they are young and tender in spring and by autumn they can be a bit tough and bitter, but they’re still better than nothing.

If you know what you're doing acorns can be ground into flour to make bread.

If you know what you’re doing acorns can be ground into flour to make bread.

Acorns can be found anywhere there are oak trees, and this will include many city parks and tree-lined avenues. You might have to soak them for a while to get out all the rather poisonous tannins they contain, but do it right (it’s a bit of a black art and isn’t something for the uninitiated to try) and you can grind them into flour to make bread.

Rose hip are what form if you leave roses on their bushes, and believe it or not they're edible.

Rose hip are what form if you leave roses on their bushes, and believe it or not they’re edible.

Who would have thought that roses could be a source of food? Well, they are. Leave the flowers on the plant and they form edible rose hips. Again, you need to know what you’re doing to process them properly but get it right and they can be mixed with haws to create jams and jellies with a richer flavour. You have to be careful about seeds though as they can cause a great deal of irritation if ingested.

Nettles might sting, but they can also make a tasty soup.

Nettles might sting, but they can also make a tasty soup.

We might think of nettles as weeds, and they do grow anywhere shady, but boil them up and you can make a tasty soup. Okay, tasty is over-doing it a bit, but it hot and nutritious and that’s what counts when you’re talking about post-apocalyptic survival. You also need to remember the ‘dog leg’ rule mentioned for brambles when collecting nettles to eat.

Apples can be found both growing wild and city gardens, and they can be a great food supply.

Apples can be found both growing wild and city gardens, and they can be a great food supply.

Apples are everywhere in autumn and whether you’re talking about wild trees or ones in your local parks and gardens, come the end of the world, you’ll be able to stuff yourself with them at this time of year. You can eat them raw off the trees or cook them into a wide range of pies, crumbles and sauces. Alternatively, you can turn them into cider (whether of the alcoholic version found in Britain or the non-alcoholic version that seems to be favoured in the US). Find a cool, dry place and you’ll be able to store them, providing you with a ready supply of food throughout the cold and dark days of winter when there will be little else available.

Elderberries can be used to cordial syrups or, if you'd prefer something a little stronger, wine.

Elderberries can be used to cordial syrups or, if you’d prefer something a little stronger, wine.

While elderberries are inedible when they are raw, if you boil them up, you can a nice rich syrup which you can use to flavour other food. However, in Scotland most people who collect elderberries use them to make elderberry wine, and let’s face it, after a long day of surviving the collapse of civilisation, you could do with kicking back with a nice glass of red.

In Britain, sloe berries are most often used to make something called sloe gin.

In Britain, sloe berries are most often used to make something called sloe gin.

If your day’s been really bad and wine just won’t do it, you could always hit the gin, and for that you need sloe berries. It’s not real gin but it can have one hell of a kick. This makes it the perfect thing help you forget your troubles of few hours after you’ve just watched your best friend being torn apart by zombies. Of course, you can’t get too drunk or you might not hear the undead horde when they come back for you!

So as you can see, there’s plenty out there to feed the hungry post-apocalyptic survivor in autumn, and so far I’ve only considered the plants I found. There are fungi everywhere at the moment too – although I don’t currently have the knowledge to know which are edible and which are lethal so I don’t go near them. There’s also animals making a welcome return to my local countryside that add to the autumnal food base. The rivers are full of Atlantic salmon returning to spawn. Find the right spot, and they’ll pretty much leap into your arms. Okay, it’s not quite that easy, but at certain waterfalls you’ll see salmon as long as three feet trying to leap up them to get to the place they hatched years before and it’ll be your best chance of catching them with little or no effort. The salmon are not the only thing migrating around here, and the geese which over-winter in Scotland are starting to arrive. Once they’re here, flocks, which might be several hundred strong, will graze the fields each day and roost on the lakes at night, and they’d be a tempting target for anyone craving a bit of fresh meat.

Of course, if you want to be able to access this cornucopia of wild food, you really need to know what you’re doing because the stakes are high: if you eat the wrong thing or prepare it in the wrong way, you and anyone else you feed it to can end up dead or incapacitated (and in a post-apocalyptic world they are pretty much the same thing).

Luckily, there’s plenty of places you can go to learn some foraging skills, and it’s surprising the number of courses which have sprung up in the last few years where you can go along and have someone show you exactly what you need to know. So don’t delay, book one today because you never know the world might end tomorrow and you need to know what’s safe to eat and what’s not. And even if the world doesn’t end, you’ve gained a useful life skill which allows you to eat for free – and let’s face it with the way the economy is these days, anything that helps you keep the bills down is a bonus!

***WARNING: Tasty things often look very similar to poisonous things, so do not eat anything unless you know exactly what it is. Also, you should not use the photos in this post to identify what might be edible and what might not. I’m no botanist, or trained wild forager, and while I’ve done my best to make sure I’ve photographed the right plants to illustrate this article, I cannot guarantee it.***

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

What Are The First Three Things You Should Do In A Zombie Apocalypse?

1 Jul

First the dead started to twitch, then sit up, then take their first faltering steps. Everyone looks on in amazement, unsure of what’s happening. Before you know it, they’re everywhere; attacking the living, tearing them apart. The zombie apocalypse has begun. The question on everyone’s lips is simple: if I’m to stay alive, what should I do next?

You might not realise it, but whether you live or die will most likely be determined by the actions you take in those initial moments. Make the wrong decision then and you won’t live long enough to regret it. Make the right one and you might live to see the end of the day, and if you can make it to the end of the first one, then your chances of survival will be greatly enhanced. With this in mind, what are the first three things you should do if you are unlucky enough to find yourself caught up in zombie apocalypse?

Well, the first one is to get off the streets as soon as possible. Most people who succumb to the zombies in the initial phases of the outbreak will be those who are caught in the open. This means you must get inside as soon as possible and at all costs. It doesn’t really matter where, all you are doing is putting a barrier between yourself and any marauding zombies. This will give you your most precious commodity in those first few minutes the zombie apocalypse: Time. Specifically, it will give you time to do step two.

The next thing you need to do is assess your situation. You need to work out how many zombies there are in your local area. If there are too many of them then you will have no choice but to barricade yourself in to your current location. If the density of zombies is sufficiently low, then you have the option of moving to a different location. However, you will only want to do this if the location you are moving to is more secure and better suited to survival than the one you are currently in. This means you also need to assess the suitability of your present location as a safe house for surviving in a world filled with zombies. Look at how easily you can seal all the entrances and exits, assess the likelihood of zombies being able to break in and whether you will have an escape route if they do. You also need to assess what provisions you have available to you: is there access to food and water and, if there is, how much is there? Are there any weapons? Will you be able to communicate with others, and possibly form a survival group? In this way you can formulate a plan of what to do next to maximise you chance of surviving both in the short-term and in the long-term.

The final thing you need to do is put the plan you have formulated into action. If your decision is the stay where you are, you need to set to work making it zombie-proof. If you’ve decided to move, you will need to leave your temporary location and set off into the zombie-filled world outside. Whichever you choose to do, don’t waste time. Instead, you will need to move fast. This is because the number of zombies will be multiplying exponentially with every passing minute, and the more zombies there are around, the greater the chance of you being attacked and killed. It’s also important to be decisive. You’ve made your plan and you have to fully commit to it. Anything less than this and you are likely to greatly jeopardise your survival. In particular, don’t try to hedge your bets or keep your options open. If you’re going to move, move; if you’re going to stay, stay. Don’t sleep on it and see whether things are better in the morning (they won’t be and all you’ll find is that you can no longer implement the plan that by then you will know for sure was your best chance of survival!).

So there you have it, the first three things you should do if you get caught up in a zombie apocalypse: Seek immediate shelter to buy yourself some time to assess the situation and create a plan based on the situation you find yourself in, and then put this plan into effect as soon as possible. Of course, this is easy for me to say, sitting in the comfort of my own living room while an old episode of Star Trek runs in the background. Whether I’d be quite so calm and objective when faced with a horde of zombies is quite another question, and it is one I hope I never have to find the answer to.

However, it does strike me that these are also the same initial steps you’d need to take to improve you chances of survival in a wide range of situations ranging from natural disasters to civil unrest or a terrorist attack. So while some might consider all the time you spend working out what you’d do in a zombie apocalypse a complete waste of time because zombies are fictional, they are wrong. Instead, you are actually developing key life skills which can help you survive in a wide range of real world scenarios which you might find yourself suddenly thrust into. So keep thinking Zombies whenever you have the time. You never know, even if the dead don’t rise, it might still, one day, save your life.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Is Entomophagy The Secret To Surviving In A Post-apocalyptic World?

27 May

We all need food to survive, and whatever cause (be it the dead rising, environmental crisis or nuclear Armageddon), getting enough to eat will be a major hurdle to keeping yourself alive if civilisation collapses. Yet this is an issue which is glossed over in most post-apocalyptic books and films. In them, getting food is portrayed as a simple matter of raiding a warehouse for canned goods or shooting the occasional deer (or in the case of The Road having a basement full of captives!).

This, however, is woefully unrealistic. Few of us have the skills to successfully track a deer and unless you are already well-practiced in the art, shooting one isn’t as easy as it might appear to the uninitiated (you really have to get it through the heart or the lungs with the first shot or it’ll be off – as will every other animal in a two-mile radius!). What does that matter, you’re thinking, there’s still the supermarkets and store rooms, except that’s what everyone will think and warehouses will become battle grounds that are best avoided if you don’t want to end up dead. So what else can you do?

Lunch anyone? Mealworm beetle larvae can make a nutritious addition to any diet

Lunch anyone? Mealworm beetle larvae can make a nutritious addition to any diet

The thing is, there’s plenty of food out there; it’s just that it’s stuff you’re not used to eating. Yet, in a post-apocalyptic world, you can’t afford to be picky and you’ll have to adapt your expectations of what is and isn’t food. This is where entomophagy comes in. ‘What the **** is entomophagy?’ I hear you cry. Well, it’s the eating of insects as food. Insects are high in protein, full of the vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy and, since 70% of all animals on the planet as insects, you can find them pretty much everywhere. I know what you’re thinking: insects, urgh – I’m not eating them! I can understand this disgust, but if you think about it, insects aren’t that different from the shrimps and lobsters you happily munch on without a second thought.

There’s something else which might help change your mind (or put you off eating altogether!). Even though you might not realise it, the chances are insects already make up a portion of your diet; a small portion, but a portion none-the-less. Did you know, for example, that the regulations from the US Food and Drug Administration mean that wheat flour can contain up to 150 insect fragments per 100g and still be considered safe to eat? Similarly, canned citrus fruit juice can contain up to 5 fly eggs per 250 ml or 1 maggot per 250 ml before being considered contaminated. This means you’re probably already eating insects (or more likely parts of them) on a daily basis without even realising it!

So, how can you shift insects from a small, and unintentional, part of your diet to a major component? Well, first you need a way to catch them. Luckily, you can do this very simple equipment. One of the easiest ways is called beating. This is where you put a large sheet under a tree or bush and then shake it or beat it with sticks. Get the right tree and within minutes, you’ll have enough insects to make a tasty meal for the whole family. If there’s no bushes or trees nearby, you can take the same sheet, form it into a kind of net and drag it through areas of tall grass, scooping up all the insects as you go. This is a particularly effective way of catching crickets and grasshoppers which, with their large fleshy abdomens are especially ‘meaty’.

If you don’t want to go to all that effort, you can also use pitfall traps to collect beetles that scurry over the ground as you simply sit back and wait. At night, you can set up a light trap (simply a light shone onto a sheet) which will attract all sorts of insects that will mistake it for the moon. Of course this assumes it’s safe to have a light burning at night – after all you only want to attract insects and not things like zombies, nuclear-powered mutants or whatever else might be wandering around your own particular post-apocalyptic world! If you can’t get outside, there’s no need to worry: the chances are there will be a smorgasbord of cockroaches scurrying around in the darker recesses of whatever building you’re holed up in. Just put some food scraps out, turn off the light and then scoop them up as soon as they appear.

If you’re dedicated and organised enough, you can even consider farming insects. In most cases, this will involve eating the larvae rather than the adults. For example, you can eat the nice plump maggots of various fly species, or grow your own beetle larvae. In particular, mealworms (the larvae of mealworm beetles – pictured above) are easy to keep as a self-sustaining culture as well as being very versatile when it comes to consuming them.

This brings us to the next issue. What do you do with the insects once you’ve caught them? At the most basic level you can simply toss them into a pan over an open fire and cook them until they’re crispy. However, if you so wish, you can get a lot more adventurous. How about sautéed crickets, or mealworm french fries? These are two of the recipes foun on the Insects Are Food website. You can even grind up mealworms and use them as a flour to make bread.

You might be surprised (or then again, given the wonders of the internet, you might not), but there’s plenty of sites that actively promote entomophagy as an environmentally-sustainable alternative to eating meat and fish, and they are full of advice about farming and cooking them. There’s even recipe books out there. The one I’d recommend (and indeed that I have a copy of myself) has the charming title of Eat-a-bug Cookbook: 33 ways to cook grasshoppers, ants, water bugs, spiders, centipedes, and their kin. This means there’s plenty of information out there where you can learn all you’d need to know to live off insects once the world as we know it comes to an end.

So what does all this mean? Well, if you preparing yourself to survive whatever type of apocalyptic event that you think might be coming to wreak havoc on the world around you, don’t just think about stocking up on the canned foods and the freeze-dried ready meals. As part of your preparations, learn how to catch insects and how to farm them too. You can also start practicing your entomological culinary skills. Next time there’s a sunny day, break out the barbecue, invite your friends and family round, but rather than the traditional burgers and hot dogs, treat them to something with a few more legs!

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Why Sharing Your Skills Is Important

20 May

We are often told that in today’s world, the key to success in life is making yourself indispensable. If you can do something that no one else in your work place can do, then when it comes to down-sizing, you’ll be the one kept on. This means we’re encouraged to specialise in ever-smaller niches; we learn to do one thing well and then hoard the knowledge, not showing anyone else how to do it. In this way, we think we can protect our livelihoods.

While this might be a good strategy for our work lives, when it comes to surviving an apocalyptic event (whether it’s the dead rising or a natural disaster) this is an exceedingly dangerous attitude. You might think the best way to ensure your survival is to be able to do something no one else in your group can do, but it’s just the opposite and it might even get you killed. This is because at some point you may find yourself incapacitated and in need of someone with your own specialist skills. If you’re the only one with those skills, you’ll be well and truly screwed. You don’t believe me? Think of it like this: if you’re the only one with any medical knowledge, who will treat you if you get injured? If you’re the only one who can navigate, what happens if you fall ill? If you’re the only one who can drive your transport, what happens if you get knocked out and those around you need to get you back to your safe house? The same goes for making traps to catch food, fixing engines, keeping your solar panels working, handling guns, making more ammo and so on.

This means it’s important that you share around any useful skills you happen to have. If you know which mushrooms are edible and which aren’t, teach this knowledge to those around you; if you know how to do CPR or set a broken bone, train others to be able to do the same; if you can read a map and use a compass to navigate, show others how to do it too. By sharing your knowledge, you’ll not only be helping others, but you’ll be increasing your own chances of survival. There’s also a flip side to this, if you come across someone with a skill you don’t already have, get them to show you how to do it too. It will expand your knowledge and you never know when you might find it useful.

This attitude of sharing skills isn’t just something that applies to post-apocalyptic survival, it applies to everyday life too. If you know how to do something, don’t just keep it to yourself; instead share your knowledge with those around you. In particular, if you are the only one in your group of friends happens to know something which could help when things go wrong, make sure you show at least one other person how to do it, or even better make sure everyone knows, just in case. Similarly, remember you can’t always rely on your friends, so if they’re the ones with the skills, get them to teach you. These needn’t be complicated skills, instead it can be very basic stuff, such as how to drive a vehicle or how to stop a deep wound bleeding. You might not think it, but this could be the difference between life and death for you or for others around you.

I can actually give you an example of this from my own life where I did something that, looking back, was exceedingly stupid but that at the time I did without pausing to think of the consequences. It was one tiny misjudgment but it could so easily have turned out to be fatal. I was out on a motorboat with a friend and her brother. While the friend had been out with me before, and so also knew how to drive the boat, her brother hadn’t. The day was going fine until my friend’s hat blew off into the water. This was in the Bahamas, so the water was warm enough that she chose to go in after it. However, she had trouble finding it because it had sunk. This is where I did the stupid thing: I turned off the boat’s engine, grabbed my mask and dived in.

Now I know what you’re thinking, how on Earth could that have fatal consequences? Well, what I hadn’t considered was the fact there was a 20 knot breeze blowing and because I hadn’t bothered to drop the anchor, the boat was gradually drifting away from us. By the time I’d retrieved the hat and the two of us started to swim back to the boat it was already a good 30 feet away. After five minutes of swimming, this distance between us and the boat had increased to about 50 feet and my friend was tiring (swimming through choppy seas is not as easy as swimming in the still waters of a pool). This was when I realised we could be in deep trouble: we were three or four miles from the nearest land, a distance neither of us would be capable of swimming, and since this was the Bahamas, there was always the worry of sharks, especially if you’re floating around in the water for a substantial period of time..

At this point, you’re probably wondering why the guy in the boat didn’t simply drive over and pick us up. There were two reasons for this. The first was that not having really been around boats before, he didn’t realise we were in trouble; after all, to him it just looked like we were swimming back to the boat. The second was more critical: he didn’t know how to do it; he didn’t know how to start the engine, let alone how to put it into gear and manoeuvre it. Before that, I’d always figured that as long as two people in the boat knew how to drive it, we’d have everything covered, and we would have if I’d simply dropped the anchor before quite freely and intentionally jumping over the side but I hadn’t. I figured I’d only be in the water for a few second at the most, and simply didn’t take into account of how quickly the wind would carry the boat away from us.

In the end, I left my friend to tread water (which is much less tiring) and swam ahead. By the time I finally caught the boat, I was close to complete exhaustion but once I was back on board I circled back and picked her up. That was when it occurred to me quite how lucky we’d been. If the wind had been just slightly stronger, I’d never have been able to swim fast enough or for long enough to catch it. From that point on, I’ve always made sure that whenever I take a boat out, everyone who comes with me knows at least three basic things: how to start the engine, how to stop it and how to drop the anchor. Beyond that, I also try to make sure I give them a go at driving it as well as other basic things like navigation and what to do if someone ends up in the water. By sharing these skills, I hope to avoid ever being in the situation again of ending up in the water watching my boat floating away from me.

These events were brought back to me recently when I heard about a similar event with a much more tragic ending. A British couple were sailing in the North Pacific some 500 miles from land when somehow the man, who was the experienced sailor, ended up in the water. He was wearing a life jacket so this shouldn’t have been a major problem, but his partner apparently didn’t know how to drop the sails or manoeuvre the boat meaning all she could do was watch as the boat sailed on, with the man disappearing off into the distance. The woman was rescued by the coastguard but despite an extensive search her partner was never found.

The critical point to take home here is that you should share around any skills you have which can help if things go wrong. Similarly, remember that you can’t always rely on others to be around to help you if you get into trouble so if you come across anyone with a potentially useful skill, get them to show you the basics in case you ever need them. Finally, if you ever go to sea, always make sure you at least know the basics of how to drive a boat because you never know when you might be called upon to do it.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Survival Skills – A Flash Fiction Zombie Story

17 Apr

Something’s wrong. I can’t put my finger on what yet but I’ve always been able to sense when things are amiss. It’s what’s kept me alive since the dead unexpectedly and inexplicably rose from their graves. Some saw this as a sign of the Second Coming and ran forward, arms open in greeting; no sooner had this welcoming committee reached the no-longer-quite-so-deceased than they were devoured. The dead might be dead but it hadn’t dented their hunger and it seemed that, above all, they craved human flesh. Maybe they just wanted what they no longer had – blood coursing through veins, a still-beating heart, a brain sizzling with electricity.

Once the true believers had been consumed, the dead turned their attention to the rest of us: chasing us down, pursuing us like prey. They might stagger and stumble but they’re relentless; grinding down your resistance day after day after day. When it started, the army were sent in to stop them but soldiers are trained to kill and they didn’t know quite what to do when faced with an enemy that was dead already. This is not to say they didn’t try, they did; it’s just they didn’t do much good. After that, it was every man for himself or, in my case, every woman.

Suddenly I realise what’s wrong: the birds have stopped singing and the forest around me has fallen silent. That, I’ve learned, is a sure sign the dead are approaching. I freeze, listening, trying to work out where they are and how I can escape one more time. I don’t really know what I’m doing but I must be doing something right; after all, I may well be the only one still breathing in this world where the dead now stalk the living.


Flash (or micro) fiction aims to tell a whole story within a specific short word limit. For this one, the target was 300 words and it comes in at 296. A PDF of this story can be downloaded from here. Other flash fiction and short stories which I’ve written can be found here.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Five Surprisingly Useful Skills For Surviving In A Post-apocalyptic World

5 Mar

When thinking about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world, the useful skills that usually jump into minds are things like how to use a gun and how to fix a broken engine. While I agree these skills are likely to become incredibly useful, and I’ve had them on a previous list of skills you should think about learning now to help you survive when civilisation comes crashing down, they are all relatively obvious. In this post, I want to highlight five other skills you may not have considered before but that are likely prove to be surprisingly useful.

The Ancient Art Of Knitting

Knitting: The Ancient Art Of Turning Sheep Into Clothing

The first of these is knitting. I know what you’re thinking, in the immediate aftermath of whatever caused the end of the world, you’re not exactly going to have time to sit down with a ball of wool and a couple of knitting needles so you can finish that scarf you promised your Aunt Jenny for her birthday but I’m thinking about longer-term survival here. Once the dust starts to settle and you’ve solved as many of the problems of immediate survival as possible, you will need to turn your attention to what you’re going to do in the longer term, and one of the issue here is how you’re going to stay warm and clothed. This is where skills like knitting and the related ones of sewing, spinning fibres into yarn, weaving and so on start to become invaluable. In addition, it’s only a short leap from these to making things like rope (which is really just very thick yarn made from very tough materials), matting, walls and roofs for shelters (through weaving vegetation together), baskets and even things like fishing nets. All of these use the same basic skill sets as knitting and other similar hobbies.

Next it’s fishing. In most post-apocalyptic films and stories, food is generally found in places like supermarkets or is caught through hunting. Neither of these are very good long-term survival options. Take supermarkets. Firstly, they’re going to be dangerous places. They’ll attract all sorts of people and you’ll probably have to fight for access to any food they still have in them. Such confrontations are something you should aim to avoid wherever possible as there’s no guarantee you’ll come off best. Supermarkets and other buildings that are likely to contain food will also have lots of dark nooks and crannies where anything could be hiding, just waiting for it’s moment to leap out at attack you and, again, this is a risk you should try to avoid if you want to have the best chance of surviving. All this means you’d be better off avoiding places like this in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of civilisation. Secondly, supermarkets going to run out of dry pretty damn quick as everyone scrambles to get hold of whatever they have inside. This means you can’t rely on them as a food source in the longer term either.

That’s supermarkets out the way, so what’s wrong with hunting? Well, for a start, it’s very time-consuming and uses up ammunition that could be better used elsewhere, such as for defending yourself from whatever there is you might have to defend yourself against. It’s also noisy, meaning you’ll attract the attention of anyone, or anything, that’s out there, and you don’t want to be doing that, do you? In comparison, fishing is not only quiet but if you know what you’re doing it’s highly efficient. You can set lines, nets or traps, leave them to do their job while your off doing other things and return later to collect whatever they catch. This certainly beats having to trudge through the woods for hours trying to find something worth shooting. However, fishing isn’t just a matter of throwing a baited hook in anywhere and you’ll only be successful at it if you actually know what you’re doing.

The third surprisingly useful skill is sailing. When I mention sailing, you’re probably thinking luxury yachts and Caribbean islands, and wondering what could be useful in that, but, come the apocalypse, sailing could turn out to be one of the most useful things you’ve ever learned. If you know how to sail, it gives you a way to move around that doesn’t require any fuel, and sailing isn’t only useful on water. Using a knowledge of sailing, it would be easy enough to build something that would allow you to propel land-based vehicles along with just the power of the wind (those familiar with land-sailing or kite-boarding will already have a good idea of how this can be done). This having been said, moving around on water is where sailing’s really going to come into it’s own. This is because in almost any possible post-apocalyptic situation, you’re going to be safer on the water than on the land: on the water it’ll be easier to move around, to avoid trouble, to take your base and move it somewhere else if you need to (and especially if you need to do this in a hurry) and defend your base for any attacks. This is why I’d always make sailing a key element of my post-apocalyptic survival strategy, and why I used it as the basis for my book For Those In Peril On The Sea. You can find out more about why I think sailing’s likely to be so useful when the world comes to an end here.

After sailing comes star-gazing. There’s a lot of useful information up there in the sky if you only you know what you’re looking at. Almost every human civilisation there’s ever been has relied heavily on star-gazing at one time or another. It’s been used to tell the time, to tell the seasons, to predict the tides and to navigate from point A to point B. Few of us know how to read the stars any more but come the apocalypse this information will become vital to your long-term survival. However the world comes to an end, the chances are that within a very short space of time the GPS satellites will come crashing down and the batteries on things like watches will run out. Yet, you’ll still need to be able to know where you’re going, how long you have until the sun goes down, or comes up again, and when it’s the right time to start planting food or harvesting crops. The key to being able to do this lies in the stars above our heads but you can only unlock it if you know how to read the sky.

Finally, the last surprisingly useful skill is cooking. I’m not talking about being able to microwave popcorn here, I’m talking about being able to cook something hot and tasty from whatever ingredients you have to hand so I suppose this is really as much about food preparation as cooking itself. Nothing saps morale quicker than having to live off a monotonous diet of the same tasteless pre-packed food meal after meal, day after day, week after week (unless you’re a student who’s living off pot noodles because you’ve already blown all your money for the term on beer, in which case you’re probably already well adapted to this type of diet and it won’t really bother you).

Almost anything (even pot noodles and other pre-packed food) can be made to taste a lot better with a bit of thought and some culinary knowledge. This knowledge will also open up many food sources to you that you couldn’t successfully access without it. Think bird eggs in spring, pheasants in summer, rabbits in autumn and migrating salmon in winter. These are all things going to be out there, just waiting for you to come along and eat them but before you can, you’ll need to know what to do with them before you can turn them into something that’s both edible and, possibly more importantly, unlikely to poison you. Real cooking involves a knowledge not just of how to warm things up but also how to skin animals, gut fish, pluck birds, identify edible mushrooms and prepare all things vegetable. With a good cook on your side, you’ll be able to face the apocalypse with a full belly and a nice taste in your mouth, and you’ll feel so much better for it.

The thing all these skills have in common is that at first, they don’t seem like your traditional key post-apocalyptic survival skills but this is because they won’t necessarily help you survive in immediate aftermath of everything going horribly wrong. What you have to remember, though, is that the end of civilisation isn’t something the world will recover from in a matter of days or weeks. Rather it’s going to make months or years, and that’s if it even happens at all. These skills are the ones that will become ever more useful the longer you manage to survive. They’re the ones that have the potential to make your life in a post-apocalyptic world not only easier but much, much more bearable. Yet, they are also exactly the types of skills we’re likely to lose because, when planning their post-apocalyptic survival strategies, everyone only ever concentrates on short-term survival rather than what they’re going to do as days turn into weeks, then months, then years and they find that the world still hasn’t gone back to being the way it was before.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK, and available as an ebook and in print in the US from the 21st March 2013. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

Preparing For Life A Post-Apocalyptic World

13 Nov

So you’re worried the world’s coming to an end. The Mayan calendar is quickly running out and everywhere you go people seem to be talking about Zombies. Even Brad Pitt’s getting in on the action with his upcoming film World War Z. But what can you do about it?  You could just sit there and panic, waiting for the next plague to sweep around the planet, but that’s not where the smart money is. You could try ignoring the signs and carry on as usual, but you’ll probably be one of the first to fall when the dead rise. Instead, why not try to prepare yourself a little. That way you’ll be ready when it happens, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll at least have picked up a few useful life skills. Here’s my top five things you can do to prepare yourself for when the apocalypse comes (and that will still prove be useful even if it doesn’t).

1. Do A Wilderness Survival Course: You don’t have to become the next Ray Mears, but it’ll at least mean you won’t starve when you have to flee the city and your supplies of canned food run out.  It also wouldn’t do any harm to know how to build shelters and set traps. Post-Apocalyptic Survival Rating: Essential. Real Life Benefits: Just knowing that you could survive if you suddenly found yourself in the middle of nowhere without all the comforts of the modern world is incredibly empowering and will boost your confidence in your everyday life.

2. Learn First Aid: When the apocalypse happens, the medical system will be one of the first things to fall. There will be no more 999 services, no more ambulances and no more casualty rooms. You’ll be on your own health-wise and you need to be able to cope.  I’m not talking about amputating limbs here (although if you can do it fast enough to stop that zombie bite on your leg spreading to the rest of your body this might be a good thing to know), just enough to be able to deal with the inevitable cuts, bruises and broken bones that will be part of your everyday struggle to survive. After all, what’s the point of escaping from those radioactive plague victims if you just end up dying of blood poisoning because you let a wound get infected. Post-Apocalyptic Survival Rating: Essential. Real Life Benefits: First aid is always a good skill to have, and who knows you might one day save someone’s life.

3. Learn Car Mechanics: Imagine the situation. There you are, trying to escape from the horde of Zombies that are heading your way but no matter how hard to try, your car won’t start.  You’ve only got a few minutes before they’ll be on your.  What do you do? Nowadays too many of us rely on phoning the AA (or AAA if you’re in America) when our cars break down and we no longer know how to fix them. Some people don’t even know how to change a burst tyre. Come the apocalypse, if you don’t know how to maintain and fix a car, you’ll be screwed. The solution, start learning now. Find out where the battery is on your car, how to change a fan-belt, how to fix the alternator, how to siphon fuel from one vehicle to another, how to strip an abandoned vehicle for spare parts. None of this is exactly rocket science and with a bit of practice these are things anyone could do. While you’re at it, it wouldn’t do any harm to know how to fix a generator too. Post-Apocalyptic Survival Rating: Essential. Real Life Benefits: It’s cheaper to fix you car yourself than pay someone else to do it, so you might end up saving yourself some money.

4. Take Up Parkour (Also Know As Free-Running): If you have to escape in an urban environment, what better skill can you have than parkour?  You’ll have seen people doing this on TV and in You Tube videos.  You may even have seen people doing it in real life, leaping from building to building, or from one stairwell to the next. Now’s the time to learn it for yourself.  It will allow you to move through the city in a way that others cannot, and this will dramatically improve your chances of surviving as you try to get out. Post-Apocalyptic Survival Rating: Beneficial. Real Life Benefits: It’ll help you keep fit and healthy, and let’s face it, it looks really cool.

5. Get Some Weapons Training: In the movies, it seems that anyone can pick up a gun and start pulling off perfect headshots, or grab a sword and instantly develop the skills of a samurai.  Reality is very different.  If you’re not trained to use a weapon, the chances are you’ll do more damage to yourself and your fellow survivors than to any attacking infected. I know this having once watched my sister just about blow the head off the guy who was firing clay pigeons for us because she got confused between whether the safety catch was off or on (he was ok, but rather shaken by the incident!). For this reason, I’d always advise anyone who doesn’t already know how to use a gun to stay well clear of them, even when facing the fall of civilisation as we know it. But, hang on, your survival chances would undoubtedly be better if you had guns, so what can you do about it? Get trained now. And don’t just learn to shoot. Learn how to clean a gun, how to maintain it, how to clear a jammed bullet and so on. Also remember guns might not always be available so learn other weapon skills too. Learn how to start a chain-saw, study Iaido (the Japanese art of drawing a sword and striking in a single fluid movement), take up a martial art, give archery a go, try firing a crossbow, anything that might help you survive. Post-Apocalyptic Survival Rating: Essential. Real Life Benefits: If you insist on being around weapons, it’s always safer if you actually know how to use them.

Remember these are just the bare essentials. There are many other skills out there that will increase your chances of survival, all of which you can start nurturing now. So step away from the keyboard, put down that Playstation controller, switch off the TV, and go out and learn something new. Even if the apocalypse never comes, your life will be better for it.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.