Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 goals

Who knows what the new year will bring? Will disaster hold off? Will a faux-recovery appear? Will a completely unexpected Black Swan take us all by surprise? The appearance of benevolent aliens, the discovery of the fountain of youth, a left-behind style rapture, and a vampire coming-out party are all theoretically possible - ranking right up there with renewable energy completely replacing the oil in our energy portfolio. Who knows? I'm just going to keep on keepin' on with my sustainability and resilience goals for 2010:

1. Improve/expand my garden and orchard.

My eventual long-term goal is to be able to generate 80% of my familiy's fruits/ vegetables/ herbs/ eggs / honey from our doublewide city lot. I am still at least 10 years away from that goal. This year, I'd like to add two pear trees, landscape the between-driveway area in front with some "micro-beds", and add a lasagna garden to improve the rotation of tomato family vegetables.

Also, I plan to improve my canning and drying abilities to preserve more of my harvest.

2. Home improvements.

We have no backup heating except for a fireplace, which from all I've read actually makes a home colder (except right around the hearth), is only 10% efficient, and oh yes - polluting. We would like to install a fireplace insert (hopefully 75%+ efficient, EPA Phase II rated) that would provide backup cooking and heating.

Luckily, that kind of fireplace upgrade qualifies for a 30% federal tax credit, up to $1500, until the end of 2010. We have also considered a wood stove, but spacing is problematic and we would not be able to use it in the spring/summer/fall anyway. If anyone has suggestions, I'm all ears!

Secondly, we still want to replace our worn, ugly, dust-filled carpet with wood or bamboo floors. To save money, we will probably install the flooring ourselves.

3. Finances.

For many people, finances may actually be the most important prep area (barring a fast crash disaster scenario), considering that an ongoing economic depression is a likely symptom of resource constraints. I am still boggled by the inflation vs. deflation debate, and so this year we will play it "safe" by continuing to pay down our mortgage on the house and by continuing to improve our house. Of course, if we are forced to move to follow a job somewhere, this strategy won't feel so safe with all our equity locked up in an immobile, illiquid structure.

4. Community.

I will continue to work on Transition Town OKC and try to get a local neighborhood initiative going. I hope that we can start doing more hands-on seminars and workshops (gardening, energy efficiency, preserving, biking) in addition to social events and public outreach.

5. Enjoy myself.

All this peak oil preparation and community building can be overwhelming. I am constantly immersed in the day to day updates on the reality of depletion, the continuing failure of our leadership, and the erosion of our options in this catch-22 system we've designed. I am nagged by the feeling that hope is evaporating. All this, and as a Transition Town participant, I'm supposed to be positive about the future!

SO. I plan to enjoy myself as much as possible while accomplishing my objectives (see above) by continuing to write, hanging out with my Transition Town buds, and saving time for myself to relax, read and exercise.

How 'bout you?


Chile said...

How do you figure the 10 years away from producing more food on your lot? Due to fruit tree slow maturity? A number of veggies can be grown well in one season provided the soil is well-prepared...

Do you plan to grow small quantities of grains for starchy foods or focus on tubers (potatoes, yams) and winter squashes? Sorry - inquiring minds wanna know!

Once we have our own place, our first plan to deal with colder weather will be to increase weatherizing as much as possible. In our current rental house, some interior walls are just the inside of the bricks used to build the exterior walls. Very little heat-retaining value. Adding drywall inside with a nice layer of insulation would make the rooms smaller but be well worth it for the improvement.

Utilizing solar gain would be our preferred method but the ability to do that really depends on how the original house was oriented to the sun and how it was built. We debate, also, whether a wood stove would be worth it for the minimal number of cold months here. Good luck!

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Hi Chile! Yes, it will take awhile for the peaches, apples, pears, blackberries, melons and plums to yield 80% of our fruit; and the limitation on veggies is more my skill and space for the garden. I won't be expecting 80% of calories but more just veggies for nutritional value and taste. I don't think I have enough room to grow grain. As for the honey and eggs, I calculate it will be that long before it becomes legal and hubby lets me bring bees and chickens onto the property ;). Until then I'll just keep making a little more progress every year (I hope).

We added attic insulation a few years ago, weatherized, and upgraded one large window. The walls could probably use more insulation but not sure we are up for the mess of that project. Luckily, our house is south facing, but unluckily we have very high ceilings so it's inefficient.

Chile said...

I was wondering about the chickens and bees. Thanks for clarifying that.

Hope about some aquaculture in the meantime?

dixiebelle said...

Great goals! Good luck...

eatclosetohome said...

What fabulous goals! Especially "enjoy myself." I need to work on that one, myself. ;)

We installed a fireplace insert a couple years ago (this is its second winter), and it is SO WORTH IT. First, it keeps the room heat from going up the chimney, even when you're not using it. Then, of course, is the wood heat. Be sure to get a blower - as long as teh electricity is on, you might as well use it and get all that heat out into the room where it belongs.

And then cooking: Ours has a "warming shelf," and I have done some experiments cooking on it. It's ok, but would be really annoying for daily use. It's hard to get water to boil - though it does "hot" quite well. Still, I've done couscous, eggs, bannocks, and roasted squash inside the fireplace itself.

Finally, don't forget potatoes and other root veg for calorie crops! Potatoes are the most nutritional bang per square foot, even without irrigation.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

eatclosetohome - what brand did you install? I'd like to take advantage of the research you did ;).

eatclosetohome said...


We bought a Regency medium-size insert - this one. We keep the home furnace on 55 all the time and build a fire any time we're going to be up and about more than 2-3 hours. It takes it a good hour to get up to temp, but then kick on the fan and WOW - toasty in no time.

Our living room is an odd, long room - probably 15x40. We do notice if we are at the far end of the room (behind a "wall" made by the couch) that it's quite a bit cooler, and until the room is heated evenly, you can feel a draft as the cold air recirculates back toward the fireplace. Still, we love it.

We're stoking it with standing dead ash that was killed by the d*** ash borers. If we throw in 3-4 logs when we get home at 6, that heats the inhabited part of the house until we go to bed - including evenings in the teens. We have used about 3/4 of a face cord of wood so far this year, and our propane tank is at 50% full. Normally, we would have had a 350 gallon fill-up around New Year's (= tank at 20%), so I figure we've saved about 150 gallons of propane so far this heating season.