A glorious winters day in the garden

Today has been a very pleasant one. Seeing the glorious sunshine outside I just HAD to get out and enjoy it. Having a lot of washing to hang out meant I didn’t feel frivolous just soaking up the rays. Washing hung and more still being done. By the way, what is it with small children and washing? I swear they can get themselves dirty just by breathing. Well, today they did a lot more than just breathe, and boy were they dirty! And gloriously happy and probably a little cold too. Whilst they painted things with muddy water and paint brushes, drew with green crayon on the hot water heater, dropped pebbles all over the lawn and then picked them all up again after getting in trouble for it, jumped on the trampoline, swung on the swings, dug up worms, fed the chooks and found a crysalis, I started dismantling the trampoline and fed all my seeds and pot plants with some Seasol. Stoked to see it is 100% organic too. I also planted my sage seedlings in various pots too so my thumbs got a little more greening today as well. Yay.

Anyway, once the “work”was done I just lay on the trampoline on my tummy and did some reading online. It was bliss! And informative too. Thoughts of Peak Oil got me thinking and I got to wondering what life was like before the industrial and agricultural revolution. Before petrol and diesel. Way back in the “olden days”. Well, before modern machinery was steam power. Before steam was horse power. Before horse power was donkey, ass and oxen power and before that was shanks pony. Most people had a veggie garden and chooks and most farmers raised their own pigs too. Land often was worked until there was no nutritional value left as crop rotation wasn’t understood and soil nutrition undiscovered. Unless you planted legumes as well your soil would cease to produce the crop you normally grew. Manure, wood ash, and other substances were used with varying degrees of success to re-energise the soil but the science behind it wasn’t understood.

A farmer using a hand plow

Food transport was probably not much farther than the nearest town so food shortages could be quite localised if there had been a local disaster, and at the end of winter like around now you were most probably on some kind of food rationing. Keeping animals was expensive as far as food went too so only wealthier farmers could afford to raise them. Wool was a big money crop and most people only owned a few sets of clothes their entire lifetime as it was just too expensive to buy or make more. Labour intensive too.

Another thing to think of too is foods we consider to be such staples like pasta, rice, potatoes and such weren’t even around or available. Spuds were only brought back from the America’s in 1600 or so! Staples were a grain mush instead. And here’s a statistic that stunned me. 80% of people were in agriculture in the 1300’s compared to less than 2% in the developed world today! We have moved so far away from our food.

It all got me thinking, bringing together a whole lot of aspects and thoughts from A Crude Awakening, The Power of Community and Food Inc. We need to get ourselves back to the land and back to at least having our own veggie gardens and a fruit tree or 2 as most people had back in those “olden days”. If you have the room, keep a few chooks too for eggs. If you own your home and get on well with your neighbours you could even work out who grows what and then divide your crop evenly between you all. When we move I will be moving a lot closer to my dear friend Corrie-Lyn whom I am hoping to be able to play crop swapsies with. We already swap jars of preserves and information and we both bought our canners together. She is one of my greatest inspirations! I am hoping to find other like minded people in Ballan too and I won’t be too far from Gavin either, whom I one day very much hope to meet. He is another huge inspiration and it was his blog that got me started watching the films that have changed my life. And another friend Penny who also has veggies, fruit trees and chooks will be nearly a neighbour too. Both Penny and Corrie-Lyn are Thermomix owners too.

So, I consider that an incredibly profitable day in the garden. Vitamin D, great play time for the children, fresh air, chores done AND some education too.

And there is hope again

I was feeling so despondent and afraid still after watching A Crude Awakening. Concerned for my immediate and extended family, concerned for friends and for the community and wider world too. Even if things don’t suddenly snap into a major crisis, I truly believe that the way of life we are used to NEEDS to change. Large cities with large houses and little land is just not going to be sustainable in a world where fuel costs so much. My brain was flipping from “it will be ok” through to sheer panic and back. It’s been unsettling to say the least. And it’s made me very impatient for our move.
So, last night I watched Power of Community; How Cuba survived Peak Oil. Cuba faced a trial run so to speak of the Peak Oil crisis when the Former Soviet Union collapsed. Cubans were heavily reliant on oil imports and they stopped dead. The economy spiralled into recession within months, food became scarce and fuel even more so. It was sink or swim time. Food rationing was put in place, every available scrap of land was put to use to grow food and people had to till the land by hand as parts and fuel for tractors did not exist. Overnight, the humble farmer became king. And people learned by trial and error. Chemical based pesticides and fertilisers were unavailable so organic practices were sought. Things began to improve. Now, the majority of Cuban crops are organic, farms have shrunk down to a size that can be managed by a family tilling by oxen, power is mostly through sustainable means such as solar and wind and the people there have learned to do with less.

I must admit it all seems a bit too easy but I imagine that during “the special period” as it is known, things would have been terribly tough. Rolling blackouts for long amounts of time, unreliable power making food storage risky, unreliable food sources, uncertain transport and having to learn the hard way day after day would have made for a rough ride for most people, particularly city dwellers. However, from what was shown on the film, Cubans now have a much healthier life. Bicycles were imported to provide transport options and fresh fruit and vegetables for food has helped lower the risk of heart attack and incidence of diabetes, decentralisation of everything has meant the opening up of 47 more universities and a greatly increased sense of community has grown.

Watching this has given me hope. I know that the tough times are still coming but having seem proof of a thriving lifestyle after peak oil I know we will make it through.

Deeply troubled

I watched A Crude Awakening last night. Not a wise move for a deep, refreshing sleep. I crawled into bed around 12:15 with my brain racing at a million miles an hour and on the edge of panic. Peak oil really is here.

Peak oil is the point at which the maximum amount of oil extraction has been reached, where after production will never be as high again. It means the last remaining easily accessible oil reservoirs have been tapped and are in the process f being drained. Like a mountain, when you reach the summit, the only place to go from there is down.

So, what does this mean? It means that many of the things we take for granted that we use day to day will either be no longer available or will be so expensive that only the elite can afford them. Things like plastic toys, furniture, cosmetics, transport, cooking, power and food. Yes, food. Food is heavily reliant on the fuel industry. Think of labels on food and when they tell us it is made in China. Or India. Or anywhere that isn’t local. The production lines are almost certain to be run using fossil fuel produced electricity, is then potentially kept cool (if needed) and shipped to us, then further divided and shipped around the country. All of that process, from the grower to our plates uses a LOT of fuel. A LOT of crude oil in various forms.

This is my panic. When the Peak oil Crisis really begins to bite, many of the out of season or non local foods we are now used to being able to buy whenever we fancy; fish from foreign seas, tropical fruits in our southern states, cold stored fruits that are out of season; all of these will become too expensive for the average Joe Bloggs. Most fruits and vegetables including things like tomatoes, carrots, bananas, even apples and oranges, will either cease to grace our places altogether or only be available during their growing season. And there will only be those able to be grown locally that we will be able to afford to purchase for our plates. We will not be able to afford the fuel to drive to our workplaces in the city, or drive the kids to school or even to the supermarket. Unless we can walk or cycle to these places, they may very well be out of reach.

Scary huh.

Solution? Yes, there is a solution and it is something we can all do. Grow as much of our own food as we can, preserve in some way the excess and try to only source locally grown foods now. The less fuel we use now, the more will be there to help us when it reaches critical times. Putting in large vegetable beds, raising chickens for meat or even just eggs may not be an option for everyone, but every little bit helps. Even if all you have is a balcony, plant a prolific fruiting tomato, a large cropping bean and I even saw the other day how to grow carrots in 2L drink bottles! If all you have is a window sill, grow your own herbs. If you have room, plant a potato sack. You would be surprised at just how many potatoes you can harvest from a single spud bag. It may not feed you all year long but even if you get a month or 2 worth of supply, that’s only 10 months of the year you need to buy it.

Through my research and reading of blogs from all over the globe I know there are many others out there doing this. Homesteading as they call it in America is not a new concept, just not as common as I believe it is going to become in the very near future. It was also very common to grow ones own food during the war when there was food rationing. Well, once again I believe we are about to face food rationing. There is a lot of information too on preserving and you can kit yourself out with a Fowlers Vacola preserving unit and some bottles from as little as $40 on eBay if you’re lucky. The accessories are sold by many on eBay too as well as many hardware stores and the jars are often found in op shops too. Pressure canners (pressure canning allows safe preserving of vegetables and other low-acid or non-syrup preserved foods) are readily available on Amazon. The jars too can be sourced on Amazon or eBay too. There are also many other companies selling them.

Dehydrating is another way to preserve fresh food for the future. Again these  can be easily sourced on the internet and I have even seen instructions on Pinterest on how to build a solar dehydrator. It’s how it used to be done! And blanching and freezing requires no other equipment other than what most people have in their kitchens already. Lets enable ourselves whilst we can, before it becomes an absolute necessity.