Category Archives: Energy


I finally have a chainsaw that works thanks to a my dad who has loaned me his. It really works. It does not stop running every 2 minutes and with a sharp blade/chain it cuts through logs like soft butter.

Anybody that knows me or anyone who has read this blog for awhile knows how I feel about peak oil and climate change. People that know me personally also know just how much I detest the unnecessary use of gas, especially in lawnmowers, weed eaters, air blowers, etc. These machines are loud, stinky and unnecessarily used to impose order where order is not meant to be. But let me tell you about the chainsaw.

Yes, the chainsaw is also loud, stinky, and equally as polluting. But it is one gas-powered tool I will use because it is a smarter use of the fuel and unlike the others listed above, it serves a very real purpose: winter survival. While the other devices are about trying to force nature into something it is not, aesthetically ordered and neatly groomed, the chainsaw is a tool that will help me keep warm in the winter.

I’ve never used them much because I’ve always had other sources of heat. I’ve never been very fond of them because I do love trees and would rather they be planted and left standing rather than cut. We need more trees on our planet, not less. That said, I do understand that sometimes they do need to be cut down and sometimes they are blown down and need to be moved. In both cases one possible use of a downed tree is to cut it up for firewood. Yes it is possible to use a hand saw and I actually have used one quite a bit this summer for smaller branches. But for cutting through tree trunks a chainsaw is orders of magnitude faster and it is one of the very few times I have thought to use such a tool because I think it is a much wiser use of the energy.

My goal here is to build a homestead based upon the principles of permaculture which, greatly simplified, means a life which is sustainable. There’s no room in such a life for the wasteful use of resources. All of my gardening is done with hand tools, most of it is no-dig. Any area that I determine must be cleared of grass is cleared via sheet mulching or hand tools and a gass-less reel mower. My point is that the use of gas-powered tools is the exception to the rule and is a last resort.

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The Crash Course

Want to know more about the current economic situation and coming Depression? Check out the Crash Course by Chirs Martenson. This is a fantastic series of flash video/slide presentations that explains money, inflation, and the economy. Watch it and share it. This guy does a really excellent job of presenting the history and the current situation… everyone should watch this at least once. It is… STUNNING.

Pass it on.

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Alone in the Woods

Well, not entirely alone. I do have the world’s best dog with me. I also get almost daily visits from various relatives that live about a mile away and visit them as well. I’d say that since moving down here (May 23) I’ve averaged 2 hours a day (during the week) with nearby humans. I’ve also had ten or so weekend visits from my sister and her family as well as a visit from my brother but more than half of the weekends have been just me. So, not entirely alone but mostly alone.

But not lonely. I’m fairly certain that I’m a good fit for this kind of life. It’s not that I like being by myself, just that I don’t mind it… am not freaked out by it as many seem to be. I’ve been single since 2003 and have felt no great need to seek a relationship. I made a decision long ago that I would not have children and I suppose that decision removes one reason for needing a relationship. That said, there certainly are times when I would not mind having a daily partner in life and in some ways I think life would feel more complete or whole that way. But I don’t feel that I need it.

Back around 1990 I read a book, Thinking Like the Mountain, which had a profound effect on my perception of self. I tend to think of self as more than just this body (which is itself more than one organism) or even this named person that has evolved a personality. Self is in flux both physically and mentally. We don’t exist alone. Ever. Alone is a false condition or state of the mind… an emotional feeling. We are in a constant state of physical exchange and connection when we breath, eat, sweat, pee, and poop.

More than that, we have our senses that are tools, with the mind, that enable us to be aware of all the life that surrounds us. As I type this I hear several birds outside my door at various distances and with various songs which are really conversations. I hear a constant song of crickets as a background music. A step out into the garden and I would most likely hear the various bees as they buzz from flower to flower. These sounds are constant and always changing in the spring, summer, and much of the fall. In the winter it grows still but even then the sounds of the wind and chirping of the birds at meal time are steady reminder’s of our planet’s energy and life force.

In addition to the constantly changing conversations coming into my ears I can see what my neighbors are up to. I can watch the orchard spider weave its web or catch its lunch. I can watch the butterfly nectaring from a group of asters. When I walk into my garden I see small frogs and lizards busy in their food search. When I turn the compost I can observe the goings on of crickets, millipedes, centipedes, fungi, earthworms, spiders and countless others. In addition to the animal life I can see the wildflowers, fruit trees, and garden plants as they intertwine with one another and surrounding structures.

Of course it doesn’t stop with hearing and seeing. I can smell and taste too. There is the blended smell of country fresh air full of invisible pollen which is wonderful but hard to describe. There are the specific smells of the various herbs in the spiral garden: mint, thyme, oregano, sage and more. In the woods there are the specific scents of wild rose, sweet william and bee balm among many others. Then of course there is the eating! Wild and garden alike, there are peppery nasturtiums, lemony tart wood sorrel, nutty arugala, sweet bell pepper, juicy peaches… I can harvest and within seconds plop leaves and fruits into my mouth. The energy of the sun and the minerals of the soil synthesized into plants full of vitamins and enzymes enter my body which instantly begins the process of digestion. Of course these foods taste fantastic and often the scent blends with the taste as with the distinctive aroma of living tomato vines and their fruit.

As I forage through the woods and garden I am distinctly aware that not only am I not lonely, I am not alone at all. I am surrounded by life and am a part of it. We humans seem to have forgotten that we are animals too. Homo sapiens are but another species on this planet and to remember that we are animals is to also remember that we belong on this earth, evolved from it and are nurtured by it. We are of it in millions of years of ongoing evolutionary process as well as daily life processes. Our bodies are earth and the connection is inseparable.

Alone in the woods? Not at all. I am alive in the woods.

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Growing into tomorrow

Over the years I’ve spent countless hours reading, learning and speculating about the future of humanity and the planet we call earth. In my first years of college in 1988-1990 I first started learning about the human rights movement, alternative agriculture, and the budding american Green movement. I founded a Green local in my college town, Kirksville, MO and I began to identify myself as an activist. Between my time away from family as well as this fundamental shift in my identity I began to notice a crack which became a gulf in how I related to my fellow humans and they to me.

Looking back I’ve come to realize that the “activist” is actually a strange phenomena. In a participatory democracy, there would not be a need for “activists” which are really just citizens which are involved in the community process of self-government. In a participatory democracy all citizens are active. The republic that we have today is, of course, a far, far cry from a real democracy. To suggest that it is democratic is to twist and pervert the word to such a degree that it no longer resembles its original meaning. (It was never a participatory democracy at all, but a republic that was supposedly controlled by citizens via representatives via “democratic” elections. But really, the differences, while important, are another topic for another time.)

Over the years (most notably beginning after WWII and the rise of suburbia) the people of United States have been taught that life is about the American Dream. It is about being happy which comes with certain material possessions as well as a neatly defined nuclear family of husband, wife, and kids. Of course the American Dream is open-ended and the list of material possessions grows and grows and is never completed. In accepting the American Dream as our way of life we gave up citizenship and became consumers who were no longer concerned with the serious responsibilities of being involved in government. In allowing ourselves be redefined we gave up power to those who did the redefining: the wealthy upper-class which controlled corporate capitalism and the state.

The role of “activist” came about because there are still citizens that strive to be actively engaged. I’ve come to realize that the disdain and outright hostility that I’ve faced as an activist is a fairly common experience and is related, at least in part, to the psychological and life investments made by the majority of people in the U.S. People went along for the ride. They were offered a way of life and they took it. They may not have even realized what was happening. My parents are a good example. They were a product of their socialization and they accepted what was put before them as the normal way of life. The development of suburbia and a shift to consumerism were the next steps to be taken after the Great Depression and the emergence of the U.S. as a world power after WWII. My parents got their jobs, bought their car and home then started having children. They moved, kept their jobs, bought another car and continued to raise their kids. They invested their lifetimes in this way of life. They believed in this way of life. My two siblings followed suit with their own families, jobs, homes, cars, pools and kids.

Imagine the emotional response of having that way of life criticized. By definition an activist (active citizen) is critical and vocal. The role of the citizen is to strive towards informed and ethical decision making for the community good. It is an unfortunate fact that to be an active citizen in our society often leads to separation from the majority in thought and behavior in part because we are often considered to be “judgmental” which, of course, we are. We do “judge” in the sense that we form opinions and conclusions regarding the everyday life around us. Being an active citizen is a never ending process of responsibility which leaves no stone unturned. It means looking at how we get things done: transport, growing of food, production of material goods, etc. and making determinations of how those actions and systems are working or not working.

In the 20 or so years that I’ve considered myself an active citizen I have consistently been met with resistance. Most people are not open to the idea that their way of life requires the suffering of others. It’s not comfortable or convenient because it implies a sense of guilt about both the system and the people who are a part of it. If a way of life is implicitly unfair and unsustainable and we willingly participate in it what does that say about us?

With the arrival of peak oil, climate change, and serious economic crisis all at the same time, many people are seeing the cracks in the way of life that they have taken as a given. As the cracks begin to expand and the system crumbles the whole gamut of emotional and mental states will run its course through the “consumers” of this nation. I suspect that anger, fear and confusion will dominate. The process is already well under way and if we’re lucky it will continue to unwind slowly. If that is the case then perhaps panic and violence will give way to community-based movements of cooperation. I don’t hold out much hope for this. The shift in our way of life is going to be monumental. Every aspect of how we live is about to change as the cultural, political and ecological repercussions of the past 60+ years step onto the stage. Perhaps the two most significant differences between the Great Depression of the last century and this “Long Emergency” (as James Kunstler refers to it) are the planet’s population of 6.5 billion people and dwindling fossil fuel resources.

Eleutheros of the excellent blog How Many Miles from Babylon describes it as a
shift in paradigm :

Facing the realities of our immediate future calls for a shift in the paradigm, a shift in thinking, a shift in the mindset.

We are mentally conditioned to think that we would be happier, more comfortable, in a larger over heated and over cooled house. We think prepackaged food is vastly easier to prepare. We think a food processor is a hundred times easier than a knife. Of course this farmstead is on the lunatic fringe. We have experimented with cutting all the firewood we need for heating and cooling with hand tools. It’s some more work, to be sure, but not much. Yet in the imagination of the uninitiated, a chainsaw is many hundreds of times less work.

On this farmstead 85% of our food involves zero food-miles and almost all the rest is bought bulk, we use very little electricity and no commercial gas or other fuels. We wear used clothing. We drive bottom feeder vehicles and those only very rarely. Yet how much do we impact global energy and resource use? None, negligible at any rate. The random motion of molecules accounts for more fuel savings that we do in the scheme of things. What we represent is not some quantified amount of energy and resources saved, but rather a complete paradigm shift from the consumerist world.

I’ve said many times before that I think it is far too late to stop what is coming. It is a done deal. The question is how will we handle ourselves as this amazing shift in our way of life occurs. Will we rise to the occasion? Will we learn and share the skills necessary for survival? Will we step out of our air-conditioned lives and do the work that is now required? Billions of people on planet earth deal directly with survival issues every single day. They know hunger, thirst, extreme cold and heat… for them, survival is not a reality television show but a fact of everyday life.

When fossil fuel based agriculture fails and the shelves remain empty will we eat the drywall of our over-sized homes or will we learn to grow and preserve food the way our ancestors did? I wonder how many people have a basic understanding of how to garden and preserve food? How many have actually tried it and thus have an awareness of how much can actually be grown on any given amount of land or how much time is required? What about growing from seeds and saving seeds for the next season? Will they have access to gasoline and a tiller to prepare the soil or will they double dig by hand or sheet mulch with cardboard? Do they know about squash bugs or japanese beetles? What will they do about water during times of drought? Will a nation of people used to consuming fast food and microwaveable box dinners even know what to do with the vegetables that they’ve grown? How long will it take them to learn to enjoy real, whole and healthy food?

As individual people we have a lot of growing to do. As individuals that inhabit rural roads or streets in towns and cities, we’ll need to develop better relationships with neighbors which can then be grown into communities.

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Improvised shade for energy conservation

Improvised Shade
I had another one of those aha!! moments that is almost embarrasing because it was so long coming. As I’ve written recently I’m not using air conditioning as a part of my effort to reduce my personal impact on the climate. I’m also living in a cabin which is not completely finished on the inside. The ceiling is finished and well insulated with a ceiling fan installed. I’ve still got two walls that need the electrical wiring finished, insulation on two walls still to be installed and then pine bead board for all of the inside walls.

Much of my cabin is shaded at various times of day but it does get hit with a good bit of direct sun. About half of the east facing side gets full sun from about 9am to noon. I made it a point to insulate about half of this wall a few weeks back but a good bit of heat still makes it through. I would have done the whole wall but I have a good bit of temporary shelving nailed up to the other half and it is fully stocked with food so I stopped at the half way point.

Three weeks ago Greg brought down a truck load of used 2×4, 2×6, and 2×8 wood to be re-used for a variety of future projects. We stacked it into a neat pile where it has been sitting ever since. Meanwhile I’ve been working, observing and thinking about the design elements of the site and future projects. I decided very early on that I’d be putting a series of eight or so raised rain collection barrels along the back/east side of the cabin and that I’d put a lattice or similar structure on it for some sort of perennial fruit vine or an annual bean/squash vine to provide food and shade. I may also plant a couple fruit trees back there. But those projects won’t be completed until early spring of next year.

Now, for that aha! moment. It’s hot and humid outside. I’m hot. My dog is hot. My unfinished walls are getting direct sunlight and heating up outside and inside. Why not lean all those neatly stacked boards up against the east side of my cabin? So simple and obvious!! In ten minutes I’ve provided a solid wall of deep shade that should easily give me another hour or two of inside coolness. I’ll be doing the same thing along the south side of the cabin which gets direct sun from about 3pm to 5pm.

Greg will be back down around the third weekend of August and we’ll get the inside walls finished off but I’ll be leaving those boards up until they no longer get the direct sun or until outside temperatures cool down, probably the middle of September.

It always amazes me how many people do not shade their houses with trees, bushes or vines. I suppose that the combination of cheap energy, air conditioning and fairly well insulated homes combined make it easy for folks to ignore or not realize just how much direct sunlight on exterior walls can heat a home. As energy becomes increasingly expensive and eventually as shortages occur I expect these details will become more important to more people.

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Living without an air conditioner and the end of the world

I wrote the other day about not using a refrigerator as a part of my efforts to reduce my carbon footprint. I’d mentioned that if we in the U.S. are going to lower our our carbon footprint to a level which is equitable and closer to sustainable that we would need to lower our emissions by about 90%. Ninety. Percent. That is a drastic reduction. Ponder it for a moment. Hell, ponder it for the rest of the day if you’d like.

I came across that particular percentage will reading through this post by DJ at the excellent blog, Asymptotic Life:

Listening to Radio West yesterday, I heard a guest make an interesting point: if we tell poor people around the globe that they can’t live the way we do, we’re trying to prevent global warming by forcing people to continue to live in poverty. That is, for most of us, morally unacceptable.

Our current attitude seems to be that we can afford to buy all that energy and emit that CO2, and “they” can’t. Too bad, but bully for us…

What would it look like to create an equitable and sustainable per-capita CO2 emissions policy? Assuming everyone emitted the same amount of CO2, how much could we all emit without frying the planet (and all of us with it)?

Let’s assume that, to keep CO2 concentrations low enough to avoid catastrophe, we limit CO2 concentration to 350 ppm— down from today’s 385 ppm. That means cutting CO2 emissions by 50% of their current levels. At 2004 levels, the world generated 27 billion metric tons of CO2— more than 20% of that by the U.S. alone. That means we’d need to reduce to about 13.5 million metric tons worldwide.

The world population is currently 6.8 billion people. That means each person would be allowed to emit 2 tons of CO2 per year. For 88 countries in the world, that’s a step up— more than they currently produce per capita. But for we priviledged few in the U.S., that means cutting our per capita emissions (currently over 20 tons per person per year) by 90%.

One of the largest energy hogs in any household is the air conditioner. Others at the top of the list are whole house forced air heating systems, hot water heaters, refrigerators, freezers, and plasma tvs. In addition to not having a refrigerator I’ve decided I will not use an A/C. I do have a small window A/C but only run it at the request of visiting guests. When it is just me and Talula we get hot, damn hot. We cool off with lots of water, we slow down and sit in the shade. We’ll survive just like many of other billions of humans who survive everyday in hot climates with no A/C. It’s not easy, not fun (well, actually swimming is fun), not comfortable but it is possible.

Before I move on let me quote another of DJ’s excellent posts, What Two Tons Means to Me:

Last week, I calculated that a sustainable and equitable rate of CO2 emissions would be about 2 tons per person per year.  Currently, the U.S. emits just over 20 tons of CO2 per person annually.  Of this, according to EPA, 20% (4 tons) is caused by household energy use and about 27% (5.5 tons) is caused by four-wheeled passenger vehicles.  The remainder, about 11 tons, is generated by the economy on our behalf, including manufacturing, agriculture, cement and steel production, and transportation of goods both for us and for export.

Let’s assume that DJ’s figures are correct. Even with my limited use of electricity I am averaging 25 Kwh a week, about 100 a month. That’s for one person in a small cabin of 192 square feet. On a typical day I use: 1 compact fluorescent light, a ceiling fan, a window fan, and a laptop computer. Other appliances that draw power on occasion: water well pump, battery charger, external hard drive, computer speakers, and phone charger. That’s it and it still adds up to 100 Kwh a month. The average U.S. household uses just under 900 Kwh a month, just in electricity. Imagine the difficulty of cutting that by 60-80%!

Want to try something interesting? Take a weekend and power down everything in your house. Go through room by room and unplug everything on Friday evening. Over dinner discuss the adventure and what it means. Experience Friday night and Saturday without power. Use the time to discuss and evaluate your needs. Define the difference between needs and wants, needs and comforts. Make an effort to understand your needs and usage as they relate to the needs and usage of the vast majority of families around the planet that use far less. Sunday morning or afternoon begin the process of slowly and thoughtfully plugging things back in based Saturday’s discussion.

Remember, we’re not even considering the carbon that is emitted by personal transportation, emissions that would need to be cut by 80% or more. Then there are carbon emissions related to consumption of food and consumer goods.

This is why the governmental “solutions” put forth by congress and presidents (or the current crop of presidential candidates) are a sad joke. These folks are not even CLOSE to realistic. The same goes for the myriad “100 things you can do to save the planet lists” that we see put forth by media and mainstream environmental groups. Sure, we should all do the easy things that are on those lists but the reality is that if we are serious about slowing climate change we are going to have to make drastic changes to the way we live. I’m all for it, I think we absolutely should go all out. I think we should sacrifice, should do whatever it takes. But my guess is that most folks would laugh at the idea. Frankly, I don’t think that today’s Americans have the strength of character the task requires. We’ve been far too spoiled for far too long.

When it comes down to it most folks in western “civilized” nations will only change when it is forced on them when resources are no longer available at prices they can afford. We’re already seeing that people are driving less in the U.S. now that gas is averaging $4/gallon, imagine gas at $6, $7, or $8 a gallon. Imagine utility rates doubling or tripling. Those things are coming sooner than later and I for one welcome them. Yes, they will bring hardship and suffering and around the world billions are already suffering as they are already effected by price increases. Regardless of what reality is about to force upon us, it is probably too late in terms of the climate. What we have set in motion will not be easily undone, most likely we will hardly slow the process at all.

Michael Stipe said it best: It’s the end of the world as we know it.

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The great eggsperiment

I’ve mentioned before that a part of our plan here is to have chickens which are, of course, an essential ingredient in almost any permaculture design. Not only do they provide eggs and meat (not for me!), but also manure, warmth for plants in an attached greenhouse, feathers, and they help weed/till the garden as they eat insects and food wastes. In short, chickens rock. I cannot wait to get our coop built and the chickens moved in. For now I’ll content myself with eggs which are raised by someone else in their backyard. What’s great about home raised eggs is that I can request that they not be washed. You may not know this but eggs have a protective layer which keeps them perfectly edible for up to three weeks without being refrigerated. Neat, eh? This is especially important for me because I do not have, or plan to get, a refrigerator. Let me explain.

One of the primary principles of permaculture is earth care which means, in part, reducing our carbon footprint. For those of us in the U.S. this means a drastic reduction of about 90% (I’ll discuss that figure in another entry to be posted soon) if we are to have an equal share with the rest of our fellow humans. In addition to earth care there is of course the added reality of peak oil/coal/energy (peak everything really but that’s also another post for another day!).

What this means for me in my day-to-day life is that I have made a choice to not have the typical electrical appliances that most people in the U.S. take for granted as necessary for life. This brings me back to the refrigerator. Because I don’t a refrigerator I have to adapt, I have to think differently about how I use and store food. I have to make sure that the eggs I get have not been washed so that I can keep them at everyday temperatures. I no longer drink soy milk which I only really used as a creamer for coffee. Also, no cheese which I don’t miss much since I rarely ate it. It means that I have to be careful when I cook so that I’m not cooking too much. If I do have left overs I can usually keep them in a small cooler with a bit of very cold well water and eat them the next day with no ill effects.

I’ve been living without a refrigerator for nearly two months and I’m still very healthy. It has required a few modifications to my diet but nothing drastic. It’s just one step towards a smaller carbon footprint and a way of life that will likely be a fact for most of us in a future with fewer fossil fuel resources.

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A Busy Week!!

Forest garden and orchardIt’s been a very busy week since my last post! In anticipation that I might be adding to the orchard over the weekend I spent last Friday creating paths through the brush and grass. My sister and brother-in-law visited with their kids for the weekend and she stayed with the kids for another couple of days. On Saturday Greg got the electrical work in the cabin finished and on Sunday the two of us put in the ceiling (insulation, tongue and groove pine boards, and a ceiling fan). They also brought down another 10 fruit trees for the orchard which makes a total of 17 trees! On Monday I put in three Golden Delicious apple trees and since Mondays are my set day to water the fruit trees I also hauled up four buckets of lake water for those that are already planted. I got three buckets from the rain barrel which is nice since it is so much closer. On Tuesday I put in the last Golden Delicious and cleared more paths as well as put up insulation on one of the walls in the cabin. On Wednesday I put up more insulation and planted a peach tree. Today I put in another two peach trees, so, seven planted and three more to go. I should have the remaining trees put in this evening or tomorrow.

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Inch by inch…

At least that’s what it feels like around here! I’m making progress but it never seems like enough. I’ve recently come to realize that since I’ve been down here I’m not really taking any time to just BE. Most of my waking hours are spent working in the garden, non-garden chores, reading (mostly at night), or thinking/observing/visualizing the future development of the site.

It has been raining today so I’m taking time to read and write a bit. Thoughts on the garden thus far is that I’m glad it is started and at the same time frustrated with the late start. Things are growing and some seem to be doing very well. But the carrots and beets are SLOW. I’d always thought of them as a spring and cool weather crop but had recently seen others say that they can be sown in mid-summer. It’s obvious they don’t like the heat. The chard is coming along at a slightly quicker pace. The Black-seeded Simpson Lettuce that I put in just 2 weeks ago is doing the best of them all and is coming along very nicely. The squash, cukes, and zucchini are doing great. The potatoes I planted last week are starting to sprout up some green. The peppers and tomatoes are coming along very slowly and may be the biggest disappointment. A couple of the tomatoes have really filled in well and will produce well I think but many of the first to get blooms are just looking very leggy with sparse growth. I think I may have overwatered a bit and certainly the soil here is not the best. I’ve added a little compost dressing around all the plants but I did not have much and spread it thin. So, not much compost and no manure yet and those are likely the key missing ingredients.

I try to remind myself that this is a rushed first year garden and that next year’s will, no doubt, be greatly improved. We’ll have a little greenhouse which will allow me to get the tomatoes, peppers, and others started much earlier and of course the compost pile I have going now will be perfect by then and at least one or two other piles will be underway. We do have seven fruit trees planted with two more coming down tomorrow so nine fruit trees is a good start and I’m happy about that. I suppose that I’m just impatient which is probably related to what I see going on in the world. We’re much, much closer to the collapse than I realized and our little project is just getting started. So much to do, so little time.

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Walking, gardening, and eating catfish

A slow day today. Started off with the usual green tea with chocolate mint from the garden and a breakfast of peanut butter and strawberry preserves. I don’t have (and don’t want to use) a refrigerator so I’ve been eating a streak of these sandwiches so that I can finish off the preserves before they start to mold. I keep the jar in a small cooler with a bit of well water which keeps it fairly cool on hot days and I’ll probably dig a small, improvised root cellar which is a 4 foot hole dug in a shady area with a well sealed container placed inside it. When I start canning my own I’ll make a point of using the smallest possible jar for that reason. Eventually we’ll put in a proper root cellar too.

After breakfast I took a walk with the excellent medicinal plant book, Peterson Field Guide: Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs. We’re surrounded by food and medicine, we just have to know which plants are good for what as well as what parts of the plant and how to prepare. I’ve started learning and will also start harvesting for winter and out of season use. I think I’ll be starting with Mullein and Wild Rose hips. The Mullein leaves and flowers can be harvested for use in tea as an expectorant, demulcent, anti-spasmodic, and diuretic which can be useful in treating chest colds, bronchitis, asthma, coughs, and kidney infections. A word of caution though, the leaves contain rotenone and coumarin and should be used with caution. The rose hips are the little red fruits after flowering and can be made into a tea very high in vitamin C, I’ll probably mix that with mint from the garden. I’m no longer drinking orange juice so that will make a nice supplement to my diet.

The half-way point of my walk was a visit to the grandparents. As is almost always the case granny offered food: grilled cheese and potato salad. A very tasty treat! I also retrieved a bag of frozen catfish* for dinner. Freezing fish is likely the only thing I’ll be needing a freezer for so I’ll just borrow a bit of space since it won’t be much. I’ve got three relatives all within walking distance so I can spread it out if I end up having a lot. I’m thinking I also need to learn how to smoke fish for longer term storage though I’m not sure how long it can be stored even when smoked. The best thing would be to eat it fresh but when it is cold and the lake is frozen that will not likely be an option.

After the walk and before eating the catfish I worked a bit on preparing a couple of new keyhole beds in the zone 1** garden of annual veggies just outside my cabin door. Back in 60s-90s this land was used as a hunting and fishing club so there were little weekend trailers scattered about and my cabin sits on one of those sites which means it sits on a bed of gravel and rock. Fun, fun. I’ll be raking and digging that rock out into a thin path from the door to the road. The site has been unused for at least a decade which means there’s a nice layer of composted leaves built up which I’m separating out from the rock. The resulting beds will initially be planted with lettuce, spinach, carrots, and radishes for a late summer and fall crop.

*Folks that know me personally probably know that I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years and may be wondering why I’m eating catfish. A big part of my decision to become a vegetarian was based on the energy aspects of diet. It generally takes less energy to eat a plant only diet. Another aspect of the energy equation is transport and there are other concerns such as whether the food is being exported from a country where people do not have enough food due to the production of cash crops for export. When I decided to move here to create a life based on permaculture principles I knew that it also meant that I would begin harvesting the mature fish from the lake. It is an excellent protein source which is available in great abundance within 100 yards of my front door.

**For folks new to permaculture, when a site is designed it is viewed as zones. The house or living structure is Zone 0 and the area immediately outside the doorways is Zone 1. This is the area most often and conveniently accessed so this is where we try to plant the annual vegetables that need the most attention and which are likely to get harvested often.

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