Friday, May 30, 2008

Ways to spend a stimulus

Whee! Peak Oil shopping!

Ok, so for many of you the wisest course may be paying down debt or saving the moola. And for those kindhearted of you, I know that food pantries and environmental organizations could really use your help.

For others, you may want to invest in some peak oil prep.

I'm normally quite a frugal person. Not as frugal as many, but more so than most in our culture. I buy my and my son's clothes used. We set the thermostat 68/78. I get my books from the library. My car is 15 years old. The only debt we have is the mortgage. You get the picture!

My point is - although I don't normally like to spend money, I spend money to prepare for peak oil and to decrease our impact on the environment.

You might want to have a plan in mind before you start. Are you going to:

  1. Create Garden of Eden on your suburban eighth acre?
  2. Move in with your mother when no one can afford to live alone?
  3. Prepare to flee into the wilderness when the bomb drops?
  4. Create a home-on-wheels that will evacuate you to your 10 acres in Tennessee, where you will start living off the land?

Whatever your plan, buy accordingly. Here are some thoughts on prices for things. Mix and match!

325 lbs of wheat berries stored in plastic buckets - $145
100 lbs of rice still in the burlap containers - $45
10 containers of oats (Always Save) - $18.88

Country Living Grain Mill - $400
Katadyn Water Filter (supposed to last for thousands of gallons) - $200
Global Sun Oven - $200
Hybrid Sun Oven - $250
Solar lantern - $85
Bike, electric bike or scooter - $100 - ??

2-3 Years worth of seeds from Baker's Creek - $85
4 x 20 garden - $125 for lumber, fertilizer, compost, straw mulch (maybe less)
Personal How To library - $150 for 10 vital books
Mini fruit orchard - $5 - 30 each depending on where you get them - maybe $125 for a peach, 2 plums, 2 apples, 2 pears, 2 grape vines

Insulating your home - $500 - 1000
Tent and sleeping bags - $250 (depends on quality)
First Aid kit - $40
Liquor for trading - the skies the limit!

Individual alternatives

In the process of preparing for peak oil and climate change, I have been evaluating low-to-no energy alternatives for each of the activities and appliances that we use. Surprisingly, I have found that many of them may be fairly easy to replace. A few, I still have not figured out.

Let's start with the obvious:
Clothes Dryer - clothesline and indoor drying racks.
Dishwasher - Washing dishes by hand
Hair Dryer - Unneccessary, IMHO.

And the not so obvious:
Heating - Energy efficient Fireplace/ woodstove/ cookstove (needs to be super energy efficient to avoid deforesting the rest of the world). Also, super insulation and excellent windows. Plus, wearing lots of extra clothes, moving about, and drinking hot tea.
A/C - Ceiling fans and open windows. Minimal clothing. Lots of shading of your house by trees and vines. Not moving much between 12 and 4. :) Frankly, I don't know if this will cut it here in OK. But if electricity doubles the way gas has, will most people really have a choice?
Oven/Cooktop - Sun Oven. Wood cookstove. Clay oven for bread and pizzas.
Lighting - Solar lanterns. Kerosene lanterns. Going to bed early.
Hot water - Solar hot water.
Clothes Washing - I have it on good authority that there are manual clothes washers/wringers out there. I've never seen one. Also, I hear that a big tub and anything that could be used as an agitator would also work.
Canning food - You can actually can in the Sun Oven! I haven't actually tried it yet though.

And the unnecessary but IMHO highly desirable -
TV/DVD/Stereo - Local entertainment, books, games, walking about outside, lots of alcohol :). Putting on plays and playing together in bands. Spending most of our time in productive activities that can be pleasant such as homebrewing. Or, a small Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy system.

What I haven't figured out:
Coffeemaker- Is there something called a french press? If so, how does it work? I could possibly just heat up my water in the Sun Oven and then use the french press.
The FRIDGE! I mean, yes I know that we can overwinter veggies, and store some in a root cellar (which I do not have yet), and maybe keep a chicken or two in the backyard for eggs, but what do you do about milk and cheese? There are no dairy farmers currently in my area to drop by every day.

What have people always done in cities, for that matter? Did they all just eat at restaurants? Because I can't see apartment dwellers in London in the 1800's being able to cook a lot of food. Did they just buy their food every day and bring it home??

Someone enlighten me! Because whatever they used to do, we need to figure out a way to improve on it and get really local.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Renaming myself

I think I should call this blog the Sun Oven Hausfrau!

Today got started very late in the game - baby went down for a nap around 3:15 and I started piddling around on the Internet - thinking "Isn't there something I should be doing? (Besides laundry - there's always laundry to do.)".

Aha! The sun has come out from behind the clouds!

I quickly whipped up a veggie casserole - with cheese, eggs, sour cream, it can't be low-fat - but at least it has eggs and veggies! Stuck it in at 4:00, it was great by 6:15. Much later in the day than I thought I could cook in the Sun Oven.

Actually..... I plan to get another Sun Oven. There is a new one, a hybrid that has back up electric power, with a larger capacity, and uses much much less power than a regular oven (and of course no power when the sun is out). So theoretically, this one could be used almost all the time.

I came up with 4 good reasons to get a second Sun Oven:
  1. Cooking for more than two people.
  2. Cooking more food when the sun is out, to be used later (like rice, beans, bread and potatoes).
  3. A backup in case the other is damaged.
  4. MAYBE, to be shared with neighbors/family when SHTF.

The best price I could find was on Amazon at $250. Will keep you posted on how it works!

Big elephant

Being mostly liberal, of course I feel bad about judging any one for their choices or lifestyle. That's just the way we are. So, I want to start by saying that I'm not judging any individuals here for their choices - just want people to think before they start a family.

I know it's not particularly popular (actually it's exceptionally unpopular) to discuss the population problem. It's the big elephant in the room. And for now, I'm going to avoid the whole having big families in developing countries argument. Because face it, they have three big disadvantages compared with us: problems getting reliable birth control, women often having no power to say "no", and not being sure their children will survive to an age to take care of them.

Now, the developed world is a different story. Every one of our children's carbon footprints is what? 10 - 20 times that of a Ugandan, an Uzbekistanian, a Peruvian. To put it another way, those people would have to have 20 kids to equal the impact of one of ours.

With peak oil, climate change, scarcity of fertilizer, water and basically everything else, is it really responsible anymore to bring more than one or two kids into the world?

Full disclosure: I have one child, and we are debating another, and my mom came from a family of 8. Sometimes it seems perfectly reasonable and logical for us to have one more, other times it seems like sheer selfishness and lunacy. But one thing is for sure: we see 2 kids as being our "Replacement" value. Meaning that if everyone had 2 then global population would stabilize. Of course, (IMHO) it would be much better if global population decreased, hopefully in a kinder gentler way, say by attrition and low birth rates, than by Mother Nature's/God's more harsh way (disease, birth defects, war, starvation).

Because we only got to this gigantic population with the aid of a zillion year's worth of fossil fuels being poured into our agriculture, at the rate of 10 calories of fossil fuel to every calorie eaten. What will happen to our population when that supply either slowly or suddenly erodes?

In the US, we've always had public support to fall back on - public support that may disappear along with the middle class. Sharon Astyk had a pretty good post awhile back about how the poor in our society can still "make" it because of the many types of assistance - formal and not - than we have in the more developed countries. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment assistance, Goodwill stores, church food programs, the kindness of strangers. But all this depends on a large class of people willing to give tax money to support those programs, donations to food pantries, and passing on their used items. How will poor people with five kids make it without food pantries, public transport and roads, Medicaid and the Goodwill?

After I became a mother, I became much more sensitive to any kind of story involving a child suffering. I really just can't even bear to think about it. The worst is thinking about a family having to choose which kids to feed. You even hear about families (not in the US) having to sell one of their kids to feed the rest. That's one choice you never want to make- and hopefully we'll never have to.

I think I'm impressed!

Today got my seed from Baker's. Wow! The $80 "Southern Selection" package got me about 70 different kinds of seeds! Basically, everything I could have wanted. Although I noticed they did not include Spinach. Maybe it's not meant to be? I think that this package, if I started all the seed, assuming all the land I needed, and with the addition of potatoes and fruit, could possibly indeed provide all the food we would need for a year. And the seeds would probably last me possibly all 3 years (which was my goal). I mean, I have enough seed to start about 300 tomatoes here.

Now I can't get too crazy with the recommendation because I have no idea about the germination rate and how these seeds will perform, but so far am very satisfied! I even noticed they only charged me $3 shipping but the cost to them was $5.95.

Beans - Pole
Beans - Long
Corn - 2 kinds
New Zealand Spinach
Asian Greens - 4 kinds
Lettuce
Swiss Chard
Beets
Rutabaga
Turnip
Parsnip
Carrot - 2 kinds
Tomatoes - 12 kinds!
Peppers - 6 kinds!
Eggplant- 2 kinds
Cucumber- 2 kinds
Artichoke
Onion- 2 kinds
Okra
Kohlrabi
Sesame
Amaranth
Melons - 6 kinds!
Watermelon
Squash - Summer & Winter
Brocolli
Cabbage
Brussels Sprouts

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Coping strategies

Recently read a book entitled "Gang Leader for a Day". The author decides to do research on the projects in Chicago and ends up with a gang leader showing him the ropes. Don't know how true or authentic it was, but it was interesting to see that side of life.

One memorable part was about the people living in the projects and the struggles they have to go through. Everything is harder for them: they have no safety net, usually no cars, no savings, and everyone they know is in the same boat. One problem the author mentioned is that it is very rare for all the appliances to be working in an apartment in the projects. Hot water, the shower, the fridge, the stove - usually at least one of these will be broken (and won't be fixed any time soon).

So, the residents have evolved a strategy to deal with this problem. A group of about five women-headed families rotate using each other's apartments for various purposes - fixing dinner at Shaniah's place, taking showers at Laquesha's place, etc. A lot of barter and exchange goes on.

Now, money and unlimited energy have allowed us to have one of everything that we want. It's a lot rarer for the middle class to borrow something from a neighbor or a family member. Just look in the garage - how many tools do you have that you use maybe 3 or 4 times a year? We're guilty of this too - we even have a tile cutter. It's just less trouble to own whatever you want than to depend on someone else.

And how often do we ask and offer favors? It's easier and simpler, less complicated psychologically, just to pay someone to do what we want. I mean, how many of us really know our neighbors and what they can do anyway?

That mentality probably needs to end, and peak oil is just the way to do it. I envision lists of tools that can be borrowed from different people on your block - a thriving back-and-forth will strengthen the community and make more available to everyone. This strategy will be more necessary as electricity becomes intermittent and things begin to break.

After awhile, there may be only one house around that has a PV (photovoltaic solar energy) system - maybe they can host movie night once a month. There might be only two or three people with reel mowers - maybe they can loan out their mowers (or start a mowing service) until the lawns are eventually gone.

Knowledge will be just as important. The people who know how to do things will be valuable resources in a smaller world where you can't just outsource all your chores and problems and food-growing. People will be needed to teach others how to save seeds, start seeds, make raised beds, fertilize, weed gardens. People will need to lead the way and make the previously unimaginable into the necessary and commonplace. Composting, humanuring, woodstove cooking, guerilla insulating, tearing up lawns, biking everywhere, jerry-rigging, rainwater harvesting.

Someone will need to be ready to step up with an easy-to-teach system - for everything - that can be made with readily available materials. Maybe we are becoming those people now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Electricity chicken

Well, our power went out with the storm last night around 3 am. Amazing how pitch black it is without a moon, night lights or street lights! Fortunately we had our handy-dandy electric lanterns when we had to change a diaper at 4 am. Anyway, I got up at the regular time and soon began noticing how little of my regular routine I could accomplish.
  • Couldn't make tea in the microwave or coffee in the coffeemaker
  • Couldn't turn on the dishwasher
  • Couldn't order any peak oil supplies on the internet
  • Couldn't read updates on Energy Bulletin or LATOC
  • Couldn't check the weather on TV
  • Didn't want to take a cold shower ;)
  • Couldn't warm up lasagna in Sun Oven (too cloudy) or microwave

Here's what I did do:

  • Sleep
  • Watch my baby play with his toys
  • MORE mulching
  • Changed diapers
  • Fed baby
  • Became very bored and drove 10 miles to my SIL's house

What a chicken I am! But when the stars align and the electricity goes out, the sun goes away, and I am alone without another adult to talk to, I start using up my carbon credits for the week. My good friend Lewru has advised me to get some low-tech entertainment, and I will heed her advice. Here are my thoughts:

  • Books
  • Cards
  • Books of crossword puzzles and Sudoku
  • Dice
  • Board Games
  • Outdoor games
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Yoga routines memorized
  • Perhaps a laptop? (battery powered)
  • Lyrics of favorite songs printed out
  • Musical instruments
  • Car games (20 questions, etc.)

That's all I can think of. Suggestions??

Monday, May 26, 2008

Prep update

I try to do at least one thing every day to prepare for peak oil and / or reduce my impact on the environment.

Latest....
  • Bought bulk seed pack from Baker Creek
  • Changed power strip configuration so we can turn off our energy "vampires" at night. Basically this consisted of moving the power strips so we can get to the off button. Also, we had to plug the modem into the outlet instead of the power strip because it freaks out when we turn off the power to it.
  • Prepared bottles for next homebrew.
  • Mulched garden paths with cardboard and straw.
  • Read excerpts from "Wild Fermentation", a book about using natural fermentation to make foods healthier and preserve their freshness longer.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rainwater catchment photog



To demonstrate how the rainwater catchment system works:


Here is one of our tanks -


Fig. 1: The attachment from our gutters to the tank:



Fig. 2: The tank with attachment (into a screw-on lid with a screen for a filter) and overflow valve:












Fig. 3: The tank with faucet (this was the most complicated part) into the watering can:














Thursday, May 22, 2008

Garden update

Just thought I'd let ya'll know how the HausFrau's amateur gardening efforts are going....

Everything in the summer garden has been planted.
  • 5 tomatoes
  • 5 peppers
  • 2 eggplants
  • 3 pumpkins
  • 2 zuchinnis
  • 3 buttercup squash
  • 3 cucumbers
  • Leftover radishes, beets, carrots, spinach, lettuce, onions from the spring garden
  • Herbs: parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives
  • Perennial veggies: bloody sorrel, salad burnet, asparagus

The tomatoes, peppers, and zukes have set a few fruits. The lettuce is not doing as well as I would like in the container. The Bull's Blood beets are beautiful and I have been harvesting the leaves for salads. One tomato is pretty sickly looking; the stem was half severed in a recent wind storm.

As I look over my list it does not look like nearly enough!! Oh well, hopefully TEOTWAWKI will not occur this year. But still, I will be planting a big fall garden and also, will order 3 years of OP seeds within the next month.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Intermittent electric

For a lot of my Peak Oil preparation I have been thinking in terms of off/on, black/ white. It is hard for me to see the transistion in between regular ole' today and the post-peak future. Often I have thought that "We need to get that thing / practice that habit in case there is no more electricity". Then I would think "Will it really ever come to that???"

One thing that occurred to me today. I don't know if electricity will disappear, but I feel I can be reasonably certain, based on what is occuring across the world, and precedents in our own history, that we may see the following:
  • Very expensive electricity
  • Sporadic blackouts as supply can't meet demand at peak times
  • Downed power lines / broken transformers are not repaired in a timely manner (like weeks!)

Thus it makes sense to:

  • Conserve as much as possible
  • Find non-electric and non-fossil fuel alternatives
  • Invest in some PV gadgets

So, what am I doing/planning now?

Conservation

  • Have super-insulated the house
  • Replacing one giant single-pane window
  • Energy Star appliances
  • Geo-thermal heating / cooling (but looking back, not sure if this is an efficient use of funds)
  • CFLs
  • Good energy hygiene (turning off lights, trying to use fans instead of A/C)
  • FUTURE: Need to get solar dryer

Non-electric alternatives

  • Global Sun Oven (my favorite - works great!)
  • Reel mower
  • Solatube (for daylight)
  • Replacing a non-opening window with one that will open, to get a breeze through the house
  • Having lots of warm clothes and blankets on hand
  • Have a 800-gallon rainwater storage system, still need a handpump
  • FUTURE: Solar clothes dryer :)
  • FUTURE: Solar food dryer, keeping food without refrigeration (dry cellaring)
  • FUTURE: Clothes washer & wringer
  • FUTURE: Wood cookstove

PV Gadgets

  • Solar charged lantern
  • FUTURE: Solar charger for cell phones, iPods, anything that runs on a battery
  • FUTURE: Micro-PV system to run the following: 3 CFL lightbulbs, 1 ceiling fan, 1 TV or 1 laptop 2 hrs/day

You can see I have a lot to do! Since I have zero experience in living without electricity, fill me in if you know any tips! Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for wood cookstoves. I just have no experience with them at all, and they are quite expensive. I don't want to make a mistake on that front.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Solar oven safety tips

The Global Sun Oven is pretty powerful - heats up to about 250 degrees really quickly, with a max of about 350. I have scorched my hand and blinded myself temporarily a few times while working with it. I've also noticed that the times in my Cooking with Sunshine book are a little too long - probably because they are referencing the home-made box cookers.

I suggest the following tips:
  • Wear sunglasses while working with it - even while setting it up
  • Wear oven gloves whenever opening or closing
  • Keep away kids under 7 or 8
  • Stablize the GSO when it is windy (it has an "elevator" to properly aim it at the sun)

Maybe keep an extra pair of sunglasses and oven gloves with the GSO so you don't have to debate between going to get them or working without them.

Sunday: Cooked Spinach enchilada casserole. Yum!!

Monday: Cooked quinoa. Very quick.

Tuesday: Fried 2 eggs for lunch. Actually they were more like boiled sunny side up eggs. Kind of rubbery. But still ok. Should have put some butter in there when I was heating up the frying pan before I put in the eggs.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Eco awards

How do we harness the energy of those who pride themselves on accomplishment and jobs done well? How do we focus the efforts of the straight-A students, marathon runners, uber-Moms, entrepreneurs?

They're all working to achieve things that are valued by our culture - being number 1, money, being busy, being in demand, having the latest, having the greatest. Those things are the markers of success.

But.... in order for the planet and people to prosper, what do we need for them to achieve? What do we need to be the markers of success?

Here are my proposed awards for all those overachievers out there looking for the next frontier - and remember people, no guts, no glory!

Least miles driven
Competitors: walkers, bikers, bus-riders, in-line skaters.

Fewest products bought new
Competitors: garage sale and thrift store shoppers, serious simplicitizers.

Most creative re-use for a common item
Competitors: Artists, tinkerers, engineers, thinkers.

Most re-use of items
Competitors: Business owners looking for cheap packaging or materials. Gardeners. Anyone who makes things. City 're-using' departments.

Most organically grown food
Competitors: Gardeners, farmers.

Best loop closer
Competitors: Permaculturists, architects, process designers.

Smallest zero-energy home
Competitors: architects, homeowners, homebuilders, developers.

Most trees planted
Competitors: everybody!!

What suggestions do you have? Will you compete for any of these awards?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Post peak medicine

I am trying to develop an approach to taking care of my family's medical needs after peak medicine. Obviously, it will be strongly focused on the preventative. To me, that means:
  • Good nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Lots of clean water
  • Avoiding toxicities
  • Brushing and flossing
  • Stretching and yoga
  • Getting a good night's sleep
  • Massage
  • Safety first !!

But what about health problems and childbirth? Best case scenario, we will still have medical professionals available in some formal capacity, with some supplies like painkillers and antibiotics to prescribe. I'm not sure whether to count on our hospital-pharmaceutical-insurance complex caring for us. That option may only be available to a select few, or it may have crumbled altogether.

Mid-case scenario, herbalists, accupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors will fill the medical gap with their low-technology ways. All these can be done without long supply chains, although many Chinese herbs won't be available anymore.

Worst case scenario (barring Mad Max breakdown), many people will just have to take care of themselves, especially in emergency/disaster situations. This is true even today, and certainly in most of the world. So, we might as well prepare for this situation.

What would this type of preparation look like?

  • Staying strong and healthy in the first place (see above)
  • Keeping up with preventative dental/medical maintenance while still available
  • Trying to improve health enough so that prescriptions are not needed (i.e. some conditions such as Type II diabetes and high cholesterol can be "eliminated) - obviously this won't work in every case
  • Invest in a good First Aid Kit and include it in your Go-bag
  • Stockpile any needed medications, supplements and prescriptions, if possible (for example, we have a giant bottle of Vitamin C and one of Alleve)
  • Store any needed supplies not included in a First Aid kit (for a suggested list see Jack Spigarelli's Crisis Preparedness handbook)
  • Start growing useful medicinal herbs (for example, echinacea, parsley, fennel, feverfew, rosemary, oregano, etc)
  • Take class on herbs
  • Take class on First Aid
  • Take EMT course (this could be a good career option)
  • Take a doula or midwifery course (if anyone you know may become pregnant one day - also this could also be a good career option)
  • Stock up on all supplies needed for childbirth (if anyone you know may become pregnant one day)
  • Create your own medical library - books on herbs, Where There is No Doctor, Where There is No Dentist, books on anatomy, books on childbirth and midwifery, home remedies, etc.
  • Investigate alternatives, such as colloidal silver, grapefruit seed extract, etc. Look into them, and if you think they will be useful, consider having some on hand and know how to use them.
  • I'm not suggesting you grow p-o-t or p-o-p-p-i-e-s, but in the distant future they might be handy if you happened to have any seeds stored!

Well, that's it for my ideas. Do you have any thoughts on providing medical care after the antibiotic factory shuts down?

Oh, and here's the disclaimer: Nothing here should be construed as medical advice, always consult your doctor, yada yada yada.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Flu outbreak?

I have read a few articles recently about deadly flu outbreaks, like the one in 1918 that killed 50 - 100 million people. Before that, I had tended to ignore the media on the flu topic, figuring it was just one more overblown scare designed to generate nightly news eyeballs.

Now, it seems like it is just a matter of time. I mean, every year, despite our precautions, people are miserable for weeks at a time, consume massive quantities of tea, Vitamin C, antibiotics, and Kleenex, and lose valuable productivity :). So what would stop a deadly flu outbreak (influenza pandemic) from overwhelming our hospitals and doctors and killing millions?

The Medical Journal of Australia recommends that each household stock a 3 month supply of food and supplies. We in the US might want to heed their recommendation. Here is their 10 week suggested "lifeboat" - although I doubt I will be stocking up on Vegemite.

I would suggest also trying to have a year round garden just to have something fresh and green available. Here in OK we can overwinter lettuce, spinach, carrots, parsley, some unusual greens, and probably some other veggies too. And of course, pickins' are ripe in the spring, summer and fall. Try to have seeds on hand all year round. Just a thought!

Closing the loop

There have been quite a few stories recently about shortages - food, water, and fertilizer. While population and consumption are driving us to ruin, we shoot ourselves in both feet with how we manage - or mismanage - the flow of the inputs and outputs to our most basic systems, such as agriculture. Even the organic farming model often ignores one of the fundamental sustainability principles - closing the loop. The crux of this principle is "No waste".

Sidebar: In no way am I claiming to have closed the loop in my own life. I buy things. I throw things away. I flush toilets. I use fossil fuel energy. Yep, I'm as guilty as anyone. I am trying to reduce all of those wastes, though.

So, what would a sustainable small-scale agriculture look like? To me, sustainable means "capable of being sustained for hundreds, maybe thousands of years". It means using naturally available, local inputs to grow the food and instead of throwing away the outputs, reusing them.

First, let's list the inputs and outputs of organically grown food.

Inputs:
Fertilizer
Compost
Mulch
Seeds
Transplants
Labor (Digging, weeding, etc)
Organic pest sprays
Water
Sunshine
Tools
Pollination

Outputs:
Food
Herbs
Flowers
Shade
Non-food plant material
Feces
Urine

The question, in a post-peak world is, how am I going to get the seeds, compost, mulch, and fertilizer that I now get from the store? What happens if strict water rationing occurs? What am I going to do with the feces and urine I produce if the sewer system has become unreliable? The massive amounts of fossil fuels that are required to run the trucking economy, that run our water and sewage systems, our electric grid, as well as the agriculture of the world.... cannot be sustained.

So, here are some of the answers I have picked up from here and there. Some I have tried, some I have not. Be aware that some of the answers could shock or offend you.

Seeds: Saving seeds from the previous year's plants. Growing more perennials where possible to avoid having to re-seed every year. Letting volunteers spring up from last year's crops. Taking cuttings from plants before they die out in the fall and re-starting them.

Mulch: Leaf mold. Old newspapers and cardboard laying around (scavenging). Grass clippings. Straw. Comfrey cuttings.

Compost: Composting humanure and weed, plant material and kitchen scraps.

Fertilizer: Diluted human urine (which is sterile enough to drink). Worm, chicken and rabbit excrement.

Water: Rainwater harvesting, storing water in the soil with plenty of compost and mulch, and greywater recycling.

And how to get rid of the "waste"? The answer to the outputs is in the inputs. Feces and urine can be composted with any material high in carbon, ideally sawdust. Urine can be diluted and used as fertilizer.

I know that most people aren't going to be comfortable with these ideas. There's a significant Eww factor. But if people are serious about growing their own food, and need a way to get inputs and deal with ouputs, the answer lies in closing the loop. Right now, I'm not talking about using these ideas on an industrial level - just on a personal level, where everyone knows everyone involved.

Most people may not start using these ideas right away. They'll be handy, though, if TSHTF. The more these ideas are used now, the less carbon is used, the less waste generated, the less waste of water and fossil fuels. And the better prepared you will be to survive without the formal economy - and to show others how to survive as well.

I'm tired of people dancing around the true concept of sustainability! Let's get the details out in the open where the light of day can show us that they are not dangerous. If Bear Grylls can drink his own urine on TV, we can use it to fertilize our plants. Let's knock down the superficial barriers in our minds that are keeping us from saving the planet and saving ourselves.