When I was listening to the Health Report on Radio National this week, it seemed to me that the experts were saying that they fully expect that the Covid-19 virus will spread around the world and become a 'pandemic'. Australia's chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy says that we are a well prepared country. But it should be a warning to all of us to do a bit of thinking about how prepared we are, each of us in our own places, and also in our local areas.
In the light of the terrible summer we have had in Australia, with the fires and then very heavy rain, we are more aware than ever that being prepared for disaster is a good idea.
This is our ABC article about the subject:
And a bit of an alternative view here
We all have different situations- DH and I are retired and we have regular income. If we were living on casualised income, with no sick leave, I think being prepared in advance would be even more strategically wise. Maybe these folk need to be trying to save up an 'emergency fund' to have in case they couldn't work for a few weeks. I am not saying it is easy to build an emergency fund on casualised wages- I am absolutely sure it would be very difficult!
Here at "Cottage EMW" we have a pretty strong basis for being prepared anyway-it is the way we live.
Medicine and Health practice
According to the experts, we need to be talking to our close family and friends about basic hygiene: washing hands for example, is recommended as a precautionary measure but also making sure we have their regular medications in reasonable supply. My DH and DD both need asthma puffers when they have a respiratory illness -we need to make sure they have a fresh puffer available at least. I will be checking our prescription medicines too. When the next flu vaccine is available we should all get it - and I will be old enough this year to get the government scheme vaccine. Anyone who needs it should consider the pneumonia vaccine too. (I am not a doctor -as your GP about your own health needs).
For a couple of years now I have participated in the Australia wide flu survey. By taking part, we are contributing to scientific research, and helping to track influenza in our local community and nation-wide. Over the 14 years the survey has been running in Australia (and now in New Zealand) we have grown to over 40,000 participants per week who have collectively completed over 5 million surveys!
A simple online survey that takes less than 10 seconds each week during flu season can tell us so much.
The main aims of FluTracking are to develop a system that can provide:
- Community level influenza-like illness surveillance
- Consistent surveillance of influenza activity across all jurisdictions and over time; and
- Year-to-year comparison of the timing, attack rates, and seriousness of influenza in the community.
Participate in the survey
If there was a bit of a food scarcity -say there was a ban on movement of food in an out of a region -or if we had to stay home in quarantine for a couple of weeks- then have enough food at home to keep us going for a few weeks would be a good idea.
We are lucky enough to have two pantries and two fridges. The pantry which faces the kitchen was always there, but DH made extra shelves for it so we can store a lot of food in it. The pantry which faces the laundry was once a hot water system storage cupboard, but when the system moved outside we redeveloped the space as a 'larder' for long term storage. My outdoor fridge/freezer stores my seed collection, and extra supplies of perishables in longer term storage. (Normally this is not such a good idea -having two fridges- because of the power costs, but our solar power sort of compensates for this).
For a number of years now I have worked on our resilience by buying in bulk where possible. This food storage capacity in our house is ideal, but you can also store extra items in any useful location -you can squeeze a box of toilet paper under beds or in the garage. Many of us have a suitcase for our holidays -this can be used to store quite a lot of cans of food without taking up any more space. Bulk cleaners can be stored on shelves in the garage or garden shed.
The reasons we buy in bulk are many. When you buy in bulk you always have a meal on hand in an emergency, and can often save money. At the very least, you keep away from those unintended purchases that happen every time you go shopping! Supermarkets seem to have a price cycle -sometimes an item is highly priced and sometimes it is discounted. By having the capacity to buy when it is cheap and not to buy when it is expensive, we spread out our costs and always have cheaper costs. For example, if I buy 1 kg of the coffee we prefer to buy when it is high in the cycle it costs $24. When low it is $16. If I buy 20 kg a year, at the high price it would be $480. If I always buy at the lowest price it will be $320. That is a big difference!
What to store?
Each family is different about what they want to have in their long term food storage. Our family greatly values tinned fish -we LOVE the Italian style tuna in oil, jasmine rice, UHT milk (which we use for making yoghurt but in a pinch it would keep our coffee milky) tinned tomatoes and coconut milk. So long as I have bread flour (I keep this in long term storage in the fridge in the garage to reduce the chance of weevil infestation) then I can make bread or pasta. I find a 10kg bag lasts us about two months, if I am making two loaves of bread per week. DH makes jam and marmalade and from time to time preserves fruit in jars. Don't forget things like toilet paper!
My freezers are used for preserving harvests -our pomegranates or lemons for example, for use when the glut of harvest is over. This time of the year I am most grateful for the lemon juice ice cubes I made months ago, which are carrying me through while we wait for the winter citrus harvest. I have quite a few jars of pesto, using the summer's basil -which would come in handy if we were a bit sick - all we need to do is cook the pasta and the pesto is already there, brim full of wonderful flavours and goodness.
We do have limes ready for picking now though -and I guess that if we were in lockdown they would keep us from getting scurvy, at least! (LOL) Actually, I think that experts say a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables are what is required for good health -not just limes! If we couldn't shop for a couple of weeks we would still have our garden produce -rainbow chard, broccoli leaves, sweet potato leaves, herbs like parsley and mint etc.
We have been watching the SBS series "Food Safari" on DVD - I am always inspired by the cultures of other countries and the way they are able to see something like mint or parsley as a vegetable in its own right, and not just a flavouring. I have a number of places in the garden where the Vitamin C rich parsley grows, sets seed, dies off and then re-grows. Morag Gamble on her YouTube channel often discusses the many things we grow in our garden and what we can eat -sometimes it is surprising. For example, did you know that all parts of a broccoli plant are edible -leaves and stalks too! The leaves are great in salads and in stir fries. Sweet potato leaves are really good too, even before you harvest the tubers. On Gardening Australia we saw a segment where pumpkin leaves were highly valued by people in Kenya -they stripped the hard strings like you might do for celery-before blanching.
The end of summer is not a great time for lettuce around here but I have just planted rocket and rainbow chard and spinach. Meanwhile we have alfalfa and mustard seeds to grow into sprouts if we are short of a quick fresh green!
Frozen vegetables are picked and frozen within hours and retain much of their original nutrition. While it is somehow seen as 'less than" nutritious to eat canned food, really canned foods are wonderful -they enable the grower to pick their whole crop, not just the perfect ones the supermarkets buy-and extend our reach beyond the harvest season.
Being prepared just makes sense, and always has done. It’s a solid ethical choice, as much as a pragmatic one. Kirsten Bradley, February 26, 2020 in "Milkwood" =read more here