Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rainwater catchment

I am much happier this year with my rainwater catchment system. Several years ago, we put in 2 giant rainwater tanks, ordered online, with a combined capacity of 850 gallons. We put them at either end of the backyard, attached them to our downspouts with flexible guttering, and hooked on some faucets. Noticed very quickly that they would fill up after only one or two decent rains.

It has taken awhile to get good use out of them. The first year, one tank was too low to really get any rain out of it - it had no pressure. The other one we hooked a hose up to and used it to water fruit trees (very handy since we don't have a faucet on that side of the house).

The next year, we boosted up the second tank with a sturdy base (very sturdy - 500 gallons of water weighs 4160 pounds) and attached a drip system. Tried to attach two timers to the drip system, neither worked and so resorted to setting the microwave timer inside. Completely emptied the tank several times by forgetting to turn it off. During the winter, one of the plastic faucets busted because it froze and there was still some water inside.

This year, I have decided just to use the garden bed tank to fill up my watering can, and the other tank for watering fruit trees and grapes. THAT works great! I kind of enjoy walking around the 3 garden beds with my can. That way I can check on every plant. Of course, if I had a larger garden it would be more of a PITA.

Still, I am very pleased to have fresh rainwater at my command and also as an emergency backup measure. It is a pain to have to clean out the tanks every year, though. But, I am not taking water out of the aquifer, and it's nice to have a system available in case city supplies get cut off for whatever reason.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Completely pathetic bean teepee

I made a bean teepee yesterday, out of bamboo bought at Home Depot.

It is pathetic. In fact, I looked out today and it has fallen apart already. Fortunately I was anticipating that result and so I didn't plant any beans yet.

I don't know how to make one. I don't want to pay for a fancy one. Can someone just arrange for one to fall from the sky and land in my garden? But I'll settle for any information on how to make a cheap, yet attractive and durable, bean teepee, preferably recycled or otherwise ecologically friendly.

Thanks.

On the same note, I think I am experiencing garden overload. I feel a real sense of urgency and so I am trying a lot of new things all at once, and having to learn how to do them all at once, during baby naptimes (meaning 45 minutes to an hour at a time). I put in an herb garden, started some seedlings, did a sheet mulch project, planted 3 garden beds and 5 or 6 new types of veggies (not just varieties, but whole kinds), and am trying to integrate veggies into my front landscape.

In addition, I am trying to learn how to solar cook (this one is actually going really well - so far have cooked salmon and brown rice, chile rellenos and beans, baked potatoes, and banana bread), figure out whether to spend $450 on cloth diapers, start feeding my baby table foods, figure out how to set up a clothesline, and store 6 months of food. Along with the everyday stuff we all have to deal with, like making money, taking care of the family and paying the bills. Yark!

I know you are all in the same boat too. Just had to get that off my chest.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Micropreneurs

I am looking forward to being a micropreneur. I haven't figured out what I'll be microproducing, but possibilities are endless when the trucks stop running. People will still want food, liquor, clothes, beer, information, cooking tools, solar ovens. I'm thinking an economy like Little House on the Prairie - but with more advanced information.

The point is to have your supplies before TSHTF, ideally renewable (growable) supplies as well as extremely durable tools. In order to make a living, we may each have to be our neighborhood expert in several microbusinesses - which will make life all the more interesting and varied. In addition, there won't be the cutthroat competition from Korea and India.

Some ideas I like (not necessarily for their profit potential):

Lamb's ear farm (homegrown TP)
Knowledge broker (teaching people to DIY - everything)
Produce supplier
Homebrewer (stock up on grain now, and get your hops growing)
Tree saver (producing solar ovens from cardboard boxes, glass and aluminum foil)
Fruit tree grafter
Herbalist
Massage therapist
Chiropractor
Accupuncturist
Baker (in your sun oven(s))
Egg supplier
Honey producer
Carpenter
Solar expert (building solar dehydrators, solar heaters, solar water heaters)
Scrounger
Water expert (building rainwater catchment and greywater systems)
Reel lawn-mower (for the ultra rich :))
Daycare provider
Local teacher
Battery re-charger (in your solar battery charger)

What are your suggestions? What are you going to be?

Tired of quarter measures

The CFL bulb has become the new face of environmentalism. Save the world! Screw in a light bulb! Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't replace your light bulbs with CFL's. And it is a good beginning..... if you move on to bigger and more important things.

The problem is that environmentalism these days is sold as 100 Simple things to save the Earth. This marketing method can be productive for those people who need to start with simple things. It's true, all the CFL's do add up - and make a "difference" - but such a tiny difference.

I'm tired of people ignoring the big changes that need to be made, denying the impact of their lives. We DO have to do all the little things. And then, do the BIG things. You can't screw in a few CFL's and expect it to make up the difference for your SUV, your plane trips to Europe, your grocery trips, your kids. You can't expect turning down the thermostat 2 degrees to make up for your laptops, iPods, lattes and bathroom remodels - all those things we currently believe we deserve and cherish.

No, we need to understand that first we need to reduce our impact 5% - and then 50% - and then 90%. It's going to take radical changes. We can't stop with the baby steps designed for first graders.

What kind of radical changes am I talking about?

I'm talking about localizing 80% of our food, and getting down to growing maybe 30% in our backyards.

I'm talking about using 75% less energy. That means yes, CFL's and Energy Star, but also ditching the dryer, superinsulating the house, getting solar hot water heaters and solar ovens. Maybe even getting rid of the refrigerator.

I'm talking about buying much, much less stuff. Not just buying green stuff - but a lot less stuff overall. A pair of shoes a year, a book a month, socks and underwear, maybe a kitchen and garden tool a year. We need to forget entirely about disposables and consumption for vanity sake. We need to despise when people get rid of entire kitchens of perfectly good stuff - so they can feel new again.

I'm talking about revolutionizing transport. Not just a nation of Priuses, but a nation of buses, trains and bikes.

I'm talking about renewing our water supplies. Not a centralized water facility (which uses up to 50% of a city's energy budget), but rainwater catchment on every building, waterless urinals, greywater recycling.

I'm talking about reforesting the country. We don't need to be spending our energy and our time mowing empty lots, highways and front lawns. We need trees to slow down the impact of global warming.

The problem with this is that it puts all the burden on the consumer. All of the above LOOK impossible - if you have to do it on your own. But with support from your city and country, from your friends and neighbors, it becomes bearable, and you can even begin to see the fun and benefits in a whole new lifestyle.

With an army of Master Gardeners educating and supporting amateur gardeners, with free compost and mulch from the city, we can grow our own food in the backyard. What do we get? We get better nutrition, exercise, better taste.

With a comfortable, efficient and reliable public transportation system, we can get where we need to go. What do we get? We get time to read a book on the way to work and less road rage.

With an environmental ethic, it becomes embarrassing to wear new clothes while your neighbors do without. What do we get? A reduction in expenses, the elimination of preoccupation with appearance.

So we really need to be thinking big. If you think small, you get small results. If you think big... you get bigger results. So if you're out there, don't be embarrassed to ask for used goods for your birthday. Don't be embarrassed by your mellow yellow policies at home. Don't be embarrassed if you plan to have no children. Be proud of your bike and your clothesline - and show them off! No one expects you to be a perfect environmentalist. I'm not. We're all in different stages of progress. The important thing is that you think big, and you do something to change every day.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Seriously now

We watched Leonardo DiCaprio's The 11th Hour documentary last night. Really excellent. What I especially liked about it, aside from it's acknowledgement of the Peak Oil dilemma, was the focus on our collective psychology.

Our everyday environment that we see around us is a manifestation of our beliefs and ideas. This is not some freaky New Age thing - just look around you. Don't you feel like you are living in a hallucination sometimes? Everyone around you is behaving completely irrationally, together in their completely secure belief in insanity.

We live AS IF the world were an infinite place, with an economy capable of infinite growth.
We live AS IF the world could absorb infinite amounts of plastic and pollution.
We live AS IF the world has unlimited power to provide us with unlimited luxuries.

Are any of these things true? No, but we behave as if they were, which is how we manifested surroundings that include disposable diapers and styrofoam cups, highways and strip malls, leafblowers and food processors, retirement plans and ATMs. Maybe trees and clouds are not manifestations of our beliefs - but clearcuts and smog are.

We have shaped virtually the entire planet under one mistaken belief:

The planet BELONGS to us, and we have the right to do with it as we WANT.

We need to break this spell that we are under and wake up. Wake up, wake up! Living under this false pretense causes so much pain and destruction, and the consumerism this belief has spawned has not even made us happy. None of it has been worth it.

A speaker in the documentary had this quote: "We can never get enough of what we don't really want". People want good food, satisfying work, time with family and friends, meaning in life. But what do we do with our lives? We have been so trained to answer every need with a purchase, for the lack of any better option. And every purchase takes resources from the planet and puts waste into the rivers, the air, the atmosphere.

In the past, we earned respect with our character and contributions. Today we try to buy respect with our busy schedule, nice house, immaculate lawn, buffed car, and stylish clothes.

In the past, we earned love with dedication, patience, and time. Today we try to buy love with gifts, vacations, and indulgence.

In the past, we earned security by building community and family, by supporting our friends, family and church in time of need. Today we try to buy security with our bank accounts and retirement plans.

And in return, all we get are pale imitations. Because you can't buy love, respect and security. You have to earn them.

So we need to get more of what we need and less of what we want. We need food, shelter, and water. We need community and friendship. We need to do something interesting with our time. Everything else is just pretense. And the more we pretend we can buy our vital needs instead of earning them, the further the planet deteriorates. We don't have much time left.

How do we want to be remembered in the history of the universe? Were we the spoiled brats who blew our inheritance in one wild orgy of consumption, ruining the planet for all the other lifeforms and our own children? Or were we the heroes, who pulled back from the brink and joined together, did the hard things that the world needed, and remade our society into a better place?

We better choose, and we better choose now.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fun with peak oil

It's always best to make scary or unpleasant things fun. You know, the way we used to go to IHOP or Pancake House to study for finals. Or the way you can blast the radio/iPod while you paint a room. Or the way that the company of friends and music can make pretty much anything fun.

My husband and I joke around a lot about peak oil. Whenever we accidentally buy too much of something, we just shrug and say, oh well, I guess we'll be stocked up for Armaggedon. We also have what we call the Peak Oil Closet where we store all our goodies like the Katadyn water filter and the Global Sun Oven, and the homebrewing kit.

Peak Oil can be a handy defense mechanism. The current child rearing climate is so intricately and irretrievably 'fd up - if I had to think about raising my baby in it I would be highly anxious. Instead I just have to worry about making sure we defend the house against the roving hordes trying to steal our food. But whenever I come up against something anxiety provoking, such as throwing a proper birthday party or the SAT's, I just think, Well that won't be a problem after Peak Oil.

It's solved a lot of envy problems, too. Seeing a new car or trendy people - I just think, well they are going to wish they'd stocked up on wheat berries. I'm not into Schadenfraude, but envy minimization helps keep the eyes on the prize.

Oh - this is fun. Have you ever seen Leaving Las Vegas? That's a real hoot, huh? I like to imitate Nicholas Cage at the liquor store by buying $200 worth of liquor at a time. Can't do better than a big bottle of vodka for bribery purposes. I like to call that Peak Oil Therapy.

And finally, gardening. There's just something satisfying about seeing a whole bunch of plants ready to provide lovely tomatoes and parsley and zuchinni all season long. Satisfying, yummy, and pretty too. Also, you can garden without feeling self-conscious, like you do when you are in line at Target and you think everyone is wondering what you are going to do with 10 boxes of matches.

Well, you may as well have fun with Armaggedon. What's your favorite way to enjoy Peak Oil?

Seeds sprouted!

Among the very many sad stories in the news today - Oil hitting $118, food riots, food rationing, children starving - a positive thing happened, after a drenching yesterday - my seeds sprouted. Cucumber, pumpkin, zuchinni, and buttercup squash seeds sprouted, with lovely big leaves after only 2 days. I am so excited!!

These are all vegetables that I've never grown before. I'm really stretching my boundaries outside of my comfort zone. Maybe in the fall I will finally plant potatoes. I would love to kill all the grass between my driveway and my neighbor's driveway and plant potatoes there. But instead of that extreme measure I am interspersing bell peppers, banana peppers, watermelons, and okra with my landscape plants. Do roses love watermelons the way tomatoes love basil? :)

I may have to plant tomatoes in my front landscape next year - I have planted tomatoes in all my back beds the last two years and have nowhere to rotate next year. I guess I will worry about that later. Till then, just hoping the neighborhood dogs don't water my landscape too much.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

While the gettin's good

Well, I'm off to Tulsa to take a reflexology course tomorrow. I debated about whether the carbon emissions and actual monetary cost were worth it, but decided I better get while the gettin's still available. I'm not sure if I will have many paying clients when T(economic)SHTF, but I'll bet people will be willing to barter food/services/supplies for pain management / pain relief. After all, massage and reflexology have been around for many hundreds of years and they require no electricity or oil to perform. And, I still have paying clients now, so I might as well learn something new to help them.

I'm sure you've noticed the many news stories on the crashing economy, soaring oil prices and food riots. Even the WSJ says "Load up the pantry".

So, I've decided to implement parts of Phase I of my emergency plan, which was designed to be triggered when gas goes over $3.50/gallon. This means that things are starting to get dicey. The economy might recover.... gas prices might fall.... the food chain might re-normalize.... or not. It can't happen here? Think again, and check the history books and the world news tonight.

In the past, I've tried to limit my actions and purchases to things that could be justified in some other fashion than solely peak oil. In other words, with a semi-rational explanation. Like just good planning, or environmental reasons. But I'm starting to forget about rationalizations now and just try to get stuff done as fast as is reasonably possible.

I visited Sam's yesterday and bought 100 lbs of rice. I had my first discussion with my Dad regarding Peak Oil today. I've planted most of my seeds. And, I'm starting to stock up on matches, aluminum foil, what-have-you. I admit to feeling kind of stupid when I buy extra matches, but what the heck, they're .67 each. As soon as I finish off my garden projects I'm going to start hitting the garage sales. And this fall, I'll be buying 3 years worth of heirloom seeds and trying my hand at saving some seeds.

Lewru, when are you going to come down and show me how this gardening thing is REALLY done? ;)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I wonder if a team of goats....

This very sentence began five minutes of cackling by me and my husband. At the time, I was looking along the vast soul-deadening expanse of Northwest Expressway, wondering how in heck the city will be able to afford to mow the medians and sidebars this summer.

So I said "I wonder if a team of goats....". Of course, to my husband, this fragment came out of nowhere. Big grin. I looked at him. And started giggling. 5 minutes later, he comments that the other guys at work talk about what they and their wives discussed that night/weekend, but he never can.

I try not to bother my dear husband too much about peak oil, but frankly it's all I think about, besides the baby. So naturally, I'm always announcing that we now need to buy something new or do something different or worry about some new crisis. So it's nice to be able to laugh about the goats, sometimes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wood ashes and another lesson learned

Something I learned this spring:



If a gardener throws a huge bagful of soil amendments such as, say WOOD ASHES, in the spring garden, said gardener should not expect anything to grow. Such an experiment is best suited only if the aftorementioned gardener is curious to see the smallest amount of vegetables that can possibly grow. Sort of a reverse-John-Jeavons plan.

Actually, a few seeds actually sprouted. Surprisingly, I did get 2 peas to sprout, out of the three rows that I planted. It's a good thing that grocery stores still exist.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The gift that keeps on giving

As Mother's and Father's Days are coming up soon, I began thinking about the most appropriate type of gift to give in a time of fast-declining energy and quickly-rising costs.

What could be better than a cute little Peak Oil Prep basket to start them off right?

Here, I've come up with several ideas for gifts, from the "Copper" to the "Platinum", with a nod towards our future monetary system ;).

Copper
  • One Peak Oil book or DVD of choice
  • One 7 gallon water container
  • One Crisis Preparedness book
  • One herb or cherry tomato plant
  • One large bag rice, beans, oats, peanut butter, and raisins

Silver

  • All of the above, PLUS
  • Solar lamp
  • 3 silver coins
  • One gardening book of choice
  • First Aid Kit

Gold

  • All of the above, PLUS
  • Cooking with Sunshine book
  • Solar Cooker (Global Sun Oven or otherwise)
  • Katadyn or Big Berkey water filter

Platinum

  • All of the above, PLUS
  • One permaculture or PO investing book
  • Gardening tool kit
  • Clothesline system
  • Sleeping bag rated for their zone
  • Bike

Now, don't you wish someone would give YOU such a nice gift?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Solar cooking

We used our Global Sun Oven twice this weekend. Call me a peak oil nerd, but I'm so excited! We purchased ours from LATOC last year and haven't used it much since... until we bought Cooking with Sunshine this week. Now, we have a renewed commitment to solar cooking. We have decided to cook with the Sun Oven at least once per week (weather permitting).

The GSO takes a little getting used to, because you need to set it up, angle it correctly, and then use really dark cookware to cook. You have to plan ahead - you might need to prepare dinner after lunch or breakfast and pop it in right then. You can still prepare a meal in 15 - 30 minutes, but then it will take 2 - 5 hours to cook, depending on what the meal is. The Sun Oven only works under certain conditions - if the sun will be out long enough and high enough. Here in OKC that's probably sunny days in April - October, plus a little while longer when certain dishes such as quiches and cookies will still cook.

This weekend we re-heated lasagna for lunch (took about 1.5 hours) and then cooked 5 large baked potatoes for a family dinner today (we had them in there about 6 hours, but they might have been done for a while). The lasagna was perfectly heated throughout and the potatoes were easily mashed with a fork.

The reason that we bought the Sun Oven was to have an alternate way to cook when TSHTF (intermittent blackouts or widespread power failures, or the necessity to evacuate to places unknown) and also to be able to cook without carbon emissions. I have several projects this year to reduce my carbon emissions, and this is one of them.

However, I have found a few other reasons to cook more often with the Sun Oven.

1. One nice thing about the Sun Oven is that it has no timer. It doesn't burn food, amazingly, so you can just put your meal in, making sure to have enough time to cook it, and let it stay in there. It will keep warm without burning.

2. Cooking with the Sun Oven doesn't heat up the house in the middle of summer. So I don't have to feel guilty about cooking a lasagna or banana bread and getting uncomfortable and using more AC than I should. Technically shouldn't be using any AC, but I'm not to that point yet :).

3. My young son tends to get very grumpy right when I want to cook dinner. If I can prepare the meal when he is napping, and pop it in the Sun Oven and forget about it, (well actually you have to adjust the angle to the sun periodically, but still), it saves me a huge headache!

4. I have a home business, with my clients often coming in right before dinner. So, instead of rushing around trying to cook after they're gone, or having a cold meal that will need to be microwaved, I can put the meal in the Sun Oven and let it cook while they are in session.

5. Did I mention it operates without electricity, or any fuel, and gives off no carbon emissions?

Eventually, we would like to get a super efficient woodstove cooker, which we can use in the winter to heat and cook, and then we can use the Sun Oven in the summer to cook when we don't want any heat. Wish me luck on the woodstove - it costs a heck of a lot more than the Sun Oven.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A plague of questions

One problem of being in a different world than most other people around you is the plague of questions that must, generally, be answered by yourself.

For example, finances.

For Gen Xers, getting your financial house in order was fairly simple. Difficult, but simple. Sure, we couldn't rely on Social Security or pensions the way our parents or grandparents could - we just got in too late to those pyramid schemes. Still, there was hope. We just had to get with the new program!
1. Pay down debt; avoid incurring new debt.
2. Save enough money for a 6 month emergency expense fund.
3. Pay yourself first - 10% at least into your savings (401K or otherwise).
4. In savings, diversify into cash, mutual funds and bonds to assure a safe retirement (over the next 30 years).
5. The best way to save for retirement was a tax advantaged 401K or SEP/SIMPLE or IRA/Roth IRA. But the money could not be touched for years without large penalties.
6. And make sure to own your own home! God knows that the value of a home never declines!

Ah, those simple old days. Now that peak oil is nigh, it calls into question all the fundamentals of our lives - how to get food, shelter, transportation, employment - and yes, what to do with savings and investments.

For those who still have money in those old-fashioned institutions such as banks, 401K's, IRA's, what should we do with it? Here, the plague of questions begins.
  1. Should banks be considered safe knowing that the FDIC has only a small fraction of the reserves to be able "make good"?
  2. If banks are not safe then what do you do with your money? Should you keep all your cash in the house or maybe just a small reserve in case of temporary interruptions?
  3. Should we continue to rely on the dollar currency knowing that our government needs to print money like there's no tomorrow to pay it's debts and maintain our trade imbalance? Should we ignore the 50% decline of the dollar over the last 2 years?
  4. If not the dollar, what? Gold, Euros, Francs, Silver?
  5. If the S really HTF, will gold or silver be worth anything? You can't eat gold or silver.
  6. If not gold, euros, francs or silver, then what? Rum and condoms? Cigarettes and shovels? Toilet paper and soap? Grain storage?
  7. Should you bother paying down your debt if financial institutions may disappear or inflation may destroy the value of your debt?
  8. Should we liquidate all our potentially useless 401K and IRAs, taking a big hit financially, and put it into a BIG ASS RUM CLOSET???

Whew, I feel better now. All it took to find the answers was to ask the right questions. ;)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Orgasms all day long

David Leonhardt's recent post in the New York Times article "The Boom That Wasn't" includes this quote:


"You can think of this as the most basic test of an economy’s health: does it produce ever-rising living standards for its citizens?"

And what would the logical end result of this ever-rising living standard program be?
The title of this post suggests the likely outcome. If this were the goal, then I think we can skip a lot of unproductive energy and material waste and get right to the development of the orgasm machine. What's that, you say? An orgasm machine has been invented already? What have we been doing the last 30 years then? Have we been in a horrible nightmare? Why would we be messing around with home remodels and new cars when we could have been having orgasms?
I see. A terrifying plot by the capitalists.
Well, now that the awful truth has been uncovered, a new hope can emerge. Chop chop people! Man your stations and full speed ahead! Orgasms all day long, coming up!

Purchase planning

I will be looking for bargains at garage and consignment sales this spring and summer. My personal garage saling list:

  • Canning supplies

  • Gardening tools, rakes, shovels

  • Cast iron cookware

  • Sleeping bags, blankets

  • Ice chests

  • Hand can openers

  • Washboards

  • Mop bucket with wringer

  • Scarves/hats/gloves
  • Garden cart

A thought that keeps me from buying other, more consumer things (non-Peak Oil prep items) is that these items will be sold at a deep discount in the event of a Greater Depression. Sadly, people will need to buy food and pay the rent. I hope there will be money for a few "extras" like coffee, and shoes. Anyway, one time-honored way to get money is to sell the belongings that can't be hauled across country to MIL's house, where you will be living in the basement.

What might those things include? What things might be available for cheap, in the future, if you wait a while?
  • Furniture

  • Electronics

  • Fiction books

  • Home decorations (lamps, picture frames, curtains)

  • Bedding sets, blankets, sheets, and towels

  • A family's second and third cars

  • Clothing and extra shoes

  • Baby & kids equipment, gadgets, and toys

  • Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, hedgers, trimmers

  • DVD's, video games, CD's

  • Musical equipment

On the other hand, what might be impossible to find if you wait too long?

I'll just point you to this list of the first items to disappear in a national emergency and let you do the deciding.

Are people good?

Good and evil are slippery concepts that often depend on your culture and situation. What is good for one might be evil for another. We excuse many things in the service of some hypothetical future or greater good. Still, some things seem to be eternally evil. Torture. Exploitation. Repression.

And I struggle with how complicit we each are with the evil that goes on in our name, or for our benefit. How much can we change things for people living across the globe by refusing to buy things that they have made? Derrick Jensen would say that civilization is irredeemable and must be taken down to let something arise which is not based on, in fact depends on, exploitation and repression, as our culture does.

Because we fool ourselves. We want and NEED to believe we are part of something good. So we look past war, modern day slavery, the destruction of a little piece of the planet every day. We don't read the paper because it is too depressing, or we self-medicate ourselves with drugs, television, workaholism, to forget about it.

Greater folk than I have written on this issue. Derrik Jensen is the first that springs to mind.

I like to break things down and make lists, since that is my way of dealing with things. So here's my estimate. Is this too pessimistic? I don't know.

5% Engaged in active evil. Slavery, torture, firebombing orphanages. Some don't think of it as evil, others know exactly what they are doing.
5% Engaged in actively resisting evil. Protests, marches, boycotts, riots. Risking personal harm to do good.
10% Engaged in actively doing good. Volunteering, running beneficial programs, dedicating life to a cause.
30% Engaged in passively doing good/resisting evil. Being "good" in their own personal sphere, making donations, trying to improve the world through a garden, a blog, their children. Being a Good Samaritan when possible.
50% Trying not to think too much. Trying to get through the day. Ignoring signs of evil around them, as long as it does not impact them directly.

It doesn't take as many people to cause destruction in a second, or practice evil under the cover of night, as it does to resist evil, to build good and to create love.

Herb garden

When we moved into our first house in Denver, I was lucky enough to inherit a lovely herb garden. At first I didn't know what the heck was growing. In fact, I never did discover the names of everything that was there. But soon enough, I began to recognize the foliage and the smell of the various herbs - esecially sage and thyme. I was actually surprised at how well they did, considering they received **NO** care, only 1/2 day of sunshine, and of course, the drought/snowstorm weather in Denver.

So, I'm dedicating an herb garden here in OKC. I love herbs, because:
  1. They are easy to grow and don't require much watering
  2. Many are perennial
  3. Many are evergreen
  4. They often smell good
  5. They are really worth the investment. (Sometimes it seems hard to justify the investment in potatoes - but parsley will pay you back 25x before it dies).
I already have these planted: Basil, parsley, sage, cilantro, lemon balm, sorrel, chocolate mint.

I just killed last weekend: peppermint. I swear, I planted it in a pot - but it escaped.

I want to plant in my "herb garden" right by the back door: rosemary, thyme, chives, lovage, salad burnet, and oregano.

I want to plant herbs elsewhere: dill, stevia (potted), comfrey, echinacea, feverfew, lavendar.

I don't have any experience in using herbs for medicinal purposes, but it might be handy to have them planted already in case TSHTF. Hopefully I could learn then, when I have a lot of time on my hands :). Most of my herbs I use for culinary purposes, which of course is a type of medicine. You are what you eat, right? But, many of the herbs I have chosen have two, three, or four purposes. Multi-purpose plants are one of the main dictums of permaculture, and you can't get much more multi-purpose than herbs.

For example: Rosemary (I need to get a Zone 7 version)
Medicinal - Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
Culinary - Used in many different dishes, twigs are great on the BBQ
Landscape - Evergreen, has small blue or purple flowers
Aromatherapy - Headache remedy

Stars aligning

I think the New York Times is conspiring to write articles that will convince people to start preparing for peak oil!

Trucker strike

Asian inflation spreads to USA

Whatever it is you can't live without, or want to get now while it's still cheap - go get it. Don't get me wrong; I don't mean for you to max out your credit cards or take out a HELOC, just spend what you can.

As for me, I've put in some summer garden veggies - 4 types of tomatoes, 4 types of peppers, a zucchini, and need to finish off the rest of my seeds this week - okra, winter squash, pumpkin, flowers, and beans. I also stocked up on baby food, even though I think a REAL Frau would be making her own baby food, I don't have a food processor yet.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Old cars rule!

I drive an old car, not in the sense of cool antique cars that people point at and smile, but the kind of car that people see and think that the driver is poor.

In other words, a beat up 1993 Geo Prizm.

First, what is wrong with it. Obviously, it's old - so no cruise control, power windows, CD player or iPod plug in. The overhead light went out a loooong time ago. So, no light at night. The radio is on the fritz. Every time I get in the car the radio resets to 98.1 (which is not a channel here). The body is dented - the repairs cost more than the car is "worth" so I never got it repaired (except to pry the body away from the tire with a crowbar). The side mirrors don't really stay when I adjust them. And, none of the tires or rims match anymore.

But oh, what is so RIGHT about my Bessie :)!
  1. It is paid off.
  2. It is paid off!
  3. The tag and insurance are really cheap.
  4. It gets 30 mpg. Not joking, I check it at least every 6 months.
  5. Maintenance and repairs are very cheap since no specialized knowledge or parts are required. Also, parts are easy to get. No computer chips needed.
  6. It still works after 140,000 miles.
  7. It has not had very many problems for it's age (15 years) - about $200/year of updates.

Well, that's enough for me to keep this car until it dies or repairs start to get expensive.... although I really want a Prius, I'm not sure the investment will be worth it because I have my doubts about the future of cars in general.

Here's to Bessie - thanks for all the years of faithful service.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Storing? or Hoarding?

With all the reports of people starving in the world and food shortages and food riots... I began to feel a little guilty about storing grain, beans, and rice. Is the food I'm storing for tomorrow driving up the price for those people who need it today?

After discussing with my husband, I've decided that storing food is still the right thing to do.

I don't eat meat, so just for that reason I'm reducing my *Total* grain consumption by, say, 50% right there.

The current administration values running our cars over feeding people. Until the ethanol policy changes and we quit burning our food, I can't feel any guilt about storing food that will actually be EATEN.

I don't believe that my not storing food would help the poor people on the other side of the world. If food shortages occur HERE, I will stop stockpiling and begin to eat from our stores, which will reduce pressure on the local food system.

And finally, these stories just point out the fundamental saneness of having extra, in case that supplies truly do get tight.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Low Energy Health

In the future, there will be no insanely expensive "health care" - ie the pharmaceutical insurance hospital complex - to fix us after we have worn our bodies down. Instead, we would be wise to adopt the Eastern medicine wisdom of focusing on staying healthy, rather than treating sickness.

What are some strategies for staying healthy?

1. Food
  • Organic, if possible
  • Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans
  • Free range and grass fed eggs, dairy and meat (although I am a pescatarian)
  • Fats and sweets in moderation
  • Nothing your great grandmother would not recognize

2. Exercise

  • Get your blood pumping
  • Work your muscles
  • Stretch daily
  • Maintain balance
  • Get out in the fresh air

3. Manage stress

  • Focus on the bright side while acknowledging the darkness
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Connect with nature
  • Take time for yourself
  • Stay out of chronically stressful situations, if possible (*difficult, but most effective)
  • Don't work too long or too hard
  • Choose work that is enjoyable and/or fun
  • Give yourself an artistic outlet (paint, sing, journal, play guitar)

4. Dental care

  • Brush
  • Floss
  • Not too many sweets
  • Regular visits to the dentist (at least while she is still available!)

5. Avoiding toxicities

  • Industrial pollutants
  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Smoke / secondhand smoke
  • Too much drugs
  • Sunburn
  • Lawn chemicals
  • Household cleaning chemicals

6. Body tune-ups and treatments

  • Herbs and supplements
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic
  • Acupuncture
  • Detoxing (No experience with this one)
  • Energy medicine (No experience with this one - except Shiatsu, which is great)

Staying healthy may require some financial sacrifices. For example, I quit my consulting job to become a massage therapist when I realized that A) I didn't want to spend my whole life making money for the Man and B) My job was making me sick and despondant. If I had spent the last 6 years at my consulting job I would most likely be fat, miserable, with insomnia and an ulcer. I'd also be rich. Sad, but true. Still, I'm much happier now, and I spend a lot less on happy hour :).

My point is that you need to take action BEFORE you get sick. Stress, and the effects of unhealthy living, will build up in your body. Some people have better coping systems than others, but it will catch up with you. At that point, nothing will be worth more in the world than your health. So take the time to take care of yourself day by day, week by week, instead of regretting your choices later in life.

PS. I need to note that I am in no way diagnosing or prescribing any kind of health care. I am not a doctor. Please see your own doctor before starting any new health care program.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why I love my reel mower

We got our reel mower in 2000 when we bought our first house. At the time, our yard was just a little postage stamp that only took 10 minutes to mow. Now we have a larger yard (the better to garden in my dear) and I admit Bermuda grass is tougher to mow than whatever we had in Denver. We have to use an electric mower in the middle of summer when the Bermuda grass gets really thick.

Still, I love my reel mower! Why?
1. Makes only a small snickety noise. So we can use it to mow at any time of the day.
2. It's pretty light.
3. Doesn't make any noxious smells.
4. Doesn't need to be refueled.
5. Doesn't need to be started.
6. Doesn't break.
7. Doesn't pollute.
8. Cheaper than a regular mower, and doesn't require ongoing gas purchases.
9. Doesn't need to be plugged in.
10. Makes me look like a tough mama when I mow with it when I am 8 months pregnant :).

I figure I can start my own lawn service when TSHTF since I will be the only one in my neighborhood to have a mower which does not require gas or electricity. Seriously though, some people will probably STILL have lawns! In short, it is an ideal Peak Oil choice if you have a lawn and need a mower.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Suburban Trade-offs

James Howard Kunstler has called suburbia the "greatest misallocation of resources in history". Aside from war, I would have to agree. It's easy to see the appeal of a house in the burbs - bigger house, better schools - but hard to see the costs. I think that if people were to take a serious, rigorous look at what these costs are, they might re-evaluate their purchase of a McMansion.


Unevaluated Costs of Living in a Distant Suburb/Exurb

1. Commute time - in some places, a commute from the suburbs is double or triple the time. Over a year this could easily add up to an extra 250 hours (30 minutes * twice a day * 5 days a week * 50 weeks) - or 6.25 workweeks. What could you do with an extra 250 hours a year?

2. Commute cost - In the past, gas has been so cheap as to appear to be "free". But as prices have doubled in the past few years, and will double again, this will begin to seriously hurt. My husband and I spend $100 per month on gas. But we have friends that spend $600. That's $7200 a year! Additionally, more driving wears out your car faster, meaning that your car needs more repairs and you have to replace the car quicker. And just a thought - most suburbs don't have any public transport.

3. Stress and the costs of stress - Stress from traffic jams, from being cut off in traffic, from sitting too long in your car. All this stress adds up and takes a toll on your body and on your mood. Stress dampens your immune response, leading to increased colds and other infections. Between 75 and 90% of doctor's visits are for stress-related complaints, which range from headaches, to high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and anxiety.

4. Loss of sleep - Some people give up activities when they have less time, but others just give up sleep. Americans average less than 7 hours of sleep, when most healthy adults require 8 - 9 hours. Sleep loss (also worsened by stress, see above) contributes to a variety of problems, including impatience, irratability, depression, slower reaction times and increased number of errors. Sleep deprivation may account for as many as 100,000 auto accidents in the US every year.

5. Loss of healthy living habits - Strange how we never seem to have time to exercise or fix healthy meals, which have such an impact on our health and our moods. Instead of cooking a healthy meal with whole grains and vegetables, a lot of Americans, especially ones short on time, tend to cook a packaged meal or skip the whole "cook" step and just get fast food. Of course, fast food is a processed nightmare with all the wrong kinds of fats, sugars etc. I'm sure you already know that.

And, living in a suburb means that you have to get in a car to go anywhere. There's no walking down to the corner store or restaurant. That cuts down on exercise as well.

6. Cost of maintaining a bigger house - A primary appeal of the burbs is being able to afford a bigger house. But bigger houses mean more money for repairs, updates, and daily maintenance. Some people have to hire a housekeeper. Some people have to pay $300 for gas and electricity. It adds up.

7. Cost of maintaining a bigger lawn / yard - It's nice to have a yard for gardening, a lawn for the dog. But, yard care does have a cost (unless you are growing all your own food :). With a smaller yard you can get away with a reel mower and a dandelion puller. In a bigger yard either you spend half a Saturday mowing and edging your lawn, applying fertilizer and herbicides (not me!) or you hire someone to do it for you.

I propose that a move from a nice 1000 foot house in the innner suburbs, where the yards are small, public transport is available and commutes are only 10 minutes, to a 2500 foot house in the outer suburbs, will cost you significantly in time and money, and possibly even your health. I realize that sometimes, a home close to the city just isn't financially feasible. Still, be sure to evaluate ALL the costs before you make a big commitment.

Breastfeeding tips

So you're about to be a new Mom. And you plan to breastfeed. Scratch that - you WILL breastfeed! My top reasons to breastfeed:
1. Losing a lot of quick weight. (Although some women don't lose those last few pounds until they quit nursing.)
2. Not having your period (should this be #1??).
3. Not having to fix, warm or clean bottles (if you are feeding directly).
4. All the health benefits for your baby. And this means it will be less likely that you will have to take care of a poor sick baby (which is heartwrenching) or pay for doct0r visits or medicines.
5. Environmental benefits - no formula to process, package or ship.
6. Emergency benefits - as long as you can get any food and water for yourself, you can probably breastfeed your baby (as opposed to needing specialized formula).

SO - Here are some handy tips from someone who had a few hiccups along the way.

1. Plan to have help. Maybe your sister with 3 kids, your doula, or the lactation consultant at the hospital can help make sure your latch is comfortable and help you understand what to expect. Taking a class is helpful, but you won't really be able to "practice" until the baby is born. Breastfeeding may not be perfect at first - both of you have to learn how to do it, and it may seem at first that it isn't working. Certainly, for the first 3 days my baby didn't want to feed - he just wanted to sleep. But hang in there, because your baby is born with extra fat reserves to give him some time to learn how to do it, and time for your milk to come in.

2. Have a nest. My nest was a LaZboy with a Boppy, with a view of the backyard and the TV and access to a handy side table which contained the following: burp cloth, large water glass, remote control, home and cell phones, magazine, book and snack. In the early days, all these items were essential because each feed might take 30 minutes plus a nap of 30 minutes - now I just need a glass of water and the remote control :).

3. Understand what you are getting into. Know the advantages and disadvantages of nursing. And be prepared to spend up to half of your day nursing in the first 6 weeks. (i.e. 30 minutes times 8 feeds = 4 hours). By 5 months, it may be down to only 1 1/2 hours - (6 feeds times 15 minutes), probably about the same time as bottlefeeding would be. Luckily, time you spend nursing can also be time you spend talking to a friend or reading a book - aside from the time you spend looking down at your precious angel.

4. Be ready to log. In the first 2 weeks, we kept track of every feed, pee and poop of our little fellow, to make sure everything was on track. When he wasn't pooping "on track", we called a lactation consultant to make sure everything was ok.

5. Have your supplies ready. There's not a lot to get, but it is handy to have a Boppy, breast pump & bottles, nipple pads (for the first couple of months), and some Lansinoh cream (use after every feed at first - just as a soreness prevention).

6. Drink lots and lots of water. This is very important to both keep up your supply and to avoid constipation.

Breastfeeding has been a great experience. I know that it's not for everyone, but I also know that many people give up before they even try. So - I hope these tips will make it a little easier for you to stick in there! Happy feeding!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Check your assumptions

After peak oil production occurs, we will have less oil each year to produce our needs and desires. Most Peak Oil activists believe this - aside from that we are diverse in our beliefs and assumptions.

What are yours? Check all that apply. And - add your own!

General
Our economy will continue to grow due to the demand for alternatives and energy efficient technologies.
Our economy will continue to function much the same due to alternative fuels.
Our economy will continue to function much the same but small adjustments will need to be made.
Our economy will experience an ongoing recession.
Our economy will experience alternating contractions and expansions.
Our economy will go into a deep depression, getting worse each year.
Our economy will go into a deep depression, but improving as people and companies adjust to the new low-energy reality.
Our economy will cease to exist as people begin to die from famine and breakdown of social services and crime escalates.

Financial
Currencies will continue to be the main way to buy and sell goods and services.
Currencies will continue to exist but will be mixed with lots of bartering.
Other goods such as gold will replace paper currencies.
Bartering and food will replace paper currencies.
We will experience hyperinflation as our currencies devalue.
We will experience deflation as the economy contracts.
International stock and bond markets will continue uninterrupted.
Stock and bond markets will cease to exist as people realize continous growth is impossible with declining energy.
Banks will fail as fractionated reserves become impossible.
Banks will continue to serve for storage of money and lending to individuals and companies.

Food
Food will remain abundant in grocery stores, but more expensive.
Food will become localized to regions; fresh produce will only be available in-season.
The government will institute food rationing.
Good food will only be available to those who have stored it up and who can grow their own.
The government will provide enough staples so that people don't starve.
People with food will need to protect it from roving violent gangs.

Services
The electrical grid will continue to function unabated.
We will experience increasingly frequent rolling blackouts.
Electricity will become too expensive to run most appliances.
Only people with solar panels will have electricity.
Sewage, trash and water services will continue to function the same.
Sewage, trash and water services will begin to erode as communities cannot afford to maintain their facilities.
Sewage, trash and water services will become privatized and too expensive for many to afford.
Police and fire services will continue uninterrupted.
Police and fire services will become corrupt and privatized.

Transport
People will continue traveling alone in their cars to the bitter end.
Most people will drive hybrids for their transportation needs.
Public transport via busing will become the main way of traveling.
Car pooling will become more common.
Telecommuting will dominate the American white-collar workplace.
Biking and walking will become the main way of traveling.
People will continue to fly in airplanes for vacations and business.
Air transport will be limited to the ultra rich or government officials.
Goods will be mainly transported via trucks.
Goods will be mainly transported via trains and barges.

Living arrangements
People will continue to live mainly as they do now, with one family per house, apartment or condo.
Families will consolidate in the most advantageous locations or biggest accomodations.
Inner cities will be abandoned due to the blight and violence.
Inner cities will be in demand because they are close to jobs and services.
Suburbia will be abandoned because nothing is walkable.
Suburbia will be revitalized as people grow food on their plots and run home based businesses.
Only farming communities will survive.
Only well-guarded or militarized communities will survive.
Many parts of the country are abandoned as it becomes too expensive to live there (ie Las Vegas, Phoenix).

Health care
Health care will be offered to all, but only the most basic and preventative services.
Advanced health care such as cancer treatment and surgery will only be available to the wealthy.
Health care will continue in its current system, but available to fewer people every year.
Health care transitions to a low-energy preventative focus of diet, exercise, herbal medicine, massage, and regular flossing.
The population becomes generally healthier since we all work in the fields and eat local organic food.
The population is ravaged by famine and preventable diseases as the healthcare system is overwhelmed.

Government
The national government becomes fascist and controlling, with the population constantly monitored.
The national government becomes obsolete as less money is available for funding.
The national government attempts to take over the Middle East to maintain our standard of living.
The national government provides basics to the population such as food and health care.
Government becomes localized to town halls.
Government services cease to exist.
Government services become privatized.

Education
Free education is only available until the basics are taught (reading, writing, arithmatic)
There is no more government sponsored education.
Home schooling and neighborhood schools predominate.
Students must compete for the limited advanced education opportunities.
Students must exchange years of service in exchange for the limited advanced education opportunities.
Apprenticeships resume in place of higher education.

Employment
Employment continues much the same, but with a higher unemployment rate.
Jobs become scarce and people compete fiercely to get decent wages and benefits.
Corporations take the place of government, providing gated communities and services in exchange for employment.
Most jobs become localized farming, craftspeople or services.
Most current jobs become obsolete as international financing fails and people don't have money for new products.
Only farmers, protection services and scavengers survive.
The national government becomes the only reliable employment.

Protection
Any crime will be seriously punished by the fascist government.
Crimes will go unpunished since the police forces have broken down.
Anyone wanting safety will need to pay a private security force
If you leave the house, be sure to have your gun and Kevlar vest.
All secure homes will need a dog, barred windows, 2-3 guns and video cameras.
The only safe places will be in gated communities.
The government will control the populace via sedatives and free cable television.