Friday, February 27, 2009

Homebrew, sweet nectar of the gods


Since college, I've been more of a wine-drinker than a beer-drinker. I never liked the usual cheap fare - Budweiser, Miller, Coors. Even the micro-brews weren't as good as a nice Shiraz. That is, until my husband got aboard the Peak Oil train with his new home-brewing hobby.



Homebrew Zen (See the yin-yang?)


My husband got a beer-brewing kit for Christmas, 2007. I think the equipment cost about $100. He saved up Sam Adams bottles for his brew for a few months, then received an awesome gift of some German beer bottles that have built-in, re-usable caps. At that point, he started brewing his first batch. Since then, he has brewed five batches of brew at about 50 beers each. Each time, he tries something new. A porter, a peach wheat beer, a nut brown ale. Each one seems better than the last, but each one is unique and delicious. I still have fond memories of that first porter.

Beer has a long and interesting history, having been brewed for over 9000 years. The Mesopotamians worshipped Ninkasi, the goddess of brewing. The monasteries of Europe brewed (and still brew) beer. Breweries in America originally brewed beer as strong as the beer common in Europe. When Prohibition in America forced most breweries into bankruptcy, bootleggers began watering down beer to increase profits, resulting in the much weaker beers that are popular in America today.


We have been buying beer "kits" from a local brew shop. The kits have everything but the tools and the bottles - including the malt extract, hops, priming sugar, and bottle caps. They cost about $33 - $40 each, to make about 50 beers. Less than a dollar each - I think it's a reasonable price for top quality beer. We joke about how many kits we need to stock to have enough beer when TSHTF. Maybe we're not joking.


The local brew shops make it very easy to get started. The proprietors are usually very helpful, sometimes even holding classes for beginners. When first reading a beer making book, the process looks complicated. But if you just take it step by step, following the instructions in a kit, it isn't hard. The process takes three or four hours one day to brew the beer, then about an hour to transfer the beer on another day, then finally another hour or two to bottle the beer. Four to six weeks later, we have bodacious beer.


Eventually we'd like to start making beer from scratch - using real wheat and home grown hops (which were already planted last fall!). Until then, I think home brewing is an economical and ecological winner, even using the kits. First of all, you re-use the bottles over and over, instead of sending them off to be recycled. Much better to re-use than re-cycle. Secondly, although the kits do have to be shipped in from who knows where, the shipping weight is much less than the equivalent of 50 beers. Third, we CAN store the kits, whereas beer stored for very long would go bad and take up a lot of room. And finally, it's a distributed and local process, so it builds resilience and self-reliance. Way to go, husband!

I'll admit I didn't know what to expect when he first started. I was prepared to be disappointed, as I've heard that results can be inconsistent. Now I am a huge fan of his beer. Often, I would rather drink a beer from his latest batch of brew than a glass of wine (although I still drink wine!). I definitely prefer his brew to any beer you can buy in a store - except maybe Chimay. But I can't afford to buy Chimay all the time, that's for sure. On second thought, it's every bit as good as that pricey monk-brewed beer!

Hubby has even gotten several of his friends at work to start the homebrewing hobby, and they recently held a head-to-head competition between their brews and the store-bought beer. Hubby's beer won! Congratulations to his Nut Brown Ale, the clear winner. I took a few sips of the "comparable" beer that the hosts bought and was really surprised by how much better the homebrew was. Bah, I hope I never have to drink beer from a store again.

Homebrews are nice to have on hand - you never have to run to the liquor store (cuts down on carbon emissions). Just throw a brew in the fridge when you want one. BTW, homebrews make great housewarming gifts or contributions to a potluck. You never have to go to a party empty-handed! Remember, make sure to get back your bottles before you go home. Those suckers are gold.
I wonder how hard it is to make homemade wine?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What is UNsustainability?

Events seem to be accelerating. The situation is deteriorating. The stock market continues to crash, auto sales continue to tank, people continue to be thrown out of what they thought were their homes. Job are lost, health care costs climb, education loans are denied. The government is not helping by pouring money down the black hole of insolvent banks. People are waking up, but not to reality. They are waking up to anger, indignation, disappointment, but still not to reality.


They are waking up to the idea that they are going to be denied their supposed birthright: progress. Growth. The idea that they will have lives better than their parents, and their children will have lives better than they did. Instead, human consumption and economic growth seems to have finally peaked in the time of the Baby Boomers. THAT, apparently, was as good as it gets. And frankly, it wasn't all that good.


So we've woken from our self-induced stupor, but not to reality. We understand now that we're in trouble. We understand now that there's a problem. But we still have not yet grasped the very basics of our situation. Sure, the environmentalists have been saying our lifestyle and economy is unsustainable for years. But what does that mean to me?


The illusion we have been living is that our lifestyle can continue. A lifestyle based on consuming everything on the planet, while flushing our waste "away" to the oceans and the people in the Third Wold. An economy and financial system that is based on never- ending growth, which is inherently impossible. A population that expands and expands and expands, while some people insist that all we need is more people to innovate us out of the mess we so carelessly created. We lived with our expectations and hopes for so long we began to think they were normal, when truly they were just temporary freaks of history.

There are plenty of definitions of sustainable. "Meeting our own needs without comprimising the needs of future generations to meet their own." "A system that does not exceed it's carrying capacity." "A society that does not take more than can be renewed and does not pollute more than can be absorbed." But what is unsustainable? Do we even need a definition, when it's all around us, exemplified by everything we see and do? Do we need a definition when unsustainable is the foundation of our lives?


"Unsustainable" does not just mean that our system MUST be stopped, for the sake of the plants and animals, for the water and air, for the planet and our own health. It means that it WILL stop. It WILL stop, because a system that relies on consuming finite resources for fuel cannot be sustained. A system that fouls and erodes the very productive capacities of the planet - the water, the soil, the air - cannot be sustained. It will collapse under the burden of it's own bloated requirements, it's pollution, it's untenable assumptions.


So, can we please get on with it? Can we stop hanging on to the deadweight of ideas that are dragging us down, stop clutching the noose that threatens to hang us all? Can we move past the idea of keeping the auto industry alive - when autos can never be a long term solution? Can we move past the idea of economic growth - when we know that infinite growth is just impossible? Can we stop hallucinating a future of moonbases and flux capacitors and Starship Enterprises, the last resort imaginings of an imploding society? Can we start towards a future that doesn't depend on things that CANNOT continue?


I know it's extremely unreasonable of me, but I'd like to live in a system where we all get our basic needs met. Basic needs are not just water and bread. We can have clean water, immunizations, antibiotics, healthy and tasty food. We can have celebrations and feasts and parties. We can have intellectual development, love, community, pleasure, leisure and entertainment.

We can have these things even as the infrastructure of our old economy rusts and crumbles to the ground - if we make them a priority. We, who understand the old way is lost, have to start now. We have to create a shadow system ready to meet our needs when the old way finally stumbles and falls. If we try to keep the old system running, all is lost. If we create a new system ready to take over from the wheezing, dying one, we win.

We don't have to be the generation that finished off humanity's chance for a sustainable future on this planet. We can be the generation that turned away from the trajectory of nuclear warheads and polllution and greed and ambition and simple blind ignorance. Are you looking for a destiny? Do you search for greatness? How about the greatest destiny ever: the creation of a society that can be sustained. A destiny where our children and grandchildren will say of us, "They stopped at the brink of the abyss. They pulled back from destruction. They walked away, and gave us a future. They gave all the future generations a chance."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Springtime is peak oil preptime

In Oklahoma City, the daffodils are blooming, peach and plum trees are beginning to bud, and the mint and sorrel are popping up. Apparently, it's spring. Spring time is busy time! This year, my main peak oil personal preparation goal is to grow and preserve more food. Last year was the first year we really tried to preserve anything out of the garden, and I'm now noticing when we start to run out of "the good stuff" and switch over to store-bought.

We just ran out of frozen tomatoes and okra, and are running low on pesto, dried oregano, and dried basil. Still plenty of: peach jam, pickled beets, and pickled peppers. We decided we didn't like our canned salsa, but maybe we will try again this year.

Peaches, circa 2008


The thyme, rosemary, parsley, kale and cilantro stayed green throughout the winter season (without any particular protection). Good news - these are all extremely nutritious! Kale has the highest ORAC (antioxidant and phytochemical) measure of any vegetable, as well as containing plenty of calcium, iron, and Vitamins A, C and K. Parsley, the world's most popular herb, is a detoxifier and has Vitamins K and A. Thyme and rosemary are also on Jonny Bowden's list of 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth (the source for all this handy nutritional information). I figure the kale and herbs should at least be enough to ward off scurvy ;).

My potatoes and butternut squash seem to be staying well-preserved in their storage sites - the uninsulated closet in the corner of the house for the squash and the ice chest in the garage for the potatoes. I put the squash and potatoes in their spots back in November, so they've been there for three months. Although the potatoes are beginning to sprout just a little, and a few spots in the squash feel soft, I think they are still edible. Not bad! Next year I will add apples and carrots in ice chests in the garage and onions and garlic in bins in the closet. This experiment definitely gives me hope for fresh veggies year-round without refrigeration, rather than the specter of living on beans, rice and wheat berries with assorted canned goods for four months of the year.


We planted five blackberry plants. I was able to get the kinds recommended by the OSU extension service locally at Horn Seed, although the plants are bareroot and not potted. I bought "thornless erect" Arapaho, Navajo, and Apache blackberries. Unfortunately I am running out of great spots in the backyard and had to plant them a bit under the pecan tree, so they will be in part shade for some of the day.


I bought a EuroCuisine yogurt maker - the kind that Crunchy Chicken recommends. I made one batch of yogurt and it turned out very tangy, but pretty tasty. It was excellent with some of my canned peaches. I know, you don't really need a little gadget to make yogurt, but it does make it easier and gives consistent results. I swear, it's only 13 watts! After I get used to adding yogurt-making into my routine, I'll try making bread.


I have to admit I may have bragged hastily about my banana bread making prowess in the Sun Oven. I made a loaf on Friday, and the bread rose very slowly, I believe because it was only 250 degrees in the Sun Oven. I had a hard time telling when it was "done", and so I left it in a little too long. So much for moist perfection. But even though a teensy bit dry, it is still very yummy, and no burnt crust. Just drizzling a little extra honey on a slice makes it delicious. Hey, any excuse will do.


I bought a 3rd plum tree from Horn Seed on Friday. I have one Japanese plum (Beauty) and one European plum (Italian), which I planted as bareroot trees from Burnt Ridge 3 years ago. The trees are lovely - but no fruit yet! The Italian is supposedly self-fruitful (needing no separate pollinator), but Beauty might need a pollinator to help her along, so I picked up a Santa Rosa plum. I was supposed to plant it this weekend, but instead we got caught up in...


The GREAT PRUNING. This weekend my hubby and I pruned two apple trees, two peach, two plum, several crepe myrtles, two Knock-Out Roses, and a grapevine. I can't believe I thought we'd have time for anything else on Sunday, but still on my list, needing to be crossed out, are: fertilize roses and fruit trees, plant plum tree, add manure and compost to the spring beds, turn the compost pile, thin and cut back perennials, and rake leaves.


Kiwis

The two kiwi vines (male and female) and one persimmon tree from Burnt Ridge Nursery should be on their way in a few weeks. My forever-handy Dad is going to help us put in a (very strong) trellis for the kiwi. Apparently a kiwi vine can set over a 100 pounds of fruit when mature. The persimmon is supposed to be pest-free and disease-free, very ornamental, and ripen later in the year when not too many other fruits are ripe.

Frankly, I could use a few pest-free plants. We'll see how they do. Anybody planting perennials or their gardens yet?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Don't call it a comeback

The Global Sun Oven is back! The GSO has been hibernating by my back door since about mid-November. I gave it a whirl on December 21st, which happened to be a partly cloudy day, also the shortest day of the year, and it barely functioned at all. At that point I decided to let it take a rest for a while.


Yesterday, with a clear blue sky, the GSO took only an hour to warm up to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (from 9:45 to 10:45 AM). I took a butternut squash from my cold storage room, stabbed it multiple times, and placed it on a baking tray, with a black cloth draped over it to increase heat-gain. Then I placed it in the pre-heated sun oven. Over the next few hours, I rearranged the GSO three times to aim it toward the sun, noting that it reached 300 degrees over the course of the baking time. The squash was really, really roasted by 1:45 PM. We used it last night to make butternut squash quesadillas.

The GSO works only marginally well during the three winter months at my latitude in Oklahoma City- from about mid-November until mid-February. It still works, but it takes much longer to warm up, and does not reach the same high temperatures that it does in spring/summer/fall. Also, since you have to jack up the back end so much to get proper sun-gain, it is a little more prone to falling over in high wind. On windy days, I would stabilize the box with bricks around the base, which helps to a certain extent. In a desperate situation, you could definitely still use it on sunny days, but you would have to plan your meals very carefully.

I've missed my Sun Oven! I love it for roasting butternut squash and baking banana/zuchinni/apricot nut bread - although I use it for much more when the solar cooking season is nigh. My banana bread seems to get a little drier and a little crusty around the edges when I bake it in the regular oven. But in the sun oven, ah! Moist perfection, with no worry as to how long I leave it in. In the regular oven, I have to cook the bread within about 4 or 5 minutes of the exact time. In the sun oven, I can leave it in for quite a ways longer - I would say at least an hour past when it finishes cooking.

So I'm glad to see the Global Sun Oven back in action. I hope I will be able to include some kind of solar cooking classes or demonstrations in our Transition Town work. It's such an amazing device, and yet so few people know how well it works. Especially, I find, if they've tried to make their own solar cooker at home. From what I've heard, the home-made solar cookers don't compare very well. Usually, they are a little flimsy, only heat up to about 250 degrees, and take a long time to cook the food. For me, it's worth the money for an appliance that works like a regular oven (at least when it's sunny). OTOH, it's also worth knowing how to make a solar cooker in case of an emergency.

I think a sun oven is worth having even if you plan to use a woodstove as your main source of heat and cooking. It will get pretty roasting hot in the summer, (or fall and spring if you live in a warm area), and it won't necessarily be so pleasant to cook with a woodstove at those times. Much better to cook with a sun oven, using no wood in the process, and keeping the house cool!

Maybe tomorrow I can cook some banana bread. Anybody out there have solar cooking in their plans for this year?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My trusty steed stumbles

I've only owned one car in my lifetime. My trusty 1993 Geo Prizm, which usually gets 30 miles per gallon, was a gift from my parents back in 1996. I calculated the other day that by only having one car, instead of buying one every 5 years as is the American average (I believe), I have saved a ton of money:

Estimated total spent in last 16 years on my car: $3,000 for repairs and new tires

What I could have spent:


- Age 16 - an old beater (used, $6,000)
- Age 22 - a car to celebrate college graduation (new, $20,000)
- Age 27 - a car because other one is too old and I'm a pretentious yuppie (new, $25,000)
- Age 32 - a car for the expanding family (used, $18,000)

Total: $59,000


Hey - I saved $56,000? That was a great present! Thanks, Mom & Dad! However, now my steady companion has fallen low. I took her in for some "preventative maintenance" a few months ago, and she hasn't been the same ever since. I recently calculated her mileage at 24 mpg - a 20% decrease from usual. She has started having trouble getting up to 60 miles per hour. I have to stare in the rear-view mirror as the cars on the highway bear down on my little car - malevolently, it seems.


To be honest, my Prizm also has a few, ahem, aesthetic issues. I had a fender bender about 5 years ago, and the damage repair would have cost more than the car was worth. Of course I had dropped comp & collision since my car was already 12 years old. So I asked the mechanic just to pry the body away from the tire with a crowbar. Voila! Working (if cosmetically challenged) car! So I've been driving my little car ever since, enduring the occasional ribbing from family, friends, or co-workers with a combination of pride and sheepishness.


Now, my car has developed some REAL, not just aesthetic problems. She's approaching 145,000 miles, not looking so hot, and so I am contemplating getting a new used car. A 2007 Prius, to be exact. Because OKC has no other real options for getting around. It is one of the largest cities in the country, by area. I think of it as a city of suburbs. It was built mostly after WWII and so there's no real urban core (although city planners are developing one now that the urban core is back in style). With all of that huge area and low density, the public transportation system is sorely lacking.


We have located ourselves in a good spot in OKC, near many amenities and necessities - with two exceptions. My husbands' work, and family. His family all live on the South side of town - the part of town that is slowly filling in the wide open spaces between Oklahoma City and Norman. We witnessed the same thing happen when we lived in Denver and the highway corridor between Denver and Boulder slowly clogged. My family live in Tulsa, about 100 miles away.


My dilemma is this: how long will we, as a society, be relying on driving a car as our primary mode of transport? If it's 5 or 6 years, getting another car should be worth it. Even if gas gets very expensive, we could carpool with 2 or 3 other people and REALLY get our money's worth. I even have fantasies about running a Prius cab service.


Secondly, the issue on everyone's mind these days: job loss. While my husband's job seems secure, you never know when a company is going to file bankruptcy or start a round of layoffs. Then we would be stuck with a car when we might rather have the cash. Bummer.


With all this in mind, how can anyone be sure about buying a car? I suppose this is why auto sales have taken a nosedive. I am tempted to hold out until prices drop lower. On the other hand, I think we may see higher gas prices later this year, which would make the Prius a lot more in demand. I guess we just have to take our best guess.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Congratulations to....

Dandelionlady! (Chosen by rolling a 20-sided die, provided by my husband who formerly played Dungeons & Dragons. So much easier than writing out numbers and picking out of a hat!).

I have comment moderation enabled, so please comment me which book you would like to receive (Carbon Buster's or Insulate and Weatherize) and your address.

Fresh Greens

My first post has just been published at the Fresh Greens collective blog! The blog is a project of Sustainable OKC, the group that is "incubating" our Transition Town OKC project and funding our TTOKC website, www.goinglocalokc.com. The Fresh Greens blog has 13 contributors, focuses on sustainability issues, and aims to inform, educate, spark discussion, raise awareness and even entertain ;).

The Fresh Greens post is actually a reprint of a piece I wrote for my new Envision OKC 2020 blog. The blog is my hopeful vision of the future as we transition from the present, a time of abundant and cheap energy, to the future, a time of declining and expensive energy. Yes, it's hopeful and hopefully entertaining - but there will undoubtedly be darkness, disaster and doom along the transition curve. In fact, I've already imagined a few likely disasters.

The Envision 2020 blog may turn out to be a collective blog as well, but for right now I have it all to myself. So feel free to check it out!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sharing the Love (V-Day giveaway)

When was the last time someone told you "Thank You" for saving the Earth?

Yeah, me too.

So I figure it's my job to spread the love today, the day before Valentine's Day, which might otherwise be marred by chainsaws, facemasks, or other graphic horror movie paraphernalia. Here goes...

Thank you! for picking neither paper nor plastic, but permanent bags for your groceries and shopping. Thanks also for picking the mug (not the Styrofoam cup) and the glass (instead of the plastic water bottle).

Thank you! for buying CFL light bulbs and saving yourself a ton of money at the same time. Same goes for the Energy Star fridge and washer.

Thank you! for driving a sensible car, riding a bike, or reading on the way to work by taking the bus. Not to mention carpooling with the hypochondriac from Risk Management.

Thank you! for spending your time growing a garden of low-carbon emission, high-nutrition, supa-tasty veggies, herbs and fruit. Thank you for buying local, fair-trade, and organic. Triple bonus for occasionally going vegetarian!

Thank you! for caring enough to go the extra mile, take the eco-challenge, and riot for austerity. Thank you for loving the Earth and your children enough to inconvenience yourself to be green, pay extra for the organic product, or go out of your way to make the right choice.

I appreciate you, and I'm offering up this prize to prove it. Comment in below to enter in the drawing. The winner can choose from the Carbon Buster's Home Energy Handbook or Insulate and Weatherize: Expert Advice from Start to Finish.

I'll be announcing the lucky winner at the end of Monday. Happy early Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seedy Sunday

Last weekend, my friend Lewru and I had a Seedy Sunday. A seed swap, that is. We simply got together one day and shared our seeds. I had a lot of seeds leftover from my Baker Creek Rare Seeds order from last year, and I was happy to share them. It was also a good chance for us to catch up and talk about our gardens.

Some of the reasons for a seed swap are:
  • Obtain free seeds
  • Find varieties that grow well in your area
  • Encourage seed saving
  • Allow gardeners to network with other gardeners
  • Facilitate information sharing between gardeners
  • Get more biodiversity for your garden
  • Opportunity to educate about (your pet issue: peak oil, biodiversity, native plants, etc)
A Seedy Sunday can be a small event between gardening friends or a large event for all the gardeners in the area. The original Seedy Sunday, from Britain, provides tips for organizing a large event. At the very minimum, you need:
  • A place to hold the swap (including chairs and tables)
  • Seeds to share and gardeners to share them
  • Envelopes or baggies to hold your new seeds and a pen to label them
  • Paper and pen to write down growing information and fellow gardener's contact information
The Transition Handbook names Seedy Sundays as a good opportunity for the "Great Reskilling". The Great Reskilling is Rob Hopkin's term for the process of teaching/learning the skills for local resilience that have been lost in the last 40 years - gardening, composting, preserving, cooking, baking bread, making yogurt and cheese, beekeeping, repairing appliances and machines, fixing plumbing, tiling and painting, etc!

At our seed swap, I got some seeds from Lewru's amazing Butternut Squash that yielded 17 squash in one season! (Butternut Squash supposedly have some resistance to squash bugs, which were a scourge in our area last year). I am excited to obtain some DNA from this prize, and can't wait to grow it!

How about you - have you ever been to a seed swap? Would you like to start one?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Going Local OKC is live!

Requesting your thoughts and ideas...

Our Transition Town website, www.goinglocalokc.com, is live! Although we plan to continue to improve the site, for example, we want to add a "Energy Sources" page, and a "Start your own" Transition Town event page, as well as some other minor things, but our website is in good enough shape to request comments.

We are trying to tailor the tone and content to the local political and cultural atmosphere here in Oklahoma City. The oil and gas industry is a very large employer here in OKC. Almost every family in the city has at least one relative who works for an oil and gas company. So everyone is very invested in the success of the oil industry. It's going to be hard to break peak oil to them - not only the usual psychological difficulties with peak oil, but also the fact that so many people rely upon the industry for their incomes.

I've worked for several oil companies in my lifetime. My mother in law, aunt, and brother in law have all worked for oil and gas companies at some point. So we are trying not to set up an "us versus them" kind of mentality. But we do want to lay it on the line - peak oil is arriving, and the consequences will be huge. Transition Town OKC WILL dare to name the problem of peak oil!

Our second Steering Committee meeting is tomorrow, and we'll debut the site to the other committee members. If you have any suggestions, questions, or problems about the website to report, I'd appreciate them! Thanks for your input!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Spotted

Bumper sticker spotted at The Learning Store (an educational materials supplier):


"If Sallie Mae asks,
You never saw me."

Interestingly, student loans are the only debt NOT discharged in a bankruptcy. Keep that in mind as you send your college age kids off to school!

Also spotted, at my grocery store last weekend:

"Republicans for Voldemort"

Seen any funny / ironic / interesting bumper stickers lately?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Overcoming doomishness

Both Arduous and Chile posted about feeling doomy recently, so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about the topic. Frankly, I think that a little bit of doomishness is justified, in light of history, in light of the resource pressures we face, and the general obliviousness of the American population. Not only is doomishness justified, but can also be useful, if the thought of starvation or homelessness inspires you to save your emergency fund, store up 3 months of food, reduce your expenses, and make your home energy-efficient.


So I admit that I can be a little on the doomside. Although I don't think Mad Max is likely, I have read enough of history to know what happens when resource scarcity and anger collide. A city like Oklahoma City could be a death trap if the trucks stopped coming. I don't have illusions that "they won't let that happen" or that "things like that don't happen in America".

Even without Mad Max, there are plenty of other depressing visions that haunt me. The Long Emergency, the Greatest Depression, even just the Everlasting Infrastructure Crumble (that's my own personal doom vision).

So although some doomishness is just logical, I need to maintain a level of equanimity in order to get things done. Too much doom is what I like to call "counterproductive". I need to stay optimistic enough to make progress on my plans and not get a prescription for Xanax or another mother's little helper. I have to stay happy enough to take care of my son and be cheerful enough to go out into polite society and promote the Transition Towns "we can overcome" model of the future.



How do I do that? I present my favorite ways of overcoming doomishness.


1. Eyes on the prize.


I don't know about you, but I really need to have something to look forward to. On good days I can really believe in the vision of my ideal Transition Town. Gardens instead of front lawns, solar panels here and there throughout the neighborhoods, no traffic jams or smog, people selling produce, crafts and spare parts in the parking lots of the old malls and out of their garages, cornfields and wheatfields taking over schoolyards, bikes and Sun Ovens and clotheslines everywhere.



People working together, instead of in isolation. People eating fresh food, instead of high fructose corn syrup monosodium glutamate transfatty mishmashes. People without deadlines, performance anxiety, yearly reviews. People chatting with their neighbors in the streets and enjoying local wine with their families in the evenings. Even if I never get to see New Zealand, that's a future I can look forward to.

2. Action as antidote.

Sometimes I get the stuffing scared out of me, usually after I've been reading LATOC news page. So what do I do? Buckle down. Now this may be more of a compulsion than anything, but when scared I tend to order wheat berries and go to the liquour store for vodka. My rationale: You can never have too much, because we can always share them with the neighbors.

Taking action helps me feel as if I am keeping the Mad Max visions at bay. I have a 3-5 year plan that includes fruit trees, a hybrid car, much larger veggie garden, chickens, and solar hot water. I may not get to all that, but it's strange how just writing goals down seems to make it happen. And every time I plant a fruit tree, I feel a little better.

3. Media diet.

OK, I know peak oil and climate change are happening. What else do I need to know? Why do I need to habitually read LATOC every day? Well, for one thing it helps me monitor how bad things are getting. And for another I can see how all the predictions are becoming reality. Hey, maybe Peak Oil IS for real! ;)

Sometimes, though, it gets to be too much. I just have to stop. No doom articles. No financial crash monitoring. No thinking about the SHTF and the TEOTWAWKI. Just take a break and read some nice pulpfiction fantasy or veg out watching a movie. Ah, now that I've re-read The Stand, I feel so much better.

4. Talk it out.

I am lucky enough to have an understanding husband, who only occasionally gets PO'd when I pester him to read an article on Sharon's blog or The Automatic Earth. I also have 2 friends who understand Peak Oil and are preparing for TSHTF. Sweet! Someone to talk to and share a reality with. I can tell you, a weight is lifted after I can call my friend Lewru about my strange struggles with wheat berry lids and Diva cups. It's so nice to talk to someone who knows what EROEI is.

5. Get the motor running.

I like to take walks, getting some sunshine and fresh air in the process. Although I may think about peak oil the whole time I am walking, I still get some benefit from my blood pumping and good, deep breathing. Likewise with yoga, getting massage, and working out. I try to do one of these every day. Hey, I'll need to be in shape to outrun the zombies anyway!

6. Help someone else.


Most of us are somewhat nervous about our own fate after the peak, but also the fates of so many others who will be taken unaware by the oil shocks, or who will never understand what is happening as the years roll on and the oil decline grinds down our hopes and dreams.

What a relief it is to be able to help someone else prepare. Maybe you are considering starting a Transition Town project, or a community kitchen, or sharing your gardening expertise. Maybe you are helping a friend prepare for peak oil after you scared the heck out of them by telling them about it in the first place. Maybe you are blogging about your experiences as you homestead or go vegetarian or start learning permaculture. Whatever - it should energize you! At least, it does for me.

I am enjoying the Transition Town project, although I feel I am in way, way over my head. I try to keep my hopes high, but my expectations low. I think to myself "If we can reach one person in every neighborhood....If we can get 4 urban gardens started....If we can inspire one minister or city employee to spread the word, then all our work will be worthwhile." We could be saving lives here!

How about you? Are you having any trouble feeling doomish? How do you keep moving forward with your preparations?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Transition Town website progress


I've been slaving over a hot computer today as I continue progress on the Transition Town OKC website.

Photo Credit: Shauna Struby, Co-Chair

So far I've:

Created a webmap to plot out the flow of the site

Set up the GoDaddy account (Yes, I know the Superbowl commercials were embarassingly bad)

Registered the domain name

Decided to use the online Website Tonight software to build the site (which I have done before for my own business)

Selected the theme for the site

Uploaded an Oklahoma skyline photo that was taken by my talented Co-Chair

Organized and established the navigation for the site

Set up the e-mail account for information requests

Written copy for 12 pages (including 3 "reference" pages)

Added pithy quotes and illustrative pictures

Linked to sources for key facts

and, of course, sent off the reimbursement form to the Treasurer of Sustainable OKC :)

I transmitted the site to my Co-Chair for editing this morning (luckily she is a professional writer). Although it is incomplete, I thought it was good enough to launch. Still, I need to finish the site when I get a chance and:

Add a Donate button and a Volunteer button

Add a form for idea submission (part of engaging the public)

Launch a related blog for Transition Town Visioning (a whole subset of "to-do's" under this item)
Add more pictures and quotes

Set up the "tags" for search engines to find the site

POLISH!

Link it up and submit to search engines.

For those of you planning to launch your own Transition Town website, I'd say it's taken about 20 - 30 hours of time so far, from someone who has completed this process before and can write most of the copy off of the top of my head. I'd say I have at least another 30 hours to go. The cost for this type of website plus domain name is about $150, plus your own free labor, plus ongoing hosting costs every year.

I'll be asking you ladies and gents out there for suggestions once my Co-Chair finishes the first round of editing. Coming soon.....