Month: June 2010

A tribute to The Automatic Earth

The Automatic Earth is very different to most financial sites, because, quite frankly, most financial sites are about exploiting the misery of others for personal gain.

We are trying to help ordinary people rescue what they’ve worked hard for all their lives from the grip of the system, so that ordinary people get to keep some of it. Why should it all just disappear into a giant black hole of credit destruction? Why should the bankers get it all? ~ Stoneleigh @ Automatic Earth

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Eating Locally this Spring

Photo by: Down to Earth

Spring has sprung in our garden. The tomato plants are taking over their world (they seem to be much bigger this year), the apples and oranges are maturing, the beets are ready to harvest and the squash are poking up from the earth. I love this time of year. New life in the garden makes me feel alive.

I’ve also been inspired to try some new recipes to eat up the bounty of our harvest. As I type, I have a ‘Whole Orange Cake’ in the oven. It’s called a whole orange cake because, you guessed it, it’s made from a whole orange! Just put the whole thing in the food processor and add a few more ingredients, transfer to a baking tin and bake for 40 minutes. This is my type of cake. If the batter is anything to go by, this is going to be one tasty treat. A big thanks to Rhonda at Down to Earth for the inspiration.

This week, I’ve also discovered a new edible in the garden. Garlic Scapes. They are the stalk that my garlic have sent up in preparation for flowering. I’ve left a few scapes on to flower, but the rest have been removed for a far more satisfying (to me) purpose.

Photo from: The Hungry Mouse

Last night I made this Garlic Scape Pesto from The Hungry Mouse. The finished product is delish (as long as you like garlic of course). It’s quite a strong flavour and sits somewhere between raw garlic and spring onions. We spread it over Brendan’s homemade pizza last night and it was fantastic. We only got one jar of pesto from our small garlic crop, but I imagine it’s going to make its way into a lot of recipes in the next month.

Photo from: The Hungry Mouse

My next challenge is working out what to do with the six punnets of strawberries I bought at this weeks farmers market. They are so very tasty, but there is only so many strawberries one can eat in any given week. I don’t have any pectin left for Strawberry Jam, so I’m thinking Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt and frozen Strawberry puree might be the best way to preserve the remainder. Any other ideas?

This afternoon I’m going down to the local library where our town is holding its first ‘Home Harvest‘. It’s a monthly homegrown fruit, vegetable, and flower exchange that’s been founded recently by a group of dedicated backyard gardeners and local foodies.

A homegrown food exchange is a way of sharing what we have and reducing waste when we grow more than we need. In these times of economic challenge, a homegrown fruit and vegetable exchange is good for the pocketbook and good for the soul.

I’m excited to see how it turns out. It’s really great to see initiatives like this popping up in the local community.

Australia’s first female Prime Minister

Photo from news.com.au

Thank goodness for live steaming TV on the internet. I’ve been glued to the Australian news all afternoon, waiting to see if Australia was going to get it’s first female Prime Minister. Sure enough, we did. Julia Gillard was sworn into office sometime after noon local time and is now attending her first question time in Parliament.

They don’t lie when they say things move fast in politics. I first got wind on Facebook this morning that something was up with the leadership of Australia. In less than twelve hours we have history in the making. A female Monarch, female Governor General and female Prime Minister. I certainly wasn’t expecting that in my lifetime.

After the excitement of today’s politics it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks and months. It seems that Kevin Rudd lost the leadership because the Australian people weren’t happy with the way he handled his promises to tackle climate change and the mining ‘super tax’. Will Julia be able to turn it around in time for the next election due within six months?

Aussie politics just got interesting. I suppose I better enroll to vote.

Independence Days: Camping With the Coyotes

This weekend Brendan, Zoe dog and I went backcountry camping up in the mountains with some of Brendan’s climbing buddies. We found a fabulous little clearing surrounded by boulders and pine trees and enjoyed being outdoors for the weekend. Brendan enjoyed some climbing and Zoe and I hiked in with them one day to watch and then spent the next morning back at camp where I read and Zoe kept an eye out for squirrels. It was quite cold at night and even with two layers of thermals, a polarfleece jacket and two sleeping bags, I was still cold. I think it’s about time I invest in a good cold weather sleeping bag. Despite the cold it was lovely sleeping out in the wild. We were awoken a couple of times through the night by the howling of wild coyotes. You don’t get that in the city.

On our hike from the climbing area to where we would set up camp for the night, we lost one of our party members. She ducked off to attend to the ‘call of nature’ and then we didn’t see her again. We backtracked to where we last saw her. After 20 minutes with no sign of her, we decided to head back to where the cars were parked, assuming she would make her way back to them. Unfortunately there was still no sign of her back there so we started getting worried, imagining that she had either been attacked by a bear, tripped and hit her head or been bitten by a deadly snake. As it was already dusk we decided to split up and go in search of her and meet back before dark. I waited at the meeting spot in case she found her way back while the guys headed off in different directions. Finally, just before dark descended completely she arrived back at the meeting spot in an unfamiliar car. All was well. She had just got turned around while out in the bush and ended up walking in the wrong direction. Luckily she eventually came across a dirt road which by chance some friendly climbers were driving along. I can’t imagine how many ways this could have ended badly.

This experience certainly made me think about a few things. What if she hadn’t found a road and come across someone to bring her back?  By the time we were hiking back to camp I was out of water. I hadn’t kept any aside because it was a reasonably easy trip back. Was she in the same situation? Did she have any water left? Also, it got down to near freezing during the night. Would she have tried to find somewhere sheltered to stay the night, or tried to keep walking in the dark? It just goes to show that even a seemingly innocuous outing could turn into a survival situation very easily.

Preparedness

  • In light of this little adventure, I think I need to read up on some basic survival skills. I’ve taken these skills for granted because I learned that stuff in military training years back, but a refresher is well overdue I think.
  • It was also good to see what sort of ‘stuff’ we needed with us for just one weekend of self-sufficiency. Shelter, water, food and hygiene all had to be considered given that we were nowhere near shops or even toilets. Water was interesting. We brought in our own but if we had got stuck there we would have had to find some more. The only water I saw was a muddy puddle so having a method of water purification is really important.
  • Our backcountry camping kit closely resembles our Short-Term Emergency Preparedness Kit, so you can check out that list if you need some ideas.

Reduce Energy Dependence

  • Having a small solar charging device was really handy to have to recharge batteries for headlamps or cell phones. You can get some really small and light devices which can easily be packed on a trip like this. It’s also included in our Short-Term Emergency Preparedness Kit.

Photo by: Vork 22

On Building Lifeboats #2

On my last post On Building Lifeboats, there was a comment that I wanted to address, and then my reply became so long I figured I’d just make a new post.

More gloom and doom.

Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. And I don’t think the way to convince people that change is needed is to tell them that it’s TEOTWAWKI.

Change is absolutely needed, but change can be incredibly positive, uplifting and creative. It can also be empowering.

I am NOT going to sit on my butt and let the world fall apart around me. But I am also not going to let any single one of my neighbours suffer while I have the ability to change it. I believe that when we must, and we will, we will work together as communities and countries to solve our problems. And it will be harder in some places than others. But we’ll get through it together – not by building lifeboats for a few.

Sorry if this sounded like a rant. But I just don’t buy another End Of The World scenario. We create our own realities – and the reality I’m creating is one of organic food, open spaces, and equality for those around.

No lifeboats. And definitely no self-appointed captains cashing in on people’s fear. Just community

Rant over

I certainly do not consider ‘lifeboat building’ to be about getting myself prepared for what’s coming and leaving everyone else to drown. That is not how I think. I am all about community. There is no way we are going to be able to transition on our own. However, at this point in time, I believe our efforts are best spent on the people who want our help now. Once we get that critical mass moving, more people will become aware and then we will have more people to help them through it. We are starting a movement from the grassroots and have to build it up from the small group of people who currently see what’s really going on in the world. Unfortunately we cannot waste our precious time trying to convince every single person that they need to change the way they live. We just need to get on with ‘Being the Change we want to see in the world.’

Sorry if this sounded like a rant. But I just don’t buy another End Of The World scenario. We create our own realities – and the reality I’m creating is one of organic food, open spaces, and equality for those around.”

You are very lucky that you are making your transition a reality already. You are in an ideal place for it where you have a smallish community living in an area with abundant food and water resources. Not everyone will be in such a position.

I currently live in Southern California. There are millions and millions of people living here in the desert where all water is pumped in from the north. We are already beginning to see the effects of climate change and peak oil on Southern California’s water supply. The water to the farmers has been switched off. This region used to be the fruit and vege basket for North America and now it’s becoming a dust bowl. Watch some old movies of the dust bowl of the Great Depression. That’s what we are starting to see here in California.

The economy here is collapsing. Real unemployment in many counties is up around 25%. Nearly 50% for the youth. You’ve seen Greece on the TV. California (the world’s 8th largest economy) is in a worse position, but the majority of the people haven’t yet realised it. Quietly, over 1 million people have already left the state. The Government is trying to impose a massive ‘departure tax’ on people before they leave to stop all the money disappearing from the economy.

Mexico is less than 30 miles from where I live. The Mexican Government is heavily reliant on the proceeds from oil sales for their social services. Mexico’s oil exports are collapsing. The drug cartels are taking over. In the border town less than 30 miles from my home, over 600 people were killed in drug related violence last year. That violence is already spilling over into California. What happens when millions and millions of Mexicans decide they want to escape the violence down there?

We are already seeing anti-immigration uprisings in Arizona and Texas and there is state level conflict over the issue. California threatened to boycott Arizona over their anti-illegal-immigration stance. Arizona basically said, “Go ahead, 25% of your electricity comes from Arizona. Good luck with that.”

Things here ARE doom and gloom. Plenty of the places around the world ARE doom and gloom. It’s already here for many people. We won’t all be living in ideal locations with open spaces and abundant food and water as these systems collapse. There are simply too many people on this planet for everyone to get to live like that. I don’t think there is any way to sugar coat that fact.

Change is absolutely needed, but change can be incredibly positive, uplifting and creative. It can also be empowering.”

I agree that we need a positive message to inspire people to change their way of life voluntarily. A voluntary transition to a low energy lifestyle is preferred. When I talk to people I talk mostly about living simply, enjoying nature, growing food, walking lightly on this earth and spending time with family and friends rather than in front of the TV or at the mall.

No lifeboats. And definitely no self-appointed captains cashing in on people’s fear. Just community.”

We must build lifeboats. We must gather people around us to help. We must encourage others to see the benefits of lifeboat building and then show them how it is done. I don’t believe I’m cashing in on people’s fear. I don’t believe I’m being arrogant or appointing myself as captain…choosing who gets to climb aboard. That’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying that life as we currently know it is going to change a lot in the next few decades. Some places will be affected more than others. It’s time to stop drinking at the bar, and start building lifeboats. I am willing to help anyone who wants to learn how.

I just wanted to finish by saying I really do appreciate all the comments I get on the blog. We don’t all need to agree on everything. That would be boring and we all need our own beliefs challenged regularly to ensure that we haven’t just latched onto an idea without thinking it through.

Leanne. Thanks for your comment. I hope you don’t mind me addressing it in this way. Your life in New Zealand is beautiful and inspiring. I would love to be living on your lovely property. I aspire to having our own piece of land in a small community one day.

On Building Lifeboats

Power went out at work yesterday and the computer servers are still down today. I’m not sure how many people have been affected by this. It’s certainly hundreds, maybe thousands. There has been so much lost productivity this year due to such events. I don’t bother complaining about how the systems seem to be becoming less reliable. It’s obvious why it’s happening. Everyone is too broke to be repairing stuff that needs to be repaired. This is only going to get worse, so it’s best to start accepting that this as an inevitable part of life from now on. We have to start building our lifeboats.

The concept of lifeboat building comes from Michael Ruppert’s brilliant documentary Collapse.

Imagine for a moment that you are on the Titanic and it’s already hit the iceberg. You realise that there aren’t enough lifeboats for everyone. With fortuitous luck, you also know how to build lifeboats.

There are also three types of passengers aboard the Titanic. You have the people who see that there is a problem and want to learn how to build lifeboats. You have people who are in a state of shock. They are either immobilized by fear or are panicking. Then you have the people who believe that the Titanic is unsinkable (for that’s what they’ve been told) and would rather go back to the bar and enjoy the dancing.

The question then is: Which group of passengers are you going to spend your precious time to help?

Whenever I get frustrated about the people who don’t ‘get it’, I remind myself of this story of the passengers on the Titanic and lifeboat building. I now focus my energy on people who are interested in understanding what’s going on in the world, those who see that something is not quite right. I don’t bother discussing such issues with people who are clearly heavily invested in the old paradigm. Sometimes it’s really hard, especially when they are family and friends.

If you haven’t already seen the documentary Collapse, then I encourage you to watch it. It’s brilliant.

Michael Ruppert has also just launched the Collapse Network. He’s trying to assist in Lifeboat building and helping like-minded people find each other. Even though it’s only just launched, you can already see how many people are already on ‘the map’ (including the skills they are willing to share).

Photo by: schoeband

What’s your Walk Score?

I’ve lived in quite a few different places in my life. Some places I’ve loved living, and some I couldn’t wait to get away from. The same goes when visiting cities here in the US. I’ve been to a lot of them, but only a few are memorable and enjoyable to visit. What I found interesting was that the places I really connected with all had one thing in common. They were all walkable neighborhoods.

What makes a neighborhood walkable?

  • A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
  • People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
  • Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
  • Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
  • Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

© Urban Advantage and Roma Design

Walk Score is a fantastic website where you can check how walkable your location is. Walk Score is officially supported in the United States, Canada, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. At the moment however it seems most accurate in the US, because it doesn’t seem to pick up on transit options in Australia.

I’ve determined the walk scores of some of the places I’ve lived over the years. Not surprisingly, the places I hated living were ‘Car Dependent’ (Walk-score between 0-49). The places I’ve loved to live have been classed as ‘Very Walkable’ (Walk-score between 70-89).

I’ll certainly be checking the walk score of any potential rental properties when we start looking in Canberra next year.

Photo by: Daniel*1977

Independence Days: Refinding my Vision

This weekend I reconnected with my vision of voluntary simplicity, self sufficiency, sustainability and independence. I had been feeling a bit down about all the gloomy things going on in the world, but a healthy dose of vision and action always seems to help.

On Saturday I spent quite a lot of time in the garden: Taking out the last of the cool season crop, spreading the compost we’ve been ‘cooking’ for the last few months and mulching garden beds in preparation for planting of our warm season crops. There is something so satisfying about hard work and getting dirty when you know the outcome is going to be food to feed your family.

On Sunday, Brendan, Zoe dog and I headed up to the mountains for a morning of hiking. I just love it up there and even though it was a hot day, there was a cool breeze blowing and we could get some respite in the shade of the pine trees surrounding the meadow. Spring is in full bloom up there at the moment. I thought the flowers must have been done for the year, but I guess they come later at altitude. The meadow had seen snow this year, and it was the greenest I’d ever seen it. The wildflowers were swaying in the breeze and the insects and birdlife were humming with activity. We let Zoe off to splash in the shallows of the lake and saw that it was teeming with tadpole life. Most of them had their two hind legs already so in a few more weeks there are going to be thousands of new frogs up there. We stopped in a shady spot overlooking the lake and enjoyed the peace and quiet. It was just such a fantastic morning and I don’t know why we’ve left it so long since we last visited.

Even though I know this already, I’ve re-realised that it’s unlikely that our society is going to avoid some sort of collapse. I’m resigned to the fact that we just have to let it go and rebuild something better. There are weeks when I mourn the loss and get angry about our society’s lack of foresight. However, I hope I’m now back into the acceptance phase and once again moving into action . 

I’ve been reading more about building resilient communities and am excited at some of the ideas floating around in cyberspace. We need to concentrate on energy independence, food security and thriving local economies. I’m still brewing some ideas in my mind which we (Brendan and I) might be able to act upon in the next few years, but in the meantime, I can focus on my own plan for Self Sufficiency and Independence.

Getting off the economic grid

  • Even though my debt is now paid off, we are still living frugally and are focussed on saving as much money as we can for tangible assets. We are buying items in the US which we know are going to be more expensive in Australia. When we get back home we have to make all our big purchases, such as a car and appliances so we are focussing on those aspects of our financial plan at the moment.
  • Brendan has been doing some really interesting stuff with this renewable energy start-up. They submitted their first proposal last week with Brendan’s design and it sounds like it might be going ahead. Exciting times.

Stockpiling Food

  • We are tapering off our stockpile of food in preparation for moving back to Australia later this year. Having said that, I’ve been pickling beets this last week. They are so delicious in salads on warm summer days.

Grow some food

  • We have one garden bed already planted with a riot of food. I say riot becuase I’ve planted with no plan other that to abide by companion planting techniques. So, in garden bed #1 we have beets, garlic, onions, leek and a couple of new tomato plants.
  • I spent Saturday preparing our other two beds for planting, by adding compost, mulch and plenty of water. We don’t till the soil after removing the crops. We just add compost and mulch as layers on top of the soil. If a plant’s root structure is big and deep, I leave it intact. I simply cut the top off the plant at soil level and lets the roots decay in place. This adds nutrients deep in the soil and aerates the soil when the roots decay to nothing.

Reduce Energy Dependence

  • I’m back on the bike and riding to and from work. I stopped over the summer when roadwork made the trip dangerous and then we had a wet start to the year. All those excuses are gone now so I’m back on the bike. I actually find that with the traffic as it is, it’s quicker to ride home than it is to drive. Also, now that the roadwork is done, there is a brand new bike lane that goes most of the way to work. It feels so much safer and I’ve seen more people riding this year than during the last couple of years. 

Photo by: Nicholas T

Peak Oil, Sustainability and Economic Collapse – Oil Zenith resources

I’ve just been made aware of this new website which offers a collection of some of the best resources on the web about peak oil, sustainability and economic collapse. I’ve already included some of these links in my resources list, but this website is something else altogether. I think I could get lost in there for days. Check it out –>

Oil Zenith