Reducing Sat Nav Dependency Part One.

Why You Should Ditch Your Sat Nav.

Are you the kind of person who, before you start the engine, has to program your sat nav gadget with a postcode? Do you then follow it blindly, turning left and right at the stated distances, until you “reach your destination”?  If so you need to read this article!

I have banned my children from using sat nav now they are driving.  Heres why… I have always tended to look at a map (even online) before setting off and making a mental note of the whole of the country and the network or roads we will be using,then simply making a list M62 to M18 to M1 etc.  I used to get my eldest child to follow this route on a map and be aware of which road we need to take next and look out for it.  Sometimes, like when she was eight and we were trying to navigate Paris, it can get a little stressful but as a result of this method she and I have a pretty decent cognitive map of the layout of our countries main arteries.

Using sat nav gives us the country broken-down into tiny abstract chunks meaning young people today are losing an holistic view of their country. So what? Well, without this in-built mental picture of the rough layout of our road networks, setting off without a sat nav now means many people wouldn’t be able to find their way even in the right general direction, eg toward London or toward Edinburgh!

Sat nav relies on… satellites… and therefore electricity and telecommunication.  These resources may not always be available and even when sat nav is working fully – how many of you have still managed to get lost?

Ive been travelling with people with two sat navs (one in built and a ‘better’ second one bought at high cost and installed on the dash) who still spent two hours driving round Paris outskirts lost.  I’ve also been in a hotel waiting for the rest of the group to arrive just to receive a phone call – ‘sat nav says we have arrived at the hotel but we are next to a field – can you come and get us?’  So, not only is she disempowering us, it is clear, however nice her voice, Sat Nav is just not that reliable.

It’s time to ditch the sat nav and reclaim your inner wisdom as to direction!

Survival of the fittest is a myth – it was in fact survival of those who could navigate best.  It’s ok to be able to run the fastest and carry the most BUT if you are running in the wrong direction, you’re stuffed!

 Six Points To Be Aware Of If You Have Sat Nav Dependency.

1. Maps are just beautiful patterns that convey information.  Don’t shy away from them.

2.Most cities consist of an inner and outer ring road and are often connected by straightish roads thanks to the Romans.

3. Within this pattern there are key motorways to be aware of at a glance – test yourself and your family using a map – could you roughly place the main roads on a map of your own country?

4. We managed to travel the world on foot and by sea long before electricity and gadgets wearing just fur loincloths.

5. We have a magnetic mineral in our nasal passages just like migratory birds.  This helps them tap into true North – some people may have more of this than others.  Eventually our biology will ‘evolve’ away from anything we don’t use.  Throughout history, to avoid extinction, species have to adapt, migrate or die.  If we need to migrate next year due to civil unrest, climatic disaster or some other large-scale event, how can we do it if we have adapted away from the ability to migrate to a safe place when there is no sat nav to guide us?

6. Getting lost is fine – you are merely extending your real-world knowledge about your country and building up a bigger picture of ‘what is where’. Just make sure you set off with plenty of time to spare and remember the best part of getting lost is what you find on the way!

Read ‘Part Two’ for Some Useful Sat Nav Weaning Tips.


Early Settlers in Iceland – The Ultimate Self-Reliance Test!

Early Settlers in Iceland – The Ultimate Self-Reliance Test!

Joy wasn’t the first emotion I experienced when my husband said he had booked us a surprise trip to Iceland – my first thoughts were – cold and barren. Ungrateful I know but Cold I would say is my main weakness – a holiday in it wasn’t what Id hoped for. Still grateful for this opportunity, the excitement crept in and I started researching the country on our journey there. I was intrigued to know how historically humans had coped in this cold and barren landscape without the modern trappings of my down jacket, gortex Parker and insulated snow boots. I was looking for inspiration to be tougher!

What I didn’t anticipate finding was such a fascinating history of toughness, of resiliance and slow but sure adaptation to survive in this unusual landscape. It is a history lacking in any kind of environmental support for human survival, the land and climate in Iceland yielded little in the way of advantageous natural resources for man. Reading the book of Settlers it is like reading how the land wanted to push humanness to its adaptive limits, like it was trying to push us off.

This article is a dedicated to those early Settlers, in awe of their self-reliance against all odds I would like to share their story with you. Perhaps we can all find some inspiration from Icelanders?


To begin with, lets clarify the term Icelanders – they are genetically predominantly Norwegians and Irish. In 874 dissatisfied with the current strict rule of the king in Norway and wanting to carve his own life (and swathes of land), Ingólfr Arnarson took two of his slaves, an open top boat, some livestock, seeds and tools then set sail. Whether he had determined to land in Iceland or not we don’t know. Its existence had been known since ancient Greek times when it was called ‘Thule’ and indeed people had even visited and stayed before 874 … Irish monks, another Scandinavian or two, but none had remained so we cannot include them here as ‘settlers’.

Ingolfr however did stay. After spending a couple of summers wandering and the winters in between sheltering, looking for the best place on the island to settle he settled, like most modern people, in the Reykjavik area. A bay in the west away from the ice caps of the middle area and the harsh arctic winds from the north/east, warmed a little by the gulf stream the Reykjavik area was a good choice. Well, as good as could be in Iceland.

The Island

The island he had landed on was 104,000 km area with a coastline of 3000 miles and the only creature to be found on land was the artic fox who had floated there on ice by accident from somewhere else. Hot springs, glaciers, black volcanic rock and live volcanos.   If you stand on this bit of floating hot rock in the North Atlantic, just below Greenland and look south there will be nothing but ocean until the South Pole!

Settling the Island – On Becoming Icelanders

Thankfully Ingolfr had come prepared. As a landowner in Norway he brought some skills and the livestock and seeds to go with them. Together with the labour (slaves) to implement these, Ingolfr and his family who had followed raised a few sheep, goats, cattle and poultry. Like most settlers who initially use their own old ways of land management in the new environment they soon realised they need to adapt methods, Ingolfr struggled here with his usual methods of farming.

Livestock Farming

The climate and landscape was different from Norway and winter days could be as short as 4 hours of daylight with very short cool summers. This meant that much winter grazing was simply not available and there was not enough to store from short summers to cover such long winters for livestock food.   The settler  had to let their livestock wander in winter instead of keeping them close and feeding them – they left their livestock to become self-reliant themselves. This resulted in losses, until the farmers worked out what livestock was more suitable to focus on in this climate and landscape.

Cultivating, Foraging and Hunting.

The same problem occurred with the seeds he brought – some worked in this climate and terrain others didn’t. Winter veg such as potatoes, turnip, kale type veg worked but growing grains was notoriously difficult. They tried to grow grain they brought over, then when this proved difficult, they cultivated a wild grain on a small scale that didn’t yield much…. Barley grown on low lying plains was the only successful grain grown here and this wasn’t massively productive and ceased altogether for much of the first 1000 years. In fact a lack of grain and the settlers adapting around this characterises much of their diets development.

Foraging:  One thing that kept early Icelanders alive in the absence of grain was Icelandic moss (actually a lichen found on the northern side) they would soak and eat as a porridge. A second bulk food was dulse a seaweed found more on the southern shores. It is presumed the idea of eating Dulse came from Ireland with the Irish women.

“Ever since the first settlement of Iceland , wild growing Angelica archangelica L. has been used for human consumption and has also been important as medicinal herb. It was also eaten fresh, picked in the wild on the mountainsides. In Iceland all parts of the plant were used – the seeds, leaves, stalks and roots and were eaten fresh, fried or boiled (o en in milk); or prepared in some other way [28]” (I saw skeletons of this all over).

“The most commonly used green plant in Iceland was probably Rumex acetosa L. It was usually served with meat, sh or as a avour to bird soup. It is still recommended in a cookbook as tasting well with boiled puf- n [15,29]. Generally speaking, the common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is the most popular wild food plant also in Iceland”

Yarrow,  and chickweed have all been identifed as present then with wormwood being well used between 900’s and 18th century. I  also saw some ribwort plantain popping out in grass under snow.


Around the woodland areas, berries such crowberry, cloudberry and bilberry would have been available.

Hunting:  Despite an unusual lack of land mammals there were still plenty of coastal products.  Fish such as capelin and herring, sea birds such as puffin and gulls eggs, sea mammals but for some reason the early settlers were determined to be farmers not fishermen so kept plodding on with trial and error land based survival methods for another 1000 years.  Whaling wasn’t really a deliberate practice either though settlers would make use of beached carcassses.  It wasn’t until spear-drift whaling was introduced in the twelfth century that the settlers could be said to hunt whales.  They would go out in open boats, strike a whale with a marked spear so that when it died and beached they would be able to find and claim it.  Salmon and trout were found in the clean rivers.

Food Preparation and Preserving in a land with no wood for Fire.

When the settlers first arrived, the country was said to be one of forests. This actually meant that the 25% of available land that could be forested because it wasn’t ice cap, rock or tundra, was tree covered. This ensured the early arrivals had plenty of timber for building and wood for fuel but within 30 years of settlement, the island had seen the arrival of about 30 – 40,000 more people, usually Norwegian men picking up Irish women en-route and this forest was all but gone!  The slow growing nature of trees so far North meant the taiga type coniferous forest trees and the birch and willow couldn’t keep up with demand. This is shown in pollen analysis of soil samples. Scientists observed that tree pollen became replaced with more pollen from the pasture land plants around this time.

So circa 910, Iceland had around 35,000 settlers in a country of harsh climate with no fire-wood or timber for building shelter.  How did they adapt?!

Lack of fire to cook on:

“As for cooking methods, boiling was by far the most common; there were no ovens for roasting and no medieval frying pans have been found in excavations. Meat was sometimes roasted on a spit but probably mostly when a cauldron or another cooking vessel was unavailable”.

*“Some Icelanders did have an alternative, fuel-conserving method for cooking. They simply cooked their food in the nearest hot spring. Sometimes the food was placed in a cauldron or other container which was then lowered into the boiling or almost-boiling water; sometimes it was buried into the hot earth close to the spring. We know that hot springs were used for cooking in medieval times, because a source dating back to 1199. Geothermal heat was probably used mostly for baking bread. moist rye bread) in some shops. The dough is placed in a closed container, buried in hot earth and left to steam in its own moisture for up to 24 hours.”

“For most cooking however, the most commonly used fuel, after a few centuries of deforestation, was either peat or dried sheep manure. This continued into the 20th century and sheep dung is even used to this day for smoking meat and salmon”.

Lack of fire-fuel to preserve food:

Another problem the settlers faced in addition to lack of fire to cook food or preserve it by smoking was a lack of salt for preserving. Even as a coastal country Iceland couldn’t yield salt for the settlers easily because of the lack of sunshine to evaporate water in the usual salt distilling process.   Nor could fire-wood be wasted just on salt making. Their usual methods of preserving food simply didn’t work in Iceland. A method to extract salt from seawater via ice rather than heat developed. Seawater was allowed to freeze, the frozen fresh-water top was scraped off and the remaining water re-frozen. The salty under-layer became more and more concentrated. The resulting super salty water was heated so it didn’t take as much fuel to get to the brine stage as it would have with boiling the first seawater. Another frequent method was to gather seaweed and dry it. The dried seaweed was then burned and the salty ashes used to preserve food. This was called “black salt”.

Icelanders did air-dry fish but the results were variable as you needed a run of cold dry sunny days.

Another method of food preservation that developed uniquely in iceland due to shortage of fuel was skyr whey fermentation of meat.  In the UK we see Skyr as a form of yogurt but it is actually a type of cheese.

*“Skyr making was thought to be more economical than ordinary cheese making; the yield from the milk was higher when skyr was made than when the milk was used for cheesemaking. The lack of salt may also have played a role, since cheese was usually salted to preserve it, but skyr needed no salt at all.

*”The milk – usually skimmed – is curdled with bacterial cultures and rennet. The culture comes from a starter kept from the last batch of skyr and the rennet was usually made from calf’s stomach, although butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) could be used in a pinch”


The resulting whey was used as main drink and used to preserve meat for up to a year in the absence of salting.  The making of skyr and its ‘waste’ product whey for drinking and preserving meat was a lifeline for Icelanders even though it would’ve made everything it preserved taste sour it would’ve not only preserved meat without salt/fuel for drying but imparted extra nutrients in the form of probiotics and B vitamins.

Lack of cooking pots for cooking on fire

“Even cooking pots were in short supply. Some bog iron can be found in Iceland, but not nearly enough to make the cooking vessels that were needed: the clay in Iceland is not suitable for pottery, Cauldrons and pots had to be imported and were expensive. Wealthy men often bought cauldrons and rented them out.” Vicars had to pass a law prohibiting villages from using church fonts to cook in.

Lack of timber for building:

Turf-clad houses became popular with the use of drift-wood or stone topped and sided with turf.  They were often  built into existing banks then walls and roofs were covered with turf to minimise need for wood in the building and the need for fires to keep warm.



Despite all this hardship the early Icelanders were successful in certain aspects of their way of life!


The island community despite being sparse, was effective at self-organisation.  The landowners decided to elect representatives to debate on community matters together and action results.  In other words by
the year 930, one of the world’s oldest parliaments had formed. These communities were also willing to allow women to take roles of power.   Scandinavian countries seem to have accepted that women have  a presence in politics more easily and for longer – possibly thanks to this Viking view of women as strong and key holders!?


What they couldn’t grow they learned to subsitute or do without.  As more ships started arriving – what they could’nt grow, substitute or do without could be traded with what they could grow, raise and make.

The settlers traded sheep wool, woven wool cloth, dried fish and dairy products exchanging it mostly for grain, tools and cooking implements.  Rye and wheat were imported; rye for the poor, wheat for rich. Grain was more used for porridge or flat breads rather than risen breads in as it would go further and without much fuel consumption.

From the 1500’s Iceland was under Danish rule that resulted in a period of hardship for the country.  This, coupled with lack of sunlight caused by ash fall out after a volcanic erruption a period that became known as the little ice age caused a long period of famine.   After thousands of deaths, reindeer were imported to remedy the problem. They still roam freely in places and can be hunted.

Problems with imports

Some things came over with trade boats that were less welcome.  Rats, mice, lupin seeds that have spread and taken over whole fields, rabbits that ruin puffin burrows and mink that were imported in 1700’s for clothes but now escaped.  TB and the plague were also unwelcome stowaways to Iceland.  On the other hand, sometimes ships wouldn’t come for months – so grain and other imports could not be relied upon.


“Icelandic cuisine was for almost a thousand years a cuisine of wants – want of grain, want of fresh produce, want of salt, want of fuel, even want of cooking vessels and utensils. The people of Iceland had to pay a certain price for choosing to live somewhere north of life, but they adapted to their environment and managed to survive for a thousand years on what they had”*.  Finally after trying farming for a thousand years realised fishing made more sense than farming and harbours developed more around the 3000 miles of coastline…. Trading at ports, fishing and whaling provided work.  Whaling – a sperm whales head could contain 3 tonnes of spermaceti, an oil prised throughout Europe for street lighting, medic food beauty products….  this could be sold at a premium and the profits used to buy in staff – and so fishing moved from being a self-sufficiency activity to being an industry,creating employment for whole communities who could then use their wages to buy goods in.


Iceland in Modern Times –  read the next article to see how from the self-reliance of early settlers Iceland has become self-reliant as a country in modern times.  Cheap hot water on tap, free cold mineral water to drink, self-reliant in energy and vegetables, dairy and eggs… permaculture principles abound plus the ultimate Volcano Bug-Out-Bag situation that many modern Icelandic families are faced with.

*From the article




Ten Tips for Buying Your Ultimate Warm Winter Coat

Ten tips to ensure you get the warmest coat for your money this winter.

Are you looking to buy a winter coat? Do you feel the cold and and want to make a good investment in your warmth by choosing the right coat or jacket but don’t know where to start because there is so much choice?

This post may help you!

Here are some things to look for when choosing a WARM winter coat.

Last year, as someone who suffers pathetically in cold weather (think uncontrollable shaking, turning blue and actual pain in my lower back muscles) I researched winter coats – I still made a bad choice.

This year, having experienced a friends coat that changed everything, I have researched some more and am on the point of investing in my ultimate coat.

Last year, after a process of online research and doing a survey of friends opinions into ‘warm parkers for women’ – I decided to buy a parker from a Norwegian company called Didriksons at a cost of £270, the price of… well whatever you’d like to buy for £270.  It was a big spend for me but I’d done my research and figured, as an adult I easily get five years out of a good coat, that this coat was actually only £50 a year (or a £1 a week) and so a bargain!

I was impressed with the quality when it arrived (very late from Blacks) it was sheep-style fleece lined, with waterproof outer and fur trim and I liked the flattering fitted shape and the in-fashion khaki colour… It had built in wrist warmers, and was designed not to let the wind in. What I hadn’t realised at the time was the need to consider the type of insulation – I had gone for wind and waterproofing rather than insulation quality.

This year, still feeling the cold painfully and subsequently having been ‘diagnosed’ by ancestryDNA as more Iberian than English – I am back to the drawing board.


This is what I have found:


Ten tips to ensure you get the warmest coat for your money this winter.

1. The best insulation comes from Bird Down vs Synthetic.  Down is the fluffy underlay to feathers and is usually from ducks or geese. Real down is lighter and warmer than synthetic but synthetic is more water resistant than down.  Ask: ‘Is the insulation down or synthetic?

2. The best down for warmth is goose rather than duck –Ask: ‘Is it Goose Down or Duck Down?’

3. Choose only Responsibly Sourced Down (RSD) which is made from the down of birds already processed for the meat market therefore is a by-product rather than stripped from living birds who suffer pain, fright and sores from continuous stripping. Ask ‘Is it RSD?

4. If you are likely to get wet then consider synthetic insulation rather than down – it is not as warm but will withstand showers better – if warmth is still your priority ie. you want the highest level of warmth AND to be shower proof then ask if the down jacket has a water repellent coating. Some have others haven’t so do ask. If not, then you must buy a thin waterproof jacket to go over your down jacket. Some parkers have a down coat topped with a sturdy rain-proof outer shell. Ask: Is the outer fabric water resistant, water proof or neither?

5. Go for big chunky rolls of insulation rather than the fashionable diamonds or small thin flat rolls. The more compressed the down or synthetic fibre in the sections the less heat (air)  it will hold also the excess stitching will result in greater heat and feather loss through seams. Look at roll size and chunkiness and amount of stitching.

6. The tighter the weave of the outer fabric the fewer feathers will be lost too. Look at the tightness of the weave, ruffle the coat a bit, can you see any down poking through?

7. In the same way duvets are rated with togs, down jackets have ratings that (those who have bothered to list i.e. those who think their product is worth boasting about seem to range between 500 – 700) Always go higher than you think you need. Ask: What is the down rating?

8. Does the jacket just have  a pop-out shell hood? For an all round cocooned-in warm feel the hood should be insulated too. The neck of the jacket, which also should be insulated, should funnel right up to the hood so you can bury your face into it against the cold. Check the hood.

9. Its all well storing your built-up heat behind all that insulation but if the coat is not sealed at the base or waist and at the wrists and neck, the wind will blow it all out. The worst part of this is the wind will replace your warmth with cold air. Check Access points for wind

10. You will be spending a lot of time with this coat and relying on it so, like a good friend, you must love it! The colour, the fit, the style – will you actually enjoy wearing this coat? Can you look after it in the way it needs caring for? You will probably also be spending a fair bit of money on it! So, Ask: Do you love it?



Some of those jackets on the market at the moment that meet many of these criteria are:

Go Outdoors Mens 700 down mix £30

North Face – ladies wisteria pink above about £200

CanadaGoose from £300