Friday, 18 June 2010

Nearly midwinter

I haven't been posting this week.  It's been cold and dark.  We have only had a frost on one night, but it's been hard to go out and do much maintenance in the garden.  It's lucky that the growth rate slows down in the very cold weather... though the weeds seem oblivious to the lesser growing conditions.
The garden is producing plenty of food at the moment, and with two of the chickens still laying eggs,  we are doing well.   There is a need to start food plants at least weekly if you want to eat from the garden regularly.  We did have a "hungry gap" here this year,  though it was mainly due to my absence for a couple of months at the end of last year.  It's interesting to think that the plants that I'm adding to the garden now (brassicas, carrots, beets and peas) will be producing in the spring when I'll be planting the summer vegetables.  This thinking ahead is absolutely essential to anyone trying to change their dependence on the supermarket even a little bit.  You need to plant new seeds regularly.

While I have been spending more time inside,  I have also been listening to more comments (I'm a radio addict... ABC Radio National) about the events further afield.  Many of the things that one reads about seem far off and not so likely to change my life... at least not  in the short term.  This is changing.
The oil spill that has happened in the Gulf of Mexico sounded so remote from here until recent days.  This is not really a "spill" at all,  but the release of a huge underground reservoir that is not even just oil... it includes rock and grit that is eroding the hole that has been made, even as it is forced out.  This is making the "plugging" of the hole even more difficult or unlikely than the "usual"  kind of spill.  It has been spewing oil for months now and apparently there is no likelihood of slowing this for at least  another couple of months.  I have seen the photographs of the damage and the wildlife and the tar balls on the beach.    The life expectancy of the workers who cleaned up the spill of the Exxon Valdez is 51 years.  No one seems to know why,  but there is the expectation that people in the area of the BP "spill"  may have some health issues as well.  Is this the cost of our oil dependent lifestyle?

With all of this in mind,  the cost of this "spill" is inestimable!  So much for putting aside $20B dollars.

The oil fields that we have been using for the past fifty or so years are running out.  The costs of exploiting new and riskier (more difficult) oil reserves must surely change our attitudes to peak oil and the costs (financial and environmental) of continuing with this current exravagant lifestyle.

Our whole society is so dependent upon oil.   Oil not only supplies our fuel for transportation (the most obvious use)  but is embodied in so much of the things and materials that we use....   we have heard it  all before...  fuel (even for transporting food), plastics (including the packaging that is everywhere), fertilisers (for grain and even animal feed), synthetic fibres (for clothing, packaging and even ropes and twine)  and upon these depend our foods and the easy availability of that food.  This cannot last.

While it's not necessary or practical for everyone to produce everything that they need,  I can see a time... and not so far off... where our "standard of living"  (as measured by currently)  is reduced significantly and our priorities will change significantly.

There are plenty of blogs or news articles online where the theory is discussed, rationalisations invoked, alternatives hoped for and even preparations for chaos considered.  I can understand all of these considerations and preparations,  but there are a few ideas that seem to be missing.   In my own experience,  it takes some time to learn the skills required for a "lower energy" lifestyle.  Whether it involves making clothing,  acquiring household equipment or tools or merely growing food,  these skills take time to learn.  In the past "everyone"  learned these things by watching family,  friends and neighbours.  There has been several generations of people who, through no fault of their own,  haven't learned any of these things.  I know many like this, though I consider myself lucky here in having a grandmother who lived most of her life without shops or electricity and who understood the food growing tricks of the trade.  There is a lot of learning to be done.  It has taken me about 8 years to be able to reliably produce a significant amount of our food.  Eventually, others may not have the luxury of so much time.

Dinner tonight will be black bean soup with garden vegetables (whatever is available... carrots, onions, leafy kale greens and jalapenos)  and home made bread.  The fire is warm in the kitchen and I have the luxury of not having to "go out"  anywhere today.

The solstice is going to be on Monday evening (June 21st) at 8.58pm here (we are at UTC + 9hr 30m) and then we'll be heading back,  ever so slowly, to longer days.  I can't wait!

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