Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Broken Branch and Provident Living

Almost a week ago we had a gust of wind break a large branch on one of the locust trees in our front yard. The break wasn't clean, and the branch remained attached to the tree, and touching the lawn. It was next to Bret's house and we waited until he had moved his truck and then I pulled the branch down. Next came some ladder work and handsaw work to get the offending branch down to the ground.

We worked until about 10:30 to get the smaller branches broken/cut to firewood size and to get the leaves and smallest twigs into the truck and the dump, and the big branches into the back yard. I am tired today, and I imagine that Annie is tired as well. We have two big wheel barrows full of small twigs that we snapped and cut to size and will use as kindling this winter in the wood stove. I mention this because it took us quite a while to do this, and it would have been easier to pile them into the truck and take them to the dump.

In 'Big Business' Rose (Lily Tomlin) accuses Sadie of being 'above her raisin' ". Annie and I were both raised by parents who had live through the Great Depression, and were often almost compulsive savers. They grew up on farms and didn't have a lot of money.... Ok, maybe didn't have any money most of the time.... that would be more accurate. They used everything, and as we snapped and clipped those little twigs to be used as firewood next winter I couldn't help thinking of how much both Annie and I are a product of that way of life and those ideals. 'Those ideals' are not the ideals of today, but I think that they are valuable and needed.

You probably all cringe to see where this is going..... is it headed toward the energy situation?? Another rant on oil? Stories about walking to school barefoot, uphill, both ways in the snow? Eating lard sandwiches for lunch at school (One of Grandpa's classmates used to have this for lunch. Not hard to tell why they called it a Depression). The answer is yes, and no. I do get going some times on the energy situation and I guess it is somewhat like the weather - everybody talks about it, but no one does anything about it.

We live in an incredible age of ease and wealth, and we as a people have gotten so used to our surroundings that we can't comprehend that things could ever be different. It is kind of funny to watch the National Geographic or Nova type documentaries when they talk about how man became a tool user. Funny in that we mostly don't use tools and our main skills are becoming shopping, and Internet surfing with some intense computer games and sports watching thrown in. . Not only don't we know how to hunt or gather, but we don't know how to garden or farm. Most people in the U.S. have never even opened a bottle of home canned fruit, yet alone ever processed one. I would bet that there isn't one person in 1000 that has butchered a chicken, gathered an egg or milked a cow. It isn't a phenomenon of just the cities either. It is sad to see the fruit rotting on the lawns in our little town. Nice to see that there still are fruit trees, but sad to see the waste.

We were taught to live providently. Being a provident liver sounds like a medical condition, and living providently is pretty much not even known in our country. I liked that part in this article that said that living providently is the opposite of crisis management (and current market mess). But then where is the adrenaline rush if there is no crisis? How boring is that? Maybe it will be just right.

But things change, and if we are prepared, we don't have to fear. Things are changing now in the world.
We have lived so well for so long that we can not comprehend that change is coming or that it can come at all. We can't comprehend that most of us are only about two months from being homeless. Lose your job, run out of unemployment benefits and you might be living in your car. This has happened to a lot of working class families when factories were shut down or businesses downsize.

When our kids were still pretty young we liked to go to Lake LaBaron in the mountains in the southern part of Utah. I remember the first year that we went there, it was in August. We could never seem to schedule these things before the monsoonal rains came with the hurricane season. We left our little desert home and headed for the hills, the van packed to the gunnel's with kids and food and gear. It is a pretty good trip down there, and it was mid afternoon by the time we found a good place to camp and started to unpack things. Through the trees I was watching the clouds and became a little concerned when I saw that the little white fluffy things we had at home had turned dark and massive and ominous. When you have a raft of little kids faced with a gully washer rainstorm it is very motivating. I ran around then (somewhat like I do now) explaining and exhorting anyone within reach that we had to get the tent up NOW!! No hiking or fishing. Get the tents up and everything inside and safe. Then play. We got the tents up and everything stowed and even played a little and I started supper. The clouds continued to gather and intensify. The tall and shady trees tended to make it even darker. Finally, dinner was ready and we all gathered around to bless it. During the prayer lightening struck about 150 feet away and rang us and the whole campsite like a big bell. Then the rain came down like it had been poured from a million buckets. We ditched the tents and headed for the van. The Swan was still a little girl, and I remember carrying her out of the rain. We were snug in the van, and later found the tents mostly dry and our gear dry as well.

The world that we live in is an artificial construct that is dependent on almost limitless supplies of cheap energy. Our food production and distribution system is built around transportation- lots of it. If you want to see how far we move our food, try to have a "20 mile dinner" where everything you eat has been produced within 20 miles of where you live. If that doesn't work, try a 100 mile dinner. That can be tough enough as there are few local orchards, vineyards, or even farmers markets. And if you do it, it is likely that it will be a vegetarian meal, unless you supply the fish or fowl from your own hunting endeavors.

Other clouds gather now. Never in all the history of the world has mankind had the opportunity to use as much energy as we use today. From a historical perspective the amount of energy that we use and mis-use defies understanding. Yet, to us this is how the world is. This is not how the world has been, and it is not how the world will be forever or even for very much longer. We are sucking hard on the straw that is sunken into the richest and easiest to use energy pool that God has placed upon the earth. What will happen when energy becomes dear? When we have to suck really hard to get a little more out? I don't know. But things will change and the world that we look upon as so permanent, the world that we have all of our expectations built on, our skills honed to will change, and the change might be wrenching.

The changes will be less wrenching for those who have been living in a provident manner. Those with an education and a wide range of skills will find opportunities. Those with stored food, water, and fuel will be able to stay out of turmoil and strife and remain safe at home, warm and fed. Those with gardens and fruit trees will be able to harvest new food, and perhaps barter some food with others. Those with some supplemental and independent power will be able to surf the Internet, as well as have hot water and refrigerated food.

This is not something that you wake up one day and decide you will accomplish before noon. So don't be discouraged if you are not there yet. But then most good things are built line upon line, precept upon precept. We are living the years of the fat cattle and the full ears of corn. It might be three millennia later but the concept is the same.

I admit to being a boring crank about both the economy and the energy situation. I don't think the 'they' in the government actually know what to do in time to avert some uncomfortable times. It is doubtful that we as a voting public would support them in doing the things that are needed to be done in order to avoid catastrophe. So I think it is up to us as individuals and families to make the changes in our lives that need to be made in order to be ready for the storm clouds that are gathering. Open your eyes and ears, use your education and skills to understand what is going on in this complex and confusing world. Plan. Pray. Act. As much and often as you can, stand in holy places.


Mike said...

Good post! That Lake LaBaron Story is one of my favorites. We live in this world of plenty, but there is little we can do to change things all at once. Line upon line. The fiddler and I are working on our gardening skills. We were not terribly successful last year. We will try again next year. :)

Andrew said...

You ought to try building a windmill.

Sailor said...

Hey Andrew,
I just might give it a try. I would like to have enough backup juice to be able to run the little fan on our insert continuously and enough to run the hot water heater for maybe 4 hours per day, 4 hours for the freezer, 4 hours for the refrigerator .... gets to be a lot of juice. It would be nice to be able to run the whole house fan and/or swamp cooler, but I haven't worked out how much that would be.

Also, going back a post or so, I don't know that there won't be more power plants built... it is just disquieting to see so many cancelled. Right now the rage is carbon sequestration, which seems to me not to be that great of an idea. But it might become acceptable to build plants with sequestration. Don't know. Worrisome. I don't like being cold in the winter and hot in the summer. I know that the rich people get their ice in the summer, but I imagine I might have mine in the winter.

Jenny said...

I've been reading a book on this same topic, sort of. It's more about making your life more organic, supporting local agriculture, reducing waste and energy consumption and eliminating toxins from your home. Luckily, I live in a state now that makes a lot of that easier, but I would like to learn much of these skills you're writing about. Even if an energy crisis doesn't happen for a long time, you can still save a lot of money now.

pixiestylist said...

::pixiestylist hides under the coffee table::