Our world runs on fossil fuels. Annual production of usable, recoverable oil will drop to half of the peak amount around 2030. The social effects will include crime, cults, craziness, and chaos. "Peak oil," however, basically means "peak food." Those who survive will be those who have mastered the art of subsistence farming. -- Peter Goodchild, author, "Tumbling Tide: Population, Petroleum, and Systemic Collapse" -- email@example.com
Humanity has struggled to survive through the millennia in terms of
an imbalance between population size and food supply. The same is
true now, but population numbers have been soaring for over a
century. Oil, the limiting factor, is close to or beyond its peak
extraction. Without ample, free-flowing oil, it will not be possible
to support a population of several billion for much longer. Famine
caused by oil-supply failure alone will probably result in about 2.5
billion above-normal deaths before the year 2050; lost and averted
births will amount to roughly an equal number.
This famine will be on a scale many times larger than ever before in
human history. It is possible, of course, that warfare and plague
will take their toll to a large extent before famine claims its
victims. The distinctions, in any case, can never be absolute: often
"war + drought = famine" (Devereux, 2000, p. 15),
especially in sub-Saharan Africa, but there are several other
combinations of factors.
Although, when discussing theories of famine, economists generally
use the term "neo-malthusian" in a derogatory manner, the
coming famine will be very much a case of an imbalance between
population and resources. The ultimate cause will be fossil-fuel
depletion, not government policy (as in the days of Stalin or Mao),
warfare, ethnic discrimination, bad weather, poor methods of
distribution, inadequate transportation, livestock diseases, or any
of the other variables that have often turned mere hunger into
The world's population has grown from about 1.7 billion in 1900 to
over 7 billion today. A quick glance at a chart of world population
growth, on a broader time scale, in other words, shows a line that
runs almost horizontally for thousands of years, and then makes an
almost vertical ascent as it approaches the present. That is not just
an amusing curiosity. It is a shocking fact that should have awakened
humanity to the realization that something is dreadfully wrong.
Future excess mortality can be determined -- at least in a
rough-and-ready manner -- by the fact that in modern industrial
society it is basically oil supply that determines how many people
can be fed. In fact, everything in modern industrial society is made
possible mainly by oil and other fossil fuels. An increase in oil
production leads to an increase in population, and a decrease in oil
production will lead to a decrease in population.
In round numbers, global oil production in the year 2010 was 30
billion barrels, and the population was 7 billion. The consensus is
that in the year 2050 oil production will be about 2 billion barrels.
The same amount of oil production occurred in the year 1930, when the
population was 2 billion. The population in 2050 may therefore be the
same as in 1930: 2 billion. The difference between 7 billion people
and 2 billion is 5 billion, which will therefore be the total number
of famine deaths and lost or averted births for that period. (A
more-precise measurement would entail looking at the number of
survivors in each year and then determining what might be called the
"temporary carrying capacity" for that year, based on the
remaining oil, but the grand total would be roughly the same.)
We can also determine the number of famine deaths and lost or averted
births on an annual basis, rather than in terms of the entire 40-year
period. In the 40 years from 2010 to 2050, the average annual
difference in population will be 5 billion divided by 40, or a
decrease in population of about 125 million people per year.
Many of those annual 125 million will not actually be deaths; famine
will cause a lowering of the birth rate (Devereux, 2000; Ó Gráda,
2007, March). This will sometimes happen voluntarily, as people
realize they lack the resources to raise children, or it will happen
involuntarily, when famine and general ill health result in
infertility. In most famines the number of deaths from starvation or
from starvation-induced disease is very roughly the same as the
number of lost or averted births. In Ireland's nineteenth-century
famine, the number of famine deaths was 1.3 million, whereas the
number of lost births was 0.4 million. The number of famine deaths
during China's Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), however, was perhaps
30 million, and the number of lost births was perhaps 33 million.
The "normal," non-famine-related, birth and death rates are
not incorporated into the above future population figures, since for
most of pre-industrial human history the sum of the two -- i.e. the
growth rate -- has been nearly zero: 2,000 years ago the global
population was about 300 million, and it took 1,600 years for the
population to double. If not for the problem of resource-depletion,
in other words, the future birth rate and death rate would be nearly
identical, as they were in pre-industrial times. And there is no
question that the future will mean a return to the "pre-industrial."
Incidentally, it would be impossible to avert famine significantly by
any program of family planning. No such program would be able to
reduce the population from 7 billion to 2 billion by mid-century.
Even if -- purely hypothetically -- every woman on earth were to
have zero children from now on, the natural (non-famine) death rate
would still be at its usual 1 percent per annum (rising slightly as
time goes by), so the population would not be declining significantly
over the decades.
Nevertheless, it will often be hard to separate "famine deaths"
from a rather broad category of "other excess deaths." War,
disease, and other factors will have unforeseeable effects of their
own in the days to come. Considering the unusual duration of the
coming famine, and with Leningrad (Salisbury, 2003) as one of many
precursors, cannibalism may be significant; to what extent should
this be included in the calculation of "famine deaths"? In
any case, it is probably safe to say that an unusually large decline
in the population of a country will be the most significant indicator
that this predicted famine has in fact arrived.
These figures obliterate all previous estimates of future population
growth. Instead of a steady rise over the course of this century, as
generally predicted, there will be a clash of the two giant forces of
overpopulation and oil depletion, followed by a precipitous ride into
an unknown future.
If the above figures are fairly accurate, we are ill prepared for the
next few years. The problem of oil depletion turns out to be
something other than a bit of macabre speculation for people of the
distant future to deal with, but rather a sudden catastrophe that
will only be studied dispassionately long after the event itself has
occurred. The massive collapse of human population will be upon us
before we have had time to look at it carefully.
The world has certainly known some terrible famines in the past. In
recent centuries, one of the worst was that of North China in
1876-79, when between 9 and 13 million died, but India had a famine
at the same time, with perhaps 5 million deaths. The Soviet Union had
famine deaths of about 5 million in 1932-34, purely because of
misguided political policies. The worst famine in history was that of
China's Great Leap Forward, 1958-61, when perhaps 30 million died, as
A closer analogy to "petroleum famine" may be Ireland's
potato famine of the 1840s, since -- like petroleum -- it was a
single commodity that caused such devastation (Woodham-Smith, 1962).
The response of the British government at the time can be summarized
as a jumble of incompetence, frustration, and indecision, if not
The above predictions can be no more than approximate, but even the
most elaborate mathematics will not entirely help us to deal with the
great number of interacting factors. We need to swing toward a more
pessimistic figure for humanity's future if we include the effects of
war, disease, and so on. The most serious negative factor may be
largely sociological: To what extent can the oil industry maintain
the advanced technology required for drilling ever-deeper wells in
ever-more-remote places, when that industry will be struggling to
survive in a milieu of social chaos? Intricate division of labor,
large-scale government, and high-level education will no longer
On the other hand, there are elements of optimism that may need to be
plugged in. We must not forget the sheer tenacity of the human
species: we are intelligent social creatures living at the top of the
food chain, in the manner of wolves, yet we outnumber wolves
worldwide by about a million to one; we are as populous as rats or
mice. We can outrace a horse over long distances. Even with Stone-Age
technology, we can inhabit almost every environment on Earth, even if
the required survival skills have been largely forgotten.
If you're a typical member of modern industrial civilization, you've
spent your whole life living on food that was bought from a local
supermarket. However, there is no guarantee that such food will
always be available. The present world population is over 7 billion.
Food and fresh water are already in short supply, so how will people
survive? The world uses about 30 billion barrels of petroleum every
year, but the supply is running out, and all proposals for
alternative sources of energy on such a scale are just science
fiction; without oil and natural gas, there will be no fuel, no
plastics, no chemical fertilizer. For the last few decades, thanks to
globalization and automation, the problem of unemployment has been
horrendous, and thanks to uncontrolled speculation the global stock
market and the money market are starting to collapse. War is
everywhere, and it's no longer a simple case of nation against
nation, but of one linguistic or religious group against another, in
a vast anarchic tangle. No civilization lasts forever, and our own is
You might decide to look for a better way of life, to find a saner
connection to the natural world. Perhaps it's time to leave the busy
city for that strange, long-forgotten place called the countryside.
You would then need to find some other way to feed yourself and your
family. To do so, you would want to reduce your dependence on modern
equipment and chemicals, and to minimize the connection with the
elaborate webs that constitute modern economics and politics.
You'll probably find that it's cheaper to buy land with a house on
it, than to buy land and put a house on it later. The exception could
be the "fixer-upper"; beyond a certain stage of decay, a
house is not really a fixer-upper but a tearer-downer. A house that
cannot be repaired can easily ruin a marriage. Of course, if you're
20 years old or just short of cash, you could build yourself a
primitive log cabin instead, but frosty nights in a tiny hut can lose
their appeal after the first few weeks.
Try to live in an area where population density is low, but where the
soil and climate are still reasonable. Many parts of North America
might be suitable if you avoided the Boston-New-York-Washington
megalopolis. Many other countries also have good locations that would
reveal themselves after serious perusal of a few maps. It's the
hidden pockets of habitability that you should look for, the places
that are easily overlooked. Sometimes there are places within an
hour's drive from a city that are far more suitable than places that
are two hours away, simply because of what might be called accidents
of geography -- perhaps in the past there was nothing there to
interest the average farmer or miner, so the land was unexploited.
There are also many pro-and-con questions related to "proximity
to neighbors" you should look into. Having close neighbors makes
you less of a target for human predators, but then you have to hope
that the neighbors aren't worse than the predators. If at all
possible, try to move close to people you know and trust. Obvious
choices, if you have such an option, would be people related to you
by blood or marriage. Even "close friends" can be less
"friendly" as time goes by, whereas family members are
The most basic principle of post-oil living is that we have to start
thinking in terms of a smaller radius of activity. The globalized
economy has to be replaced by the localized economy. In the post-oil
world, most food will be produced at a local level. It is even likely
that each family will have to produce its own food. The catch in
growing food, however, is that most of the world's surface is
permanently unsuitable for growing food. In many cases, the climate
is too severe: too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. In other cases,
the land is too barren to support anything but a sparse growth of
wild plants, which in any case are simply growing and then dying and
replacing their own material. At the same time, the land that is
suitable for agriculture has been used for centuries, and the result
is that the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (N, P, K) and other
elements, as well as the humus, have long been depleted, and food
production has been maintained only by massive inputs of synthetic
fertilizer. In addition, that farmland is crowded and expensive.
But latter-day pioneers can take advantage of the process of
urbanization that has been characteristic of so many countries since
the Industrial Revolution; as people moved from the countryside to
the city, the result for those rural areas was sometimes not just a
relative decline in population, but an absolute one. The same process
is still underway. Even in highly developed countries, although the
cities may be crowded there are large rural areas (often marginal
uplands, admittedly) that are steadily losing population. Such
depopulation presents opportunities for those who are willing to face
People who live in the country will be better prepared than those who
live in the city. A city is a place that consumes a great deal and
produces little, at least in terms of essentials. A city without
incoming food or water collapses rapidly, whereas a small community
closely tied to the natural environment can more easily adjust to
technological and economic troubles. Even out in the country,
however, the present housing patterns often resemble the gasoline-
induced sprawl of the suburbs. More useful would be something
resembling a traditional village, with the houses at the focus and
the fields radiating from that point.
One catch to buying rural property is the laws: the building codes,
zoning restrictions, health codes, and so on. Once you decide to live
in anything more civilized than a beaver swamp, you are automatically
hit by the most amazing variety of laws. In plain English: it's
illegal to live in a log cabin. In most of Canada and the US, it's
against the law to live in a house that does not meet the
requirements of the standard building codes.
For the US, there are about three major building codes, for different
parts of the country. For Canada, there's only one code, with some
regional variations. But all of these codes are basically the same.
They all largely restrict housing to the familiar type of wood-frame
construction. They all have strict requirements for electricity and
plumbing. Don't think about living in a yurt, a teepee, a geodesic
dome, or an octagonal cabin, not unless you're miles from any road or
trail. A "log home" (versus a primitive log cabin) may be
permitted, but by the time you've conformed to all the laws the house
is not worth the bother; it's the same as a frame house but takes a
lot more wood. Even mobile homes are illegal in many areas, although
even in those areas you may get away with living in a "legal
non-conforming" mobile home, meaning a mobile home that was put
on the property before the building code was established in that
Rural properties nearly always need wells and septic systems, and the
construction of these will add another few thousand dollars in
expenses, although some areas still allow the old-fashioned pit-type
Exactly what is allowed is a difficult thing to say, because the laws
vary somewhat from one area to another. In the US, these laws are
determined by the county, while in Canada the decisions are made by
the township. There is no easy route: you need to check with the
clerks or inspectors of any and all areas that you are interested in.
But there really are not many places where there are no building
codes to deal with.
Such laws put back-to-the-landers in an ambivalent situation. People
who intend to live in the country are certainly "nature lovers,"
or they wouldn't be there in the first place. At the same time,
because of the horrors of global overpopulation,
resource-consumption, and environmental destruction, legislators
everywhere are introducing laws that severely restrict access to the
It's hard to say whether the present building codes and zoning
restrictions do more harm than good for people who want to live in
the country. Such rules certainly make life complicated -- and
expensive -- for the buyer. On the other hand, since your neighbors
have to follow the same laws, they ensure that you will not be
shocked by the sound, sight, or smell of whatever is going on down
the road. And if you buy a house, you can be fairly sure that it will
not blow down the next day.
To a large extent, the laws about rural property are simply ignored.
You need a building permit to do major renovations to your house, but
not small ones. The difference between the two often gets
intentionally blurred, and I know of one contractor who does his work
first and deals with any building inspector later. Often an owner and
an inspector get into a war of nerves; someone else I know kept up an
argument about whether his mobile home was permanent (hence illegal)
or temporary, until the inspector decided to try his luck elsewhere.
To a large extent, if none of your neighbors complain, it's quite
likely no one will ask you to stop what you're doing.
You might put together a shopping list that is roughly as follows: a
house or mobile home in fair condition that could be used for
year-round occupancy in accordance with the building code and other
local laws, a few acres of arable land, a year-round road, a well,
and a septic system. Electricity and a telephone would be desirable
but perhaps not essential. You might be looking for a house that
would cost about a quarter or an eighth of the price of a house in
the city -- even though the new house would have far more land.
When you start looking at properties, one of the trickiest questions
is water, and the topic often gets omitted from the advertising.
Unless a cottage or cabin is stated to have a well, then it probably
does not. If a rural house has no well, there is no guarantee that
you can drill for water later and actually find it. A hydrologist
could come and take a look and then make an educated guess. By
looking at surface water and neighboring properties, you could
probably make a good guess yourself. The presence of willows, alders,
cattails, reeds, rushes, and so on, would also indicate water --
perhaps too much. A test drill would give a definite answer, if you
were willing to pay for it. Other than that, there's always the
chance that there's no water below the surface.
Of course, one way of ensuring a water supply is to buy land that
adjoins a river or lake. Lake-shore property, however, is rarely
worth buying. It costs about 10 times as much as other land, and you
will be crammed in with other cottages and their attendant motorboats
and portable radios, unless the lake is only accessible by canoe --
in which case, you'll find it nearly impossible to build or renovate
a house. Property on a river or creek is somewhat less expensive, and
if the water is too shallow to be navigated by motorboat then the
land is less likely to be crowded.
The land has to be suitable for growing food. That means that you
should not buy bare rock; in fact, you should have at least a meter
of soil, so that the roots can grow long and deep in search of water
and minerals. It's possible to grow crops on about three meters of
land, but only if you irrigate (add water). Land that is too wet is
also unsuitable, because the crops will just rot; wet lands include
swamps (roughly speaking, wet land with sphagnum moss) and marshes
(roughly speaking, wet lands with cattails, rushes, or reeds). Land
covered by shrub willows and alders is likely to be underwater in the
spring. Flat land is fine, but make sure that it isn't in danger of
flooding. A gentle slope is really the ideal topography, since the
slope will ensure good drainage. Too much of a slope is not a good
thing, since you'll find all your soil washing away as soon as you
remove the grass; you could devise some sort of terracing,
Tibetan-style, by collecting stones from the fields, but to produce a
large enough garden by that method would entail an impossible amount
of labor. Land completely covered with trees would provide firewood
but make gardening difficult; the trees could be chopped down, but
removing the stumps would be a major task. On the other hand, don't
be discouraged by land that has three-meter-high weeds, since they
indicate fertile soil; it's land that has little or no vegetation
that should worry you. Whether the soil is clay or sand is not
terribly important, although somewhere between the two would be
preferable. Even land that has been "farmed out" --
impoverished by misuse -- should not necessarily be avoided, since
there are sometimes ways to improve the fertility of land.
There are a few pros and cons to living in different areas of North
America. The general rule is that west of the 100th meridian the US
is rather dry, so the availability of water becomes a primary
consideration. Anywhere in the Boston-New-York-Washington megalopolis
is too crowded. Generally speaking, I wouldn't look for land that was
within two hours' drive of a large city, because it would be too
expensive. Yet prices can be surprising: land within an hour's drive
of a big city is sometimes cheaper than similar property hundreds of
miles further north. Don't buy land right on a seacoast, because it
will be too rocky, and the salt in the air won't be good for your
You may want to ask a real-estate agent about any local problems with
crime. In rural areas, especially away from paved roads, it may take
a couple of hours for police to arrive, so stay away from such an
area if a family of crazies is already living there. (Conversely,
criminals like isolated areas precisely because they know it will
take time for the police to arrive.) In general, areas of poverty are
areas of high crime rates, even if it's politically incorrect to say
such a thing. And by crime, I don't mean the Mafia variety, but more
like what is called borderline criminality -- trespassing, noise,
petty fraud, and so on, things that wouldn't get much response from
the police but which can still be unpleasant for the victims.
The house should be in good condition, but it doesn't need to be
large. Urban houses today are nearly three times as large as those of
the 1950s and hold fewer people; don't get caught in the tide of
consumerism. The biggest question is: Are you going to buy a
ready-built house, or build a new one? Probably you're going to buy a
ready-made one, and there are two reasons for that.
The first is financial. It's generally cheaper to buy a house with
land, rather than to buy land and build a house later. That's
particularly true if you're buying a fair amount of land. If a farmer
is trying to get rid of a piece of vacant land, he can wait until
someone is willing to pay his price. If he's trying to get rid of a
piece of land that has a house on it, he's in a bit of a bind,
because he's going to be paying high taxes on it (well, higher than
on vacant land) every year until someone buys it. That problem of
taxes can work in your favor; the seller will keep his price low
enough that he can get rid of the property fairly quickly. That rule
isn't always true, by any means. Obviously the condition of the house
is a major variable, for one thing. But you'll probably find that a
house and land separately are more expensive than a house and land
Having said all that, though, I should point out some exceptions. For
one thing, you might not have the money to buy both land and a house,
in which case you might want to buy one at a time. Buying the two
separately might also give you more to choose from. Here in Canada,
for example, there are endless opportunities to buy vacant land
ranging in size from 10 acres to 50, with a good road adjoining the
land, and the list price will be about $10,000 in every case -- those
are Canadian dollars in the early twenty-first century, but they've
stayed fairly float for decades. You could camp on the land until you
had built a permanent home with some further cash. If you find an
area that is tolerant of mobile homes, you might find that the most
economical approach is to buy the land and later put in such a home.
The other reason why you would probably buy a ready-made house is
that it is difficult for one or two people to build a house that
meets the restrictions of today's building codes. I've met men and
women who've built their own homes, but such people are not common.
If you've spent a few years doing construction jobs, then you might
consider building a house with your own hands, but otherwise you're
facing quite a challenge. Building codes are complicated. Even if you
could follow the regulations, it would take a great many hours of
labor to finish the job.
Buying a house, rural or urban, involves a certain ritual, and to
deviate from that ritual can be fatal. If you see a listing that
tempts you, call the real-estate agent whose phone number is shown,
and make an appointment to look at the property. If possible, book
two or three trips in the same area on that same day. When the agent
shows you the property, have a good hard look at the house. Start by
having a look at the outside: if the walls are leaning or badly
cracked, the house cannot be repaired and should not be bought. Look
at the roof: if the shingles are so old and wrinkled that they look
like potato chips, then there's a fair chance that the plywood
underneath is rotten, which means thousands of dollars in repairs. Go
inside: any water stains on the ceiling or walls? If so, are the
stains still damp, or have the leaks been repaired? Check the floors:
if they sag like a trampoline, they're rotten. Check the plumbing
(turn on the taps, flush the toilet). Check the windows (are they
single pane or double, and what's the condition of the frames?). What
kind of electrical system is in place? Don't worry about dirt --
you're bound to find enough of that, especially if nobody is living
in the house -- but pay attention to serious defects that will need
to be fixed and that will therefore add to your labor or expenses.
There's a mysterious border between "fixable" and
"unfixable," and if you buy a house that's in the latter
category, you'll just end up reselling the place for less than you
paid. (None of that will bother your spouse, because he or she will
have left you by that point!) Then look at the land: is there really
enough arable land, enough water, enough sunlight?
Don't go on your gut feelings; it's far too easy to fall in love with
a property -- it's almost instinctive, that cave-dweller's craving
for a place of your own. The more practical approach would be to
start taking notes on the back of the listing page; by the time you
get home you'll have forgotten half of what you've seen.
It would probably be a good idea to hire a professional home
inspector, if you can find somebody in that area. Unfortunately, the
qualifications for that job are often rather vague, so try to get a
name from someone you trust. Make sure the inspector isn't also a
renovator, or you may get conned into repairs you don't need. If you
find someone reliable, make it a condition of the sale that the
inspector be allowed to look at the house and submit a written
You'll need a good wood-burning stove. You might not need what is
called a "wood-burning cook-stove," a 300-kg monster with
an oven, a hot-water reservoir, and so on. A small, simple, 150-kg
wood-burning heater can be used for boiling or frying, costs far less
than a cook-stove, and will heat an average-sized house, even up in
the northern parts of the continent.
If you're new to a certain area, it's considered ethical to shop
around from one agent to another for a while. Once an agent has taken
you on a number of trips, however, it's generally considered your
responsibility to stick with that agent. It's hard to say when such a
partnership begins, but if you're willing to place your inquiries
with one agent you'll find that the benefits are mutual -- loyal
customers tend to get better service. On the other hand, if you feel
that you're being taken on too many wild-goose chases, it may be
better to find another someone else.
Be careful with real-estate agents. Most are honest and efficient,
but some are better than others. Beware of agents who try to con you
with certain expressions. "This'll sell quickly. You'd better
put in an offer fast." "Don't worry about that clause. I
don't know about you city folks, but around here we generally settle
things with a handshake." "What do you mean, the roof is
caving in? What do you expect for that kind of money?" "Gee,
you want to see inside the place? What's the matter, you don't trust
In some places, real-estate agents must state whether they are acting
as vendors' agents or as buyers' agents -- i.e., whether they are
working for you or for the other party. The distinction is not
entirely necessary, since most areas have laws stating that agents
must fully disclose all relevant information; they aren't allowed to
tell lies or to omit critical facts.
If you find a property that seems to meet all your requirements, go
home. Take a deep breath. A day or two later, if you're still
convinced that the property is worth buying, call the agent and put
in an offer. How much to offer is always a difficult question. Very
roughly speaking, a property can be bought for about 80 percent of
its list price. But that's very rough. It may well be the case that
the owner is desperate to get rid of it, in which case you might even
get a 30 percent discount. Or the opposite can happen: maybe the
owner is quite happy to wait for ages until someone is willing to
cough up the asking price. That question of price involves some real
talent at haggling. It gets to be a war of nerves: you don't want to
pay the entire asking price, but you may still be afraid of letting a
nice piece of property slip through your hands. When you've told the
agent what you'd like to pay, you'll be sent a purchase-offer
document, with standard clauses inserted, and of course with your
name and your offering price.
Be certain to give this paper to a lawyer before you sign anything.
Yes, you'll have to pay the lawyer a few hundred dollars to do all
the legal work, but it still works out to be cheap insurance. You'll
save yourself a lot of suffering if a lawyer can spot errors right
away; six months later is not a good time to find out that you don't
own what you thought you owned.
During the negotiations, don't be shy about calling that lawyer.
You're paying him or her to do a job, so you have a right to ask
questions. Don't sit by the phone, waiting for the lawyer to call you
instead; your phone may never ring. Some lawyers do an excellent job,
whereas others seem to think they're being paid hundreds of dollars
just to sign a piece of paper. For various reasons, lawyers sometimes
take on too many clients, which again means your case might not get
much attention if you say nothing. In any case, informed questions
get better responses than dumb ones, so read the purchase agreement
carefully; if you don't understand the terminology, go to a library
or bookstore and get a few books on the subject of real estate.
Be especially careful with all clauses involving wells and septic
systems. Is it a dug well or a drilled well? What kind of pump does
it have? Get a potability test. What kind of septic system is
installed? How old are the well and septic system? Ask your lawyer to
get copies of all relevant documents regarding construction and
If both you and the lawyer are satisfied with the purchase offer,
sign it and fax it back to the agent. The offer will mention three
dates: the irrevocable date (the last date on which the vendor can
agree to your offer), the title-search date (the latest date on which
your lawyer can check the title), and the most important one, the
closing date (when you officially take possession, which can be
anywhere from one month to three months after you sign the offer).
The agent will show the offer to the vendor. If the vendor is
satisfied, he or she also signs the offer, and it is sent back to
you. There may be some last-minute haggling, but at some point both
parties have to decide when to stop quibbling and just sign the
paper. Practically speaking, the property is now yours. You must then
send a deposit to the agent (whatever deposit amount you stated in
the offer). If you need a mortgage, you must be sure that your bank
is ready to lend you the money, although the general agreement with
the bank should have been worked out even before you started looking
Now that the property is yours, you can start thinking about the
future. Ideally, you should have plenty of time to clean the new
house thoroughly before you move in. When the cleaning is finished,
paint anything that needs to be painted. Keep the paint simple, and
don't get involved with wallpaper, because it takes longer and costs
more. When the painting is finished, you can move in the furniture.
And unless there's snow on the ground, you can start preparing a
hardly ever use my car during the week, because from home to the
library (my no-rent office) is only about a half-hour's walk (my
no-fee fitness program). But when walking home recently I stopped at
the Canadian Tire hardware store for ten minutes of assembling a
shopping list. I already have good boots, sleeping bag, parka, knife,
compass, backpacks, tarpaulin, rope, etc. (and I usually don't leave
home without at least a small knife and matches), so they weren't on
the list. I still need a gun -- maybe start with a single-shot .22,
though I'm trying to avoid spending money, having had almost no
income for three years. But two items I liked at the store were:
A medium-sized ax with two-and-a-half pound head. Small enough to
carry, but big enough to be useful. (That weight is recommended in
Ellsworth Jaeger's Wildwood Wisdom, which looks like a book
for teenagers but is actually far more than that.) About $30.
A Rappala all-in-one fishing kit, the whole thing in a plastic
package. The rod is take-apart, so it's easy to carry in a car or
knapsack. I'd go for a spinning (open) reel, not any other kind. Also
looks like kid stuff, but might do better than a stick, a string, and
a bent nail. Also about $30.
of the above, including the fishing kit and the ax, would fit in (or
on) my best backpack, from Mountain Equipment Co-op (well over $100
when I bought it many years ago). I might stop at Canadian Tire some
other day also. But I must avoid the common myth that a true
"survivalist" is the one who has thousands of dollars of
high-tech gear but no real knowledge to go with it.
After the initial day of Peter's Ten-Minute Survival Window Shopping
Program (PTMSWSP), I realized that all the things I have, plus the
two things from Canadian Tire, might fit in, on, or under my
knapsack, but my knees would buckle after walking two steps.
that leads to the question of the famous bug-out kit everyone talks
about. Seems to me that in summer a great deal could be left behind,
but then what do you do as winter approaches and you have no winter
sleeping bag and so on?
any case, it also seems that a bug-out kit that takes the form of a
box or bag is only of use if you're planning to build a log cabin or
something right where you've parked the car. Then why not put up a
sign saying "Please Rob Me"? Whereas if you intend to leave
the car behind and head off on a less-traveled path, you'll have to
rely on a very good backpack and the (relatively) little that it
would hold. I know the old story of the Indian woman who escaped from
enemies and spent the winter making a shelter, traps, etc. with only
a knife, but I personally don't think I'd last more than five minutes
in a snowstorm, without a good deal of modern equipment. Well, OK, in
a snowstorm I'd start by getting under the snow, not over it -- I've
built some nice snow shelters over the years. So maybe I'd survive.
of the story? Instead of focusing so much on a bug-out kit, maybe
build a cache, storing what you need in some way that everything
would be hidden and protected from human and animal thieves, for
years if necessary.
my near-north days I bought some old crosscut saws, all of them well
over four or five feet long, cleaned off the rust as much as
possible, and tried sawing. I was defeated to some extent because I
couldn't get rid of the pitting. I finally learned that Lehman's
(on-line) sells brand-new timber saws, and that they're said to cut
much faster than a bow (Swede) saw, at least if they're oiled before
use. I meant to order one, but then I ended up in Oman for three
years (from which I am still recovering, mentally and otherwise). But
I hope one day I can get one of those new crosscut saws.
mentioned that, instead of thinking so much in terms of backpacks or
bug-out kits, using a canoe might be a good idea, because canoes can
go where cars cannot, and because they can be paddled, carried, or
dragged. I've always liked canoes myself. Good thinking. And I agree
that canoes can go where other things can't. In fact there are many
rivers or streams where canoes can go but a motorboat wouldn't have
room, in terms of either depth or width. Certainly you're not likely
to be followed.
dilemma I have at the moment, though, is that the cheap land is all
on the East Coast (more like latitude 45 than 49), and the land there
is also good farming land. There are a few catches. One is that it's
a fair distance from my present neck of the woods (in Ontario), so
not suitable for weekend visits. The other is that the East Coast has
terrible poverty (not mentioned on TV), which in turn means a high
crime rate. In Nova Scotia, when I was there, it seemed people made a
living largely from marijuana-growing and from deer-poaching. (Been
following some other people who also moved out there recently.) Most
of Ontario is just rock, on the other hand, but hunting and fishing
would be possibilities, at least north of Kapuskasing, Cochrane, and
Cobalt, which are OK if you like eight months of winter. So there are
pros and cons of everywhere.
heard that the high prices of property in Canada are due to the high
immigration rate, causing competition for whatever is available. So
there's a curious bit of tension likely to build up for that reason.
In addition, if the Energy East pipeline goes through to New
Brunswick, that might create jobs and reduce poverty there, but also
increase the price of land. Some big unknowns. Of course, that leads
to the bigger question of whether in an Apocalyptic moment it would
be worth the bother to be buying or owning land. Maybe the smart ones
would be squatting, to use a good UK English word.
questioned my mention of a .22 that's merely single-shot. Such a gun
is lightweight, and simple enough not to go wrong. For hunting it's
fine -- if you can't hit something with the first shot, you're doing
something wrong. But for self-defense, I admit, a single-shot .22 is
questionable, especially if the bad guys have something more
are quite restricted here in Canada, "long guns" are
available for anyone who has a firearms license, although getting
such a thing involves taking a course and passing a fairly difficult
test. I've owned guns at various times here over the years, and
lately I've been thinking of buying land again and feeding myself
partly by hunting. I suppose if all hell broke lose -- which I
suspect will be the case -- then a hunting rifle might end up being
used also as an instrument of self-defense.
I went looking at
bolt-action deer rifles in Canadian Tire, Canada's biggest
hardware-store chain, basically the only gun supplier in this town. I
discovered that it's impossible to buy any gun made by Winchester,
including .308 (perhaps the most desirable caliber) at least until
2015. Winchester guns are made in Japan, and the earthquake put them
about two years behind in production -- one more piece of information
Bolt action is the
most reliable, especially for a future world where gunsmiths will not
be found so easily, and the two of the best brands have always been
Remington and Winchester. The Remington 700 in .308 is still
available here in Canada. With no extras, the price is over $500. The
Savage 110 in .270 (not .308) caliber is available in .270 caliber,
but that caliber of ammunition is less readily available than .308.
Canadian Tire doesn't sell any Rugers.
There's also a Chinese gun in .308 caliber, much cheaper than
Remington and Winchester. That's the JW 15
model made by Norinco. A trustworthy military friend of mine (US
Army, retired) says the gun is actually a very good one. It's
sold at Canadian Tire.
Canadian Tire sells
no single-shot .22 rifles, at least at the moment, even though such
things have always been popular as "survival guns." (The
Winchester Cooey was very popular in Canada, and I owned one myself
for many years.) They sell the Savage bolt-action (not single shot)
.22 for about $200 or $300.
A 12-gauge shotgun is hard to beat, especially in terms of power. But
the ammo is heavy and bulky, and I wouldn't try to hit anything more
than 50 meters away. But for self-defense, a
12-gauge shotgun would be a good choice, as any police officer can
tell you. For either hunting or self-defense, I wouldn't bother with
anything smaller than 12-gauge, it's pointless -- a 12 gauge can do
anything a smaller gauge can do, using a variety of ammunition, so
any other gauge has no advantages. For the totally uninitiated:
shotguns not only fire shells containing shot (each shell has many
little balls of lead) but also slugs (shells containing a big
hemispherical projectile). Slugs can be useful for deer, moose, or
bear, at fairly short distances.
Police officers seem to prefer shotguns, especially pump action (for
getting a second or third shot off quickly) with short barrels. I saw
police car in Toronto once, with a trunk-load of such things. Don't
ask me what they were doing. Times have changed. Toronto used to be
the sort of place where you could drop a five-dollar bill on the
sidewalk and come back the next day and pick it up.
My military friend
recommends a .308 or thereabouts as a self-defense weapon, besides as
a deer rifle. There's a good deal of difference between a .308 and a
.22, though. A .308 cartridge is about the size of a finger, whereas
a .22 cartridge is about the size of the filter of a cigarette. Also,
there's the .22 short ammunition (mainly for target practice) and the
.22 long rifle (.22 LR), which is suitable for various kinds of small
I've heard that a .22 handgun is
popular with professional killers, partly because it's so quiet, and
partly because one or two in the temple have the effect of rattling
around and doing a lot of damage. How much of that is folklore is
something I can't say.
don't own any guns these days, but if I bought land again perhaps my
first gun would be the same as the first one I had as a teenager -- a
single-shot .22. It's cheap, it's lightweight, and it has almost no
parts to go wrong. It would certainly be suitable for hunting rabbits
and similar game. Because I don't have a
gun right now, though, I worry somewhat about the possibility that
prices will get too high, or that laws will suddenly change. Still, I
must be sure never to lose my license to own a gun -- at least as
long as there are such things as laws. Not too far north of the US
border, gardening wouldn't be so easy, and most people who live there
rely on hunting to supplement the food supply.
Never mind. At the
End of the World as We Know It, maybe we can just sit in the drive-in
lane at the nearest hamburger franchise, and hope something comes
along. I guess if God had wanted us to use our feet and go on long
hikes through the woods, he wouldn't have made us with car seats
stuck to our asses.
A fire is made of
three parts: the tinder, the kindling, and the main fuel. The tinder
is some sort of fine material that burns easily, such as shredded
bark. The kindling is slightly heavier material, such as twigs. To
start a fire, place a small wad of tinder in the center of the
fireplace, pile a little tepee of twigs over it, and light it. When
the twigs are burning well, the main fuel goes on: the logs. If you
don't add enough wood to a fire, it will go out, but a fire will go
out just as easily if you add too much wood too quickly. Make sure
that the wood that is already on the fire is blazing well before you
add any more.
A fireplace can be
quite simple, just a ring of heavy stones, or perhaps a mound of
stones. The stones help to keep in the heat of the fire, so that even
in the morning there will be a few sparks still glowing. Whoever
wakes up first can drop a few pieces of tinder on those sparks and
blow gently until a new fire begins to blaze.
Your main fuel
should be from standing dead trees and dead branches. It's often
possible to get enough wood just by breaking it with your hands; an
ax or saw isn't always necessary.
In many primitive
cultures, meat is generally boiled, whereas modern people are more
likely to prepare meat by roasting it. Clay pots can be used to boil
food, and the pot is usually placed right on the ground, with a ring
of fire built around it.
In some parts of the
world there is no clay, and sometimes people move around a good deal
and don't want to be carrying anything as heavy as a clay pot. So
instead, they boil food either in very tightly woven baskets or in
containers made of sheets of birch bark. (On the Northwest Coast of
North America, Indians used wooden boxes. The Plains Indians just dug
a shallow pit and lined it with a piece of rawhide.) These baskets
aren't usually placed directly on the flames. Instead, rocks are
heated in the fire. Wooden tongs are then used to pick a hot stone
out of the fire and drop it into the water and food in the basket.
The rock might be rolled around to prevent it from burning straight
through the bottom of the basket. When that rock cools, it can be
lifted out and another one added. This method sounds rather
primitive, but it really doesn't take long to get food to boil by
this method. Don't use rocks that have been lying in water, because
they might explode, and don't use sandstone, because it will crumble.
Quartz and flint are also inclined to explode.
If you prefer to
roast meat, though, stick it on a wooden spit and hold it over the
flames. You can also bake meat, by wrapping it in large leaves, such
as corn husks or skunk-cabbage leaves, and burying it in the ashes of
a good hard-wood fire that has burned long enough to be mostly coals
and ashes rather than bright flames.
Another method of
cooking involves using a pit. This pit might be anywhere from 3 to 10
feet (1 to 3 m) in depth. A fire is built and lit at the bottom of
the pit, and large stones are placed on the fire to heat. When the
stones are red hot, the coals and any remaining unburned wood are
removed from the pit, or at least pushed around until flames have
died down. The food is placed on top of the stones, perhaps after
being wrapped in leaves. Everything is covered with some sort of
vegetation, such as bark or grass, and soil is piled over the top of
this. The pit is left for a few hours. The temperature of the rocks
is always slowly going down, so there is little chance of the food
being burned. Some kinds of food are left for days in these pits.
Since the making of these pits involves a certain amount of work,
this kind of cooking tends to be a community affair.
On the seacoast, a
variation of the pit cooking is pit steaming. The pit is dug in the
usual way, the rocks are heated by a fire, and the food is added, but
wet seaweed is piled on top of the food before the whole thing is
covered with soil. The rocks heat the seaweed and create a lot of
steam, and it is the steam which cooks the food. This technique is
used nowadays in seaside clam bakes.
There is another way
of pit steaming. Again, the pit is dug, and the rocks are heated in a
fire, and the food is added. But while the dirt is being put in, a
stick is placed so that it stands straight up in the middle of the
mound. When all the dirt has been put on, the stick is carefully
pulled out, so that there is a hole leading down towards the food.
Water is poured down this hole, and as it hits the rocks down below,
it creates steam.
A new fire can be
started from the sparks of an older fire, or from a neighbor's fire.
If you're traveling, you can carry a piece of cedar-bark or
sagebrush-bark rope (or just a wad of the bark, hidden in a clam
shell or other fireproof container). This rope can be lit before you
go on the trip, and if it is watched carefully it will stay lit
throughout the journey, so that it can be used to start a fire when
camp is finally made. It isn't kept burning as a flame, but only
smoldering, like a cigarette. But there are times when no spark is
available, and it is necessary to create a new one.
A spark can be
created by striking together two pieces of flint or quartz. A
simpler, slightly more modern technique is to use a piece of flint
and a piece of steel; an old file works very well. Hold one stone in
your left hand (if you're right-handed), with your palm up, and place
a ball of very fine tinder in that same hand: puffball spores or
pulverized rotten wood, for example. The inner bark of cedar will
work, but it will need to be almost powdered. Strike the left-hand
stone with another one in your right hand, letting the sparks drop
onto the tinder until it starts to smolder. When it does, blow on it
until you get a flame.
Another device is a
wooden fire kit. It is shaped like a drill, which spins in a hole on
a piece of board. As the drill spins in the hole, it creates
friction, and the friction causes the wood to heat up. If the drill
is spun fast enough and long enough, the heat will cause the tinder
to start smoking, until finally a red spark will start to glow. There
are several kinds of fire kits, but a common sort is used with a bow
that makes the drill turn.
This sort of fire
kit has 4 parts. The first part is the drill itself, which is a stick
about 2 feet (60 cm) long and about as thick as your thumb. The
second part is the hearth, which is a flat piece of wood placed on
the ground, and which has an indentation that the drill is fitted
into. The third part is the bow, which has a string that wraps around
the drill to make it spin. The fourth part is the socket, which is a
little piece of wood, bone, or stone that holds the top of the drill
If you want to make
a fire kit, you need to look for the right kind of wood. Several
different kinds of wood can be used, but some are more useful than
others. The drill and the hearth can be made out of the same kind of
wood, or you may prefer to use a hard wood for the drill and a softer
wood for the hearth. You might want to use two good pieces of willow
or poplar, which are fairly soft woods. Other good kinds of wood are
pine or cedar. (There are several kinds of trees called "cedar"
-- eastern white cedar, eastern red cedar, western yellow cedar. They
aren't really related to each other, but they all do well for making
fire kits.) In North America, other useful types of wood are ash,
oak, basswood, slippery elm, and sassafras.
The type of wood you
use is important, but what is more important is that the wood must be
dead and dry -- very dry. Indians sometimes used rotten wood for the
hearth, finding that this heated up more quickly than sound wood.
They also often held the drill and the hearth over a flame before
putting it away, finding that the charring made the drill work better
the next time.
The drill is, as I
said, about 2 feet (60 cm) long, and it should be thick enough that
it won't bend as it spins. You could just make the drill out of a
twig with the bark peeled off, but you can make a stronger drill if
you split a log into quarters and then split out a piece of heartwood
of the right thickness and whittle it to shape. In fact, it's better
if the drill isn't rounded -- give it flat sides, like the sides of a
pencil. That way the bowstring will be able to grip the drill better
The bottom end of
the drill should be cut to a rounded shape, but leave it quite blunt.
That's the part that will fit into the hearth, and you need it blunt
so that it will rub a lot. The top end of the drill, however, should
be cut to a fairly sharp point, because that's the part that fits
into the socket, and you want that part to turn smoothly.
The hearth is a flat
board about as long as the drill, 2 or 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) wide, and
about ½ inch or an inch (1-2.5 cm) thick. Like the drill, it should
be split out of a log if possible, although it's true that a hearth
can made just by splitting a thick branch in half. Using a knife,
drill a shallow hole very near the side of the hearth. Make the hole
about ¼ inch (6 mm) deep, and about ½ inch (1 cm) wide. This is the
hole that the bottom of the drill is going to fit into. The drill
shouldn't go very far down into the hole. Then turn the hearth on its
side and cut a big notch right into the side, so that the notch cuts
right into the center of that shallow hole you had cut for the drill.
The notch will allow the heat from the bottom of the drill to reach
the tinder you'll be placing there.
The socket, on top
of the drill, can be any old shape, but it needs to fit comfortably
under your left hand (if you're left-handed), and it needs to have a
small hole underneath it to hold the sharp-pointed top of the drill.
The socket can be made out of a piece of hard wood, perhaps a knot,
but a piece of bone would be better. If you can find a smooth stone
of the right shape, with a little hole on one side, you're in luck.
The bow should be a
bent piece of wood about 2 feet (60 cm) long, roughly the same length
as the drill and the hearth. Some bows are made out of flexible wood,
but a curved piece of a stiff dead branch is better. Cut a notch in a
circle around each end of the bow, and fasten a cord to these ends.
The cord needs to be strong, and a rawhide thong would be perfect. It
should sag quite a bit, because it needs to wrapped around the drill.
Now that your fire
kit is finished, you need some tinder to go with it. Once again the
various trees called cedars are all useful; get some inner bark from
one of these trees, preferably from a dead tree, and pull it to
shreds or rub it between your hands until the fibers are well
separated. You could also use the bark of white birch, either the
outer bark, pulled into fine shreds, or the dark inner bark, used the
same way. Pulverized rotten wood works well, and very dry grass or
moss will work if you rub it enough to break it up somewhat (mouse
nests and some bird nests are made of well-frayed grass). Or you can
pulverize various kinds of bracket fungi, which are hard growths that
take the form of shelves or plates growing on the sides of trees; the
kinds that grow on white birch are quite good, and the wood where the
birch fungus "roots" have penetrated also makes good
tinder. In western North America you can use a kind of shrub called
big sagebrush. You can also use the dried fibers of Indian hemp,
which is also one of the best materials for making rope. A piece of
cotton cloth that has been set on fire and stamped on (so that it is
well blackened but not burned to ashes) makes good tinder material.
Put together some
twigs for a fire, arranged in a tepee form, and have some tinder
ready. Do this before you start trying to create a spark, because
you'll be too busy afterward. Now put your fire kit together. Put the
hearth on the ground, with the "hole side" to the right.
Put a small piece of bark under the hole, to catch the spark. Put
your left foot on the hearth to hold it down. Hold the drill in your
left hand, and the bow in your right hand (if you're right-handed).
Put the drill against the bowstring and twist it once around the
string. The twist has to be the right way, so that the nearer half of
the bowstring is higher than the other half; if you put the twist in
the wrong way, the string will rub against itself and eventually
break. Put the bottom of the drill into the hole in the hearth. Then
put the socket onto the top of the drill. You might also try putting
a few grains of sand into the hole on the hearth, to increase the
friction on the bottom of the drill.
Hold the bowstring
with the tips of your fingers, so that the string grips the drill
tightly. Start pushing the bow back and forth, so that the drill also
turns back and forth. Keep the drill held down with your left hand,
but use a moderate amount of pressure. If you don't press hard
enough, you won't be able to create any heat, but if you press too
hard, the drill won't turn properly. Keep sawing back and forth,
keeping up a reasonable speed. If you go too fast, you're going to
tire yourself out before you've created a spark, so don't overdo it.
It takes a fair amount of practice to get the right motion, but if
you've got it right, within a few minutes you'll see a thin gray wisp
of smoke curling up from the tinder.
This first wisp of
smoke won't be enough to start a fire, but if you keep going, the
gray smoke will turn into a much thicker curl of black smoke, and
this means that the center of the wood-powder is actually starting to
Now put down the bow
and drill. Pick up the piece of bark with the burning powder and drop
the powder into a wad of tinder. Blow gently on the tinder, so that
the spark begins to glow more brightly. If you've got to that stage,
it shouldn't be more than a few seconds before the tinder actually
bursts into flames. As soon as that happens, put the tinder under the
tepee of twigs in the fireplace and blow or fan the fire until it's
help from The People's Common Sense Medical Adviser in Plain
English, by R. V. Pierce. His comments are in bold.There are some beneficial herbs that one is NOT likely to find in the books
on herbal medicine now available in libraries and book-stores.
Perhaps the main reason for their absence is that the most powerful
medicines (especially in the wrong doses) tend to be the most toxic
and are therefore under legal controls. These same medicines,
however, are generally also psychotropic drugs -- "recreational
drugs" -- and so the reason for their banishment may be as much
moralistic as medical. Yet these plants were commonly described in
"family medical guides" from before about 1920. The
following is intended only for academic interest, with relevance to
issues of post-collapse living. None of these plants should be
utilized without professional medical guidance.
scientific names and the common English names are included below,
although common names are confusing because one species may have
several common names, or one common name may be applied to several
(Hyoscyamus Niger), commonly known as Henbane. The herb is used. It
is a powerful narcotic, and unlike Opium, does not constipate the
bowels, but possesses a laxative tendency. Therefore, it may be
employed as an anodyne for allaying pain, calming the mind, inducing
sleep and arresting spasms, when opiates are inadmissible. Dose--Of
alcoholic extract, one-half to two grains; of fluid extract, five to
of the concentrated principle, Hyoscyamin, one-twelfth to one-fourth
of a grain.
Nightshade (Atropa belladonna).
to be confused with several other plants also called nightshade.
(Atropa Belladonna) or Deadly Nightshade. The herb or leaves are a
valuable agent. In overdoses, it is an energetic, narcotic poison. In
medicinal doses it is anodyne, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, and
diuretic. It is excellent in neuralgia, epilepsy, mania, amaurosis,
whooping-cough, stricture, rigidity of the os uteri, and is supposed
by some to be a prophylactic or preventive of Scarlet Fever. Its
influence upon the nerve centers is remarkable. It relaxes the blood
vessels on the surface of the body and induces capillary congestion,
redness of the eye, scarlet appearance of the face, tongue, and body.
Dose--Of fluid extract, one-half to one drop; of tincture, one to two
drops; of concentrated principle, Atropin, one-thirtieth to
one-sixteenth of a grain; of the Alkaloid, Atropia, one-sixtieth of a
grain. Even the most skillful chemists are very cautious in
compounding these latter active principles, and the danger of an
overdose is great.
Weed (Datura stramonium). Family Solanaceae.
(Datura Stramonium). Stramonium, also known as Thorn-apple, in large
doses is a powerful narcotic poison. In medicinal doses it acts as an
anodyne and antispasmodic. Dose--Of
extract of the leaves, from one-half to one grain; of the fluid
extract, from three to six drops.
(Aconitum spp.) Family Solanaceae.
(Aconitum Napellus). The parts used are the root and leaves. Aconite
slows the pulse, diminishes arterial tension, and lowers the
temperature of the body in fevers. It is an effectual remedy in acute
inflammation of the tonsils and throat, in acute bronchitis, in
inflammation of the lungs, and pleurisy, in the hot stage of
intermittent and remittent fevers, in the eruptive fevers, in fever
arising from a cold, and in some forms of neuralgia. Acute
suppression of the menses from a cold, may be relieved by the
tincture of aconite in drop doses every hour. Dose--Of the tincture
of the root, from one-half of a drop to two drops, in a spoonful of
water, in acute fevers and inflammations, from one-half drop to one
drop should be administered every
half hour or hour, according to the severity of the symptoms.
(Digitalis spp.). Family Plantaginaceae.
(Digitalis purpurea) slows the action of the heart, lowers the
temperature, and acts indirectly as a diuretic. It is especially
valuable in the treatment of scarlet fever and in dropsy. Dose--Of
infusion, one-half drachm to one-half ounce; of the fluid extract or
strong tincture, from two to ten drops. It should be used with
caution. A poultice made of the leaves and placed over the kidneys is
method of employing the drug.
(Papaver somniferum). Family Papaveraceae. The source of
(Papaver Somniferum). Opium is a stimulant, anodyne, or narcotic,
according to the size of the dose administered. Dose--Of the dry
powder, one-fourth to one grain; of tincture (Laudanum), five to
fifteen drops; of camphorated tincture (Paregoric), one-half to one
teaspoonful; of Morphine, one-eighth to one-fourth grain; of Dover's
three to five grains.
Hemp (Cannabis indica). Family Cannabaceae. Closely related to
marijuana, Cannabis sativa. Not
to be confused with another "Indian Hemp," the completely
unrelated Apocynum cannabinum.
HEMP (Cannabis Indica). An East Indian plant. Dose--Of the extract,
from one-fourth to one-half grain, of the tincture, from three to
eight drops; of the fluid extract, from two to five drops. The plant
known as Indian Hemp, growing in this country, possesses very
curious that the first three above all belong to the same family, the
Solanaceae, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, and tobacco, all
of which are also toxic, at least in certain parts of the plant. Yet
those first three in the list above were extensively used, in the
right dosages, as pain relievers (aka analgesics, anodynes,
is famous for treatment of heart problems. Opium and Indian hemp are
pain-relievers or have other beneficial effects on the nervous
revival of the use of these plants would obviously have to take into
consideration the fact that the wrong application could be toxic or
even fatal. Yet the fact remains that they are more powerful than
less tightly controlled herbal remedies. Any future breakdown of
social order, perhaps to the point where there is a complete
collapse of formal medical systems, might be ameliorated by an
understanding of these older remedies.