As our rains and colder weather invade, we button up many of our outside projects and batten down the mini-hoop houses, cloches, and Agribon paper to extend our growing season. The remaining chili peppers – full grown but still green – will be brought in to ripen inside, and the water cisterns will be flushed/cleaned so they can quickly refill for emergency water storage during winter storm power outages.
And so we turn our attention to inside projects like bread-making, cheese-making, and another One Year experiment (our last one was on transportation). A few months ago we began a one year experiment of Buying Nothing New other than food, vitamins, and toilet paper to see how we would fair on 12 months of salvaged, repurposed, or used items. For example, we’ve shifted our apparel purchases to consignment shops (both local and online) for our fast-growing kids and for ourselves as we wear through items working in the garden.
The effect of “buying used” has had an interesting affect on us of actually acquiring *more* stuff in my life. Yikes! We’re actually buying more stuff now than we were before, because our brains were thinking “Oh, I’m saving money because it is used!”
But of course, we’re not. We’re spending cash where we were not before. And we now have more stuff coming into our lives, which is the opposite of the our previous simplification focus. Now that we recognize the behavior change, we’ve corrected it. But for several months, this experiment was clearly a wash (at best) on our finances. I expect we’ll begin making gains now.
- Lessons learned re: our Buy Nothing New experiment. Time to combine a repurpose focus with a simplification focus!
- Cool weather crops coming on strong; warm weather crops still doing well under their cold frames.
- Addition of a Kenyan bee hive (aka Top Bar) that I’m bee-sitting for a friend who is injured. Fun to learn a new style of beekeeping.
- Giving away our honey to friends and family as gifts!
- Renewed interest in finishing my book on Prepared Neighborhoods (citizen-led emergency preparedness at the neighborhood level) and reinvigorating our own town’s preparedness activities.
- The biggest lowlight for our country is seeing the suffering of our East Coast neighbors from the superstorm. So, so, so wish more towns had citizen-led preparedness projects underway. We can’t rely on our government to bail us out; they are going to have their hands full just repairing the core infrastructure.
- The biggest lowlight for me personally is literally the low light. Time to start taking Vitamin D supplements and St. John’s Wort to ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- Learning from our failures for the Buy Nothing New experiment that were not always so fun. Example: had to buy a new car tire jack in a hurry (no time to search for a used or salvage option) when I discovered our Nissan Leaf does not ship with a spare tire nor a jack. It was a bit of dumb thinking on Nissan’s part that was not fun to discover as we blew the tire away from home – surprising given the Nissan engineers got so many other details about the Leaf correct.
A quick summary of learnings to share with both highlights and lowlights.
- Successful brooding of next batch of laying chickens. All 25 Golden Comets survived and transferred well to our Andy Lee style of day ranging chicken tractors.
- Very high production continued for berries as well as many of the vegetables.
- Learned why our 30+ blueberry bushes were just doing mediocre (surrounding strawberries too healthy and grabbing all the nutrients at the same shallow soil level) and how to fix it (transplant strawberries down to food forest and surround each blueberry bush with aged sawdust, which I can get for free).
- Fruit trees bore a decent amount of fruit for the first time. That taste on some of these like the cherries and asian pears is amazing compared to store bought (even organic + local). The ability to wait until the exact day of full ripeness makes an enormous difference in the taste.
- Surprising crop of volunteer potatoes. For planting zero seed potatoes this past year, we’ve got enough of a crop of volunteers to last us several months.
- A monster amount of tomatillos and tomatoes are coming in, which combined with our cilantro and hot peppers, is making for some awesome salsa.
- Bumper crop of peppers, both sweet and hot. Not much makes me happier than cayenne and habanero peppers.
- Lost another bird to an eagle attack, despite the ceiling. Found the hole that the eagle did after the fact to close it up. Bummer.
- Forgot to switch from my rainwater harvesting cisterns over to the well water at the beginning of the irrigation season, and promptly drained my backup water in just three weeks. Won’t get to refill them until the rains return in force this fall.
- Another year of multiple failed carrot plantings. I lose some to wild rabbits, some to potato bugs, and some to I-don’t-know-what. Top of mind to fix for next year. Trying a different type of carrot for overwintering this year.
- On the alternative transportation front, finally broke down and bought a replacement battery for my electric bike after I toasted my old battery. $450…ouch! But love being back on my bike, especially in these sunny months.
There is a brilliant woman named Dr. LuAn Johnson in Olympia, Washington who created the Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) program. It has the nine steps to complete immediately after a wide scale emergency such as a tornado or earthquake.
For our small town, we are adding a “Step 10″ series to various citizens’ nine step guidebook to bridge the gap between an individual set of neighbors and the larger community surrounding them. Steps 1-9 of Dr. Johnson’s MYN program ensure you, your loved ones, and your direct neighbors are cared for and secured. As we roll out our town-wide plans to connect our neighborhoods for both emergency preparedness and sustainability projects, the Step 10 series will shift the focus of specific individuals to securing entire neighborhoods and then the whole town (which happens to be an easily defined area – it’s an island).
Perhaps this list will be useful for your town as well. Here are a few examples of our Step 10 additions for citizens to pursue after they have finished their Steps 1-9. They will seek to travel (safely, short distances) to their neighborhood’s designated shelter:
- Ham radio operators to begin communication coordination
- Doctors, nurses, EMTs and CPR experts to to provide medical attention
- Mechanics and engineers to ensure all generators are safely up and running
- Members of the horse and bicycle communities to begin transportation duties (medical supplies, communication devices, etc) where roads are likely blocked by landslides and fallen trees
As we do further work on these Step 10 actions, we’ll document them on our main website, as well as excerpts here on this blog.
“Thank goodness we discovered a bio-fuel source made from zucchini in 2013!” they will say as they poke fun of me riding around on my electric bicycle. Happy motoring, indeed.
(Good gosh did I overplant zucchini, cucumbers, and gourds this year.)
I have British friends who use this old catchphrase often and many times tongue-in-cheek. Which made me smile all the more when I saw the nearby graphic while reading one of my favorite blogs, Little Homestead in the City.
As we are ramping up our local efforts to build resilient neighborhoods on our island, it’s a good reminder to read about the history of victory gardens and related sustainability projects that our grandparents were quite familiar with, and that are becoming new again.
In her post Anais asks her readers their preparedness levels in these areas (at least one of which you’ll see we’ve not listed in our categories to the right – oops): Food, Water, Fuel Energy, Sanitation, Alternative Currency, Transportation, Communications, Medical & First Aid, Survival, Security.
I’ll prepare a future post regarding our sanitation plans in low or no power scenarios.
While our Nissan Leaf is still battling with my home-built electric bicycle for top billing for my commute around town, I think James Kunstler is correct that our “happy motoring” days are numbered. A favorite recent quote from Kunster:
We are ignoring the most obvious intelligent responses to this predicament, namely, shifting our focus to walkable communities and public transit, especially rebuilding the American passenger railroad system – without which, I assure you, we will be most regrettably screwed ten years from now.
Despite the private investment in our railways by Gates and Buffet, we’re seeing minimal federal government interest, which is a shame as we’ll need it unless we want the rest of the world to pass us by (at high speeds).
So I’d love to hear thoughts on the pros and cons of our current bicycling sharing programs in US cities.
Bicycles have meant a lot to me for a long time. I even had my “peak moment” while on a bicycle, riding through downtown Seattle straight through the WTO protests. Before that week started, I could not even tell you what WTO stood for. By the end of the week, I knew my days in high tech were numbered and that I needed to change my lifestyle and career to help others.
Our Nissan Leaf is making me lazy.
I find myself actively planning trips to use the Leaf around when my wife + kids need the car…instead of just hopping on my bicycle to cruise into town.
As Leaf sales continue to rise I predict Americans will simply become more sedentary. This spells doom for the bicycle industry.
The only true 100% electric solution out there for folks who need a full-blown car, the Nissan Leaf has been great since we picked it up a few weeks ago.
It is our primary family car, doing daily duty around town with the rest of my family, but I find myself scheming for when I “need” to use it versus my bike. It is a blast to drive.
It has significantly better pickup than any other car I’ve ever owned; likely something to do with the direct transfer of power from the lightweight electric engine sitting above the front wheels. But who cares, it is seriously fun.
The touted 100 mile range is true, so long as you stay in “eco” mode which makes the car a bit more sluggish to respond. But even in the normal mode, we’re getting 80 MPC (miles per charge) every day. Some might think it a bit too small for them, but so far I’ve used it to haul 8′ bamboo poles (inside the car), tons of boxes for work, and our large monthly delivery of bulk foodstuffs. All that before I even put our roof rack on it.
Could this be the right car for you? Try tracking your daily driving for one month; you might just be surprised at how few days you drive over 80 miles total.
I’ve recently transferred from using a longtail cargo bicycle to a normal sized bike with a trailer. Why?
- I simply was not hauling as much stuff as I thought I would.
- Cargo bikes are darn heavy and frustrating to pedal around when “dry”. You spend your whole time thinking, why am I pedaling this heavy, EMPTY bicycle?
- The child carrying options are less than ideal.
It was this last reason that really pushed me to sell off Kona’s Electric Ute and purchase a used electric bicycle from a friend (home-built eZee kit on a mid-range Marin). My eight year old is now too big to be riding jockey-style on the back deck of the longtail. He wanted to (and needs to) be able to help with the pedaling.
We were able to sell the Electric Ute for more than the used Marin. We invested that extra cash in a Weehoo. Great trailer, but sorely in need of a fender. We added our own, as well as home-made extensions to the Marin’s fenders, and now my kids are riding in back, mud-free and full of laughter. They love this thing.
Between the Weehoo and the Wike DIY trailer, I’m able to haul the same capacity of my old cargo bike, but in a more stable and comfortable manner.
The Down Low Glows look awesome on the front forks. I regularly get compliments about them, including many drivers at stop signs telling me thanks for using them.