Monday, January 11, 2016

On bumps in the road

Ready for the open road -- we thought.
Back when our family was living a nomadic lifestyle that revolved around tree-planting contracts on mostly federal lands, we pulled a small travel trailer behind an International Travelall with most of our worldly goods in the one or the other.

And one day we left home to go to a contract five hundred miles away, and in ten miles came to a brand-new sign that said, “BUMP.” As in, “we have removed the top four inches of asphalt from the bridge fifty yards ahead, with a vertical drop at each end, and if you hit it at any speed between five miles an hour and the posted speed of fifty-five at which you are now traveling, well, have we got a surprise for you.”

We saw what was coming, but with three second’s worth of brake time, there was not much to do but grin and bear it.

It took days to sort out our windshield and flour and beans and lamp chimneys and toe-in and trailer tongue and so on, and we lost some work. Fortunately no one was hurt.

All that was, was a bump in the road. But suppose it had been a cliff?

"civilization" seems to me to be nearing a cliff, so I've done what I could about it. If you might wish to do the same, read on for some glimpses of doomer hobbies you might take up.

Nobody gets out of the world alive, and I’ve picked Zen meditation and Buddhist precepts as my outgoing hobby -- cheap and portable. Something else may work better for you.

Things to do that might help: and

You may wish to access (not necessarily buy) land or a rooftop or a lot of containers and do, to the extent possible, your own food (and maybe some for others). Don’t bother with a water barrel, go water tank if you can. There’s almost always a way to farm, until there's really not, which might a ways off yet. 

If you like, go low profile, find, make, repurpose, fix, mend, borrow, trade, recycle, but also lend, and lend a hand (networking). Friends can get you through times of drought, flood and no money better than money (or what’s left of it) will get you through times of drought, flood and no friends. Leave banks for a credit union and draw down to invest in tools, dry food, the children, the grandchildren, the “friends and relations,” and the neighborhood.

If at all possible, drop the car (and flying) and go by train, bus, rideshare, bicycle, or shank’s mare. Look at all your motors and downsize (from gasoline to electric, from electric to hand tools).

Maybe teach what you know, and learn what you don’t. Stockpile old (paper) books on tools, maintenance, farming, gardening, preservation, cooking.

Maybe learn some older stuff: or

Keep an eye out for anything from Chelsea Green Publishing.

Get some current books (and supplies) for first aid, medical emergencies, health, and community health.

Or maybe what you need is online, but I set store by printing out.

Maybe pull the plug and go off-grid? We’ve done it, we loved it (but, yes, we were young). Our goal was to live like Mr. Badger, and we pretty much did:

Our solutions were low-tech, and for a reason. You can do nifty technological solutions to keep comfy. But it helps to be educated, bright, somewhat well-heeled and industrious, with stable surroundings.

Remember, though, the middle-class dream of going off grid with gadgets will get you killed in an actual collapse scenario.

If you try all these things, and then collapse comes and kills you, what did you lose by your efforts? Most of these activities are more fun, at least to my mind, than the cubicle life, so to speak. If you try all these things, and then collapse never comes and doesn’t kill you, what did you lose by your efforts? Most of these activities are more fun, at least to my mind, than the cubicle life, so to speak. 

And you might find that powering down and “collapsing now to avoid the rush” as John Michael Greer says, leads to an ethic that makes you happier (in your remaining time) with yourself than whatever you had going before.

An ethical approach to air, water, soil, the oceans, animals, plants, and ourselves and one another leads, or should lead, to reduced impacts on air, water, soil, the oceans, animals, plants, and people.

And if you don't feel you have achieved much, ya still done good. Outcomes were never guaranteed anyway.


We're on the right. Sustainable, where we were for some millions of years up until twelve thousand years ago, is on the left. Can't get there from here. So, relax.

May you and yours be ever more thoughtful, wise, resourceful, just, and kind in all your dealings than you have been hitherto. 

And may you live in peace and unafraid.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

A light dusting

I have begun work on my rakusu. This is a miniature monk's or nun's robe which is worn at certain times like a bib, symbolically connecting me, through the generations, with Gautama Buddha himself, and a sign of my acceptance of the precepts to guide me through life. Each of these tiny panels will be hand stitched to the others, and is a symbolic rice paddy. One is "nourished" by the precepts, you see.

A light dusting. Because temperatures have been falling into the low twenties (Fahrenheit), I've been covering the kale patch. Beloved brings in the poultry's water buckets at night and sets them out in the mornings, to keep them from freezing. It's not really cold cold, though. A look at the woodshed confirms this.

You can see there is a fair amount of chop-and-drop Japanese knotweed in the current mulch. It was laid on last summer, leaves and all, to help shade the garden during the intense drought.

When the thermometer drops into the twenties, we put a little birdseed out.

Lark buntings, which I've not seen before, swarmed the feeder. They seemed to be passing through. As I went out, they retreated to the orchard and swore at me with a musical "chip-chip" that was a new sound to my ears.

I brought in a Brussels sprout plant, which must have sprung from a seed among a kale mix I'd bought. It's been waiting in the garden since March for me to take an interest, and today was its day. I use the broad leaves as well as the sprouts.

I've been visiting the potting shed and looking it over rather wistfully. You'd think I would know better than to go out there and try to pretend it's March.

Patience, girl.

This time of year that room is not much visited.
Its herringbone-patterned floor of worn bricks
tilts here and there where rodents have made inroads. 
Homemade flats lie heaped in corners; stacks of cells
lean sleepily together; insulation dangles;
tools hang, festooned with webs and dust. Sometimes 
when the door has been set ajar, a towhee wanders in,
becomes confused at light from so many windows,
beats itself silly, then rests, is eventually found 
and shown the way out. There's not much
an old lady can do but wait, watching for
earlier suns to rise, for petrichor, 
for that sudden dislocation brought on
by stepping into sunshine by a southern wall.
Then, after one jonquil blooms by way of 
affirmation, she'll step in, rearrange things,
dust her work bench and stool, bring seeds,
open the soil bin, grab a pot, begin.