Saturday, April 17, 2010

Making Peak Oil Pals

The other day, when Deus Ex Machina came home for lunch, he shared part of a conversation he had had with a vendor at work. They were chatting about the state of the world, and the vendor asked Deus Ex Machina what his employment plans were for after Peak Oil. The vendor (we'll call him Vinnie) told Deus Ex Machina that about ten years ago, he had an epiphany about the unsustainability of the typical American lifestyle, and he sold his "toys" (boats, motorcycles and the like) and started purchasing alternative energy systems.

Later in the day when I went to pick up Deus Ex Machina from work, I had the opportunity to meet Vinnie, and as Deus Ex Machina warned him, I had a lot to say on the subject of sustainability and Peak Oil preparedness. He's been aware for a few years longer than I have, but he mentioned that, while he was really motivated initially to make changes in his life, the reaction from his social and professional circles made it very difficult for him to maintain his momentum, and he found himself slipping right back into the life most of us live.

I told him that I haven't really had that happen, so much. There are areas where I, occasionally, backslide (like shopping, although I've never gone even close to where I was before my awakening), but for the most part, because most of my friends and contacts (on the Internet, in particular) were already frugal or already like-minded, I've been able to continue making progress toward our self-sufficiency goals.

My motto has become: don't focus on limitations, imagine possibilities. It's that mindset that enabled me to believe that it is possible for Deus Ex Machina and me to feed ourselves and our children on what we can grow, forage and hunt. It's that mindset that made us try (and succeed) to heat our house solely with (free, if we pick-up) wood that was gleaned from fallen trees. It's that mind-set that prompted me to learn to repair rather than discard, buy used instead of new (when possible), line-dry my clothes, sew my own reusable "girl pads", give-up the television, make my own deodorant .... It's that attitude that will build the outdoor kitchen, dig a well, and solve the cold-storage issue.

I've also had time to come to terms with creating that balance between "this is my present life" and "this is where I think we'll be in ten years" ... to straddle that rutted road with one foot squarely in my "modern" life and one foot firmly in my lower energy life.

Most of Vinnie's preparations are things we have yet, but hope some day, to do. He has a solar PV system and a solar hot waterheater. He is debt-free with regard to his house and land. He lives on a rural eighteen acres, which means he already has things like a well (with solar energy to power the pump) and a septic system.

What he hasn't done, yet, is develop food security. In that respect, we're way ahead of the curveball, because when we started our quest for self-sufficiency, food security and localizing our diet were the first proirities (and continue to be a huge focus of our energy), and while we probably aren't there 100%, we're closer to feeding ourselves than most of our suburban neighbors.

But that's the area I could control without assistance or permission, when I first started down this slippery slope toward an uncertain, but almost assuredly a lower energy, future. I was primarily responsible for making our meals, and when I decided that I would cook only with local ingredients, that's what happened. Deus Ex Machina grumbled a little at me in the beginning (I recall the nickname "Fundy Wendy" being bandied about ;), but when he realized that he could still have meat - at a significant savings over what we were paying at the grocery store - he was cool with it all, and local foods became the norm rather than the exception ;).

Vinnie wasn't the cook in his house. His work schedule kept him away from home for long hours during the week, and so starting a garden big enough to feed his family would have been a challenge, and then, even if he'd started the garden, preserving the food for use during the winter was just not something to which he could devote what few hours he had off the time-clock.

But he could sell his toys and use the money to buy systems that would make him more self-sufficient.

There's no best way to approach the coming changes. For me, the path I chose came after I sat down and thought about the things that we absolutely needed to survive, and the two that topped the list were food and shelter. I can control the food, and we're working on making sure the shelter is paid for. I'd love electricity and hot water, but those aren't of primary importance, to me.

Vinnie's path took a different route, but we're headed in the same direction - whether we've chosen the path (like my family and our friend Vinnie) or whether we've been herded blindly down it by the current circumstances (like most Americans who are finding the current times very difficult), the destination will be the same. For those of us who've chosen the path (either the technology route or the voluntary simplicity), what we'll find in the end is that even with the most careful preps, our most important asset will be the people we've met and connected with during the journey.

So, when the power grid fails, I'm going to head over to Vinnie's house with a basket of food to exchange for some electricity to recharge our batteries ... and maybe a hot shower ;).


  1. Sounds like a fabulous plan! I have been amazed, lately, at how many folks I have met who agree with us that things need to (and will, one way or another) change.

  2. It used to be that I was the only person checking out peak oil-ish books from my library, but now when I go to check things out I have to reserve things. We're not talking huge numbers of folks, but it shows that things are changing.