Mulch pile, 5 feet high
Monday, March 30, 2009
Mulch pile, 5 feet high
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
In the meantime, feel free to peruse some news stories from the future of the energy transition:
OKC issues first Villager Sun Oven permit
APC lobbies for increased fuel rations
Brewers hopping to it
Friday, March 20, 2009
Row 1 - Kale and Parsnips
According to Jonny Bowden, nutritionist and author of 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, kale has the highest "ORAC" (anti-oxidant and phytochemical) rating of any vegetable. Spinach comes in second place. This leafy vegetable is loaded with calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C and K. It has 7 times the beta-carotene of broccoli, and two cups of kale has 4 g protein and 3 g fiber.
This is also the first year that I've ever eaten kale. I'm learning a lot! Since it's so healthy, and we have so much of it, I've been trying to sneak it in to our meals wherever possible. So far I've discovered these ways to use it:
- Add shredded kale to regular pasta sauce
- Add to soups or stews (minestrone, bean soups)
- Sneak small pieces into quesadillas and burritos
- Add small pieces into salads with the rest of your mixed greens
- Saute it with olive oil and lemon juice for a quick side dish
- Steam it and add sesame oil, soy sauce, a dash of honey, and dried cranberries and sliced almonds for a hot salad
- Use as a topping for loaded baked potatoes
- Juice a bunch with a lemon and two apples to make "Green Lemonade" (I've only tried this with spinach, actually - but I think kale would work)
- Apparently it's a prime ingredient in the traditional Irish dish, colcannon. Too bad I didn't know that in time for St. Patty's Day!
Does anyone have other suggestions or recipes to use up our crop of kale?
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
When my little '93 Geo Prizm started exhibiting problems recently, I decided I wanted to quit putting money into her and invest in another vehicle. It was a hard decision for me, mainly because I don't like spending money, and I'm uncertain how long our gas-fueled system is going to last. After I had put $1100 into a car that was only worth $1500 in the last three months, I decided enough is enough.
My research showed me that the Prius has the highest owner satisfaction of any car (94%), has the best mileage of any recently tested family sedan, and has some of the lowest greenhouse gas and pollution emissions of any car on the market. Plus, it looks cool! I found a 2007 light sage colored model with 34,000 miles on autotrader.com and decided to watch to see if prices changed.
I continued my research and found that although Consumer Reports rates the Prius as getting 42 - 44 mpg, and the official EPA figures are 45 - 48 mpg, Prius owners report that they can get 55 - 60 mpg with careful driving and maintenance. One issue with official mileage figures, apparently, is that the Prius needs "breaking in" and starts getting better mileage around 10 - 20K miles.
I investigated the Prius battery. While it does cost $2200 to replace, it is warranteed for 100,000 miles or 8 years, and Toyota actually expects it to last for the life of the car. In fact, Consumer Reports rates the Prius as one of the most reliable cars on the market, as well as tops in Total Cost of Ownership, aka Bang for the Buck, out of 300 rated.
After reading this review from Build It Solar (a resource that I like), I was pretty much convinced. They report that in their program to cut their greenhouse gas emissions in half, the Prius has been by far their best project. So, husband and I went down to Hudiberg Toyota to test drive the sage green Prius. We weren't really prepared to buy. However, they made us a really nice offer and a generous trade in allowance on my aesthetically-challenged Geo Prizm (sight unseen). Can anyone say "What do I have to do to get you to drive home in this Prius today?"
The Green Machine
Autodealers are hurting. They are willing to make a pretty sweet deal right now - although they may be making even better deals in a month or two. The price we paid for our Prius was about $3,000 less than the "going rate" we found online, and we also got about $1,000 more in trade-in value than my old car was probably worth. Frankly, we didn't even try to negotiate - the deal just seemed good enough already. So, we bought the Prius! It's the first car hubby and I have bought in the 12 years we've been together.Cons - the view out of the back is not great - it's a hatchback and is more difficult to see. We did not get the rearview camera, because it was not on the model we were looking at, but that would have been a good idea.
Pros - The Prius has a monitor that shows you the mpg you are getting currently, your trip average, and what you've gotten in the last 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes. This gives you immediate feedback so you can adjust your driving.
The hatchback is so roomy - it's a great fit for a stroller.
The interior is also very roomy and has good headroom (not that I need it, I'm 5'2").
We drove 280 miles before our first fill-up of 5.4 gallons (tank was about half empty). I was amazed! This is about 51 - 52 mpg.
The Prius is going to go a long way towards reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and fuel usage. My husband's car, which I inherited but which I will only drive 35 miles per week, gets about 27 mpg. The Prius gets almost double that - without trying too hard! I know that in very cold weather it might not do as well (at least that's what I've read on the online forums), however in OKC we don't have cold weather all that often. I'm pumped up that this is going to help my Riot 4 Austerity numbers (R4A is a challenge to reduce environmental impact by 90%).
I'm not advocating that anyone buy a car right now. Who knows what will happen in the next year to the economy or to the oil situation? However, if you have already made up your mind that you need a car, take another look at the Prius. It may be a lot more affordable than you think - especially if gas ever goes to $5 a gallon.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Me in the 350 gallon rain tank, preparing to muck.
We originally hooked the larger tank up to a drip irrigation system, but found that the pressure was low and because of that, the timers that I hooked up would not work. I kept running off and leaving the tank running all day. Needless to say there was some cursing when I found the tanks almost completely empty. Now, I just use a watering can to water the garden, and a bright blue hose to water the fruit trees.
We had three main reasons to get the rain barrels:
1. We can water our garden in spite of any drought restrictions which might be imposed in the future.
2. We have emergency water rations from early spring through late fall (although we would need to filter the water through our Katadyn filter in order to drink it).
3. To decrease our water footprint.
Reducing our water bill was not one of our goals. The cost of this kind of system will probably never be paid back in money, since we are only charged about $3/1000 gallons of water.
Like any system, the rain barrels require maintenance. We installed filters over the top of the lids and in front of the faucets so that twigs, leaves, and other particles are filtered out. However, this doesn't solve the problem of dust and bird poop and shingle pieces. I've considered the "first flush" systems, but they are kind of expensive and we aren't using the PVC pipe that they require to work, so we'd have to rework the whole downspout part of the system. Unless anyone has suggestions??
There are a few times every year when we have to pay attention to the rain tanks.
1. After every major rain we check the top filter and scoop away any major gunk. Since we want to go outside and see how full the tanks are, this is not an imposition. We will probably have to replace these filters every five years or so, but have not yet had to do so.
2. In the fall, we disconnect the tanks from the gutters and drain the tanks to protect them and the faucets from freezing. We had a faucet crack one year. This part can be kind of a pain because we have to tip the tanks to get the last few inches out of the bottom, and tanks with water in them are HEAVY. I'm not sure we would have to do this if we got more durable faucets.
3. In the spring, we muck out the bottom of the tanks. You'd be surprised how much dirt and shingle particles get in the tanks! We usually just climb in the tank and use a trowel and a bucket to scrape the mud off the bottom of the tank. Luckily, it doesn't smell. If there is dry dust, we sweep it up. (This is a two-person job - one to muck and one to dispose of the muck.) Then, we hose out the tank, drain it and hook up the guttering system. Ready for another spring, summer and fall of sweet rainwater!
4. Several times a year, we have to clean out the gutters. But that's kind of standard for anyone who has a gutter system.
Although dust/dirt does get in the rain tanks, it seems to settle to the bottom. The water that comes out of the spout always looks clear and pure. I haven't had a water test, but I am considering it. I am curious how the shingle particles are affecting the water quality.
If you are interested in rain barrels for emergency water or to cut down on your "water footprint", be sure you are ready to maintain them! A smaller, simpler system, with barrels that are lighter and easier to maneuver, would probably require less maintainance. Obviously, they wouldn't provide as much water storage for dealing with emergencies or droughts.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
This is basically a variation on the theme of "Prep Practice", when a family shuts off the breakers and pretends no gas is available... but with guests. I think it would be fun to get together and have some peak chat, swap recipes and discuss how we can help each other and our community. I want to do it!
I started thinking about how I would go about hosting such a party. If the scenario is that the gas is all out, should I require everyone to show up on foot, on bike, or in a stroller? Should I imagine that the water is still running? How about electricity? Do I have to cook on the campstove / Sun Oven? Do we have to wear black? Whatever the scenario, I draw the line at requiring my guests to use a latrine.
Although my family does store some unusual things like wheat berries, we mostly eat what we store and store what we eat - even though this means dating every can we buy and rotating food. Some things are more successfully rotated than others. The canned pineapple seems to have been in the pantry awhile. We don't have any MRE's or canned bacon, but we do have powdered milk and powdered eggs.
What would a meal plan look like for a Doomer Dinner Party? With local, seasonal, food, it always depends on what's available. We don't store any meat, so the meals would be pretty much vegetarian. I've never cooked for more than four people without using tortillas or lasagna - so a potluck would definitely be a good choice for my dinner party. Is that enough caveats?
Here are some of my thoughts:
What's in storage (3 months): Wheat, beans (kidney, garbanzo, black, black eye peas), rice, basmati rice, canned tomatoes, canned corn, green beans and peas, pasta (several kinds), pasta sauce, salsa, olives, honey, sugar, baking stuff, spices, vinegars, olive and canola oil, shortening, canned peaches and pineapples, dried raisins and cranberries, oatmeal, peanut butter, powdered milk, powdered eggs. Some frozen stuff. Alcohol, tea, coffee, and homebrewed beer.
Early Spring (Feb/Mar/April)What's growing (in my garden): Overwintered kale, parsley, carrots and broccoli. Cilantro, rosemary, thyme, mint, oregano, chives, sorrel, sage, dandelions.
What's still fresh in storage (in Feb anyway): Potatoes and butternut squash.
Meal idea: Butternut squash and black bean soup. Mashed potatoes. Some kind of kale side dish.
Drinks: Homebrewed beer and mint tea.
Dessert: Canned peaches with homemade yogurt from powdered milk.
Late Spring (April/May)
What's growing: Lettuce, onions, beets, spinach. Overwintered kale, parsley, carrots. Rosemary, cilantro, thyme, mint, oregano, chives, sorrel, sage.
What's still fresh from storage: Probably nothing.
Meal idea: Mixed greens salad with baby carrots and beets. Basmati rice with tomato/chickpea sauce.
Drinks: Homebrewed beer and mint tea.
Dessert: Oatmeal cookies.
What's growing (I hope): Tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, okra, garlic, butternut squash, bell peppers, jalapenos, onions, malabar spinach. Peaches, blackberries, plums (?). Basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, mint, oregano, chives, sorrel, sage.
Meal idea: Pesto pasta with green veggies. Minestrone. Crusty artisan bread (if I can ever figure it out).
Drinks: Mojitos, peach iced tea.
Dessert: Something with the millions of peaches that will surely be around.
Fall (October, November):
What's still growing: We have late frosts here, so mostly still everything from summer, plus maybe some fall plantings of lettuce and kale. Apples (crossing fingers for small harvest this year).
What's fresh that's going into storage: Potatoes, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, apples.
Meal idea: Confetti bean salad. Potato soup with kale. Roasted root veggies with garlic yogurt sauce for dipping.
Drinks: Something warm, with rum. Coffee.
Dessert: Apple crumble.
Winter (December, January, February):
What's still growing: Kale, parsley, rosemary, thyme.
What's fresh in storage: Potatoes, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, apples.
Meal idea: Vegetable Vindaloo.
Drinks: Homebrew and iced tea.
Dessert: Spicy baked apples or apple cake.
Now doesn't that sound fun? Have your guests bring a salad or desert or a side dish, and it won't take so much work. I challenge you all to find a peak oil friend by the end of June and have a Doomer Dinner Party! I'll draw for a prize (TBD) from the entrants in June. Comment if you want to join the doomy fun!
1. "Party" must include one guest (spouses and partner and children not included). That's it!
2. Can actually be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Doesn't have to be formal ;).
3. Meal should be comprised entirely (as much as possible) of food growing in your garden or food that could be foraged within walking/biking distance (this counts CSA if it is close by), and long-term food storage you have on-hand.
4. It's up to you whether you go "whole-hog" by not using electricity or lighting.
5. It's up to you whether you make it a potluck or make all the food yourself. Potluck items should be made from garden/storage food as well, IF possible.
6. The point is to build community, make friends, talk about peak oil and food storage, and see what it's like to cook out of your food storage! And to have good doomy fun!
**Most of my ideas for seasonal cooking come from the cookbook Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Thanks to AR for the inspiration for the post!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Your income potential or ability to work is your biggest asset, which depends very heavily on your health. Compare the value of a home - which many people consider to be their biggest asset at $250,000 - to the value of a lifetime of work - which could easily be worth $2.2 million at $50,000 a year for 44 years (21 to 65). Your health is not only the valuable ability to work, but also affects your fundamental ability to enjoy life and protect your family. When your health breaks down from neglect or accident, it can be very expensive to get it back.
Unfortunately, during times of stress, health gets pushed to the back burner. Under stress,we tend to eat fast food instead of healthy nutritious food, put off that dentist appointment, forget to exercise and stretch. We self-medicate ourselves with alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, Internet or television rather than properly care for our bodies and minds.
Keep in mind, however, that bad health choices accumulate over time and will eventually contribute to the breakdown of your mind or body. That breakdown could be as small as an inconvenient flu, or it could be an abscessed tooth or a ruptured disc. Any type of health problem may be much more serious in an uncertain future, where health insurance is dicey, hospitals are folding, and pharmaceutical affordability is in question.
With all this in mind, here are some tips for valuing your health for what it is: your number one asset.1. Use your health insurance.
If you lose your job, you will likely lose your health insurance. So take care of anything you need while you still have it. Dental appointments. Contacts or glasses. Check - ups. Will your health insurance pay for a vasectomy or an IUD? If you don't want more kids, you might think about getting one now. Get your glasses prescription updated if you've noticed your vision deteriorating (or if you are having migraines or frequent headaches). If you have used contacts for years, you might consider getting backup glasses. If you need a tetanus booster (very important if you will be working in the garden), get it now.
If you have not immunized your children, consider your decision very carefully. Currently, your kids could be treated if they contracted the very real and sometimes fatal diseases that are now uncommon due to strong immunization programs. Weigh your fears of immunizations against the potential for outbreaks of these diseases in the future: measles, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis A, polio, and hepatitis B. I know many people consider this to be controversial, but keep in mind that the future of healthcare could be very uncertain. Conditions may not always be as hygienic, safe, and tidy as they are now.
2. Address the stress.
If you know a job loss or foreclosure is imminent, or if you have problems with debt, you are likely experiencing some of the symptoms of stress: anxiety, depression, stomach pain, over/under eating, headaches, lethargy, and insomnia. Stress also depresses your immune system, making you more vulnerable to catching infections. People who have just learned about peak oil often experience a lot of stress as well - it can be a life changing event!
Obviously, it is important to deal with your stress. The last thing you need is a heart attack or an ulcer the day after you lose your job. So keep up with your self-care. Exercise, eat right, stretch, take time to breathe. Notice when your shoulders are up around your ears and let them fall back down where they belong. Take time for yourself. Do some things that you enjoy. Get some sunshine and some fresh air.
Don't isolate yourself. When people suspect they are going to lose their job or home, they can become embarrassed or ashamed. People also may isolate themselves when they feel that they are the only person who understands the enormity of the problems facing us. But people need social contact. You need to talk to friends and family, maybe not about your problems, but about something. Keep in touch with your networks - they can be a big asset when you need them. If you can, help others now, when they need it.
3. Keep up your healthy habits.
You probably already know what you need to do: floss and brush, aerobic exercise, exercise to build strength, stretch, eat healthy food, get fresh air and sunshine. Get your teeth cleaned. Don't let your healthy habits suffer for too long or you will pay the price. I can attest to this, being the queen of cavities and having recovered from self-induced symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The actual performance of healthy habits, is, of course the problem. Not everyone knows how to cook healthy, nutritious meals. Not everyone knows how to get enough fiber, veggies and fruits in their diets. Not everyone can cook from scratch. Many people have never developed good exercise habits after losing touch with their high school sport. So get the help you need to develop healthy habits, if you don't already have them. Books, classes, websites, and your friends and family have tons of information, advice and experience. Use them while they are available!
4. If you can afford it, invest in your health.
I consider several things to be vital to my well-being and my ability to treat my occasional aches and pains. First is my mattress. If I delay my routine mattress flipping, I begin to get back or hip pain and have insomnia. A good night's sleep is very important to health!! I know that many people throughout the world sleep just fine without a nice mattress. However, I have not discovered the trick to it.
Secondly, my yoga mat. Although the yoga mat is maybe not strictly necessary to do yoga or stretching, I find it sets the tone. My yoga mat tells me, "The next 20 minutes are for stretching, breathing, and being. Be focused!" A series of beginner yoga classes or videos might also be a good investment. I started taking yoga classes at a local yoga studio, and after several months had memorized enough poses in their correct form to do yoga on my own.
Third, shoes. Life may be more physical in the future - you want shoes that are comfortable and that will last. I have used Merrell's for years, but I've noticed that the company is beginning to sacrifice function for fashion. Work boots? Tennis shoes? Dansko? I am taking recommendations!
Fourth, I use some cheap, handy tools to manage pains that I have - tools that don't rely on electricity to operate. More on that in a future post.
5. Attend to your birth control.
If you don't want any more children, or any children at all, it is vital to pay attention to this area of your life! Whatever method of birth control you pick, use it religiously (sorry, no pun intended). Vasectomy and tubal ligation are permanent solutions. An IUD will last 5 - 7 years. Pills, of course, have to be taken regularly, and condoms and diaphragms used as needed.
There is also the natural family planning method, which I don't know much about. A Greek Orthodox friend (who is prohibited by her church from using artificial methods of birth control)told me that it works for her. I'm not sure if she is using a different method than the standard fertility charting. Orthodox members and Catholics, feel free to speak up!
6. Stocking up.
You'll want a first aid kit, probably a large one for your home and one for every car. You'll also want to take a first aid class. See Chile Chews' series on this for more information. You may want to stock up on other health and medical supplies, ranging from floss to vitamins to Alleve.
Some people, of course, need medications to survive or to manage their serious pain. I don't have any easy answers here. You may be able to find a doctor willing to let you stock up certain medications. If you need refrigerated medications, such as insulin, you might be able to purchase a propane operated fridge that will operate even during a blackout. You have to weigh the cost against the potential of an emergency or electrical blackout lasting longer than your medication supply. This might be a good community purchase - a backup fridge to provide emergency storage for the insulin needs of a whole neighborhood.
7. Long term solutions.
Who knows what the future may hold? Perhaps our health care system will continue in another, lower energy form as the peak oil age progresses. Perhaps we will experience a significant collapse in certain areas of the country or the health care systems in certain cities may become overwhelmed. Perhaps we may have a serious epidemic or pandemic. Perhaps our doctors will re-learn medical skills without the expensive pharmaceuticals we've become so dependent on. You never know - stranger things have happened.
Here are some health care strategies to consider:
- If you are pregnant, be prepared to go through a natural childbirth.
- Consider learning herbal medicine.
- Consider growing a medicinal garden.
- Think about taking an EMT course.
- Consider midwifery as a post-peak career possibility - they know how to deliver babies safely without expensive and high-energy requirements such as sterile operating rooms, epidurals, or episiotimies.
And now, I need to go schedule my next dental appointment... and my tetanus booster...
Friday, March 6, 2009
Sometimes it's nice to daydream that all the hard work we need to prepare for a life of declining and expensive energy (and hopefully, sustainable and resilient communities), could just be done with a wink and a wriggle of our noses and a twitch of our fingers.
So here's the game: what three skills, useful in a post-peak era, would you pick to instantly become black-belt proficient in? But NO magical skills. No mind-reading, teleporting fire-throwers today!
Here's my three:
1. Sustainable agriculture - permaculture, annual vegeculture, soil fertility
2. Healing - herbal medicine and field medicine
3. Defense - security, alarm systems, martial arts, krav maga, weaponry
How about you?
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
So I went and said a few words. It was nice to not have to explain what peak oil is, since we had just watched a film explaining the concept and exploring a few ideas to deal with the energy descent (urban gardens, chopping up huge industrial plots into farms that can be managed organically with human labor, tractor trailers pulling buses, purchasing a million bikes for Havana).
The movie night was a good place to start and I enjoyed dipping my toe in the public speaking arena once again. It's been awhile since I gave any public speeches - probably since college, when I ran the Student Business Association (yes, me!) and headed up the sales force for our Integrated Business Core group (we created and sold a product for the benefit of a local charity). The glass of wine prior to the movie didn't hurt my speech too much, I hope! The speech seemed well-received, since I got three invitations for further speeches.
Secondly, TTOKC had our third Steering Committee meeting Tuesday. Attending the meeting were three existing members plus three new members. Two people who had attended prior meetings seem to have disappeared. This time, we got smart and asked everyone to read the "Hands" section of the Transition Handbook so we didn't have to once again explain peak oil and the Transition Town model. That saved us half an hour - so I highly recommend it!
We discussed and ratified the five TTOKC goals listed on our website:
1. Raise awareness and educate citizens about peak oil.
2. Engage the public to envision and create a positive lower-energy future.
3. Provide information, resources, and support to help people implement the energy transition in their own lives.
4. Network with existing groups dedicated to helping Oklahoma City become more resilient and sustainable.
5. Empower the public to be involved at the local, grass-roots level in planning for a different energy future.
The idea is for us to plant a seed of awareness and engagement and let the Transition Town evolve on it's own. As people engage, we hope they will naturally want to take ownership of projects that work on the areas they care about (Food, Security, Education, Energy, Water, Transport, etc). We need to build momentum so that the project can survive and evolve without our constant supervision!
The second item on our agenda was brainstorming and discussing Raising Awareness activities(Step 2 of the TT model) . Here's what the TT handbook has to say about Raising Awareness:
"You cannot assume that people in your communit are familiear with peak oil,
climate change, or even with basic environmental concepts and principles...It is
important that (film) screenings are presented in such a way that they are fun
and memorable, and create a buzz, so that people go home and tell their friends
and family...It is essential to avoid a series of peak oil talks which are
doom-laden evenings about how civilisation is about to implode and we are all
about to start eating each other...You need to be prepared for the diverse
manifestations of 'post-petroleum stress disorder'."
Our new members had great ideas and they seemed really ready to contribute to the project. Here's the list of ideas we brainstormed (for those of you entering the Raising Awareness phase):
Speaking at: Book groups, church groups, neighborhood association meetings, university and college groups
Film showings at: Library, museums
Booths at: Arts festivals, block parties, Earth Day events (will need display/brochures/cards/banners?)
Marketing: Logo, brochures, business cards, bumper stickers
Internet: Website and associated promotion of website, blog, YouTube videos
Visual real estate: Library displays, posters on bulletin boards
I've also had a few more ideas since the meeting:
Sponsored events (cheap!): Seedy Sundays, Sun Oven barbeques, solar cooking demonstrations, any kind of "re-skilling" event that we could get people to come to, give a short speech and have our brochures / cards available
Press: Letters to the editor, neighborhood newsletters, press releases, news articles (my co-chair has already been approached about an article on TTOKC - but since we haven't done much yet, we're holding off)
The meeting concluded with our members taking ownership of their ideas and pledging to have research done and a plan or visual example at the next meeting in two weeks. Thanks to everyone for showing up and participating! And readers, please feel free to chime in if you have participated in a Transition Town (or any environmental) initiative and have ideas on Raising Awareness!