Knowing what you know, what are you doing for yourself(s)?

Last week we had dinner at the home of friends who live west of us a few miles by bumpy gravel road. Shan was lopping off some small madrone branches as we arrived at their homestead, a practical down-to-earth place shaded by black oak and pines.

We followed her to a network of fenced enclosures for the animals. The four or five goats (we had the best muzzle-cuzzle!) eagerly munched the fresh green leaves she tossed in. We watched her milk a new goat that arrived that very morning. Then she led us around to her happy hen hoop house and hen yard, where Robyn and I met the thirty chickens whose ultra-rich eggs have nourished us for more than a year now.

It was also a rare dinner out in which Robyn knew she’d get the satisfying nourishment she needs. Shan cooks and teaches based on the principles in Nourishing Traditions, following the work of Weston A Price. You can meet her in one of our earliest Peak Moment Conversations, “Sustaining Food, Sustainable Food” (#12). Last year we taped her 6-week cooking class, “Preparing Traditional Nourishment”, whose dvd is a gold mine of tips, how-to’s and heartwarming stories (and now a CD containing all the recipes and resources.)

Robyn was not disappointed. It was a fabulous satisfying hearty dinner. Rich cassoulet with local lamb, chicken, and pig, plus beans from a local CSA. Sausage from the local sausage-maker at our BriarPatch natural foods market. Plus on the side plenty of creme fraiche, sauerkraut and kim chee, local sourdough bread, butter and goat cheese as well as Shan’s trademark ginger beer and beet kvass beverages. We brought the (non-local) dessert, Thai sticky-rice with coconut milk and fresh mango (not at all local but rich!).

We’d met Shan and Dave in the summer of 2005 after our community’s screening of “The End of Suburbia.” We worked together to get our community relocalization group off the ground (Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy, APPLE of Nevada County). It was Shan who connected us to the Local Food Coalition’s first “Come Home to Eat” day, as well as the ingenious and caring farmer Joel Salatin‘s inspiring day-long presentations, both of which we videotaped in 2006.

So peak oil was on our shared radar. Local food. And now also the continuing economic collapse with peak oil at its roots. The world changes we had read about in 2005 are playing out now, a mere four years later. We chatted a bit about what we were picking up on via the internet. Then Dave came out and said, “So what are you doing for yourselves?”

Stopped me for a few seconds. I took him to mean: knowing what you know about collapse, about peak oil and the economy — what are you doing to take care of yourselves, in preparation, for readiness, for protection.

In our reply, we talked mostly about strengthening our homestead resilience, especially the  infrastructure. It started with figuring out where we’re vulnerable, like possible wildfires. Besides expanding our defensible space, we’ve lined up a couple projects:

Water: This spring we’re adding a gravity-fed water system with 4000 gallons of water storage. (That’s in addition to the underground 3000 gallons pressure system by the house). Plus getting a manual pump for an unused shallow well near the house; it’ll be backup in case other systems aren’t functioning.

Electricity: In our off-grid electricity storage system, we replaced two dead batteries with six used batteries (after Robyn stretched our batteries’ life from about seven years to eleven! She’s perfecting the art of reviving half-gone batteries.) Next: replace the two more dead solar panels.

Then there’s bulk food storage and gleaning, transportation (more efficient small car + hypermiling), acquiring tools as the need arises, and tightening the financial belt. But that’s for other blogs.

So now it’s your turn. Knowing what you know, what are you doing to be prepared?


  1. Great stuff:) will definitely visit soon!!

  2. Charles, what a shining inspiration! You are Being the change you (and many of us) want to see in the world (to paraphrase Ghandi). May there be thousands of other folks following in your footsteps.

  3. Charles says:

    This is a great question. We have begun getting out of debt. Will pay off last , commitment other than mortgage by 12/2009. We began growing greens for the local farmers market last year and continue now. We discovered by using polytunnels we can most likely grow a variety of salad greens and overwinter crops. This will give us a tremendous opportunity to have basically year round growing capability.
    We have also begun selling Artisan bread and are currently using a La Cloche to recreate woodfired oven bread. The Oven is next on the list.
    Something that dawned on us after the fact is that by being in these businesses, we are cooping with our community to prepare ahead. We just completed an order for 400.00 dollars worth of flour for the next two months baking. In learning that we can garden a variety of foods and herbs year round plus experimenting with overwintering our business has become our education for whatever is to come.
    I have been exploring food forests and want to get a micro orchard going to add to our strawberry and blackberry patches.
    Jules Dejerve in Pasadena is my inspiration for all you can produce on a city lot. Wally of Spin Farm I owe for the idea of just ask your neighbor for land. That mulitplied our lot 3 fold.
    So Community involvement, sharing, and exploration of local food production, is where we are currently. We are looking at swaling and in ground water storage as well as rooftop water collection in the near future.
    Thanks for asking.

  4. Wow, great question. I have been putting a little food now and then into longterm storage, but have slacked off lately. I have 2 rain barrels to water my new vegetable beds, but need to put up more guttering to be able to use them. Put the cart before the horse on that one! There is a long list of things we would like to do, such as purchasing a wood burning insert for our fireplace to heat the house with; I would love to have a residential wind turbin or solar panels. The problem is getting my husband on board with all this. He’s not willing to spend large sums of money for this sort of thing. The fireplace insert was his idea so maybe I can work on him slowly :-)!

  5. terri alice says:

    My partner and I are living on 20 acres, off the grid. Our home is a hybrid of traditional stick building with several strawbale additions which we added. We have put in a rainwater catchment system with a 3,000 gallon tank that is used for irrigating our enclosed raised bed vegetable garden. We plan to install another tank for that garden and to install two tanks dedicated to the orchard. We supplement our food sources by belonging to a local CSA. We strive to be debt free and our mortgage will be payed off as of 2/2010. We are both vegetarians for ethical reasons and share our lives with our 23 rescued cats and Moe the dog.
    Our vehicles are a 1985 toyota truck which we bought and which has served us well,and a 2000 Toyota tundra which we bought because we had large dogs at the time and also needed 4 wheel drive. It is a gas guzzler but we drive it very little so do not feel justified in buying anything else.

  6. Stuart M. says:

    I confess I haven’t been preparing at all, unless putting on weight counts…

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