Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Year End Evaluation

2009 was a tough year for many people. The impact of foreclosures, unemployment, wage cuts, and retirement losses were just the first unhappy glimpse of the results of building our way of life around unsustainable and unstable market forces. Luckily, my husband has kept his job, although I have taken a 20% "pay cut" due to a downturn in my business.

Time to see how I did on my 2009 goals. Supposedly, writing down goals and making them public makes them more likely to be achieved. Hmm....

1. Save $XX thousand by end of year.

Year End: NO, due to paying for the 2007 Prius and kitchen remodel.

2. Pay down mortgage by $XX thousand by end of year.

Year End: Yes, as scheduled.

3. Grow garden for spring, summer, and fall and plant blackberries and kiwis in the spring. Preserve the harvest as much as possible by canning, drying.

Year End: The garden grew, although it was upset by the drought in early summer. It did bounce back a bit when the rains returned. This year I am really trying to look for "heat tolerant" and "drought tolerant" varieties. The blackberries lived, the male kiwi died a slow death, and we got a first small crop of apples. Hopefully next year we will be able to harvest blackberries.

We did preserve the peach harvest by canning, drying and freezing, made pesto (I find homemade pesto much superior to store-bought), and stored garlic and butternut squashes, which are still holding up nicely. We didn't get enough tomatoes, beans or okra to store this year.

4. Renovate kitchen to allow two people to cook in the kitchen at the same time, add storage space, and increase ease of cleaning.

Year End: Yes! I now have more than 1.25 contiguous feet of countertop! And DH even got a cubby for his home brew supplies. This project required months of mess and many weekends of priming, painting, tiling, and grouting, but now that it is 97% done it seems completely worth it.

5. Replace old carpet with wood flooring in kitchen, dining room, and front room.

Year End: Due to the length and expense of the kitchen remodel, this has been postponed to next year.

6. Fitness. Walk - every day if warm enough. Yoga - twice a week. Lifting weights - once a week.

Year End: Abject failure. Although I did walk regularly and did yoga about twice a month.

7. Start Riot 4 Austerity in 1 or 2 categories.

Year End: We pursued a reduction in gasoline by purchasing a Prius, which was one of the few options available to us considering the almost-total lack of public transport, sidewalks, crosswalks, or bike trails, and without a desire to stop seeing family that live on the South side of OKC and in Tulsa. I doubt that we got a 90% reduction, and since I fell off the wagon with the receipts, I'll have to guess at a 40% reduction (going from an average of 28 mpg to 51 mpg) on the car we use 75% of the time. Maybe I'll keep the receipts in January to compare to the "average" American use.

8. Continue preparing for Peak Oil.

Year End: Most of my energy this year was taken up with Transition Town OKC, trying to catalyze the community to create a more resilient and sustainable system to meet the challenges of peak oil and climate change. MAN, this takes a lot of time and effort. Between writing and running a website, going to training, going to meetings, giving presentations and speeches, manning events, and writing brochures and newsletters, TTOKC ate up 5 - 20 hours of my time per week (depending on the week). And I know my TTOKC co-chair spent just as much, if not more, time working on this project.

Next year, we will continue TTOKC and try to inspire smaller, more localized efforts, such as Transition Neighborhoods. I hope that this will be the level at which real change is effected - although TTOKC is necessary for city-wide coordination and focus. Next year will also be a return to focusing on home preparation for my family.

All in all, I feel good about the year, although it always seems that I never accomplish enough. How did you do on your 2009 goals? Were you derailed by economic forces? Or did you manage to make progress?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not so subtle gift ideas

We love Mom and Dad, but they just don't listen when we start talking about oil depletion. Somehow they just tune out the incoming TEOTWAWKI. Or maybe we haven't mentioned it - we wouldn't want to set off Dad's blood pressure alarm again. But now's our chance! Instead of getting another turkey baster for Ma, or some battery powered drill-saws for Pa, let's get them (not so subtly) prepared for the coming energy descent!

Yes, 'tis the season. It's the time of year we can sneak some Peak Oil Preparedness into the lives of our loved ones through our clever gift choices.

Strategy #1: Buzz Kill Emergency Preparedness

"Gee, ever since the (ice storm, tornado, Hurricane Ike, invasion of South Ossetia, trucker strike in Europe, collapse of financial stability, 10% unemployment rate), we've just been picking up a few things here and there. We thought you might like this - "

Oil lamp
CFL lantern or BOGO light
First Aid Kit
Hand cranked emergency radio
Water filter
Camp stove + Coleman fuel or propane
Emergency kit for the car

Strategy #2: For the Hobbyists

"I remembered how you're so interested in (gardening, cooking, camping, surviving planetary ecological collapse). I knew you'd love it!"

Membership in local food Co-op
Share in Community Supported Agriculture (if they would use it :)
Gift certificate to Territorial Seeds, Seeds of Change, or Baker Creek Seeds
Semi-dwarf apple trees, to arrive in March
Watering can
Garden tools
Beer brewing kit
Canning jars and lids
Dutch Oven
Cast iron skillet
Sub-zero sleeping bags
Everlasting firestarter

Strategy #3: For the Bibliophiles

"I thought this book looked interesting.... the lady at Borders recommended it ;)"

Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins
Just in Case by Kathy Harrison
The Long Emergency by James Howard Kuntsler
The Party's Over by Richard Heinberg
Reinventing Collapse by Dmitry Orlov
Depletion and Abundance, by Sharon Astyk
The Vegetable Gardeners' Bible by Ed Smith
Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Strategy #4: For the Uber-Crunchy

"This should help you save the planet!"

Bike (or bike tires and repair kit)
Bike trailer (for the kiddos)
Solar battery/cellphone/iPod charger
Solar lantern
Subscripton to Mother Earth News
Bus pass

Strategy #5: When you've given up on subtlety

"OK Mom, just keep this in the (closet/fridge/buried underground) until you need it"

Global Sun Oven
Camp stove + propane
2 weeks supply of water (and Tang)
Wood cookstove
Cord of wood
20 buckets of rice, beans, oats, and sugar
Gold bullion
When Technology Fails, by Matthew Stein
Coffee can of cash, to be buried in unspecified location
3 year's supply of seeds, freeze dried
Flak jacket

Or, you know, a donation to their charity of choice would also be nice.

PS: Yes, this IS a repost from last year! Any suggestions of your own?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Enjoying the holidays despite it all

Over the last ten years, Christmas seems to have become a ridiculous caricature; filled with too much sugar, too many presents, too much unneeded debt for too little satisfaction. The malls are decorated even before Thanksgiving, and the traffic jams leading to these consumer cesspalaces spawn migraines and ulcers along with mountains of trash and e-waste. Instead of joy, we get obligation and stress; instead of cheer, we develop road rage, panic attacks and ten extra pounds.

But I love Christmas despite it all. I have too many happy memories from my childhood of making ornaments, decorating the Christmas tree, singing carols, eating fudge, watching the Grinch that Stole Christmas, and poring through catalogs to find gifts for my family on my low, low budget. I loved to lay under the tree at night and just stare up at the multi-colored lights, which sadly seem to have gone out of style. Strangely, I don't remember receiving any particular Christmas presents, except for our mutt Rusty and the ubiquitous book store gift card, which I always treasured.

These fond memories are what I hope to create for my son. Memories of spending time together in creative ways, laughing and singing and cooking. Doing, instead of getting. Of course, we hope our son will enjoy his presents. Perhaps he will cherish each one even more as budgets grow tighter and the gifts, fewer. I certainly think gifts of the last decade seem lavishly, even disgustingly, excessive.

Don't worry - the Hausfrau has not gone soft. I can still see the four Horsemen approaching. Some are riding already, the others are mounting up. Economic meltdown, dwindling resources, environmental overload and social breakdown have not gone away and seem to be consolidating their hold on the planet as each day slips by. And as usual, I try my best to prepare.

But for now, I am grateful for what I have and I'm enjoying the holiday season, day by day and breath by breath. Every twinkling light, every cheesy card, every hearty holiday wish. Perhaps because of my doomy hyper-awareness, I sometimes tend to treasure experiences as if they may be my last.

So here's a holiday wish for you, readers. May all of you be safe, warm and well-fed. May you create meaningful memories that will tide you through darker times. May you laugh at the ridiculous excess we see all around us, cherish your friendships and hold on to your darlings, and remember the true meaning of Christmas - whatever that is to you. So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Food choices

In the past year, a variety of food-related documentaries have been released - Food Inc, Fresh, Killer at Large, King Corn, and so on. Some, such as Fresh, focus more on potential solutions - organic food, local growers, Farmer's Markets, community gardens, CSA's, and of course everyone's favorite, Polyface Farms with Joel Salatin. Other movies focus on the health problems of the system or the effects on farmers. Many of these documentaries may not have come to your local Blockbuster or movie theater, but most are available at Netflix - some of them even available to watch instantly on your computer!

My husband and I finally watched Food, Inc. over the weekend. I was moved by this one, which provided a good overview of the effects of our "cheap" food system and had a special focus on the e.coli outbreaks that are part of the low-regulated, feedlot, poor animal health conditions, high-speed processing aspect of our food system, and which kill children around the country every year. I have actually taken a tour of a meat-processing plant (industry terminology for slaughterhouse) and the movie brought back some unpleasant memories of striding through ankle-deep blood.

I have been a pescetarian since 2001/2002 - eating no beef, pork or poultry, but still eating dairy, eggs and fish. The transition was easier than I thought, since I like pasta, potato dishes, stews, soups, salads, bean dishes, and curries, which can all be made without meat. Every time I watch one of these documentaries I am glad I made that choice! Trust me, my eating choices are nowhere near perfect (whatever that means!!), but I do avoid industrial meat.

After watching Food, Inc., we have decided to try to order a side of grass-fed beef, raised without grains, steroids, hormones, antibiotics or animal protein additives. Sources such as Jonny Bowden (nutritionist of 150 Healthiest Foods fame) and Mother Earth News have touted the health, safety and environmental benefits of grass-fed, pastured beef.

I have visited one of our local ranchers, Rose Ranch, and can avow that their cattle were, indeed, hanging around outside chewing their cud, looking bovinely happy. Rose Ranch offers packaged, freezer-ready portions at $6.95/lb, with a $100 deposit per side required. A side weighs in at about 140-160 pounds.

Although I don't intend to eat the meat, I feel that this is a way to support a local rancher by buying their local, humanely raised beef for my family members and friends who are going to be eating beef anyway. I'm not sure when we can get the beef because I am not sure when they are processing next, but if you are interested in ordering your own, you can contact Don or Vicki Rose at drose AT roseranchjones DOT com. There are also a few other grass-fed beef options available on the website.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Giveaway winner

MN_Homesteader / Devin, you are the winner as chose by the Random Number Generator at! Congrats!

Please comment me your address and book choice (Transition Handbook, Simply in Season or Independence Days) by end of day of the 9th, or I will choose again. Comments are on "moderate" and so your address will not be published.

Thanks to everyone for participating! Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

'Tis the season....

For a giveaway! Leave a comment here if you are interested in winning either:

Simply in Season - my favorite seasonal cookbook


Rob Hopkin's The Transition Handbook


Independence Days - Sharon Astyk's latest

Pick one! I will check back on December 7th and select a winner from the comments (probably out of a hat). Sorry - can't ship internationally, just within the U.S.