Dinner conversation


We had dinner last night at a neighbor’s.  She is almost finished building her new cabin and we discussed building, batteries, off-the-grid electrics, propane fridges and the like across the table for most of the time – the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) for the balance of the time.   All in all, a very nice evening was had by all.

She, of course, was regaling us with typical-of-the-new-builder anecdotes of ‘discovering’ the complications and mysteries of building.  We all do that.  In fact, because we all build our own places and it is usually for the first time, construction, off-the-grid appliances and logistical, skill and financial challenges and our inevitable screw-ups dominate most dinner time conversations at most social gatherings.

We have all been at that stage at one time or another.  Doesn’t matter what stage it is. And, as the years wear on, so do the stages…….we seem to be in one or another all the time.

Evening entertainment, however, is simple and easily engaged.  If we are invited to someone’s home a lot of time is spent looking at drywall joints and plumbing fixtures.  How do the railings match up?  Woodstove installations and propane appliance installations are right up there with roofing, decking, flooring and how much food storage one has in mind.

Where, in the city, guests might marvel at the view, praise an object of art or comment at length on the home theatre system, country folk might crawl under the house to see the new water tank installation or turn the fridge upside down in an effort  to get it working again (it sometimes works for propane powered fridges, never electrical.  File that away or you can look foolish).

Entertaining guests is different out here.

Probably batteries and their unique personalities (they are supposed to be inanimate but we have our suspicions) is the top topic but the list changes as the host’s work-on-the-cabin progresses so we – those who have gone before – tend to go with the conversational flow most of the time.  It’s not hard.  I could talk about chopping wood for hours.  Give me plumbing as a topic and a secretary and I could write a book (not one that anyone would read- but I could).  Hell, just getting water would be half the book and getting rid of it would be a lot of the second half!

But last night also included a little TEOTWAWKI.  Comes with the territory.  I mean think about:  if you are thinking that the world as we know it might end and you are in the process of building your new cabin, it only makes sense to discuss ways of surviving the end of days and, perhaps, what design changes might suit the new situation, right?  So we talk about water storage, food storage and, of course, power, fuel and a smidge of self-defense.

Now don’t go misunderstanding me; there are plenty of design tangents that cover paint colour, capturing the afternoon light, where to place the bed and throw-cushions.  We aren’t barabarians!

But, if TEOTWAWKI is raised, we have to address the fundamentals.  We get back to the basics.  No more Mr. Nice-design Guy! 

“Look, forget about having an armory.  Your basic protection from the starving, half-mad ravaging hordes is the water between you.  If a guy wants to attack you and take your carrots, he has to have a boat, fuel, arms and a lot of time just to get here.  It is much easier for the panicked killer to pillage his own cul-de-sac first.  Why would he bother to travel for days to get your carrots? 

“Of course, there will be a few, so you need a shotgun at the very least, but it is too hard to move hordes around with the price of fuel being what it is.  Tough logistics.  That kind of expertise went out with Ghengis Khan.  We don’t know from horde management nowadays.  Maybe the Bedouins….or, perhaps, the gypsies…I don’t know, really…….but we think we are pretty safe from hordes.”

“But hoarding is another matter altogether.  One has to hoard.  De rigeur.  We figure three months good-eating food storage, six months of tins, beans and rice.  It is simply not possible to store enough scotch so there is no limit on that.  Just try your best.  And you may need a lot more bullets.”

“But you just said that I didn’t have to worry about the hordes!?”

“True!  But you need a currency, don’t you?  You need to be able to ‘trade’ or ‘buy’ stuff even when it is TEOTWAWKI.  Paper money won’t do anyone any good and very few have silver and gold so that fact alone restricts the use of those two.  No, you’ll barter mostly. Your carrots for their chicken – that sort of thing.  But, where you need to ‘balance out’ the barter, bullets will always be valued.  I recommend a stock-pile of .22s.  You see, push comes to shove, you can also shoot the bullet and take the chicken.  Either way, you come out ahead.”

“Wow!  Good thinking.  What else you got?”

“You got a home surgery kit?”

1 thought on “Dinner conversation

  1. I like the ironic mask as much as the next guy but there are some cards to be laid on the table. All homes require maintenance and personalizing and unless one has a bin of money these required tasks will be DIY. I love drywall as much as the next guy and the bonus is that over the years I’ve improved. I’ve got to the point of virtually no sanding of joints. I admit that pulling permits and having the building inspector around is no fun but it is de rigeur. Building one’s home and maintaining it is in the top ten pleasures of life or maybe the top twenty pleasures. You get the idea somewhere behind single malt, sleeping, a great lunch not made by me, somewhere up there you know like boat maintenance…ya fun like that!


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