Friday, December 31, 2010

Mikan Grove

I did it. I splurged and bought 9 new satsuma  (Or as we call them here, Mikan) trees. These will complement the five I have already growing. Are 14 mikan trees too many? A mature tree can easily have 100 fruits on it.... So no, not too many! Then of course there are the lemon, yuzu, sudachi, kabosu, and the two kumquats. Oh, I love the kumquats!

I made sure to get a variety of cultivars. Now I should have mikan from late September into February. Can't beat that!

I do love being in a climate where I can grow citrus interspersed with apples and cherries.

In other news, the wolfberry finally bore fruit! Not too many, but it bears a promise for next year! I am already looking forward to the harvest.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More Peak Oil Ramblings

Plans and Leadership
We need to dream up plans on what to do. And not just selfish personal plans. We need visions that we can whip out and share with our friends and neighbors. Plans to unite us, motivate us, protect and feed us.
We need to make rough inventories of equipment, spare parts, and geographic advantages and disadvantages. We need to plan how to organize people and  supplies.

That being said, I have been dreaming up a few plans of my own for my immediate surroundings- I figure that about 2Km up and down the road, 1Km from the road can be considered "our" area.

Location: We are blessed with a LOT of mountains and forests in the 2Km radius of our homestead. There is a very small, very high head stream coming from the mountains behind us, and a much larger (though still quite small) stream also with a decent head just below us. It used to support three or four family run waterwheels around 70-80 years ago.
The valley used to have five or six small family farms before the children ran off to the cities, and their parents passed away. So there are quite a few abandoned field terraces here and there. It would take a lot of work to clear them, but they are level and fertile.
There are large cedar plantations and also large swaths of native mountain forests.
And did I mention the bamboo? Moso, Madake, Yachiku....
Population: There are not many people, maybe about 30 in the area I described. Most are over 60, quite a few are in their 70s and 80s. Which means a lot of them remember life without electricity or a decent road (It wasn't until about 1960 that they built the road up to handle cars easily.)
Equipment/Salvage:  Not so much. The older farmers still have tractors and other small farm equipment, and most of them have a lot of hand tools as well.
Housing: There are a few empty houses in the village up the road, and just a stones throw from our house as well. But most of the houses are quite large farmhouses, built for large families/extended families. 

Plans: Once oil supplies are disrupted, town will be quite far away. But the twenty thousand who live in the strip between the mountains and the sea will not have enough land to grow all their food. So I am planning a road market at the foot of the mountain. I imagine that every road leading up the mountains will have one. A natural place for it.

The abandoned farmland will eventually be brought back into production, regardless of who the absentee owners are. It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission. If they come back to live here, we will negotiate. If they want to try to continue absentee ownership- well, good luck traveling all the way up here to collect rents. 

I hope to attract young families to the empty houses and to encourage the older folk to rent out their extra rooms in exchange for help. These hands will help make the abandoned fields productive again. And of course, the building of new houses will eventually begin.

We also will have to have some sort of training programs/workshops to see who is good at what, and to evolve specialties in the new community. This will bolster our program of recruitment of skilled workers (electricians, mechanics....) as well.

We will build a hydro-power co-op to supply electric to a community center/ library, and if there is excess, to the houses. I think it will be a number of smaller generators rather than a large one, but still working on that.

We will also need a public bath, because it would be a lot easier and take a lot less fuel to heat a large community bath than dozens of individual baths.

There is a lot more planning to be done. But not tonight.
How about you? How are you going to help your community get through the long emergency?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Peak Oil Ramblings

So, I read Kunstler's book- The Long Emergency.
Wow. That was scary. I mean, really, really scary. So I got to thinking about the problem.
To sum it up, the world as we know it ends, and we are back to living with candles and bicycles, and eventually horses.
I looked around the Internet for some more information. And I realized something- all the doom and gloom-sayers kept on putting down renewables by saying things like "to maintain present levels..." or "to replace all our oil..."
And I got to thinking. Well, who says we need to maintain present levels?

How much electricity do you need? Do you really need all the juice you use? Probably not. A few lights in the evening, maybe listening to the radio... We could get by just fine with a fraction of the electricity we use, as long as it is constant.

I worry  that the nations are too big. Especially the US and Canada. If the electrical power grid can be maintained, even at a much lower level, they stand a chance. Radio news/shortwave radio will become a powerful force keeping nations together. Consider buying a shortwave radio now.

Health Care-
Well, frankly- and it scares and saddens me, but a lot of people are going to die. Diabetics, people dependent on medicines. Lots of preventive medicines will disappear. And also, a lot of people will just give up.
Eventually, the population will stabilize. Good news is the obesity epidemic will be over. 

And as to daily life-
After the peak, life will become based around largely self sufficient small towns. Move to one.
Since won't be able to afford food from a supermarket, you will try and grow some. You won't be able to buy chemical fertilizer, but people grew crops for thousands of years without it. You won't be able to grow your whole diet, but every bit helps.
Fairly quickly, the supermarkets will go out of business- they can't function without cheap oil. So neighborhood markets selling local goods will spring up. You could start one, there will be dozens. Once people have no choice but to walk or cycle to the market, they will choose the closer over the slightly cheaper.
People will still need things like soap, candles, beer, maple syrup, clothing- lots of business opportunities. But you should start learning something now.

On future occupations:
Farmers and hired hands- the ultimate growth sector after peak oil. Just make sure to unionize so you don't become serfs.
Electricians will still be in high demand- especially ones who can build a windmill or micro-hydro system from scraps. Also to repair and maintain existing systems.
Mechanics will be needed to keep the remaining engines working, and to modify existing engines to work on ethanol, biodiesel, or wood gas (start studying now)
Of course carpenters and masons will be needed.
Traders and Merchants to bring and sell goods not available locally.

And a slew of old occupations will return in force-
People will need charcoal and firewood, for heat and cooking, so the forester and charcoal maker will come back.
When traveling between cities means days instead of hours, innkeeping will return.
Blacksmithing will be back of course- making and repairing tools.
People will need new dishes, bowls, etc eventually, so potters will resurface.
Tinkers, cobblers, soapmakers, brewers, seamstresses and tailors, handymen, cigar makers, paper makers, weavers, journalists, and herbalists...

Actually, I think there might eventually be less unemployment after peak oil than there is now, simply because we will need so much human power to replace the oil power. There may not be as much glamor or leisure, but there is still satisfaction in using your own muscles to make a living.