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Category Archives: Survival

Holland’s Menaced Frontier, February 1940

My grandfather was Dutch. He emigrated to Australia in 1956 and when I was a teenager he told me stories of his time in the war. He was in the bicycle Corp of the Dutch Army, and told many tales (some exaggerated I’m sure) of being in work gangs for the Germans. My grandmother gave birth to two children during his ‘internment’. 

 This page made my think of today’s media, where sometimes we ignore or pass over what’s happening, thinking, “it won’t happen” or “it doesn’t affect me.” This is from 3 February 1940. Germany invaded Holland on 10 May 1940.



15 Lessons Learned from “The 1940s House”

I have just been rewarding the wonderful BBC Series “The 1940s House”, and each time I get something different out of it. Here are fifteen lessons I learnt this time –

  1. The utilities were often cut off after bombing raids – water, power, gas. Be prepared. Store bottles of water and some easy to prepare food ( a 3 week to 3 month supply is a good start). Have a back up way of heating water and food.  Learn how to make a fire without matches.
  2. Grow a vegetable, herb and fruit garden for food, barter and healing (like comfrey for sprained ankles).
  3. Keep chickens and ducks for eggs. Be prepared to breed and butcher your own if you want to eat meat. Think about other small animals for meat and fertiliser, like rabbits and cavies. (People did actually resort to “roof hare” in war torn Europe ie. Cat). Get into aquaculture – fish are often easier to farm than cute and furry animals!
  4. If you have room, get a milk goat or two and a couple of beehives. Dairy foods and sweetners were rationed and hard to get.
  5. Learn to cook from scratch – especially basics like bread, stews and basic yoghurt and cheeses. Practice with powdered agh and milk and have some on hand.
  6. Learn to sew and have a good sewing kit so you can “make do and mend.”
  7. Have ” no tech” days – turn off the TV and cook, cool and heat without power. 
  8. Have a stock of real books and games for entertainment when the power goes down. Get the kids to make their own board game. Learn an instrument. 
  9. Keep a diary, or blog, or write letters to keep your language alive and your brain active.
  10. Cut down or cut out the alcohol, unessessary drugs and cigarettes, otherwise you may need to quit cold turkey.
  11. Shop locally and eat fresh (to back up your own home grown), walk to the shops and leave the car at home. It saves waste, can be cheaper and healthier and is better for the planet.
  12. If you want a job and can’t get one, volunteer – it can give you a boost as well as helping others.
  13. Keep a couple of lipsticks and hair dye kits (if you use them) on hand. They can boost morale. 
  14. Also keep a stock of toilet paper – it is REALLY important! Moisturiser, toothpaste and soap are also important. 
  15. Be nice to your family members, and ensure your children know to to do basic chores!

Packing an Emergency Kit


Now that I have my month’s of food and water stored, I am organizing our emergency kits.  Back in 1942, this grey wool coat and “matching knapsack that carries a supply of sandwiches and a first aid kit” was the height of fashion and practicability – but today I am looking for a little more.


The prepping blogs I have been reading suggest keeping a 72 Hour Kit in the boot of the car  – complete with water filters, a first aid kid, baby wipes, food, and a whole lot more.  You can read more about putting one of these kits together here, herehere and here.

After driving for five hours to take my daughter to university, getting lost in the town for nearly two hours (in the rain, at night), and driving back home another five hours in more rain, I almost wish I’d had a 72 hour kit with me so I could have camped out at a rest stop and avoided the trucks and speeding drivers trying to kill themselves in a storm.  Luckily I had a pillow, a block of chocolate and a thermos of tea to keep me going.  I did forget to pack a book though.  And a bucket may have been handy – trying to find a toilet in a storm is not fun.

My phone also stopped working – apparently the car charger overcharged it and it got too hot – so I couldn’t contact anyone to let them know where I was (or take photos of tail gating and speeding idiots).  Now I am thinking an emergency radio may be a good idea too.  And a real paper map.

So this month I will work on my emergency 72 hour kit for the car, designed for 6 of us, which I plan to store in a waterproof plastic crate.

My planned kit is fashioned after what the Survival Mom calls ‘The 5S kit’


  • A 6-pack of toilet paper, flattened, with cardboard tubes removed
  • A bucket
  • Sanitary supplies, sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Baby wipes, dienfectant wipes and flat bag of tissues
  • Tube of hand sanitizer and bar of soap
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss
  • hairbrush, hair-ties, bobby pins
  • latex gloves


  •  First Aid handbook and kit
  • Extra essential medicines and repeat prescriptions
  • Blankets (I like to fold these into a pillow)
  • Two torches
  • Rain ponchos (large garbage bags) and umbrella
  • Sandshoes/socks for everyone
  • Rope and 4WD bands for getting out of trouble or getting towed
  • Knife
  • Battery/solar-powered emergency radio
  • Ground cover / Tarp
  • Work gloves
  • Waterproof matches
  • Whistle
  • Small water filter
  • Collapsible shovel
  • sewing kit and scissors
  • Change of clothes for everyone, stored in plastic bags


  • pepper spray
  • maps
  • list of emergency phone numbers
  • paper copies of identification
  • Scanned copies of important documents on a USB memory stick
  • cash money in smallish bills


  • pad of paper and textas
  • deck of cards
  • a few books/mags
  • mobile phone charger


  • water and water filter
  • small fuel stove
  • instant soup, oatmeal, tea, coffee, hot chocolate
  • non-perishable/freeze dried meals, chocolate, bars etc

I feel like I am back in Girl Guide days – ‘Be Prepared”!

Be Prepared – My New Journey Begins – Day 1

Wartime women (and men) were resourceful – that’s a given. But how prepared were they all for the deprivations of war? Largely they grew a lot of their own food, knew how to store it and had the basic ability to fix and repair items when they broke, or could reuse or re-purpose them – flour bags into dress for example.  In addition, they did not spend their money foolishly (or use credit).  Of course I doubt that they all had stockpiles of food, blankets or clothing, and we know that many people had to learn from scratch how to raise rabbit sand chickens, and even how to grow and store vegetables. But many did.  My grandparents did.  And I know that after the war, when they moved to Australia, my grandparents always had a veggie garden, chickens until they were older, and a full pantry. (They also kept their cash under the mattress and in a tin in the garden, just in case the Germans came again).

Canning for Victory, WWI Poster

Canning for Victory, WWI Poster

Now, I hope that we are never faced with times like those again, but even in this day and age it does not hurt to be prepared. You may not believe in global warming or peak oil (or even zombies), but anyone can be hit by illness (or a local epidemic) , job loss, a transport (and thus supplies) strike  or an extreme weather event.

Here in North Queensland we have just had a near miss from Cyclone Dylan – and even then our power was out for two days. (It turned out the power connection on the street had issues, and we had no neutral coming into the house, and 120 volts going through our taps, so it could have been a lot worse.) Anyway, despite having tins of beans, candles and bottles of water, I felt unprepared.  With four children at home to feed and clothe (and  buy new school books for), I haven’t worried too much about getting the recommend ‘Cyclone Kit’ ready.  I always figure I’ll just jump in the 4WD and go.  Wrong!  The wind and rain here were so strong, I didn’t want to go outside.  I need to be prepared to stay home without power and water, and prepared to evacuate  if necessary.

So the slant of my blog is going to change. I will still look at history and try and learn from it, and the women during WWII, but I also want to record and share my attempt at becoming more self-reliant, and prepared for an emergency. I also want to learn some survival skills, and instill some of these skills into my children – what if the cyclone hit while they were at school, for example, what would they do and how would they cope?

If you have ever watched some of the BBC reality history shows where families go back in time (Turn Back Time, the Family, or Coal House etc) you will have seen how modern people cope, or don’t cope, with the harshness of conditions in the past.  I don’t want to be the mother who sits in the chair and cries, or the one with the whingy children nobody can stand.

So I need to start prepping.  Slowly.  Cheaply.  I’ll just do one small preparation a day.  If I don’t have any extra money to purchase something, then I’ll work on a new skill like tying knots, or sorting out the pantry, or even read a blog or book for inspiration.  My first goal is to store up four weeks supply of food and water.  Sounds easy, but just how much do we, a family of six, two dogs, a cat and three chickens, need for four weeks?

what's in the larder WWII

To start with I am turning to Wendy DeWitt.  She is a well-known and respected lecturer on preparedness, and specifically food storage.  She has created a food storage method around planned meals to suit each family size.  You can find her on youtube, and you can also download a copy of her “Everything Under the Sun” book on food storage. Wendy generously shares her wisdom and experience by offering this book at no cost, but you can also get a copy of her DVD here.

Day One – read Wendy De Witt’s book and others, and make a food storage plan

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