Letter Re: Labor Requirements Expectations, Post Collapse

Hello James:

This letter is an attempt to throw some stakes into the ground that might serve as  a realistic basis for “expectation management”.

People’s ability to soldier onward under adverse conditions is very closely tied to the alignment (or gap) between expectations and the reality of the moment.   People who have had every advantage have given up and committed suicide because their expectation was that they were destined to become the Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 500 company before their 45th birthday.  Others greet every morning with relentless cheerfulness even though their day meant 10 hours of mopping floors, because mopping floors was better than what they expected….at least they were not on their knees scrubbing.

So what might a post-whatever lifestyle look like from a work standpoint?  That is pretty easy to describe if we use a 1880-1920 life style as a basis.  There are ample ergonomic studies from the period and, more recently, sports fitness studies of Old Order Amish.

In a very, very condensed form, expect an amount of physical effort that is the equivalent of walking between 10 and 18 miles, 6 days out of the week.  Younger men will be closer to  18 miles a day (6 hours of walking).  Older men (over 55) and women will be closer to the 10 miles a day (3 hours of walking). 

If you are lucky enough to have tools that are appropriately designed for post-whatever, and if you have draft animals, you can cut those estimates by 50%.

If you are cutting firewood with a hand-saw you might be able to cut wood 3 hours a day if you do no other work.  That is why you will configure your work space (yard) so you can squeeze in 30 minutes of wood cutting every cool evening.  You cannot afford to only do 3 hours of productive work in a day because there will be so many other demands on your time.  You will likely be lamed up by the second day due to the unusual muscle groups you over-stress in 3 hours of hand sawing.  You will move your woodshed close to the house because you will not be able to afford a long walk time (wasted time) if you are only going to make 30 minutes of sawdust.

You will fantasize about wood stoves that can use longer pieces of wood.

The math of physical work is that most of the energy burn is in moving your own body-weight.  A 160 pound man carrying a 40 pound pack is burning 80% of his Calories moving his body and 25% moving wheat, or wood, or fertilizer.  You will find yourself becoming  very inventive at packing-and-strapping to get the optimum load per trip.  You will fantasize about carts, wagons, wheelbarrows and burros.

You will never find yourself walking anywhere without carrying something…and at best carrying something in each direction.  It is not unheard of to put the woodshed between the outhouse and the dwelling.  Putting the woodshed on skids means that you can move the woodshed when you move the outhouse.

“Modern” ergonomics is now heart-rate based because there are factors that stress the body that do not produce productive work.  You have to shake your head because two of the prime examples of these stresses is heat stress and water stress.  When you are working for yourself you get smart about matching the big calorie-burn jobs to the thermometer.  You also get good at dressing in layers so you can tune your clothing to reject enough heat.  Amish are not stupid.  I found that the most suitable top for really rough work is a pull-over with the top half closed with laces.  Zippers and buttons are the Achilles’ heal of most tops when your are cutting brush and doing other rough work.

I apologize for the abruptness and jerkiness of the writing, but it is a case of banging it out and hitting send or not getting it written.

God’s blessing upon you and your family