The concept of Peak Oil is developing quite a political following, although not quite so much as climate change and global warming. Peak Oil is the idea that we have reached or will soon reach the point at which half of all the easily extractable oil and gas around the globe has been consumed. Although the pumps will not suddenly run dry, the cost of the remaining oil, both in money and effort, will continue to escalate, with unforeseeable impacts on the American and global economy. A Great Depression, or a massive transformation in energy use, is generally foretold. Of course, similar challenges will be overcome as our societies reinvent themselves and their technologies for a sustainable energy future.
In January, the Watershed Sentinel published Sharon’s lists for Winter and Spring. Now, here are her suggestions for Summer and Fall. These To-Do’s offer a change of life for many, with rich challenges, good food, and meaningful family and community experiences.
Summer and Fall
By Sharon Astyk
1. If you don’t can or dehydrate, now is the time to learn. In most climates, you can waterbath can or dehydrate with a minimum of purchased materials, and produce is abundant and cheap. If you don’t garden, check out your local farm stand for day-old produce or your farmer’s market at the end of the day – they are likely to have large quantities they are anxious to get rid of. Wild fruits are also in abundance, or will be.
2. Consider dehydrating outer leaves of broccoli, cabbage, etc…, and grinding the dried mixture. It can be added to flours to increase the nutritional value of your bread.
3. Buy hay in the summer, rather than gradually over the winter. Now is an excellent time to put up simple shelters for hay storage, to avoid high early spring and winter prices.
4. Firewood, woodstoves and heating materials are at their cheapest right now. Invest now for winter. The same is true of insulating materials.
5. Back to school planning is a great time to reconsider transportation in light of peak oil. Can your children walk? Bike? If they cannot do either for reasons of safety (rather than distance) could an adult do so with them? Could you hire a local teenager to take them to school on foot or by wheel? Can you find ways to carpool, if you must drive? Grown ups can do this too.
6. Also when getting ready to go back to school, consider the environmental impact of your scheduling and activities – are there ways to minimize driving/eating out/equipment costs/fuel consumption? Could your family do less in formal “activities” and more in family work?
7. Consider either home schooling or engaging in supplemental home education. Your kids may need a large number of skills not provided by local public schools, and a critical perspective that they certainly won’t learn in an institutional setting. Teach them.
8. Try and minimize air conditioning and electrical use during high Summer. Take cool showers or baths, use ice packs, reserve activity when possible for early am or evening. Rise at 4 am and get much of your work done then.
9. Consider adding a solar powered attic fan, available from Real Goods www.realgoods.com.
10. Don’t go on vacation. Spend your energy and money making your home a paradise instead. Throw a barbecue, a party or an open house, and invite the neighbours in. Get to know them.
11. Be prepared for summer blackouts, some quite extensive. Have emergency supplies and lighting at hand.
12. Practice living, cooking and camping outside, so that you will be comfortable doing so if necessary. Everyone in the family can learn basic outdoors skills.
13. Make your own summer camp. Instead of sending kids to soccer camp, create an at-home skills camp that helps prepare people for Peak oil. Invite the neighbour kids to join you. Have a blast!
14. Begin adapting herbs and other potted plants to indoor culture. Consider adding small tropicals – figs, lemons, oranges, even bananas can often be grown in cold climate homes. Obviously, if you live in a warm climate — well, be prepared for some jealousy from the rest of us come February!
15. Plant a fall garden in high summer — peas, broccoli, kale, lettuces, beets, carrots, turnips, etc… All of the above will last well into early winter in even the harshest climates, and with proper techniques or in milder areas, will provide you with fresh food all year long.
16. Put up a new clothesline! Consider hand washing clothes outside, since everyone will probably enjoy getting wet (and cool) anyhow.
17. If you have access to safe waters, go fishing. Get some practice, and learn a new skill.
18. Encourage pick-up games at your house. Post-peak, children will need to know how to entertain themselves.
19. For teens, encourage them to develop their own home businesses over the summers. Whether doing labor or creating a product, you may rely on them eventually to help support the family. Or have them clean out your closets and attic and help you reorganize. Let them sell the stuff.
20. Buy a hand pushed lawn mower if you have less than 1 acre of grass. New ones are easy to push and pleasant, and will save you energy and that unpleasant gas smell.
21. Keep an eye out for unharvested fruits and nuts – many suburban and rural areas have berry and fruit bushes that no one harvests. Take advantage and put up the fruit.
22. Practice extreme water conservation during the summer. Mulch to reduce the need for irrigation. Bathe less often and with less water. Reduce clothes washing when possible.
23. This is an excellent time to toilet train children — they can run around naked if necessary and accidents will do no harm. Try and get them out of diapers now, before winter.
24. Consider replacing lawns with something that doesn’t have to be mowed — ground covers like vetch, moss, even edibles like wintergreen or lingonberry, chamomile or mint.
25. If it is summer time, then the living is probably easy. Take some time to enjoy it – to picnic, to celebrate democracy (and try and bring one about), to explore your own area, walk in the nearby woods.
1. Simple, cheap insulating strategies (window quilts and blankets, draft stoppers, etc…) are easily made from cheap or free materials — Thrift stores, for example, often have jeans, tshirts and shrunken wool sweaters, of quality too poor to sell, that can be used for quilting material and batting. They are available where I am for a nominal price, and I’ve heard of getting them free.
2. Stock up for winter as though the hard times will begin this year. Besides dried and canned foods, don’t forget root cellarable and storable local produce, and season extension (cold frames, greenhouses, etc.) techniques for fresh food when you make your food inventory.
3. Thanksgiving sales tend to be when supermarkets offer the cheapest deals on excellent supplements to food storage, like shortening, canned pumpkin, spices, etc. I’ve also heard of stores giving turkeys away free with grocery purchases — turkeys can then be cooked, canned and stored. Don’t forget to throw in storable ingredients for your family’s holiday staples. In hard times, any kind of celebration or continuity is appreciated.
4. Go leaf rustling for your garden and compost pile. If you happen into places where people leave their leaves out for pickup, grab the bags and set them to composting or mulching your own garden.
5. Plant a last crop of over wintering spinach, and enjoy in the fall and again in spring.
6. Consider planting a bed of winter wheat. Chickens can even graze it lightly in the fall, and it will be ready to harvest in time to use the bed for your fall garden. Even a small bed will yield enough to make quite a bit of fresh, delicious bread.
7. Hit those last yard sales, or back to school sales and buy a few extra clothes (or cloth to make them) for growing children and extra shoes for everyone. They will be welcome in storage, particularly if prices rise because of trade issues or inflation.
8. The best time to expand your garden is now — till or mulch and let sod rot over the winter. Add soil amendments, manure, compost and lime.
9. Now is an excellent time to start the 100 mile diet in most locales. Stores and farms and markets are bursting with delicious local produce and products. Eat local and learn new recipes.
10. Rose hip season is coming – most food storage items are low in accessible vitamin C. Harvest wild or tame unsprayed rose hips, and dry them for tea to ensure long-term good health. Rose hips are delicious mixed with raspberry leaves and lemon balm.
11. Discounts on alcohol are common between Halloween and Christmas — this is an excellent time to stock up on booze for personal, medicinal, trade or cooking needs. Pick up some vanilla beans as well, and make your own vanilla out of that cheap vodka.
12. Gardening equipment, and things like rainbarrels go on sale in the late summer/early fall. And nurseries often are trying to rid themselves of perennial plants – including edibles and medicinals. It isn’t too late to plant them in most parts of the country, although some care is needed in purchasing for things that have become rootbound.
13. Local honey will be at its cheapest — now is the time to stock up. Consider making friends with the beekeeper, and perhaps taking lessons yourself.
14. Fall is the cheapest time to buy livestock, either to keep or for butchering. Many 4Hers, and those who simply don’t want to keep excess animals over the winter are anxious to find buyers now. In many cases, at auction, I see animals selling for much less than the meat you can expect to obtain from their carcass is worth.
15. Most cold climate housing has or could have a “cold room/area” — a space that is kept cool enough during the fall and winter to dispense with the necessity of a refrigerator, but that doesn’t freeze. If you have separate fridge and freezer, consider disconnecting your fridge during the cooler weather to save utility costs and conserve energy. You can build a cool room by building in a closet with a window, and insulating it with styrofoam panels.
16. Now is a great time to build community (and get stuff done) by instituting a local “work bee” – invite neighbours and friends to come help either with a project for your household, or to share in some good deed for another community member. Provide food, drink, tools and get to work on whatever it is (building, harvesting, quilting, knitting — the sky is the limit), and at the same time strengthen your community. Make sure that next time, the work benefits a different neighbour or community member.
17. Most local charities get the majority of their donations between now and December. Consider dividing your charitable donations so that they are made year round, but adding extra volunteer hours to help your group handle the demands on them in the fall.
18. Many medicinal and culinary herbs are at their peak now. Consider learning about them and drying some for winter use.
19. If there is a gleaning program near you (either for charity or personal use) consider joining. If not, start one. Considerable amounts of food are wasted in the harvesting process, and you can either add to your storage or benefit your local shelters and food pantries.
20. Dig out those down comforters, extra blankets, hats with the earflaps, flannel jammies, etc. You don’t need heat in your sleeping areas — just warm clothes and blankets.
21. Learn a skill that can be done in the dark or by candlelight, while sitting with others in front of a heat source. Knitting, crocheting, whittling, rug braiding, etc. can all be done mostly by touch with little light, and are suitable for companionable evenings. In addition, learn to sing, play instruments, recite memorized speeches and poetry, etc. as something to do on dark winter evenings.
22. While I wouldn’t expect deer or turkey hunting to be a major food source in coming times (I would expect large game to be driven back to near-extinction pretty quickly), it is worth having those skills, and also the skills necessary to catch the less commonly caught small game, like rabbits, squirrel, etc.
23. Use a solar cooker or parabolic solar cooker whenever possible to prepare food. Or eat cool salads and raw foods. Not only won’t you heat up the house, but you’ll save energy.
24. A majority of children are born in the summer or early fall, which suggests that some of us are doing more than keeping warm! Now is a good time to get one’s birth control updated.
25. Celebrate the harvest – this is a time of luxury and plenty, and should be treated as such and enjoyed that way. Cook, drink, eat, talk, sing, pray, dance, laugh, invite guests. Winter is long and comes soon enough.
First published on Sharon’s website, Our Victory at Home, www.ourvictoryathome.com. More of Sharon’s writing is available at her Casaubon’s Book blog, www.casaubonsbook.blogspot.com.
Published December 17, 2006 by Energy Bulletin, http://www.energybulletin.net