Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Elephant in the Room

Today we drove the car to A's dance performance, which was in a biking-inhospitable corner of the sprawl end of town. We haven't driven since Tuesday. The less we drive, the more I notice driving. When we drive all the time, it takes on the feeling of normality, an everyday activity. It's only when I divorce myself from it that I can see it for the abnormality that it is - a blip on the spectrum of human existance, a time when humanity briefly lit the oil candle whose flame burnt fast and furious.

As soon as you start seeing the elephant in the living room, it's there staring you in the face everywhere. It's the guy with the leaf blower at the park, spewing the 2-stroke engine's lovely combination of burning oil and gas, it's the tense faces of the motorists who edge into the crosswalk while you're still in it, trying to shave a few seconds off of wherever they're in a hurry to get to, it's the half-empty buses going by, and the one person in almost every car on the road, and it's in the mirror the next time you pick up your car keys.

We don't want to see that elephant. We are spending so much energy right now not seeing the elephant, it's almost ludicrous. I posted an article from Rolling Stone about The Long Emergency, James Howard Kunstler's term for the post-peak-oil catastrophe we are facing on a bulletin board that I frequent. No one has yet commented on it, or maybe even read it. Meanwhile, Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise, the Duke Lacrosse team, and Denise Richards' divorce from Charlie Sheen have all gotten commentary. Katie Holmes has more in common with ancient Roman gladiators than she will ever guess: a useful diversion from an unpleasant reality.

It's damn hard to look that elephant in the face. I think I'm going to go tune up my bicycle.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Sunny Reprieve

After all those days of rain, we are into a sunny stretch and getting things done. Four blueberry bushes and three huckleberries are now a part of our permanent landscape. The vertical frames for the garden boxes are done, and just in time since the peas are sprouting like mad (11 days of rain followed by warm weather will do that). We just found out that we are getting two baby chicks from a neighbor whose school class hatched some, but they couldn't keep them. Yay! Two new little peepers. We weren't planning on having chicks this year, so we'll have to scramble a bit for accomodations and see if I can remember how to do this baby chicken thing. We muddled through it last year by the seat of our pants, so I'm sure we'll do fine.

In my head these days, I'm prioritizing the projects that we would like to do and the items we'd like to get over the next few years: Rainwater catchment, building our own wind generator (more for a fun project than in any serious energy-producing capability, but who knows), buying two tandem bicycles for more long range cycling with the kids, building a grape arbor and a kiwi arbor, putting in three fruit trees, clearing all the horrible, invasive ivy out of our woods (lucky for me, with my horrible poison oak symptoms, DH gets that job), clearing the site for the picnic area and the fire pit (I think Friday night summertime campfires with friends sounds like fun, and we've got a lot of scrap wood we need to get rid of that won't fit in our fireplace). It's a lot, and we'll tackle it bit by bit. Whatever the future holds, it can't hurt us to become more self-sufficient and energy-independent.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Heading in the Right Direction

Sometimes the whole environmental catastrophe, peak oil, war, disaster thing just gets to be too much to think about. I can only read or think about it in little bits before my brain feels like it is going to explode or I will descend into a dark depression or something. What works for me is just to find new ways to take steps in the right direction. Today it is planting blueberries. In our ongoing mission to landscape our yard (and thus not to have to weed the vast bark acres), last year I planted rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and azaleas. This year I am planting blueberries and huckleberries. I've determined that most of my landscaping from now on will be food producing. The front yard will still have to be decorative-only because the deer eat anything and everything out there (they even climbed onto our front deck to eat DH's peppers last summer). But the back yard is going to be fruit and veggie heaven.

Last week, DH built our new garden boxes:

Our land is so sloped that this will be the best way to actually be able to grow anything on it. We've been reading Square Foot Gardening, and decided that it's the way to go for us. So we each have a box, kids included, and this will be a year to try it out and start down the path of growing our own food. You can also see our portable guinea pig pen on the lawn (they make great organic lawn mowers) and part of our chicken fencing below.

Friday, April 14, 2006

It's the End of the World As We Know It, and I Feel Fine

Yes, I've probably been reading too many books like The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight and The Long Emergency. I don't buy everything the doom-n-gloomers are predicting, but I buy enough of it to know I want to be moving in a different direction than over the cliff with the rest of the people in this crazy contraption we call our society.

It's not just these two books, or others like them, either. Maybe the journey started a decade ago, when my husband and I read Your Money or Your Life, joined a Voluntary Simplicity discussion group, and decided to change our priorities in life. Most likely, it started even earlier, with my punk rock years of revolt and rebellion, learning to take everything society handed me as truth and turn it on its head, examine it, and decide what I really thought about it. Even before that, I probably have my crazy (I say that in an affectionately good way) family to thank. My co-op shopping, tofu-serving, ERA-shirt-wearing, democrat-voting mom, and my strong-willed, independent-minded, build-his-own-Ham-radio Republican dad.

Whatever it was, the handwriting on the wall about our way of life is getting larger and bolder by the day, and our family has been on a path to become part of the solution for some time, but that path is looking more important as that handwriting gets easier to read. All of our priorities are being re-evaluated from this angle, from whether to plant more azaleas or landscape with food-producing shrubbery like blueberries, whether to invest money in a good tandem bicycle, learning how to raise chickens, turning our sloped lot into a series of raised garden beds, and building community with neighbors and friends. The decisions we make in our every day life matter more than they might've ever mattered in the history of humankind. I think about them every day, and now I get to write about them too. So welcome to the Blue Skies Urban Farm Blog.