Just when apocalypse fatigue was growing, Australians have realised the corona virus pandemic is a thing and have leapt into collective action by buying up all the toilet paper and hand sanitiser in the country. Nothing like a bit of panic to get you to act. If we could only get those same people all planting their own potatoes and herbs as well, and our government could act as swiftly on climate change as they have on an unforeseen pandemic, that would create some real resiliency.
Empty supermarket shelves across the country have sent anxiety levels up, and left many unable to buy their weekly groceries. We want to take action, and lots of us are confused. What can you do that makes your household more resilient, and also strengthens your local community instead of fighting over the last roll of loo paper? (Hint: now is a great time to start cutting up some wee rags. I’ve used them for over a decade, super easy and not at all gross.)
It’s looking like the COVID-19 virus will sweep across Australia and worldwide. Most of us will recover. The elderly and immune-compromised are most at risk. The first impact for most people is probably supply disruption – as we are finding out in the toilet paper aisle in supermarkets across the country. Items may be out of stock because of panic buying, because they are made in China and the companies there are affected by quarantine restrictions/illness, because staff locally or down the supply chain are ill or when Australian authorities or businesses impose restrictions to limit the spread of the pandemic (ie. shops, chemists, schools, etc may be closed for a period of time). We are already starting to see this happen as entire organisations close down in Australian capital cities, following one staff member or their partner having contact with a person diagnosed with corona virus.
The more resilient your household is, the better off you will be. Those of us with edible gardens have some protection from fluctuation in fresh produce supply. I’m thankful for my good garlic crop this year. If you don’t yet grow any of your own food, start with sprouts or microgreens in a tray. Do you have any garden space available to plant potatoes or garlic?
What will you need to get through the winter, possibly with periods of quarantine in your own home? Do you have firewood? Do you have enough regular medication for all family members? At least two weeks’ worth of food for your pets and livestock? Books to read or board games? You can find a good prep list here. Try to stockpile food in a trickle, and don’t buy food that you wouldn’t buy otherwise.
If you get sick (whether corona virus or not) you might need to hole up in your house and ride it out. Hospitals are likely to be overwhelmed and the last place you want to be in the middle of a pandemic, so the more people can self-treat the better. Unfortunately, flu season in Australia is probably going to coincide with the pandemic, which could increase strain on health services even more. Buy your normal flu medications now before the storm hits, and/or learn some herbal remedies. Learn what works for your family – who will tolerate the taste of which herbs, what ingredients you can access in your area, how to prepare and store simple remedies. There are no known treatments for COVID-19 yet but there are lots of herbal remedies for general cold & flu, fever, cough and immune boosting.
My ten year old likes eucalyptus oil on a tissue for congestion, slippery elm paste or bought elderflower lozenges for a sore throat, and licorice tea for a cough. I tried making a herbal cough syrup with licorice and honey last year but it made him gag. I find daily kimchi really helpful for myself to keep my immune system strong, and olive leaf tea or vitamin C for further immune boosting if I start to feel sick. Olive leaf tea is easy to find; many people have ornamental olive trees. Just snip the leaves with scissors into a teapot and brew like a cup of tea. You can reuse the leaves for several more batches. Drink a couple of cups a day.
Thyme tea makes a good gargle for a sore throat. Bone broth is a gentle restorative food for invalids. A lot of cold & cough remedies include onions and garlic – either as a tea, poultice on the chest, simmered in honey or even a steam inhalation. You can find more natural cold & flu remedies here.
Immediate prep for flu season, including corona virus pandemic:
* keep your household stocked up with a few weeks’ worth of food, medication, hygiene, pet food, chook food, nappies, cleaning supplies
* make sure you have some easy meals in the freezer – what do you like to eat when you’re sick?
* find out how to make one or two herbal remedies with a long life like garlic honey or chest rub and make some now
* write easy cold & flu remedies out and stick them on your kitchen cupboards – you won’t want to be flicking through books when you’re crook
* dry herbs for tea, sore throat gargles and easy cooking over winter when you don’t feel like wandering out into the garden
* buy dried herbs for remedies if you don’t have them in the garden yet
* keep your car fuel tank at least half full in case of fuel shortages
* make sure you have fuel for winter heating
* start a batch of kimchi with lots of ginger, garlic and onion (takes a few days to ferment, lasts for months)
* start a batch of Four Thieves Vinegar (herbal disinfectant)
* ferment some garlic in honey (stores for years, great food and medicine)
* cut up some soft cloth to make wee rags to reduce your need for toilet paper (offer excess toilet paper to those in need)
* check on neighbours and family and help them prepare their households too. Talk about how you could drop off supplies without swapping germs if they are sick
* make a plan for how to manage childcare if your school or daycare closes down, or if all the adults in the house end up in hospital
* arrange with some friends or neighbours to feed each other’s chickens or pets if you’re too ill or away in hospital. Write out a process and how to access pets/feed
* make a plan at work for staff downtime and make sure things can still function if key personnel are ill, or if you’re self employed plan for irregular income over the coming months (unless you sell toilet paper, in which case you’re laughing all the way to the bank)
Long term household resilience:
* make sure every job can be done by more than one person (teach the kids how to feed the chooks) in case that person is ill
* establish a basic medicinal herb bed suited to your climate (might include thyme, sage, rosemary, peppermint, lavender, nasturtium, lemon balm, yarrow, elder, comfrey, violets)
* grow edible greens so you have high nutrient food available
* grow garlic, onions, ginger, chilli, turmeric and other food remedy plants
* practise making simple balms, infused oils and vinegars
* switch over to reusable menstrual products or cloth nappies to reduce reliance on shops and rubbish disposal
* preserve autumn produce for use through winter; choose low sugar methods like freezing or drying to keep your immune system strong
* dry any edible green or weeds and powder them when brittle to make a superfood powder for winter use
* plant your own aloe vera plants to make hand sanitiser and all other skin healing
* read RetroSuburbia for hundreds more ideas for local resilience, community strengthening, disaster preparation and climate change action
You can find more permie prep ideas here. If the whole end of the world thing is exhausting you, read this. COVID-19 panic is a reminder to us all to not only prepare our households and communities physically for resilience in the face of disaster, but mentally.