Friday, January 31, 2014

Surviving the Apocalypse - the Ragged Truth

Have you ever noticed just how fast clothing falls apart?

I've got a small farm, and I go through barn clothes at top speed. A t-shirt becomes stained, snagged and ratty looking in a summer. After the Apocalypse, how long before for a person's clothing would be reduced to rags?

Not that long - think about this:

Jenny Doe is on the road, looking for her family. She carries a light pack of clothing...maybe enough for a week. That's seven pairs of underwear, seven pairs of socks, three bras, four t-shirts, three tank tops, two pairs of jean shorts and two pairs of full-length jeans. She wears a set of flip-flops and packs a pair of running shoes.

For the purpose of this example she's lost so much body fat that she no longer has her period. (Yes, this happens.) This extends the life of her wardrobe. Otherwise this example will become even more complicated, so we'll keep it simple.

I know from my childhood that a pair of flip-flops will last about 2 months of constant wear. The underwear might last 4 months, with minor repairs. The bras might last 6 months.

The t-shirts will become stained in a matter of days. Then as she tries to clean out the stains, thin patches will develop. In say, 3 months threads will begin to break, she'll have to start patching holes and seams, for sure, in 4 months.

Let's say the shorts last 4 months - but show the wear in frayed edges, side seams, occasional tears and thinning fabric. This is assuming the clothing was of good quality to begin with, and doesn't get any rips or tears for the first 6 weeks. In the Apocalypse she'll be doing a lot of hiding in nasty places, ducking into weeds or woods and occasional fights or flights. All her clothing will show considerable wear in a matter of weeks.

If our Jenny learned a bit about sewing, she'll be in better shape for a short period of time. This means she'll have to take time from traveling to patch and re-seam her clothing. It can't be done by firelight, you need daylight. If you don't believe me, try threading a needle by candlelight.

My experience with clothing tells me that Jenny will be in rags in 4 months, regardless. So she'll need a completely new set of clothes every season.

Where is this clothing going to come from?

No one is making new clothing. The stores will be completely picked over for whichever season the Apocalypse hit - so if it hits in summer - there will be no winter clothing on the shelves. I doubt there will be anything left in in stores after the first six months, in a year, there will be nothing left.

Cotton is the most comfortable fabric, but it rots if it is worn while wet and dirty. Think about a body that gets washed maybe once ever couple of days - and the amount of sweat that body produces from a day of hiking/hiding/fleeing/fighting. Then bacteria start growing, producing acidic waste to add to the acidic sweat. Say goodbye to cloth covering armpits, the inner thighs, socks and your underwear.

Synthetic fabric like nylon has a long wear-life than cotton. The problem with nylon is that it shreds at stress-points. The very threads that hold it together eventually shred the seams.

My point?

It's a simple one - after the first year, you won't be able to tell the zombies from the living from a distance. The zombies won't care if they're naked, but living humans are going to have trouble surviving without proper clothing.

Unless our Jenny can find a treadle sewing machine and a fabric store, she's gonna be in big trouble in Year 2. She can't carry a treadle sewing machine in her backpack. She's going to need sewing thread, scissors and a supply of needles in order to keep from being naked...that is if she learned how to sew before the Apocalypse.

There are time-tested fabrics that CAN hold up under conditions that will reduce cotton to thread-bare shreds, these are linen and wool. Both of which can be found in any climate. Each has advantages for different seasons.

Our ancestors had extremely limited wardrobes. In the Dark Ages it was customary for a surf to have only two or three changes of clothing. They might have a set of 'finery' for special occasions. Servants were giving a suit of clothing once a year as part of their pay. This clothing would be handed down from the gentry's family. This clothing would be either linen or wool.

Linen is a must-have for underclothes. The more it's washed, the more it's worn, the softer it gets. It stains easily, but during a burning hot summer there's nothing like it. Made from flax, in a process that involves numerous steps, linen thread can be hand spun and woven in to lengths of cloth.

Wool is another fiber tough enough to survive the post-apocalyptic lifestyle. The drawback with it - many people born in modern times are allergic to the lanolin in it. It will make them itch like crazy. Itching means scratching, which leads to sores, open wounds, infection, blood poisoning, gangrene...and death.

Wool is sheared from the back of sheep. The dirt encrusted, stinking, lanolin dripping fleece was washed (several times) carded, spun, dyed and woven into lengths of cloth, or pounded into felt before it was cut or knitted into clothing.

Leather - the great cop-out.

Leather isn't the all-weather solution to the clothing dilemma. Leather takes more time, special chemicals and skill to tan than most people realize. Not only that, but sewing together a leather garment takes special needles, threads and cutting skills. Then there's the can carry for MILES.

When leather gets wet, it needs to be treated with oil (like neatsfoot oil) or it will dry as stiff as a dog chew. Anybody want to wear a dog chew while hiking for miles every day?

All these fabrics require something our Jenny doesn't have: a safe place to stay while she grows the flax, or raises the sheep, or tans the leather. Then she's got to have enough to eat for herself and her critters. Not likely while she's on the run from marauders or zombies.

Only those who have safe shelter are going to wear anything better than layers of rags post-apocalypse.

Stay tuned!

What to wear to the Zombie Apocalypse:

Part II - Footware Jimmi Choo isn't coming to visit.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cold Didn't Stop Me

That's right, I got the paneling up. There are still gaps that need to be filled. However, the paneling part of the project is done.

There is still a lot of work left to do.

The duck nests need to be rebuilt. There will be two banks of nests. Enough to give each duck a place to brood.

There will be more photos in the next few days.

Working in that cold has really taken it's toll on me. I'm very sore and stiff.

Check back in a day or two for the photos.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Renovation - The Final Wall

This is the final part of the wall to panel.

I bought enough cedar fence panels to finish the wall, today.

The plan is simple - cut the boards to 48" for the long part. Then use the 24" to finish off the short bottom row.

Then I can put up the duck nest boxes. I'm thinking double deckers, 10 boxes. The chickens are going to want the highest boxes. The ducks want easy access.

There is twice as much roosting space as there was before. There's still room for one more roost if I need it. The youngest chickens have adopted the white plastic pipe as their roosting space.

I'm looking forward to selling goslings and ducklings this summer.

Eggs can't be allowed to freeze. So far, the eggs I've collected from Chicken World aren't frozen. This is a huge step forward from last year, when half the eggs I picked up were frozen (and cracked).

Since I started paneling, I've had one 12 egg day and several 8 egg days. The nest box on the finished wall is the most popular, it's the warmest area. So it looks like I'm on the right track.

Stay tuned.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Photos of Chicken World

It's freaking cold out there!

I found a couple of critters outside. I can't catch 59. Featherfoot was out, I got him in last night, but he was outside again this morning. I picked him up and put him in the old gelding's stall.

Got a dirty look for that. But I think the old boy has figured that the rooster is ill. Featherfoot hunkered down in a corner looking pitiful. The old gelding kinda rolled his eyes at me.

It's still really cold in Chicken World. I've got the little doors open, hoping 59 will come in. So far no one is going outside.

 This is main roosting area. There are three roosts with a nest box tied to the roost. The hens like this one best.

You can see the slats nailed to the wall. To the right is the alpaca stall. The alpacas watch the chickens as if the chickens were a soap opera.

The orange cools holds 5 gallons of water with drip spouts. That part is frozen right now.

This is a frame to the left. The window is the one I moved inside. The little door might be too narrow for the geese to use, not sure, I reinforced the sides to keep the drafts out.

You can see the ducks taking a look outside. They didn't go out, just stuck their beaks outside for a quick look.

The last photo is the shelf where the nest area used to be and the double rows of nests are going to be soon.

The upper part of the wall is paneled.
 So that's it for now. I've been poking around the barn looking for paneling materials. There's a wheelbarrow full of wood scraps destined for fireplace.

All the animals are snug in the barn.

All we have to do is wait out the weather.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Waiting for the Cold Weather

The hens presented me with 7 eggs today. None were frozen/broken - here's hoping the paneling continues to work in this cold!

Figured out how to mount two milk crates on the finished part of the long wall in Chicken World. I've got a couple more stashed away so I'll end up with 4 milk crate nests up high. They are easy to clean.

Already had a hen move in.

Got the rest of the nests taken down. I like the shelf, hope I can take it apart without messing it up. There will be 5 nests on that level. The short wall needs a tweak or two but it's done. The main roosting area is on that wall. The chickens should stay warm in this cold snap. Got to figure out what to do with the window - the outside is a jagged hole. Might take a shot at 45 degree angles to make a nice frame. The work is nearly half complete. I'm very tired, but I look forward to going out every day, when the weather permits.

I was out there about 2 p.m. when the rain started. There is miscellaneous stuff in the barn, which worried the old mare. The other two tip-toed to their stalls, but the old mare stuck her head inside the barn and refused to budge until I got the grain out.

There's one more pallet to take apart. I think it can wait a few days. LOL

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sunset Before the Snow

There is a hush over Jordan's Croft.

The wind has died, the sun has set and all the animals are in the barn. There is only the faintest glow of red in the west. With the sunset comes the cold - a biting cold with a snap to it. There's more cold coming - the coldest in 30 years they say.

The barn is full of hay, the bins are full of grain. The stalls were fluffed by the chickens, who nipped up every scrap of grain. The short wall of Chicken World is finished. The difference in temperature is notable. The perches quickly fill up with fluffy red-gold hens and the gorgeous roosters.

Even the geese are inside, squatting in straw and pine shavings next to the ducks.

The barn is peaceful - hay-scented and sheltered from the wind, darkening with the sky. The roosters make soft tea-kettle noises as they relax.

The wind will, of course, pick up during the night. The snow is coming, today or tomorrow - but inside the barn - all is ready.

Still Plugging Away

I'm reporting progress, very small amounts of progress.

Half of the short wall is done, floor to ceiling! Complete with roosts and two milk crate nest boxes. The rest of the wall is close to finished. I still need some planks.

I was rewarded with 5 eggs in one of the crate nest boxes. The hens are thrilled with the changes. These eggs were cool to the touch, not frozen! There's hope for a good hatching season.

The long wall has most of the top done. I have to tear apart a few more pallets before I can finish that wall. Once the wall is done, though, I have to rebuild the nest boxes.

I need another roost for the long wall. Half the flock perched on the old nests, which made them a horrendous mess. My goal is to have clean eggs and at least two banks of nests.

It's taken me a long time. It would have been more time effective to to buy panels or even sheet paneling. But the cost, some $30 a 4' x 8' sheet, is prohibitive.

The pallets are cheaper. I'll burn the wood waste - turn it into ashes which will go on the bedding in either the stalls, or on the manure spreader. Nothing will be wasted. It will all become fertilizer.

I've got a few photos and will take a few more.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

IT'S A HIT! (In the UK)

The Emissary is currently a hit on the free charts in the UK!

The Emissary - The Horsewomen of the Zombie Apocalypse

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,366 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

#1 in Kindle Store > Books > Home & Garden > Animal Care & Pets > Horses
#36 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Science Fiction > Post-Apocalyptic

I'm SO tickled!

Thanks to everyone who put my e-book there!