Sunday, March 1, 2015

In the Grand Scheme of Things

I started writing this blog back in 2005. In 2008, I archived all of the posts to my computer. Every now and then, I like to look back over those posts to see where I was and where I am today.

This one was from April 2007. We had just had a really serious spring Nor'easter.

Anyway. This was me ... almost eight years ago. I haven't had a credit card since. We started heating with wood, exclusively, the winter after this post was written and replaced our old woodstove the following year (and haven't had an oil delivery since 2008). I line dry all of my clothes, all of the time ... and my dirty laundry is never done. Gasoline prices haven't dropped below $2.00 for any appreciable time since, and everything has continued to get more expensive.

So much has changed ... and everything is the same.

April 25, 2007

I paid $2.87 a gallon for gasoline today. I don't usually pay attention to that kind of thing, but since I started paying cash for gasoline (more on why that is, later), I've started paying closer attention to how much per gallon I'll be paying.

Last year when gasoline rose above $2.50, the news coverage was non-stop about the "ENERGY CRISIS IN AMERICA!!!" Headlines screamed and news stations monitored gasoline prices across the country comparing region to region.

I haven't heard a whisper about the hike in gas prices this year.

We just had an oil delivery, too. It was $2.959 per gallon.

Two years ago, when prices went to $2.60 for heating oil, the news was all over it, talking about how people were going to freeze, and how it was incredible, it was unthinkable.

We were in the midst of a MAJOR ENERGY CRISIS!

Are we no longer in an ENERGY Crisis? Are these price hikes just a fluke? Is it just here in Southern Maine where prices are crazy, and we're just not newsworthy enough to warrant national news coverage of the astronomical price of gasoline?

A major storm just blew through here a week ago. There was severe flood and wind damage. Homes were lost when the waves tore them from their foundations and, literally, washed all or part of the structures out to sea. In Wells, the wave action was so intense that during the height of the storm, rescue workers watched helplessly as a car parked on the street disappeared with a crashing wave. It was there one minute and gone the next, the news report told us.

Businesses and homes were without power for several days, almost a week in some places. My client's office was without power for the whole week. We all lost a lot of revenue.

We had an amazingly beautiful weekend following the storm followed by a gorgeous week with 70+° temperatures.

We went to the salt marsh for a walk yesterday.

All of that brown in the picture was under water during the storm.

There were some places where marsh reeds had been washed across the path and a few downed trees, but if I hadn't known it was the result of the "Patriot's Day Nor'easter", I wouldn't have given it a second thought.

In truth, I kind of didn't give it a second thought.

It's like we all have amnesia.

What storm?

What houses lost at Ferry Beach?

What road washed out at Camp Ellis?

What energy crisis?



Dues Ex Machina's company just moved and his commute went from an hour each day to fifteen minutes in tourist traffic. Now, when I have to drive to the girls' classes, I take his car, which gets better gas mileage, and he takes my SUV, because work is closer. The school year will be ending soon, and so will our weekly trips to classes. Maybe my SUV will stay parked, except for weekly trips to the grocery store.

Our oil usage for the entire winter was 400 gallons, down from about 800 in previous winters. Given that the incredible savings is a result of my freezing my ass off by turning the thermostat down to 65° when it was just me at home with the kids, and turning it down even lower when I had a fire going, I'm waiting for an apology or at least a thank you for being so bent on saving energy by using wood for heat, drinking gallons of hot beverages to stay warm, and wearing sixteen layers of sweaters and wool socks.

And YES, wood is exactly the panacea I think it is ... you know who you are :). I know, insulation is also a good thing. I already said, okay?

But I haven't forgotten. I haven't forgotten that the days of cheap oil are over, and it's time to find alternatives.

I haven't forgotten that we enjoy the full bounty of nature's harvest wherever in the world she is harvesting wherever in the US we happen to reside, but if we don't start learning to eat local and in season now, we are going to find feeding our cravings very difficult. Someday, maybe not in the distant future, pineapple won't be available in Maine, and oranges in January will be a treat, not a staple.

I still use my clothesline, and this week with our summer-like weather, I used it every day, and my dirty clothes basket is nearly empty, for a change.

Did I tell you I cut up my credit card? I did, a couple of months ago. I decided that I can't handle it. I don't have enough of whatever it is that other people have for me to use my credit card for "emergencies only." It was too easy to whip out that card. Like the Cathy comic strip character holding up her Visa and screaming, "Charge!" That was me, and it was demeaning to me to have to explain to Deus Ex Machina what I had charged, and to have to admit that my balance was 1) not getting paid off, and 2) creeping ever forward like the grape vine we just tamed in the back yard. I resented being interrogated, and in retaliation, I would go and buy something on my card ... but it was always something we needed. Silly. Childish. Very, very stupid.

So, I canceled it, and I cut it into little pieces.

Instead of buying lots and lots of new things, we've spent more time at the library borrowing books (which, incidentally, was one of my biggest weaknesses, because we homeschool, and I can ALWAYS excuse a book purchase or a $150 shopping spree at Scholastic). Instead of buying new clothes, we've discovered Goodwill, and better yet, we've made some of our own, which is fun, educational, and purposeful ... and helped my daughter earn a Girl Scout badge ;).

There is still so much to do, so many changes to make. There are still areas where we could cut, or reduce, or save.

I'm not doing it to make a difference in the world.

I'm not doing it so that I can be an example of a "better" life.

I'm not doing it so that I can be iconized for my "greenness", my more simple lifestyle.

I'm doing it for my survival and for the survival of my children.

Because even if none of the doom and gloom comes to pass, oil prices are still pretty high, and gasoline is still pretty expensive, and the more money I can save by not driving, by not supporting mindless consumerism, by not buying Mexican cantaloupe and Chinese sweaters, by turning down the thermostat and line drying clothes, buy raising my own food or generating my own electricity, the more money we can have to pay down our debt, which means, maybe, Deus Ex Machina won't have to work as hard or for as long, and maybe in a couple of years, neither of us will have to work (full-time) at all.

And wouldn't that be grand?


  1. Wow Wendy, what a lovely post. You really have come so far since then. I can relate to this stage because this is roughly where I am at the moment. It is impossible to change everything at once, because each change means adjusting your life in a small way. Last year I started my allotment, this year I want to get some chickens (still persuading my other half). That will take another adjustment to our routine. I am stuck with the things that require some investment, like installing a wood stove, because money is tight, but I can still progress in other areas. Thanks for sharing it all :-)

    1. We were very lucky, Judy, that our house had a woodstove when we bought it. We replaced the stove, but because we already had the chimney and all, the only cost was for the stove itself.

      You are absolutely correct, however, that change happens in increments. We've come a long way, but there are still so many things we can do.

      It's a journey, not a destination ... right ;).