Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Year End Evaluation

2010 was a year of disasters - the Deepwater Horizon, Haiti, Pakistan, Russia, and some unpronounceable volcano in Iceland. Something new and incredibly depressing came along about once a month to top off the old and incredibly depressing - peak oil, climate change, economic inequity and financial instability. Despite that, we keep chugging along with our family and community preparations; trying to build fun and joy into our lives along with sustainability and resiliency.

We spent a fair amount of time trying to finish the house, preparing backup plans to heat and cook with an unreliable electric grid, and learning to cook with more local food. It seems like we will never be "prepared" enough, and sometimes I awaken with crushing anxiety that I've missed some critical piece of the puzzle, or that I'm spending my time in all the wrong ways. Still, I accomplished many of my 2010 objectives, though not all.

At least with family preparation I can cross goals off my list as I finish them. With community work, it's often the case that I don't quite know what I've accomplished. Was someone inspired enough to store some food, prepare for an oil shock, start biking to work? Without a good feedback loop, it's hard to evaluate. But I've been inspired enough by the efforts of other people - some of whom will never realize how they've changed my life - that I can have faith enough to keep trying.

What did we accomplish?


- Used a permablitz to upgrade the weedy spot in between driveways to a mini food forest with three fruit trees, herbs, and edible flowers. Watermelons and black futsu squash planted in "crop circles" out-produced my ability to use them, resulting in lavish giveaways.

- Preserved melons, 164 pounds of peaches, pesto, and okra via jamming, drying, and freezing.

- The tomatoes in the lasagna garden were a massive disappointment; possibly because of the shade in the fall, they did not recover from the usual mid-summer downturn. No tomato preservation this year.

Local food

- Purchased a freezer to enable us to buy a side of grass-fed, pastured beef from a local rancher. The freezer is so efficient we have not noticed an increase in our electric bill.

- Learned how to cook meat once per week. I was a vegetarian (pescatarian, really) for nine years and I have never really cooked beef.

- Purchased a super-insulated grill to cook steaks and allow us to cook during summer blackouts. Stocked an extra 50-lb bag of charcoal, but the grill will also work with wood fuel.

- Enrolled in an Egg CSA.

Home improvements

- Installed a Lopi wood-burning fireplace insert with a small cooktop (will hold a 6-inch pot/pan and a small kettle). Put in a stock of two ricks of wood. We have had an ice storm and a blizzard in the past four years and it makes sense to have a backup source of heating, including fuel.

- Installed bamboo floors, replacing worn out carpet.

- Replaced roof and gutters destroyed by a hail storm with a hail-resistant, lifetime warranty roof. In Oklahoma, that means maybe fifteen years.

- Still have paint samples on the walls from 16 months ago in my living room and kitchen. Still need to install a new mantle, since our old one had to be removed to satisfy code requirements related to the Lopi fireplace insert.


- Met our family's financial goals.

- Transferred savings account from large institution to local credit union.


- Began facilitating the Going Locavore local food strategy group.

- Became the newsletter writer/editor of our neighborhood association.

- Held an educational Permablitz and a fall gardening workshop.

- Started getting together a small group of friends to help each other become more sustainable and resilient.

- Continued co-chairing Transition OKC - maintaining & upgrading the website, writing Facebook posts, revamping our bookmark, upgrading our OKC resources page, hosting a Discover Transition event, helping put on a Transition Training, participating in Sustainability Demonstration Center meetings, giving a few presentations, attending lots of meetings, helping promote events via Constant Contact e-newsletters, etc.

Enjoy myself

- Attended more delicious potlucks last year than in my first 30 years combined.

- Read an embarrassing number of pulp fiction novels.

- Wrote several satirical blog posts, which are fun to write, and hopefully make other people laugh.

- Went hiking.

How about you - how was your 2010?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wheat Berry Buckets: The gift that keeps on giving

Need a last-minute Christmas gift? Do you happen to have perhaps one too many 25-pound buckets of wheat berries laying around? Why then, you're all set! I admit that wheat berry buckets might not be the first thing that jumps to mind when you think "special holiday present," but here's my list of why WBBs are the perfect gift:

5. You can breathe a little easier knowing your friend / family member now has a start on food storage. Wheat berries can store for 20 - 30 years if kept properly protected; and 25 pounds of wheat berries ground into whole wheat flour can make about 75 loaves of bread. Not only can you grind the berries into flour, you can cook them like rice and even sprout them for extra nutritional value.

4. Although a WBB won't fit in a stocking, it is about the same price as a stocking stuffer.

3. You can't wait to see the priceless look on your brother's face when he realizes what his very large present actually is.

2. The buckets are reuseable: use them to carry compost, as an emergency sanitation station, to mix grout, or to catch shower water for your garden!

And the number one reason is...

1. They definitely DON'T already have one.

All joking aside, I brought a WBB to a Dirty Santa party and it was THE most stolen gift. Nine times, by four different people, by my count. The party was a Transition OKC party, with people who actually know what wheat berries are, but still - that's pretty popular! So, if you do have a family member who keeps meaning to start storing food, but just never gets around to it... or an adventurous friend with a yearning to find ways to cook more whole grains... well, you know what to do.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bee havens

Grist has a fairly damning article of the EPA's role in the epic honeybee decline over the last decade - the rise of colony collapse disorder and the decline of free pollination of thousands of crops, one of the many services that Nature provides. Apparently, the EPA granted Bayer "conditional registration" to sell the profitable pesticide clothianidin, despite warnings from the EPA's own scientists that the pesticide was "persistent" and "toxic to honeybees."

Scientists have not fingered clothianidin as the smoking gun of colony collapse disorder. No doubt loss of habitat, mono-cropping, other pesticides, and a host of other factors play a role. But does it make sense for the EPA to allow a pesticide that is extremely toxic to honeybees to be sold on the open market, even when the pesticide residues are expressed in the pollen and nectar of the flowering crops? Only in a world where we don't want to eat oranges, apples, pears, peaches, and plums, to name just a tiny percentage of the fruits we eat that are freely pollinated by bees.

So, as with most environmental issues, saving the bees is a matter of saving human food (although hand-pollination is an option, and even practiced in parts of China where the bees have vanished, it is hard to imagine.)

How do we "save the bees?" It seems like giving the EPA a swift kick in the behind might be a good start, but for all you non-political types (like myself), you can also do something at home. Here are three steps you can take to support bees - at least on your own property.

1. Create a bee-friendly environment by offering them plants that flower throughout spring, summer, and fall:

- Plant an insectary with flowering plants that bees love: lemon balm, borage, tansy, goldenrod, echium, mint, heather, salvias, lavender, coriander, thyme, elderberry, heirloom rugosa roses, and willow. Many of these are also medicinal or herbal plants.

- Plant a clover lawn, which has the added benefit of needing less fertilizers, pesticides, and mowing.
- Perhaps you could even let your dandelions flower - they are an important source of nectar and pollen early in the season, as well as being an edible medicinal "weed."

2. Stop using pesticides that harm bees (and encourage your neighbors to avoid them), and

3. Become a beekeeper. Bees don't need a lot of room, since they roam freely; and you have the added benefit of excellent pollination of your own crops and a steady, renewable, organic source of sweetness.

At my home, we have only taken the first two steps. We have a clover/dandelion backyard filled with flowering medicinals and herbals, and a front yard that has peach trees, catmints, salvias, and thyme. We don't use any bee-toxic pesticides on our property. At this point, I can only aspire to become a beekeeper. But who knows what 2011 might hold? Honey would certainly be a space-efficient, highly tradeable, multi-purpose, and valuable food to be able to produce.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An easy first step: community newsletters

Are you planning to "build community" next year to help your community face the problems of economic downturn and energy decline? Here's a simple, time-efficient, way to start: take advantage of your existing neighborhood newsletter to promote your ideas. The newsletter published by my neighborhood association is distributed to over 600 households - people who are living near me, people I definitely want to be prepared and "skilled-up" for the future.

Contributing to an existing neighborhood newsletter is fairly simple to do, if you can get permission to write the articles. In my case, I happened to know the person responsible for the newsletter, who was really not interested in the job and had accepted it only under duress. He was happy to let me write the newsletter, and your local newsletter editor might very likely feel the same way. I now have the opportunity to share valuable knowledge and resources four to six times per year with all the people living around me.

Here are some ideas for useful, non-controversial topics:

  • Emergency preparedness,

  • Tornado / ice storm / hurricane safety,
  • Traffic / driving safety reminders,
  • Useful phone numbers,
  • Crime reports and statistics,

  • Saving money through energy conservation,

  • Community spirit / cooperation,

  • Gardening,

  • Free local resources (compost, mulch, trees, etc.)

  • Planting trees,

  • Neighborhood security / patrol,

  • Car-pooling,

  • Upcoming events, block parties, speakers, workshops, etc.

  • Offers for free homeowner assistance from government / non-profit agencies,

  • Supporting local food/economy.
So if you've got something to say, contact whomever is responsible and offer to write a quick few articles for your paper. I try to keep my contributions short, non-partisan, useful, and away from any controversy (peak oil, cough, climate change, cough). Here is a sample of three articles I wrote for our recent newsletter:

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

The economic downturn has affected many of our neighborhood residents, but economics are not the only reason to help a neighbor. Getting to know your neighbors, and helping them when possible, creates a much friendlier and safer neighborhood atmosphere. You will benefit as well!

What are some ways to help our neighbors? Here are a few ideas to start:

- Loan your neighbor a tool (table-saw, tile-cutter, etc.).

- Let them know they can borrow a cup of sugar or some milk rather than running to the store.

- Share extra produce, fruits or herbs from your garden.

- Carpool with them or offer to share rides.

- Are you handy? You could help insulate or weatherize their home to cut down on heating bills and uncomfortable drafts.

- Offer to shovel the snow from a neighbor's walk, or help them plant a garden.

- Keep an eye out for suspicious activity around your block.

Have you been helped by a neighbor? Share your story at X@gmail.com!

Are you prepared for the next ice storm?

The Ice Storm of '07 knocked out power for several days and caused property damage all over the city, and the Christmas Eve Blizzard of '09 snarled traffic for day. Are you ready for the next big one?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has these suggestions to prepare for a storm:

- Winterize your home: Insulate, caulk, and weatherstrip to protect for the cold.

- Winterize your car: Keep your car properly tuned and keep all fluids filled up; consider carrying sand for traction on ice as well as emergency items such as cold weather clothing and some food and water.

- Stock up: Make sure you have at least two weeks of food and water on hand, adequate fuel (i.e. wood or propane) for cooking and heating without power, plenty of warm clothes and blankets, and batteries for lights and radio.

FEMA has these suggestions to weather a winter storm:

- Listen to weather reports about severe storm activity.

- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow; and be careful when walking on winter ice. Overexertion can lead to heart attacks (a leading cause of winter storm-related deaths), and falling on ice can break bones and cause concussions.

- Use extreme caution and maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters.

- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

Don't be caught unprepared! For more information and tips on emergency preparedness, visit http://www.fema.gov/.

Local Food Year-Round

Summer season for local produce is over - but don't worry, you can still get food fresh from your local growers! There are several options for finding local food in the fall and winter:

1. The OSU-OKC Farmer's Market is open year-round on Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm at 400 N. Portland Ave.

2. Oklahoma Food Co-op members can order from the Co-op online at oklahomafood.coop every month.

3. The Local Food @ Market C offers a selection of locally raised meat, eggs, freshly picked produce, and baked goods at 401 NW 23rd every Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm.

Resilient Gardener Winner

And the winner chosen by the Random Number Generator is...

Number seven, esp! Please comment in with your name, address, and email address (which will not be published), and I will mail you a copy of Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener. If you do not comment in by end of day Thursday I will feel free to do another drawing.

You may be interested to know that Amazon named The Resilient Gardener one of the Top 10 Home and Gardening books of 2010! If you would like your own copy, or a gift copy, you can order the book for yourself from your local bookseller, from Amazon.com, or directly from Chelsea Green, which is holding a 35% off sale with free shipping on orders over $100. FYI.

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Resilient Gardener Book Giveaway

Finally, a gardening book written for gardeners dealing with the realities of peak oil and unpredictable weather! Carol Deppe's book The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times describes how to grow, store and cook "the five crops you need to survive and thrive - potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs." Ms. Deppe covers these topics in a way that details, as she puts it, how to garden to "the appropriate level of sloppiness," using just enough time and effort to get the desired results, instead of how to garden to a fossil-fueled vision of perfection.

Carol Deppe, a Harvard-educated biologist with over thirty years of plant-breeding and gardening experience, has distilled an incredible store of knowledge into this book, which tops the scales at over three hundred pages long. In the book, she discusses:

- Growing food in an era of unpredictable weather

- Gardening with little to no irrigation or store-bought inputs

- Keeping a flock of ducks/chickens and growing most of their food

- Saving seeds and breeding plants

- Storing crops

Ms. Deppe's unique perspective, which sometimes goes against conventional wisdom, kept the book both amusing and interesting. How often do you find gardening books with sections entitled "Why I Hate Drip Irrigation," "Why I Don't Compost Anymore," and "The Power of Pee?" She is also not afraid to take a stand on nutritional topics, and although I found the chapter on celiac disease a little distracting, I can see that the information might benefit many people.

Her discussion of diet and nutrition related to the five main crops, and especially her discourse on the specifics of storing foods and saving seeds, seems particularly versatile. As Ms. Deppe said in an interview with Makenna Goodman on Alternet, The Resilient Gardener is as much about storing and using food as it is about growing it, which makes the book as helpful for people learning to cook and use local food as it is for gardeners. While the sheer volume of information related to some of the topics was overwhelming at times, I think these sections may be worth their weight in gold when they are needed.

As usual, I found myself wishing that a gardening book had been written by someone who lived in Oklahoma. But can I really fault the author for living in Oregon, which has a very different climate than we have?

To sum it up: The Resilient Gardener covers a wide range of subjects, in great detail, that will interest people who plan to garden in a post-peak, unpredictable weather kind of planet. Carol Deppe is not afraid to defy conventional wisdom, and is brave enough to discuss some taboo topics. The Resilient Gardener also garnered rave reviews from Toby Hemenway (author of the permaculture classic Gaia's Garden - one of my favorite books) and Gene Logsdon (author of Small-Scale Grain Raising and Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind).

So if you find yourself intrigued by this review, sign up to win a copy of The Resilient Gardener by leaving your name in the comments (no anonymous or non-U.S. lower 48 registrations, please). I will announce the winner on Wednesday morning. And if you don't happen to win... this book might make a great (i.e. useful) gift for the gardener in your life.

Final note: Because of the series of posts I wrote on resilient gardening, Chelsea Green mailed me a free review copy of The Resilient Gardener, however, I am keeping that copy for myself and sponsoring this holiday giveaway on my own dime.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Income to rise 564%, predicts Int'l Economics Agency

* Commentary for Peak Oil Review (Does not necessarily reflect ASPO-USA's position.)

Nov. 15, 2010 - PARIS -- The International Economics Agency today released their World Income Outlook, which predicts an incredible 564 percent increase in the median world income over the next three months. IEA Chief Economics Officer Brandon Blighted reports, "Our meticulous research clearly shows that an overwhelming majority of people, especially the Chinese, want more money - a lot more, in fact. With demand for income rising, it appears that the economy has little choice but to produce more well-paying jobs and excessive bonuses. That's what we're assuming, anyway."

According to projections, and despite a combined under and un-employment rate of 17.6 percent in the U.S. in October, the yearly median world income will increase from 5,000 to 27,500 by the end of this year, with the median income for American households increasing from 30,500 to 167,000. When asked what currency the figures are in, IEA spokesperson Hope Hillston laughed. "Dollars, yuan, pesos, euros, what's the difference? It's all money."

IEA authors divided the skyrocketing income gains into several categories. The "Existing income from existing jobs" category has been steeply declining for the last several years, with average continuing declines projected at 8.3 percent. The largest category, "Projected income from currently non-existent jobs," steadily increases to compose an astronomical 90 percent of income by the yer 2020, when the average Chinese peasant will be making 95,000.

Some people reported confusion surrounding the charts. "I don't get it," engineering student Jon Sherwood said. "Are they saying that these cushy jobs will magically appear just because people want money? Did they take their methodology straight from The Secret, or has someone been dropping a few too many hits of acid before work?"

Economic experts were confident in the WIO. "Your average schmo on the street doesn't appreciate the intricacies of economic forecasting, especially the part where we examine bloody, eviscerated pig entrails," commented Economics Professor Phillipson Lumpy Jr., of Wharton University. "But as I always say, why look a gift horse in the mouth? I can have complete confidence in this fantastically optimistic report without any nitpicky factual discussions. Let's pop open the bubbly, shall we? Jeeves!"

Government officials were visibly relieved by the news, which seemed to temporarily alleviate mounting demands from constituents to "do something, as long as it doesn't involve austerity," about the failing economy. Most members of Congress were reluctant to discuss the details of the "Unconventional income" category, which is rumored to consist mostly of organ sales, gambling, and infant surrogacy. However, many Congresspersons appeared confident that the economy could indeed produce heretofore undiscovered, yet incredibly lucrative, careers from new and exciting technological advancements in the next three months.

Congresswoman Barbara Baker (D-CA) was especially exuberant. "Look at the possibilities for upper middle-class jobs... Moon Base construction engineers, hydrogen car marketing managers and Fountain of Youth development chemists. Just think what we can do with the payroll, state income and sales taxes from these new industries. I can't wait to build some much-needed highways. And a corn ethanol processing plant!"

Alternatively, analyst Stefan Stanislavsky at the Association for Economists Waking up and Smelling the Coffee (AEWUSTC) was openly skeptical. "In many ways, this report is an improvement over prior years: at least the IEA is not predicting a $5.5 million median income like they did in 2006. Unfortunately, we don't believe that a 1,347,000 percent increase in the number of hedge fund managers is a viable way to grow the economy. And frankly, the inclusion of $48,500 quarterly bonuses for Burger King cashiers in the income projections seems somewhat unrealistic. If that happens, I'll eat my hat."

Inside sources at the International Economics Agency expressed some reservations about the jubilation surrounding the Outlook. "I'm not sure the mainstream media understands the whole 'income has peaked and we're not sure what will fill the gap' thing. I'm a little disappointed, because I thought someone might have gotten the hint from the category we named "Income generated when monkeys fly out of my butt," but evidently not. Maybe they just haven't seen Wayne's World."

He confided, "When reading this report, you need to crank up your bulls*^t detector by about five notches. Then crank it up another ten. That's where it should be when you start interpreting projections that we created specifically to keep from getting lynched by a pitchfork-wielding, suit-wearing mob, while still trying to avoid frying in Hell for perpetuating the assumption that we can indefinitely expand the economy."

The IEA insider added, "It's a tough balancing act, kind of like mud-wrestling three rabid pitbulls while playing a Tchaikovsky violin concerto. Seriously, man -- I'm freaking exhausted."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hell announces Pilot Colonization Program

December 12, 2011 -- Ninth Level of Hell, Expansion Division

Hell today announced a new Pilot Colonization Program to relocate demons, devils, incubi, succubi, and Damned Souls to the surface of the Earth, starting as early as 2012. Lucifer Jr., Senior Executive Vice-President of Hades, explained the rationale behind the new program: "From our perspective, warming Earth temperatures offers an infernally perfect solution for the overcrowding we've been experiencing in Hell for the last 66 years. As the planet heats up, Earth will present a terrific opportunity for Hell's growth and expansion."

A vocal group of protesters, including the Vatican, immediately filed suit in national and international courts to prevent the colonization program. A representative of Pope John Jacob II spoke forcefully against the plan. "A demonic occupation would be a disaster for humanity. Demons are notorious for soul possession and for corrupting government and business officials, plus Greed, Lust, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Violence, and Sloth. And don't even get me started on the problems with projectile vomiting."

However, legal experts say that Hell's colonization of land owned by various Satanic holding companies is all perfectly legal. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, an avid property-rights advocate, observed, "Some people say that Demons belong in Hell. I tend to agree, but Satan has purchased this real estate through legitimate and proper channels. What would happen if we tried to just nullify all the contracts that we didn't like? Chaos, that's what!"

Several sources in Hades appeared skeptical about the colonization. Lesser daemon Beelzebub Cramer said, "Upper management is trying to portray the surface as some sort of 'Land of Opportunity' where ambitious young devils can set up Eternal Punishment shops to alleviate the population pressures we've been having in Hell. But why can't our Soul Recruitment Department just lay off a bit? If they would scale back their notoriously aggressive quarterly soul targets, it would solve the problem pretty quick."

Some advocacy groups point to Hell's nefarious plan as simply one more reason to slow, and reverse, the effects of climate change as soon as possible. Groups like 350.org have proposed many practical solutions - renewable energy, transitioning to a steady-state economy, increasing public transportation, systematically redesigning walkable cities, and radically increasing the energy efficiency of buildings.

Others call these proposals "unrealistic and expensive." Economist Julian Stein commented, "Sure, the prospect of having one's faced gnawed off by a demon might be frightening to some people, but that's far off in the future, like next year. We need to deal with the here and now, and that means stimulating economic growth at any cost. We really don't have any choice - no matter what the grisly consequences might be."

Peak oil offers a tiny glimmer of hope for those uneasy with the planned demon colonization program, as recent reports from the U.S. Military have indicated that oil production will begin to fall within a few years, and remaining oil and coal reserves will be less profitable, of lower quality, and generally harder to extract. Non-profit groups, such as the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and the Transition Network, have pointed out that Hell's Colonization Program is simply one more excellent reason to immediately cut our use of fossil fuels while transitioning to a more sustainable future.

Chief Climate Enhancement Engineer and resident of the fourth level of Hell, Asmodeus Dimon, describes the Hellish dilemma: "At this point, only the toughest and hardiest Demons can survive on the surface. We need the Earth to warm up several more degrees to accommodate our Denizens. But will we be able to achieve our target level of heating with the lower-grade, harder to extract, and more expensive oil and coal that's left? We're betting we can. And you know what? We invented betting."

Lilith Jones, head Project Manager of the Pilot Colonization Program, said of Hell's acquisition of thousands of square miles of tar sands, deepwater oil, and shale deposits, "First, speaking on behalf of my fellow demons, I'd like to thank you humans for the excellent job you've done in laying the groundwork for this project. Without your child-like stubbornness, complete lack of foresight, and disregard for the health of your fellow humans, this Program would simply not be possible."

She continued, "But in the case that fossil fuel exploitation becomes unprofitable and you humans lose your appetite for destruction, we stand ready to burn every last drop of oil and every last lump of coal we can get our claws on."

Archangel Micheal spoke from his corner of Heaven, where an unprecedented number of prayers was waiting in his inbox. "Look, I sympathize with your predicament, but God likes to help those who help themselves, if you know what I mean. If you want to hop on the clue train, here it is: QUIT BURNING FOSSIL FUELS. And plant a few more trees, while you're at it."

The Archangel concluded, "You've got a choice - continue your short term pursuit of an indecently inequitable, prodigiously polluting, and irrationally growth-obsessed economic system and face an Eternity in the new Hell on Earth, or use your imaginations and make another leap of evolution. Although some of us advised Him against it, God gave you free will - now, you make the call."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Radically honest man tarred, feathered

December, 20, 2010 - Oklahoma City, OK ---

Police removed local geologist Matt Price from the Petroleum building where he was hanging for two hours after being tarred and feathered by disgruntled former friends and colleagues. Patrolman Derrick Quinn reported, "We had to wait for the angry mob to disperse. Man, do they hate radical honesty."

Anonymous sources confirmed that the incident began a little after 5:45 pm, when Mr. Price abruptly commandeered the podium from the Keynote Speaker at the State Department of Energy conference. Reportedly, he asked conference attendees, "You think you'll be drawing a pension in ten years after the state pension fund defaults?," and going on to say, "Infinite economic growth on a finite planet is impossible. The fact is, we're all going to be poorer than poor. This is the beginning of the end for America... I just hope we can keep the water running and the lights on."

Assistant Vice President Wendy Bingham observed the tarring and feathering but did not participate. "I didn't feel like the mob would respect my authority if I told them to stand down," she said. "First there was the shouting and stripping, and then someone got on Twitter and all of a sudden there were like ninety-five people here. Some of them had torches. But I have no idea where the tar came from."

"I'll say this for Matt - he didn't go down without a struggle. Last thing I heard, he was yelling something about humanure."

Mob participant Andrew Jacobs appeared sheepish after the incident. "At first Radical Honesty wasn't so bad. It was like, 'your breath smells like wet dog,' and other funny s%^t. Then Matt started reading some whacked-out website called TOD or LATOC, or something. That's when he started talking about NINJA loans and net energy returns and Export Land Models. I wouldn't have minded too much except he always turned out to be right. Why couldn't he understand that too much reality is painful?"

Crowd member and college roommate Jason Brinks was still pumped from the excitement of the event. "Whoooo, that feels good!" he reported. When asked how Mr. Price had antagonized him, Mr. Brinks said, "Well, mainly he suggested that inviting my thirty closest buddies to Vegas for my bachelor party was going to create enough carbon emissions to drown a couple of children on some island somewhere. Man, I don't need that on my karma. But I really, reeeeeally want to go to Vegas."

Matt's cousin Monica was also spotted in the crowd, although she claimed to be an innocent bystander. "I have to give him credit. Matt wanted to improve the world with his Radical Honesty, because he had some idea about not being able to solve problems if we couldn't talk about them first. I could handle the info about resource depletion, unprecedented species extinctions, frightening levels of topsoil loss and imminent planetary eco-cide. But then he started talking about all these kinds of 'flations, telling me there wasn't going to be any retirement left and no college for the kids. That's when it all got too serious, and I had to block him on Facebook."

After being removed from the flagpole off the second story of the building, Mr. Price admitted that the Radical Honesty program was "considerably flawed." He went on, "Dr. Blanton says that you need to be totally honest to be in real relationship with other people and that lying is the primary source of modern human stress. Basically, that turned out to be BS. My wife left me after I was radically honest about my attraction to her sister, my parents still aren't talking to me after I said they'd be dead in five years if they didn't lose sixty pounds each, and frankly my prospects for promotion at this point are looking pretty slim. Also, being tarred and feathered was highly stressful. Way more stressful than lying."

Close friend and closet prepper "John Smith" was credited with preventing a lynching. "That mob was hungry for blood, but they eventually settled for torture and humiliation," he said. "I tried to warn Matt this would happen. You can't really be truthful about this stuff with people who wouldn't know an exponential population curve from a hole in the ground. It's too far out of their experience, it's too overwhelming. That's why I go with sugarcoating and manipulation. Positive spin, that's how I roll."

When asked if he would continue with the program, Mr. Price replied, "Hell, no. I thought people would respect me for my principled, honest assessment of reality, but it didn't turn out that way. So now I'm going back to regular old silence and deceit - right after I get someone to clean this tar out of my crack."

Friday, October 8, 2010

The iFinger

February, 2012 - - - East Coast Federation, United States

Apple today announced record sales of the recently released iFinger implants. Although smaller than the iBellyTop and the iForearm, the iFinger continues the concept of a wafer-thin chip-screen embedded in the human body, available around the clock and at any location for viewing Internet, videos, and music. Apple proclaimed, "The iFinger technology will change life as we know it across the planet forever in every way possible."

The iFinger, like it's implant predecessors, continues to be attacked by some consumer activists. Public Interest Research group spokesman Brad Wither criticized the iBody line of technology, saying, "Reports from consumers clearly show that the nuclear battery is prone to leakage, which could be a major carcinogen both in the body and the environment." Apple headquarters refuted this assertion, claiming, "None of our studies have shown that nuclear leakage has led to cancer, in humans, yet, as far as we know." Since the chip-screen technology has only been released in the last 6 months, it is unclear which federal department regulates the nuclear-powered implants, and currently there is no government oversight on the production or disposal of the technology.

With the million-iFinger mark passed on Monday, it's clear that consumers are embracing the progressively smaller media implants. Local consultant Seth Godead exclaimed, "I'm totally the coolest person at my office! Aside from the other fourteen people who have one."

The iFinger has experienced some consumer backlash, however. About 5% of consumers report that the implant leaves their fingers itchy, red, and twitching. Others report excruciating pain at the implantation sites. Apple's public relations department commented, "We sympathize with our consumers and are actively working on advancements to address this concern. In the meantime, that's what Oxycodone prescriptions are for."

Some companies are not as enthusiastic about the chip-screen implants their employees have adopted. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a national marketing manager reported that all his iBody employees were "drugged-up zombies who make annoying clicking sounds when they type and can't complete a sentence," and continued, "Thanks for nothing, Apple."

The United States leads global iFinger sales even as unemployment passes 29% and foreclosures continue to break records. The iFingers, which are much less expensive than the iBellyTop or the iForearm, have proven popular among the homeless, who otherwise lack access to mediatainment. Apple salesmen report that their homeless clients appreciate the nuclear batteries, which don't need recharging, and the associated cochlear implants, which have been reported 88% effective in drowning out snoring.

It remains to be seen whether the iFinger will live up to Apple's promise to change life as we know it across the planet forever in every way possible. Despite advances in communications, information, and entertainment over the past decade, some believe that recent technology improvements have contributed little to the quality of life of the average person. A growing grassroots movement demands that corporations and government redirect their attention to address "critical issues" such as the massive economic crisis, climate change and peak oil, claiming that all available resources need to be focused on finding effective solutions for these problems.

Others deny a connection. NYU freshman Simon Barknut III, Jr. , asks, "OK, but, what do something change and peak whatever have to do with my Constitutional right to implant nuclear technology in my finger and my God-given freedom to watch Internet porn whenever I want, whether I'm in McDonalad's, the library, or driving home drunk from a frat party? Nothing, obviously!" He added, "This is precisely the kind of freedom our troops are fighting for in Overthereistan."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Five Reasons to Plant Trees Now

To some people, planting a tree is the epitome of the environmental cliche. Planting a tree seems so simple, so easy, so... low-technology. In the midst of the economic upheaval we are experiencing now, in the face of massive challenges such as peak oil and climate change, why should we plant trees? What good could it possibly do?

1. We will soon urgently need trees for fuel.

Space heating uses 30 - 40% of the energy consumed in our homes. Our current heating sources are primarily heating oil, natural gas, and electricity (from natural gas, coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric dams). Heating with these sources is dependent on having an affordable supply of these fuels as well as an economy with decent wages and a safe and dependable infrastructure (pipelines, roads, extraction operations) to deliver the energy around the country. All of these - supply, economy, and infrastructure - are becoming less reliable.

In most of the non-industrialized world, wood is still the primary source of heating and cooking fires, and has been for thousands of years. Certain characteristics of wood give it an advantage over other choices: it can be stored and used as needed, it requires little up-front investment or special technology, it can be produced locally in most places, it can be renewed, and before deforestation arises, it is often relatively cheap. As the production of fossil fuels wane, and their cost waxes, I believe that wood will eventually return to dominance as the heating fuel of choice in our part of the world as well.

Ideally, we would all have Earth-sheltered or passive solar homes that require little to no heating fuel. However, without proper initial design or timely retrofits, most people will heat with wood again in the long run - hopefully in a sustainable and healthy way, by reducing our need for heating fuel and by using efficient technologies and forestry practices. If an area has an abundance of forests, wood from trees may be able to be harvested sustainably. If not, the area will likely experience deforestation (with all the problems that entails) and will have to import fuel, or may even be eventually abandoned.

2. Trees provide food.

Trees produce many different types of fruit (apples, peaches, pears, oranges, plums, figs) and nuts (pecans, almonds, chestnut, walnut), which offer an important source of fat, nutrition, taste and sweetness. Unlike annual crops, trees only need to be planted once, minimizing soil and nutrient loss, and are easy to integrate into an urban landscape.

Using permaculture techniques, a "food forest" can integrate trees with shrubs (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries), perennial vegetables and herbs (thyme, oregano, mint, rosemary, etc), and even annuals. This approach to food cultivation creates a more stable and diverse ecosystem, since the soil does not need to be plowed and planted every year. It also yields a significant amount of food per square foot.
More and more people are beginning to recognize that industrial agriculture is unsustainable due to the massive quantities of fertilizer and oil required to lubricate the system that is destroying our biodiversity, our topsoil and our wildlife. If we want to have fruit in a post-peak world, we may need to grow it in our own neighborhoods - or within a few miles.

3. Trees can be a source of income.

Local food and fuel are poised to return to the prominence they enjoyed for all of human history (except the last forty years). Someone will need to provide that food and fuel, but many people in densely populated cities don't have room to grow their own fruit, nuts, and firewood, or they simply don't know how. People who have the space, the knowledge, and the foresight to plant now can help meet the critical need for non-fossil fuel subsidized food and fuel.

Trees can provide income year after year. A well managed forest can yield wood not only for personal use, but also for sale as firewood or lumber. An orchard can provide food for the family and for sale or barter. Anyone who plants trees for these purposes now could be investing in a source of income for years in the future. The simple act of planting a $10 tree can yield hundreds of pounds (and dollars) of produce for years thereafter, with only a little yearly pruning, thinning and harvesting.

4. Trees can mitigate the effects of severe weather.

The effects of climate change are already being seen. Scientists, farmers, gardeners, and people who live in canary areas (the poles, islands) are witnessing the effects of drought, habitat change, and ice melt. Over time, the changes will become increasingly more obvious, probably in the form of more severe weather.

Trees can help mitigate the effects of many types of severe and more extreme weather. They hold the soil to prevent erosion from downpours and flash floods. Holding the soil (and decreasing the soil temperature via shade) also prevents desertification and duststorms. The shade cast by trees decreases the effects of harsh heatwaves, and trees can usually survive drought much better than smaller plants. They can absorb carbon to help prevent the worst excesses of climate change, and they can provide habitat and food for other species that make up our ecosystems.

5. Trees make an area more liveable.

Our lives are going to become more local. Perhaps we should start to pay attention to what "here" looks like, feels like, and can provide; pay attention to whether the places we live are places worth living. Trees help cool an area, cut electricity use and cost, and soothe the eye - all while providing the benefits mentioned above.

One of the easily anticipated effects of an unraveling economy and a declining supply of oil is a need for cheaper modes of transportation, namely biking and walking. If we are to transform our urban areas to be walkable and bikeable, we will need to make them more pleasant than the baked scrubby Bermuda strips that now predominate (in Oklahoma City, anyway). A helpful, but perhaps overlooked, way to encourage pedestrian transport is to plant trees.

Trees not only provide shade, but in groups and clusters, they cool an area down. The difference between walking down a shadeless street vs. a shady street in 100+ degree heat can be more than 10 degrees - the difference between walking and staying at home, in my experience. Various sources estimate that trees shading a home can cut air-conditioning costs by 30-50%, which will also decrease the strain on our aging electrical grid.

When air-conditioning becomes unaffordable (or electricity becomes unreliable), shade from trees could make a place bearable. And shade is not just a matter of comfort, as many people (elderly, infants, people with health issues) can suffer from heat distress, and even death from heat stroke in extreme cases.

Not only are trees useful, but they are beautiful. Their green soothes the eye. Their spring blossoms remind us that winter's harsh reign is almost ended, and their multi-colored fall leaves remind us that the baking heat of summer is over. We will need beautiful places to live once we can't escape to info-tainment all day long and a seaside/mountainside/forested vacation several times a year.

Any one of these reasons should be enough, but all of them together make planting urban trees, food forests, and managed woodlots an important part of any resiliency effort. Trees aren't a cliche - they are a keystone of the environment, and therefore, our future. Since trees take many years to reach maturity, we need to plant a variety of fruit, nut, and shade trees now, wherever we can feasibly and safely do so. For food security, for heat in the winter and shade in the summer, for income, taste and nutrition, for a place worth living, plant a tree this fall.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Gathering Hordes

Rome, Italy - CE 400

Proponents of the so-called "barbarian invasion" theory today warned of the "potentially disastrous" effects of hundreds of thousands of Visigoths, Huns, and Vandals plundering the imperial capital, including death, despoilment and dismemberment of the populace, and destruction of the city's ancient architecture and temples.

Senator Titus Claudius scoffed at the authors of the Foreign Barbarian Invasion: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management report, saying, "Obviously, these people have warned of barbarian invasions before - and look - Rome is as rich and prosperous as ever." The Senator went on to proclaim that because of the unlimited amounts of land left to conquer and the unparallelled might of the Imperial army, no barbarians could ever pierce the walls of Rome. Additionally, the Senator said that preparing for an imminent invasion would divert needed funds from temple building and wine production.

The Foreign Barbarian Invasion report is the most strongly-worded warning yet about the conquering hordes problem, and was issued by a respected think tank commissioned by the Roman Legions to study the Barbarian issue. Lead author Consul Maximus Romeus comments, "We don't know the precise date at which the barbarian horde(s) will invade. We do know, however, that other cities in the empire have been sacked and burned, and that barbarian forces maintain a quick, mobile force on the edges of our imperial reach. An attack on Rome is inevitable. The effects of such an invasion are so severe that we should begin to prepare for when the barbarians decide to attack."

Consul Maximus Romeus goes on to list recommendations such as planning for strategic evacuation of the populace, limiting further imperial expansion, land reforms for farming sustainability, and a halt to the building of additional temples, public baths, coliseums, and palaces which have drained the treasury and taxed the peasants into extreme poverty.

Foreign Barbarian Invasion is the third report concerning destructive invading hordes released this year. Other reports from the Vestal Virgins and the Apollonian Order were issued in the spring and were similarly downplayed by the Senate.

Several high-profile Roman groups commented on the report. Roman Empire Research Associates (RERA) issued this: "We refuse to believe that Rome could be invaded, despite any overwhelming so-called evidence to the contrary. Rome is the center of the universe, blessed by the Gods, and has never been conquered in modern history. Rome cannot fall."

Another respected group, the Roman Defense Institute, had a different perspective. "Although the threat of barbarian invadors is real, we simply need to expand the army and build higher walls. These innovative steps will address the problem without disruption to our way of life or economy."

Representatives of Transition Rome, a small but growing group of citizens concerned about the "barbarian invasion" problem, commented, "This paper only confirms testimonies which have been gathered from across the empire. While we don't know when the barbarians will invade, our low levels of grain storage, depleted farmland and treasury, expensive costs of maintaining a standing imperial army, and high levels of debt and poverty make Rome more vulnerable than ever to attack, and so it only makes sense to prepare for the inevitable. Plus, preparing for an invasion will be fun."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Harvest fresh salads all winter!

Photos courtesy of Trey Parsons

Want to harvest fresh salads all winter? In Oklahoma City's mild climate, a little protection will often enable you to grow lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, and a whole range of cold-hardy crops far past the first freeze, even into the spring.

Transition OKC recently hosted a workshop for gardeners to share tips for fall and winter gardening. The workshop was facilitated by Joseph Glosemeyer, Master Composter and Biodynamic Gardener with over 30 years experience, and Shauna Struby, successful winter gardener. Shauna presented her how-to tips from the previous two winters, when a sheet of plastic held up by a simple stake system enabled her family to save $236 on organic salad greens each year. Participants donated $5 to support the work of Transition OKC and Sustainable OKC.

The gardening group examined the many advantages of fall gardening, such as less labor (watering, weeding), fewer insect problems, increasing the use of your garden real estate, and of course, harvesting fresh salads all winter. Workshop participants discussed vegetables that perform well in our Zone 7 fall and winter, including garlic, bok choy, kale, arugula, mesclun mix, and Egyptian onions. Other topics included planting times, watering tips, and types of protection such as deep mulch, plastic and floating row covers, cold frames, miniature hoop houses, and the tricky question of where to find freshly harvested bamboo. After the discussion, the group adjourned to creating a miniature bamboo hoop house.

Host Christine Patton readily admits that the miniature bamboo hoop house is an experiment based on diagrams sourced from Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest. The mini-hoop house is a simple construction of green bamboo bent into hoops and secured by the edges of the raised bed (and possibly industrial sized staples if the edges don't keep the bamboo in place); a floating row cover or plastic, and bricks to secure the row cover. Bamboo was selected because it is a renewable, local, low-energy, non-toxic and free resource; but if it is not available, PVC or metal hoops can also be used.

If winter protection seems troublesome or confusing, don't let it stop you from planting your fall garden! You can be harvesting fresh salads until December in our mild climate, even without a hoop house, cold frame or floating row cover. Check out this handy document for fall planting dates, or pick up a planting guide from Horn Seed!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fall Garden Incoming

Oklahoma gardens look like hell in August. Scorched, blistered, and withered - despite mulch and constant watering. The two bright spots are my okra plants, which are still pretty and prolific, and the crop circles that we installed during the Permablitz, which have exceeded my hopes. The two watermelon and two Black Futsu winter squash vines have gone wild and covered almost the entire 300 square foot area between my driveway and our neighbor's driveway, and quickly growing watermelons and squashes dot the plants (shhh ... don't tell the squash bugs!).
Luckily, every year, while the garden is burning up in August, I can look forward to September, when we plant the fall garden. I love fall gardening in Oklahoma. A lot fewer weeds, a lot less watering - a lot less effort overall. And then, when frost nears, we can protect the crops a la Four Season Harvest and harvest fresh salads all winter.
Actually, I confess, I've never protected the fall garden before - just watched as the kale survived and everything else perished in the snow. This year, however, will be different! We are building a miniature bamboo hoop house to cover the crops and, based on the experience of my friend Shauna, we'll be eating well through the winter. Although Shauna used insulating cold frames covered in plastic, we'll be using row cover held just above the bed to extend our season. Closer to winter, we'll cover the hoops with plastic instead of row cover to provide more protection. I hope this will do the trick - like most of my gardening, it's an experiment.
I have one garden bed that we will be planting with fall and winter crops that like cold weather. I'll plant garlic, onions, bok choy, three kinds of lettuce, spinach, carrots, kohlrabi, Chinese mustard, arugula, beets, and maybe some kale. Last year everything loved our fall weather and grew easily until frost. After frost, only the kale survived over the winter to explode with growth in March. This year, we'll protect everything with the miniature bamboo hoop house over our garden bed except for the garlic, which doesn't need protection.

My husband and I harvested the bamboo for the hoop house from our friends who live four blocks away. The bamboo is an experimental substitute for the metal and PVC hoop houses that I've seen. Bamboo is strong, not to mention free, local, renewable and toxin-free. The smaller bamboo poles are more bendable than the larger ones, and we've already installed them in the beds so that they will dry in the hoop shape.
Then, in the spring, I'll replace the plastic winter covering with netting. I use netting to protect my seeds in the spring from birds and squirrels. In the past, I've used simple stakes to keep the netting off the plants - but they do tend to poke holes in the netting, so I hope that the bamboo hoops will work better. Stay tuned for pictures next weekend!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Burgundy Okra

Okra is coming in by the handful. The "Burgundy" variety okra plants are beautiful, with burgundy stems and creamy yellow flowers, and crimson-veined leaves. They make a good front-yard garden plant, if your backyard garden space has reached full capacity.

Besides the beauty, I also love okra because it is pest-resistant, a major plus in an area wracked by squash bugs and spider mites. Did I mention the drought resistance, which means that I only have to water them every four days instead of every day in the middle of this August dry spell?

Okra is also quite nutritious. It contains the antioxidant glutathione, important for the immune system and liver detoxification, and contains more fiber than cereal - 4 grams per 35 calories (about one cup). All that, and quite a lot of protein for a vegetable - 3 grams per cup! According to Jonny Bowden's "150 Healthiest Foods on Earth," calorie for calorie, "Okra is high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and folic acid."

But despite the beauty, nutrition and toughness of okra, many people are not familiar with this easy-to-grow-in-Oklahoma vegetable. What DOES one do with okra? Here's a short list:

  • Skewer and grill them whole with Cajun seasonings (I took this to a potluck recently and people were swearing off fried okra forevermore)

  • Roast sliced okra in the oven / Sun Oven

  • Add to minestrone

  • Use in gumbo

  • Use in Indian-inspired dishes and curries

  • Saute okra, pepper, and tomatoes and serve over rice

  • Freeze it for use in the winter and spring

  • Pickled okra

What are your favorite ways to cook okra? Ah, ah ah - fried okra doesn't count!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Locavore stories

Our Going Locavore group wants to expand and support our local food movement, and we have a plethora of ideas from our brainstorming session. But.... which ones would be the best investment of our time/attention/money? Which ones would have the greatest effect?

One of the ideas that evolved from our meeting last month was to sponsor a "Transition to Ten" percent local food purchases, similar to this challenge sponsored by Transition Colorado. I also like the 80/20 challenge, sponsored by a Transition group in Britain, which promotes buying 80% local and 20% organic and fair trade - for both local food security and international solidarity. That one may be too ambitious for us, though.

When I think about my own (partial) transition to local food, I realize that it took me several years just to increase our percentage to 15 - 30% local food (eggs, beef, in-season fruits and vegetables, wheat flour, cheese, yogurt, honey, beer). The main factors in my transition were:
  • an increasing awareness of the importance of local food, (motivation)
  • realizing that many of my friends were dedicated to local food, (social support)
  • expanding my own garden and mini-orchard, (skill/knowledge)
  • learning to preserve some food, (skill/knowledge)
  • learning to eat more seasonally, (skill/knowledge)
  • finding a local source for eggs and beef, (supply) and
  • a much improved farmer's market (supply).
So my question for you is: How much local food do you eat? Is there something that encouraged, inspired, or supported you to make the transition to eating locally? What did you have to do to make the transition?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Easing the pain

Food processing season is upon us. Lately, I've been making pesto, dehydrating and freezing peaches, and freezing chopped okra. Yesterday I attempted sun-dried tomatoes in the Tulsi Sun Oven and baked banana bread in the Global Sun Oven. The sun-dried tomatoes didn't dry quite evenly, so I popped them in the Sun-Oven-cooked ratatouille for dinner (delicious). Those Sun Ovens came through for me yesterday!

But getting to my point: I don't necessarily like spending hours in the kitchen chopping and processing food by myself. I'd much rather be reading a book or taking a walk or cruising the Internet. Luckily, I've discovered a solution that makes food preservation much easier, virtually painless, almost....enjoyable?

It's simple. My solution is: listening to Peak Moment Television while I work. I like to hear about positive actions that people all over the country and world are implementing: permaculture, urban homesteading, and building community, and I enjoy listening to interviews with our beloved peak oil authors and activists. Time, which might otherwise crawl or limp, just flies by. And I feel rather virtuous for accomplishing something rather than just sitting in front of the computer. So go on - get started on that applesauce, tomato canning, or pesto! Peak Moment TV is standing by to keep you entertained during your labors.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Transition OKC gets rolling!

You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging as much as I used to. That's due to all the exciting Transition OKC projects that have been going on and ramping up. Our coordinating team spent several months laying the foundation for our work - discussing the Transition Handbook, hosting a Training for Transition, and getting guidelines and Constitution in place (neatly stored in PVC-free binders, thanks to Shauna Struby). And finally, when our team gained consensus on our mission, vision, and goals, a tsunami of creativity and energy was unleashed. Let me fill you in...

Going Locavore

Although our local food champions are very active, they don't often have a chance to get together to discuss strategies, share updates and success stories, and plot ways to expand the local food market. Enter TOKC, which has started sponsoring Going Locavore happy hour potlucks to get these fabulous people in the same room. After one meeting and some intense brainstorming, our next meeting is slated to focus in on the most promising of the hundreds of ideas and start serving up some local food projects!

Sustainability Center

The indomitable Susie Shields gained massive inspiration from the "Hands" portion of Rob Hopkins Transition Handbook and vowed to create a Sustainability Demonstration Community Center. She has gathered a diverse team of architects, permaculturists, sustainability pros, and industry and government folks to forge a way forward with this dream. The Education and Programming and the Site Selection subcommittees have already been brainstorming and researching. Yes, we have subcommittees!

Reskilling Videos

The members of our TOKC coordination team all agree that reskilling workshops are a great way to spread the ideas of Transition. Valuable skills, education, not-so-subtle hints about the end of the world as we know it (just kidding), networking, food and/or beer and wine - all rolled into one! But what about a way to spread reskilling beyond the 10 or 20 people that can make it to a workshop?

Luckily for us, Trey Parsons of Enersolve is ready to take on the challenge of creating a set of short reskilling videos to share information about how to cook with local food, install a rainwater catchment system, weatherize a house, use a Sun Oven, grow a garden, make pesto and peach jam and sun-dried tomatoes, and more! I'm excited about working on this - it will give us the chance to run around all over the metro asking questions of interesting people and maybe learning a few things ourselves.

Movie Night

Several of our team members - Vicki, Marcy, and Susie - are working to get a quarterly movie night started at OCU. Movies raise awareness about environmental problems, the economic crisis, peak oil, climate change... and start a conversation about how to address the issues. The Sierra Club has been having movie night for a long time, but the new quarterly schedule and larger venue will allow TOKC to market to a wider audience and increase participation.

Permaculture Design Course

Randy Marks of Land+Form and Shauna Struby are in the early stages of working with Permaculture teachers to design a course for Oklahoma. I can't wait - I have always wanted to take a PDC but have never been able to take two weeks off to go to Oregon or Florida or upstate New York. Permaculture offers an integrated, principled way of thinking about the world, which will be so valuable to us as we re-think and re-design a system that currently is based on extracting resources and destroying ecosystems in order to maximize profit for a few people as fast as possible - in short, the opposite of sustainable.

Outreach and Media

Our Going Local OKC website has been enhanced with completely new navigation, new look and a lot of new content. Shauna, Trey and I redesigned it to be more user-friendly and, well, just more friendly overall. Plus, we needed to expand it to be able to contain all the new info we'll be posting on our projects (see above), as well as our handy OKC Resource pages (six at last count). Check it out!

We also tie our continually updated media, like the Fresh Greens blog, the Sustainable OKC Twitter feed, and our TOKC Facebook into our website. Thanks to TOKC and SOKC volunteers for keeping it fresh and updated.

But wait, there's more!

Susie just created a Buy Fresh Buy Local Farmer's Market guide and she and Marcy are working on the complete "Big Book" guide. We are planning to redesign our printed materials, offer a fall and winter gardening workshop, and continue to spread the word with speeches, presentations and facilitated discussions.

So there you go. The whole team - Shauna, Vicki, Marcy, Susie, Trey, Adam, Jim, Joseph, Chase, Randy, and moi - have all been working hard. If you are in our area, I hope you are able to join us at our next workshop, join our Facebook or follow our Twitter! But I promise, I plan to keep blogging along here at Peak Oil Hausfrau, the only place I get to express my doomy side. :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010


A hard rain began to fall in the middle of last night.

I had been having a fairly unremarkable dream about touring a McMansion with a ridiculously large number of rooms, which recently had been redecorated. I couldn't believe it had a music room, and a play room, and a gymnastics room, all for the children.

When it begins to rain, I look out the window. I have a huge picture window that allows me a clear view up the very steep hill that we live on, and I can see that the house a few hundred feet above me on the hill is in poor repair. With all the storms we've been having, and the hail, there are large holes in the roof. I wonder why they have not yet been patched, or at least covered with a tarp. It looks dangerous to live there. The storm is breaking over us, the rain coming in violent waves. Aren't they getting wet in the rain?

Just then a ferocious crack of thunder makes a section of the roof cave in, and part of the walls begin to fall. A brick breaks away, slowly tumbling down the hill and narrowly missing my house. Oh, God! I wonder if they are OK up there.

I wonder if I should run up there and help my neighbors, and if so, what I can do. As I'm staring up the hill, with a phone in my hand, considering dialing 911, I can see a girl trying to climb out of the house, where dust is still rising from the rubble of the partial collapse of the roof and the wall. Bits of the house are still rolling away from the wreckage.

The girl manages to get up on top of the rubble, when suddenly she slips and falls. She starts to tumble. She hits a jagged rock and careens downhill. I stare, frozen, as her body crashes toward me. She lands directly outside my window, her bloodied head facing my way, her eyes open. I can see that she is barely a teenager. She's dead.

At that point, I realize this: when that disintegrating mansion falls, it will slide down the hill and completely obliterate my own house.

I wake up crying.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Documentary of hope

Many people who have seen the End of Suburbia, Collapse, or Food, Inc. can tell you how their thinking, even the course of their lives, have been changed by these films.

One movie, especially, has been inspirational to many people interested in peak oil - The Power of Community, a documentary that showed how Cuba was able to survive during their "Special Period," when oil supplies were cut by half and food supplies were cut by 80% to this tiny island nation. It has given many people hope after discovering the reality of the tumbling crises of peak oil, depleting resources, Ponzi economics and climate change.

We now have a chance to see if the process of re-building resiliency can occur on a completely different tiny, impoverished island nation - Haiti. A new documentary, "Hands that Feed," will explore "the agricultural collapse in Haiti, its role in the post-earthquake food crisis, and the emerging grassroots development models that seek to restore Haiti's food supply and environment."

The burning questions: can Haiti escape the dependency trap of international aid and "gifts" of seed from Monsanto? Can they turn a deforested nation into one of food self-sufficiency? This may be their last chance - international aid will not be around forever, and what will happen to them if they haven't developed their own food systems by the time the money runs out?

So check out the Hands that Feed film concept at their funding request site. A film like this could be an inspiration for many of our own community transitions. As humbling as it is, we too have lost the ability to feed ourselves without long, drawn-out, oil-dependent agricultural supply chains, and I bet we have something to learn from the process of reinvention going on in Haiti right now.

I hope that Josh, Matthew and Ketty will be there to capture the unfolding events that are happening right now - but they won't make it without a little help. They have 113 "backers" (angel investors) excited about their project, but they need more if they are going to reach their funding goal in time to film the critical events. Take a look!

Note: I don't personally know the filmmakers, but I believe this film has a lot of potential to benefit Transition groups, community builders, and local food movements around the world. So I will be making a donation - and if the film gets produced, I'll get a free copy as thanks for my gift!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My ah-ha moment for the year....

According to this graph, sourced originally from Dailyfinance.com, 10% of the people in America controlled 90.3 % of the wealth in stocks, bonds and mutual funds in 2007. Wonder what that percentage is now? They seem to be on track to control 100%, leaving nothing at all for the rest of the 90% of the people - except for housing equity and cash savings, and we know how much of that there is going around.

Interested in an enlightening talk about the relationship between a Ponzi economy, deflation, depression, and peak oil? Check out Stoneleigh's presentation (minus the slides) to the Transition conference. Yes, you do have to listen an hour + presentation without visual aids. Buck up - I did it, and it was worth it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Not New, But Improved

After a year spent nursing my son in this rocking chair, it developed some issues. Namely, a small tear in the seat, which soon widened when it caught the fancy of my toddler. We simply could not persuade him that pulling stuffing out of chairs was not fun.

But otherwise, the rocking chair was still comfortable, if a little worn after thirty years of service. Soooo.... my husband, who is a very Handy Man, dismantled the chair and removed the seat. We bought a yard of faux leather to cover it for $10 from a fabric store, and asked Pop to recover the seat (mainly through liberal use of a staple gun, but also with some nifty rolling edges).

Voila! We spent $10 vs. an estimated $250 to purchase a new chair, and prevented the old one from ending up in a landfill. We also saved time and hassle because we spent less time recovering the old chair than the time it would take to shop for a new (or used) one.

After starting to read the Story of Stuff last night, I'm extremely glad we repaired our old chair. In the condition it was in, even the Goodwill might have kicked it to the curb. So by keeping it, we saved thousands of gallons of water used to produce the raw materials, prevented toxic chemicals used to process the material from ending up in the groundwater, kept metal mines from destroying ecosystems and polluting streams, and drastically cut transportation fuel for shipping the raw materials and final product.

Even if we eventually decide to replace the chair, it would now be sent to the resale market instead of ending up in the landfill. Not bad for a $10 investment.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Peachy Keen

It's peach season, and peach season means delicious tree-ripened peaches - and lots of work.

We have two semi-dwarf peach trees (JH Hale and Hale Haven) which ripen mostly in tandem for about three to four weeks. Not all the peaches ripen at once, so I squeeze the little fuzzies every day when they start to turn tawny to catch the ones that ripen early. If they give slightly, they are tree-ripe, the sweetest kind. However, I pick some of them before they are fully ripe so that I don't have to spend a marathon few days picking them when they are completely tree-ripened (which would KILL my shoulder). Even though we have semi-dwarf trees, I still have to use a ladder to reach about half of them. Ah, the benefits of being 5'2".

We eat them fresh, with oatmeal and for snacks, and give the prettiest ones away to neighbors, friends and family. I usually give two grocery bags to Granny, who will can them up and then share her sandplum jam, cucumber pickles and canned green beans with us. I always include this caveat - "I don't spray, so cut them up before you eat them. :)"
Lately, I have also been spending about an hour every day dehydrating my harvest to make peach chips, which my son absolutely loves to eat, and which I love to feed him, because it's not a food-substitute like animal crackers or goldfish. Strangely, I don't make many peach cobblers or other peach desserts in-season. I think it's because I am too tired after spending an hour peeling and chopping peaches for my Nesco dehydrator. A load of peaches takes about 12 - 14 hours to finish drying, and amazingly, translates to only slightly more than a pint when completely dried.

Despite the hours spent thinning the peaches in the spring, and a later rough hail which knocked many immature peaches off the trees, we have another bonanza crop this year! I am weighing the harvest from my two trees, and have recorded 102.5 pounds so far - not counting the first two sets of dehydrated peaches I made. I estimate I have another 50-75 pounds still on the trees. In years past, I have frozen and canned them and canned peach-pie filling. This year I will be satisfied with just making peach chips and peach jam. Right now I have six grocery sacks of peaches sitting on my kitchen floor. I gave my shoulder and forearms a break yesterday, so it's back to work today!

Peach trees are a commitment to properly care for, to harvest and preserve, but I have to admit that NOTHING else I grow even comes close to the bounty I get from them. 150 - 175 pounds? Not small change in my world. If I were to preserve all these peaches, instead of giving them away, it would be enough to keep us in constant peaches year-round. Plus, the trees are beautiful when they bloom and beautiful when the peaches ripen. So despite the commitment, and the work, I love my peach trees. I'm growing them for the food security of my family, for the taste of organic peaches year-round, as a demonstration/example for our neighborhood, and also, because it's really kind of fun to run a mini peach farm in the city.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hot and bothered

I'm a strong believer in having AT LEAST six months savings available to pay for emergencies, for everyone who has the capability to do so. That has proved helpful in the past, for example when I was starting my business and had very limited wages. This last month, all that saving sure proved to be a blessing after a series of unfortunate, bothersome events.

A few weeks ago, we had to have some expensive plumbing repairs performed. Which, actually, only involved unclogging a drain. Yet it was a particularly critical drain, located between the kitchen sink and the washing machine, which received a lot of traffic. The drain wasn't completely clogged, but it was clogged enough so that every time the washer drained, the kitchen sink backed up with fetid slime. I could put up with that, but it was also overflowing at the site of the washer and it started to erode our drywall. I began to worry about mold. So, the problem had to be fixed.

Of course, the drain happened to be a kind which is tricky to unclog (it even has a special name which eludes me at the moment). Three visits from the plumber, one repaired ventpipe, two plumbers on site, one rental of a special plumbing camera, three holes cut in the drywall and the kitchen cabinet, and three visits to the roof later, we had a clear drain. One plumber jigged some celebratory "you da man's" while the other smiled modestly. And there went $800.

NEXT. We started out on our weekend getaway, my first vacation in a year. Halfway to Tulsa, the Prius began to show some belligerent signs of uncooperation. The brake light came on. The car shifted into neutral. And the A/C stopped running. I shall file the three hour return journey, in which we had to stop the car every five miles to let the car cool down, in 95+ degree heat with an unhappy two-year old, under "character-building / third-world-living experiences."

I can't blame the Prius, which had been giving us signs of anxiety for a few weeks in the form of giant red warning lights on the dashboard. I DO blame a certain Toyota dealership for not fixing the problem after two visits to their shop AND an oil change, all of which was done before we left on our getaway. Thanks for nothing, Dub Richardson. And there went another $650 and a vacation that didn't happen.

Finally, the computer, which began emitting a strange smell last Monday. At first I thought it was my toddler playing with matches. The smell was somewhere between sulphur and chlorine, and later proved to be a very abused DVD writer that had blown a fuse and shut down my five year old computer for almost a week. It was an interesting lesson in e-withdrawal for someone who is used to being connected to e-mail, blogging, and doom-news all day long. Thanks to my husband's co-worker hardware genius, we now have a working computer (temporarily, at least).

So there you go - accidents happen. Things wear out and break, repairs need to be made, appliances need to be replaced, and not necessarily in nice tidy affordable three-month increments. Sometimes they all pile upon you at once - and you might suddenly realize that the property taxes and car insurance are also due that month. That's when it pays to have some cash in the bank... or some really, really, nice relatives.

Of course, at some point, these repairs will no longer be affordable for many of the formerly middle-class, and that's when workarounds start to become permanent. Families will learn to share one car instead of using two; people will start line-drying their clothes because the dryer died; occasionally some will have to haul water by hand when the city can't repair the water line for two months; and others will become quite glad they have a cell phone, all their important information backed up or printed out, and a library - because they can't afford to replace the computer that just gasped it's last, wheezing breath.

Until then, I'm glad I'm a saver.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Frau's Garden June 2010

The Deepwater Horizon event continues to depress me. However, since I can't seem to do anything about it aside from reduce my own dependency on oil, and continue building community / raising awareness, I'll just keep gardening...

The 13 tomato plants in my garden have made a startling comeback from the hail downpour last month and are setting fruit like crazy. This is good, because they typically shut down and stop producing during the heat of the summer - which is usually much of July and August. The exception is the smaller varieties like cherries and Juliets, which just keep going... and going....

Unfortunately, the tags for most of the tomato plants mysteriously erased themselves, leaving only blank white markers. So the plants that I raised from seed are currently incognito, although the five I bought from Horn Seed as insurance have been neatly labeled. However, most of the varieties are somewhat unique (Black Cherry, Carbon, Orange Banana) so I believe I will be able to identify them once I start harvesting. Since I hope to save seed this year, it will be important to know which plant is which.

My Burgundy variety okra are looking lovely. They are just toddlers here; eventually they will get to be eight feet tall and I will have to bend them halfway over to harvest them. I planted them between a butternut squash (which has two squash already) and an Orangeglo watermelon so the long vines could run in between the tall okra. Will this work out? Stay tuned....

Like the tomatoes, I may have gone a bit overboard with the okra. I planted eight or nine plants this year, because last year I didn't have enough to freeze and I missed their mucilagesnous-ness in my soups all winter. Fried okra is a Southern favorite, but I don't fry. Instead, I use the okra in soups and curries/Indian dishes. I hear a local chef also grills them whole, and since "you haven't had okra until you've had her grilled okra," I will just have to learn that method, too.

Here, a cantaloupe is flowering in a front yard crop circle near the echinacea. I hope no one runs over my cantaloupes - I will endeavor to keep them out of the driveway.

Right now, we are harvesting the end of the kohlrabi (a very underappreciatd vegetable), a daily handful of blackberries, and gearing up for the peach harvest. Because of the hail, it may not be a bumper crop. But mark my words, there WILL be peach jam.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Local Food Fair

An evening of local food (and don't forget local beer) at a cool local landmark is this Thursday - the annual OKC Local Food Fair! Local food will be on display for sampling and purchasing. I went last year, and there was a lot of smiling, music, kids running around, and yumminess.

What: Local Food Fair, hosted by the Sierra Club and Buy Fresh Buy Local

When: Thursday, June 17th, 6:00 - 9:00 pm

Where: At the barn of the Harn Homestead, 1721 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City

Cost: $5 for 18 - 64, free for veterans and other age groups

Transition OKC will be tabling, so drop by and see us!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Reports Page

Please note the new page at the top of my blog - Reports and Resources (the font is so dark, it's easy to overlook). I plan to make it a repository for the most authoritative and educational materials available to persuade your friends and families that they need to ACT, and act soon, to prepare for the current and incoming financial/economic/energy upheavals.

Currently, it includes presentations from Chris Martenson and Stoneleigh about the relationship between finance, the economy, and energy/oil, as well as reports from the U.S. Joint Forces, Lloyd's of London, etc (sources that people view as authoritative and credible). This won't be a comprehensive listing, but a very selective one. Your average Joe doesn't know who Richard Heinberg is, but do they know the United States military? Yessirree bob.

I plan to add reports from Roscoe Bartlett and Matt Simmons, among others, and may create a Climate Change section as well. I'll be expanding it over the next few weeks, and hopefully this will become a handy resource for you. Feel free to submit your suggestions for additions (authoritative/high-profile and educational) in the comments. Thanks!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mother Earth Award Belated Acceptance Speech

I was honored over the weekend by the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, who presented me with the 2010 Mother Earth award for Sustainability Education, in recognition of Peak Oil Hausfrau and my work with Transition OKC. Naturally, I had no prepared remarks and so I mumbled something ridiculous about thanks and please head over to http://www.goinglocalokc.org/ for more information about Transition.

Please, forgive me my deer-in-the-headlights moment, because what I meant to say was THIS:


First, thanks to my nominating committee of Shauna Struby and Vicki Rose, who spent a significant amount of time on my nomination. Knowing that you cared enough to write such lovely things about me is just as important to me as a formal award. Thanks to Shauna for reading my blog and recognizing that I was itching to get out behind from my computer and into the community. All it took was an invitation.

Next thanks to my wonderful husband, whose support, encouragement and (ahem) income allow me to spend so much time doing something so financially unproductive. Much like having a child, writing a blog and starting an unfunded non-profit community project are very rewarding, but not monetarily. Dear hubby has also never complained once about the dust bunnies that accumulate while I write (shhh - don't tell him they're there!).

Thanks to my only child, who despite not actually helping me with either of my projects, is very motivational. When my son was born, I realized that I held his life in my hand with my decisions. Should I prepare for the certainty of declining energy and economic turmoil? Or should I stick my head in the sand and embrace the pleasant fiction that all will be well without any personal effort to insulate my family against rising food and energy prices, uncertain food supply chains and unemployment? The responsibility for my son inspired me to greater heights of preparation.

Thanks to the bloggers and others who have listed me on their sites, including Crunchy Chicken, Sharon Astyk, Chile Chews, and Energy Bulletin, and all the other people who have listed me on their blogrolls, given me or nominated me for an award (i.e. Uber-Amazing, Fun to Read, Sunshine Blogger, Environmental Nutjob), posted a link to my site, Tweeted / Facebooked me, or just told a friend to visit. I appreciate you for spreading the word - and I enjoy reading your blogs as well!

And finally, thanks to you, my readers. Sitemeter informs me that people are visiting, whether or not they leave comments (HINT ;)). I started this blog as a way to help people by sharing information about the things I've learned in my preparation for peak oil - about solar cooking, gardening, useful books, rainwater tanks, food storage, paying down debt, etc. But it is also a platform for harsh reality checks, a forum to debate and share ideas, and a place to support each other in our transitions to a vastly different way of work, play, and living.

Dear readers, in the last two years, I hope I've amused you:

What's Your Letter?
Dear Universe
So God walks into a bar....

offered some inspiration:

A Day in the Life - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Overcoming Doomishness
Retrofitting the Suburbs

caused a controversy or shared a different perspective:

What is UNsustainability?

Magical Thinking

Myth of Efficiency

Power of Dissent
Turning Peak Oil Upside Down

provided a helpful resource:
Tips for Living Lightly
A Simple Plan
20 Low-Energy Entertainment Activities
Preventing Deforested Moonscapes - Part I, Part 2, Part 3

and perhaps even interested you enough to read a reaaaaaaaally long post (one of my claims to notoriety):
Infrastructure: Priorities and Painful Decisions
13 Ways to Promote Consumption
Resilient Gardening - Part 1, Part 2

Thanks again to everyone! I appreciate your help, support, ideas, and recognition!