Tell Me Your Adapting-In-Place Story

Sharon July 31st, 2009

It has been a long, hectic week here, simultaneously putting the last touches in _Independence Days_ before it goes to the printer, and also getting the AIP book fully organized, a new contract agreed on, etc… 

Now that I’m writing the book on my own, I admit, I’m going to rely on other people to fill in the gaps in my knowledge and provide a wider perspective – we had always planned to include profiles of people’s efforts to make their place functional in tough times, but they’ve taken on a new importance for me, because, of course, there’s a lot I don’t know, haven’t tried, etc…  I’m taking on this huge subject, and I’m dependent, as always on other people’s expertise.  But I had been planning to stick Aaron with a lot of the stuff that I didn’t know as well, and somehow, taking this on alone seems overwhelming.  But I’ve decided to deal with the overwhelming simply by including as many interesting case studies as I can.

All of which is a long way of saying that I’d love to hear your story about how you are going about making your future where you are. I’m interested in stories from cities and countryside, from suburbs and even the much-maligned exurban housing projects.  I’m interested in people moving back with family, and people making their way alone, in big extended families and singles, young and old, immigrants and emigrants, religious and athiests, and people of all ethnicities.   My assumption is that all of us, when we choose a place to stay are working within constraints, often severe constraints – and I’d like to see how you are making the best possible future for yourself despite the fact that, say, your family is far away and doesn’t take you seriously, or you don’t have much money and live in an apartment,  or your neighbors are radically different, or you are settling in a place that may be subsumed by the sea someday – but that’s where your family is.  That is, one way or another, none of us have the perfect place, the perfect people, the perfect list of resources.  And yet, we’re here, and making a future.  I think that’s worth celebrating.

 I’d really love to hear how you are making your place liveable and viable at every level, from how you are retrofitting your house to how you are making community with your neighbors.  All of that’s a lot of information, of course, and I can probably only read some of it, but I’d love to hear the highlights, in comments or email at [email protected] or in a link to your blog in comments.  And if you want, I’m looking for a few people to be profiled in the AIP book.  I can obviously only choose a couple of those (I’ve already got some selected), but even for those who aren’t chosen, it might be possible to eventually put them all up on the book website.  So there’s some cool possibilities there (I’d love to hear from you even if you don’t want to be in the book, obviously). 

So tell me – what are you doing?  What are you concentrating on?  How are you starting where you are and going from there?

Thanks so much,

 Sharon

25 Responses to “Tell Me Your Adapting-In-Place Story”

  1. Jeanon 31 Jul 2009 at 5:37 pm

    I read this at The Automatic Earth the other day: From -Investing rules for the End of Civilization
    In his 2008 bestseller, “Wealth, War and Wisdom,” hedge fund manager Barton Biggs warns that investors must “assume the possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.” And to prepare for a breakdown of civilization, “your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food … It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc.

    I just ordered a “seed vault” of non-hybrid vegetable seeds to plant and save seeds next season. I already make wine, can my garden harvest, raise cattle, and have enough old work clothes to last quite a while. We have solar powered pumps for our wells, a flowing spring, and family, friends, and neighbors who remember living through the great depression and the “winter of 49″ in a remote part of South Dakota. Winters there are tough but folks there are used to a hard way of life. I think we will somehow manage.

  2. Joon 31 Jul 2009 at 5:52 pm

    I’d like to tell you about a dear friend of mine with 3 little girls. A couple of years ago she suddenly became a single mother with almost no income, and no local family. She wanted to stay home with her children, so she had to come up with a plan. First, she rented her upstairs two rooms and a bathroom to a couple to pay the mortgage. With the help of friends she turned her suburban front and back yard into a permaculture paradise with every inch producing food, and bought a dozen chickens. She turned her study into a spare bedroom and has hosted dozens of WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) from all over the world who help out with all the gardening jobs, do house maintenance and sometimes help to babysit/homeschool the children, in exchange for board and food. From a difficult situation she has secured her home and her food, her children have a most incredible educational resource, and she has created ‘family’ from the many wonderful people who now share her home.

  3. Heatheron 31 Jul 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I live in the heart of Suburbia. We had intended to buy this house as a starter home and move, but then the economy tanked. So, here we are and most likely will stay.

    Here is a duplex, the other half is owned by a wonderful family with kids the same age as ours. Combined we share about 3/4 of an acre. On my side I have well over 1000 sq ft of garden that grows every year. My neighbor built us cold frames from old windows that they had replaced. I also have blueberry bushes with plans for permanent strawberry and asparagus beds. The front flower garden has an ever growing number of herbs mixed in.

    Have I mentioned we have wonderful neighbors? We have together planted 8 fruit trees in the shared front yard, unfortunately we can’t plant any more since we have septic in the front and will get too close to it. My neighbor is an recently unemployed structural engineer who is very handy. He built us a chicken tractor and we are sharing 6 chickens that should start laying in the fall. Right now we’re trying to figure out a good place to raise meat birds for next year.

    I can, dehydrate and freeze anything possible from my gardens. Handy neighbor is building me extra shelves for my basement so that I can store all the stuff I have down there.

    My biggest issues right now are heating and cooking issues in a post peak world. I also would like to have a water source.

    It would be wonderful if we could move to a single family home with more land. Reality is pretty great too though.

    I have pictures on my blog and I’m thinking I’ll have to organize my thoughts more for a post on this subject.

  4. Tammy and Parkeron 31 Jul 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Does bribing the guy from our home health care with homemade cookies so he will leave extra emergency oxygen bottles count? ;D

    Actually I am working on stocking up on everything for Parker that I possibly can.

    Stocking up the pantry. Just canned a neighbor’s tree worth of apricots that they didn’t want.

    Planning to enlarge our garden.

    My husband can walk to his job.

    My parents have planted an orchard. And have 5 acres if there comes a time we need to grow more food.

  5. Delpasoredon 01 Aug 2009 at 1:04 am

    Hi Sharon,

    I have a 4 bedroom home in an urban area with small backyard and even smaller front yard. I have chickens and rabbits in the backyard with a grapevines, small dwarf fig tree, and Jerusalem artichokes. Our city allows vegetable gardens in the front yard so I have three raised plots for growing vegetables, blackberries, potatoes, two orange trees and a Myers lemon tree.
    Our climate in central Calif. is mild in winter so we easily deal with cold by bundling up and we never turned on the heat last year. Keeping cool in the summer is much more difficult, but we open the windows at night to catch the Delta breeze, use bamboo shades to block to sun in the daytime and take frequent showers to cool off. I make my own beer and I’m planning to make wine this year. Working on rainwater storage system this year, outdoors shower, rocket stove and screened in porch.
    Food storage was going well (more about that later)and I have 300 lbs each of rice and dry beans, 200 lbs of sugar, oatmeal and barley. I did have lots of home canned (and not) soups, sauces, fruits and vegetables.

    Because I’ve been laid off my job and am only working part time, I am somtimes gone for more than two weeks at a time working in another city. My son has moved back in and helps pay the mortgage and garden and such when he can, but he’s a working fiend and not home much. So I’ve opened up my spare rooms for the last two years -not to strangers but to relatives and people I knew that had lost jobs or had moved seeking work.

    And here my troubles began…

    In the past year I have asked 7 boarders to leave, not for not being able to pay me rent, but

    1. For eating my food storage and not replacing what they ate. And I mean they put a huge dent in my food stores while I was out of town. All pastas, canned sauces, soups, veggies and fruits gone, matches, sweets, shortening, spices gone!
    2. Bringing home a dog and cat (different boarders) that wasn’t trained (and never bothered to train them), that used the house as their toilet. BTW the dog also ate my couch, my loveseat and the screens off 3 windows.
    3. Being unbelievably messy and destructive to my home, and neighborhood. There isn’t enough space to list all repairs that will have to be made. An $800 fine from the city for garbage just dumped on the driveway and left for weeks while my son and I where both gone.
    4. Drugs.
    5. Stealing from me and others in the household.
    6. Having money for drugs, alcohol, and partying, but no money for rent. One young man’s mother was paying his rent. I know she hasn’t much money herself, so the $60 a month he paid while seeking work was ok. I found out later she had been taking money out of her retirement savings and giving him $250 for rent each month.

    Of course all the kicking out of relatives does make me popular at family reunions. Who’s not speaking to whom, why, and whose fault is it. My fault, I tell them gleefully – and mention the above numbers 1 thru 6.

    My son and I have decided to take a break on letting anyone stay with us and seeing if we can make it without the extra dollars. We’ll each try to work more locally so someone will always be living there to prevent break-ins. This brother in law on the couch stuff has set back my peak prep about two years. I can’t wait for the Greater Depression to really settle in and more people start asking to stay for a time. Good Grief.

  6. ceceliaon 01 Aug 2009 at 1:11 am

    My very old home in the northeast is not remotely energy efficient – it leaks heat in the winter and stores it in the summer. I lack the financial ability to replace the windows and get insulation in – so if I could – I would sell and find something more energy efficient. We also can’t do solar here – on an eastern slope in a forested area – so that is another disadvantage.

    But – we are here. This year I have focused on trying to grow more types of foods – I have always been good with tomatoes etc – but now I am branching out to broccoli, lots of beans, brussels sprouts and onions. I’ve put in a herb garden and even made a fence for the garden out of scrap and found wood.

    I am also buying foods in bulk and rotating them. Composting and taking the notion of building the soil up seriously. Planted blueberry bush and next year will do more. Oh yes – paid off all the credit cards and live on cash now.

    I’m a newbie to all this – but I feel like I am making progress – certainly on growing my own food. My big goal for next year is a wood burning stove.

  7. Steve in Hungaryon 01 Aug 2009 at 1:39 am

    I chose to chuck it all in in the UK and move somewhere I thought would be more viable in the future. I chose to move, on my own, to a small village in Hungary.

    I bought a small rundown cottage on almost an acre of equally run down land. The amount of work that needs doing is enormous but I am slowly bringing the land back into production and restoring the house.

    My children and friends are in the UK – they visit when they can. I have started to plan for the future in terms of what my land will produce. It already has mature fruit and nut trees so that is a bonus. More walnuts than I could possibly eat on my own and that’s just from one tree. Apples, pears, apricots, peaches, plums…

    The biggest step I took was to rip out the central heating and reinstall a wood burning stove. Wonderful. It provides me with cooking, hot water, warmth in the winter and clothes drying.

    By sheer chance I have found a place where the people are warm and friendly and helpful. There is a real community spirit here – everyone greats everyone on the street. I get gifts of food from my neighbours for no reason other than kind heartedness.

    The language _is_ a problem, but considering that I have actually done no studying of it so far, I get by. I do get complimented on the bit of Hungarian that I do have but I know I have a long way to go.

    My thoughts all along have been that if the world goes crazy when Peak Oil does hit (if it already hasn’t) then I have found a safe haven for my children and grandchildren. Many of the properties here support extended families. If the world just carries on as normal, well, my children will have a nice holiday cottage in a pleasant, sociable and relatively unspoiled part of the world.

    As an afterthought I would add that I am 62, doing this all by hand as far as possible.

    Regards,
    Steve

  8. knutty knitteron 01 Aug 2009 at 5:09 am

    We have a good community here which has just gone transition town. We have solar water heating and are planting trees and shrubs but my areas of expertize are in handcrafts rather than gardening. I do grow all our lettuce and some tomatoes, spinach and a few herbs but nothing really substantial.

    I’d rather make a quilt, knit a jersey, spin, teach and preserve than tend a large garden so I just hope to be useful.

    We need more insulation and the interior of this house finished but live here anyhow. We have good friends who can do the stuff we don’t so we do a lot of swapping of stuff and lessons in this and that.

    Family are all living close (some next door even) and there is a 16 acre farmlet in the family too (grandma’s). This place tends to permanence except for the large university presence. Our family has been here for 5 generations plus so it is home :)

    The city is walkable everywhere and biking is very doable too. There are good amenities of all kinds and a farmers market.

    We use electric for everything as that is pretty much all hydro here (with the odd wind farm). No need to invest in anything else here at present.

    viv in nz

  9. Andreaon 01 Aug 2009 at 7:52 am

    I feel like we’ve made strides in the past year or two….our biggest change being our mindsets.

    We live on 1.2 acres in a very rural area of our county. It would be a very long walk for the zombies, all the way from town if it were an emergency. We raise a large garden, have planted a small orchard and berry patches abound.

    We can, freeze or dry anything I can lay my hands on and we’ve been working feverishly on our food stores. While the stores are not where I want them to be, they’re a lot closer than this time last year. I barter for gleaning rights at a local orchard (apples, walnuts) and am blessed that my stepdad has a rental with big, beautiful, unused fruit and nut trees. Just down the road no less. Lord, don’t let him sell that house!

    We’ve started raising chickens over the past year, and just had our first success with hatching chicks…no brooder, just a broody hen. Our next adventure will be to raise dual purpose chickens; maybe next spring. We’re doubly blessed to have a relatively close friend (5 miles away) who has a lot of experience with chickens (and goats) who has walked us through this process and has been so incredibly helpful. I’m trying to talk my husband into a dairy goat, but so far, he just looks at me like I’ve sprouted a second head lol.

    We’ve tried to make some small improvements to the house to make it more secure, efficient, effective…but it’s always a work in progress. We’ve added insulation, high efficiency windows and doors, next up is a solar attic fan or a whole house fan. And should the SHTF, our friend has volunteered to loan us a ‘big mouth dog’ who loves kids and chickens.

    But like I said, our mindset is the biggest change we’ve made. Last year, the remnants of hurricane Ike ripped through the Ohio Valley (yes, a hurricane in Ohio) and it left us without energy, running water, basic services for a week. It caught me completely unprepared…more so mentally than in terms of goods. We had food, but I couldn’t get my neurons firing. I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around not being able to cook, use the faucet or toilet. I walked around in a daze for 2 days almost in a state of denial…telling myself that the power would come back on anytime. But of course, it didn’t. That event was my springboard….that if it happened again, I’d be ready.

    Sort of a good practice run for the end of the world, eh?

  10. Susanon 01 Aug 2009 at 11:30 am

    Well, as we discussed in the AIP class, water is still my biggest concern. We have 150 gallons of rainbarrels that catch the runoff — but I’ve discovered that’s not nearly enough. I have on the wish list a couple of low profile 500 gallon tanks, and I’ll need either a hand pump that is portable and I can carry from tank to tank or some sort of solar pump with the same arrangement.

    We switched from AC to swamp cooling, which will still be unsustainable in the event of no electricity, but is presently much much better price wise and comfort wise. Since we deal with heat for much more of the year than we do cold, we are planning to paint the roof with that white latex coating which will serve multiple purposes: it will keep the water cleaner as it runs into the rain barrels; it will extend the life of our roof by about 8 years (and more if we keep up on the latex maintenance); it will dramatically reduce heat gain in the house by reflecting the light and heat away.

    Also on the wish list is a wood stove for both heating and cooking in the winter; we do get snow and it does freeze here for about 3 months a year. It used to be more, but with global warming…you know. Even though we live in the desert, we’re in the high desert so we do have access to juniper, scrub oak, pine, mesquite, etc.

    We are purchasing fruit bearing shrubs and trees bit by bit, and even though most of them are still in pots we will eventually find a permanent place for them. The garden expands year by year, and I am still researching perennial veggies or the possibility of overwintering certain plants to continue their production and get a head start in the following spring.

    We can, pickle, dehydrate, and freeze everything possible; we are looking into a solar array for the freezer to be on (even without electricity I still would like to be able to keep the freezer at least). We have a gravity fed water purifier which we purchased with the specific intent to be able to use the harvested rain water for drinking/cooking/bathing if necessary, or even the creek water from about 1 1/2 miles away (I have a wagon and I’m not averse to hauling water).

    We have solar lights that can be brought inside if necessary and have both olive oil and regular oil lamps with a supply of oil for both, we are building an outdoor screened room in the back yard, I have an outdoor kitchen setup with a small camp oven even, and plan to get a couple of laundry sinks from the hardware store. I have a laundry plunger, and am searching the thrift stores for a used mop bucket/wringer setup so I don’t have to spend more than a hundred dollars to get a wringer setup from online.

    We make our own soap, laundry soap, cleaning products; we have food storage, we cook mostly from scratch. I can make candles if needed but prefer not to.

    I sew even though I detest it and can use one of my machines as a manual if necessary; I knit and crochet, and spin (not nearly as much as I should).

    We have chickens, and I buy meat from locally produced sources.

    I guess that would be it. I don’t think we’re all that well prepared but I guess compared to any of our neighbors we are ready for the end TEOTWAWKI at least for several months.

  11. Cindy in FLon 01 Aug 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Hi Sharon,
    I would love to be in your book if our story is interesting enough. We have been working on adapting in place and a lower energy lifestyle at our current house for about 2 1/2 years. Lately we have been overstimulating our share of the economy. We got a new metal roof, a skylight for the interior bathroom, a new high efficiency HVAC unit, a 5kw solar PV system, 3- 250 gallon rain barrels and a wonder wash. Last year we got two new low flush toilets, a solar water heater, 5-55 gal rain barrells, a pressure canner and 9 new double glazed windows. When we first moved in we had a wood stove installed and started a large garden. We brought our chickens with us and now have a coop and ten hens. We have been working on food storage as well as simplifying all our junk. Or atleast organizing it better. I want to be able to invite people over more often without having to spend days cleaning first. We also need to work on community building. I think that is our weak spot.

    Cindy in FL

  12. tarynkayon 01 Aug 2009 at 3:00 pm

    We just bought our first house, haven’t moved in yet, so we’re excited about being able to make permanent infrastructure changes. We want to have rain barrels and I would love to have a grey water system. My husband is an architect, and I am a nutcase, so we want to do as many crazy energy efficient things as possible. I am pining after a bicycle powered washing machine. He says we’ll see. We’re looking into doing geothermal for our heating/cooling. We live in a small city in NC, and our house is downtown, so we are able to walk and bike everywhere. My husband bikes to work, but I sadly sadly have to commute. I am hoping to find a bikable job, but right now just having a job is a really wonderful thing. Living within reasonable biking/walking distance was really important to us– we did not want to have to drive everywhere. We have held out having just one car, and we want to keep it that way. (By the way- it is kind of crazy how crazy people think this is- “one car? for two people? what are you, amish or something?”) Gardens never went out of fashion here, and neither did clotheslines, which is fantastic. So most everybody grows some food, and no one has a problem with front-yard gardens or backyard clotheslines. We are also allowed to have ten hens (no roosters) inside the city. We have talked about doing this, but we don’t want to be just spending the egg money on chicken feed, you know? I have discussed having meat and/or fiber rabbits, too, but my husband mostly ignores this. We have really not devoted ourselves to food storage yet. I mean, we do eat a lot of dry beans, so we tend to buy them in bulk, and we do have emergency peanut butter, but we have not been systematic about it. We should be better about this. There are great local food systems here, and the local government is very supportive and is trying to be ever more supportive of local farmers. The number of farmers here has actually increased significantly in the past ten years, which is amazing. We are able to buy local milk, local eggs, local meat, local honey, local soap… well, basically local everything. And we joined a bizarre CSA that runs out of a condemned building downtown. We do grow tomatoes, zucchini and herbs, but this was only our first gardening year. I am totally addicted now- gardening is what adults do instead of making mudpies. We have been much more focused on the community building, honestly. This is a great place for that. Probably everyplace is a great place for that, but there is a lot of cultural pressure here to be a good neighbor. It has been extremely important to us to invest in friendships and networks of friendships and doing things for other people and having other people do things for us and for forth. We currently have some homeless musicians living with us, which has been surprisingly great. I never thought we would enjoy having roommates so much. We’ve been talking a lot about how much sense extended family living makes. We have not been so focused on preparing for zombie attacks. I guess I have always been afraid that there would be some type of collapse, and we would be holed up with our vast stores of food and our rifles, and we would realize that we had become the zombies. This is probably terribly naive of me, but I feel like maybe maybe maybe we can build a strong enough community and strong enough local food systems that the zombie thing will never happen. I am probably wrong about this, and I pinkie swear that I am planning to buckle down on the food storage once we move in. But I do want to continue buying a lot of my food from farmers rather than producing it all myself, b/c I want there to be local farmers. Anyhow, that is where we are right now.

  13. Shelley Burbankon 01 Aug 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Here is a blog entry that talks about my very nascent plans for adapting in place. http://shelleyburbank.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/permaculture-and-the-suburban-homestead/

    This year I am blogging about “going local.” I’m trying to stay out of big box retail stores and chain restaurants and to support local agriculture and businesses instead. I believe that if most of us began to live more locally, we could perhaps be more prepared for an energy-depleted world as adaptation could take place on a smaller, more manageable scale.

    Thanks for your great website and wonderful book, DEPLETION AND ABUNDANCE. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  14. Jerryon 01 Aug 2009 at 6:51 pm

    It is kind of hard to adapt to a less energy intense kind of dairy farming and still come up with five to six thousand dollars that you need to pay for grain, taxes and insurance each month. My biggest problem is that I pretty much am the entire labor force and there are only so many hours I can work let alone take the time to take on additional tasks.
    Since I have switched to rotational grazing years ago(1995) I really don’t have too many other options besides starting to sell raw milk. The cost to set up my own processing plant I think is prohibitive and I will not take on any more debt.
    I just found out that a real good USDA job that I was a finalist for was awarded to someone else but such is life. I was a little apprehensive of selling my cows anyway so maybe it’s for the better.
    I recently started to contact a woman who wants to start a transition club in our southeastern Ct. area. Since I’m done being a selectman in my town after 14 years maybe I’ll have time for some new adventure. I’ll see what happens but in the meantime I still have to make a living. Cows as you know are real commitment of one’s time.
    The thought of growing vegetables, fruits, and nuts does appeals to me but I don’t know if they will cash flow. The farmland we own is very productive especially in a wet year like this one. We also own quite a bit of forest land a good source of firewood for the future.

  15. Farmer Amberon 01 Aug 2009 at 10:48 pm

    We live on a 0.25 acre suburban lot in a medium sized east Kansas town. We have over the last 3 years turned our entire lot into a garden. We grow almost 100% of our own veggies at this point and we’re contemplating raising rabbits for meat (we already have some as pets so the facilities and expertise are there). We have deliberately set up our garden to be asthetically pleasing to most suburbanites. One of our primary goals (other than raising our own food) is to encourage more people to do so. One of the ways to do that is to show people how beautiful a garden in full bloom/production can be.

    We also grow several medicinal herbs. I’m slowly adding to my list based on what we use the most of – echinacea, mullein, feverfew, marshmallow, hyssop, chamomile, etc.

    We are building a solar greenhouse this fall (if we can get all the permitting done through the city) that will be attached to the south side of our house. It should supplement our food stores and also provide an income. We’re working with another couple who farm in the city to try and set up a winter CSA using greens from our greenhouse and foods that store well.

    Thanks to reading your blog, we have about a year and a half of wheat and rice stored and about 6-8 months of dried beans. We’ve stocked up on all our food preservation supplies just in case. We also invested in a small solar battery charging set up that keeps 2 deep cycle batteries charged for us. It would be enough for us to run the blower on our wood fireplace insert in the winter for heat (that’s our primary source of winter heat already).

    There are so many things that have changed in our lives as we try to prepare that its hard to list them all. The only big one that we haven’t at least started is water. We do have some rain barrels, but they aren’t drinkable. We hope to put in a larger cistern next year that would have enough to both water the garden and us. Hopefully we will have time to do that before I lose my job.

    That’s the short version of our story. I wish you luck on the book!

    -Farmer Amber

  16. Noel in Chicagoon 02 Aug 2009 at 10:03 am

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/chi-chicken-coops-north-zone-31-jul31,0,355460.story

    This is somewhat related. It goes along the lines of the challenges we will face in trying to adapt in place. There was an article in the Chicago Tribune this past Thursday (linked above) that I was very excited to read. It was basically praising the virtues and pointing out the growth in raising chickens in your backyard in Chicago and the near suburbs. What I was somewhat surprised to read were all of the negative comments by local Chicagoans in response to this article. To summ up 90% of the 121 comments – anyone who does this is “fill in the blank” (white-trash, hillbilly, uneducated, etc.) and has no respect for their neighbors. With the rest being “how dumb… I pay 3 cents for 36 eggs at the local pesticide-mart for my eggs”. Really surprising and depressing at the same time. We are working on getting some chickens to raise in our yard and it’s painful to know that some people will have this negative impression of our family based upon something as normal, healthy, and worthwhile. It’s also painful to realize just how far out of touch the population here is. I used to think that Chicagoans were generally more in touch and accepting of such things. Guess not.

  17. sealanderon 02 Aug 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Purchased current 3.5 bedroom underinsulated inner city wooden doer-upper 12 years ago in partnership with husband and brother-in-law just before an upswing in the property market. The plan was to do as little as possible with it, pay it off, and then sell it and buy a place in the country where we would be totally self sufficient in everything, raise fluffy animals, give up the daily grind and thumb our noses at The Man.
    Twelve years later first husband is long gone, second husband, stepkid, opinionated tomcat and occasional room mates are in residence, the doer-upper is still being done up, and is now worth twice what I paid for it. Unfortunately all other properties have also doubled in price and any small block in the country requires a mortgage that needs at least two people working in the city to pay for it. So this is where the adapting in place comes in ;)

    Luckily I planted fruit trees even though we weren’t staying. Now we get a reasonable supply of pears, plums, hazelnuts, persimmons, grapes, occasional figs, raspberries and red currants. Apples, blackcurrants, strawberries, lemons, and lemonades are coming along. (I should have had a good supply of lemons by now but I keep killing lemon trees). And I harvest walnuts and blackboy peaches from trees in the local parks.

    I grow herbs for teas and culinary use, and oodles of parsley. There simply isn’t enough room to grow all the vegetables that we need so I focus on the things that I can grow well and that can produce a surplus to be preserved or stored. I seem to be unable to produce a decent crop of onions, celery, celeriac, brocolli or spinach, and corn takes too much room so they’re all off the list now. In winter I grow leeks, garlic, carrots, beets, parsnips, kale, mizuna, tatsoi, kohl rabi and broad (fava) beans, plus tubers left in the ground like Jerusalem artichokes, yacon, and mashua. In summer, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers (all often marginal crops here without a glasshouse), beans to eat green and for drying, lettuce, chard, orach, lambs quarters, zuchinni, potatoes, pumpkin and globe artichokes (which nobody likes but me and my greek MIL:)
    Nine chickens keep the bindweed under control in one corner, and they raise their own replacements and give me enough rare breed pullets to sell that they partially pay for their own feed. And since free range eggs are about 50 cents each here they definitely pay for their keep.
    Kitchen waste goes to a worm farm or the chickens. Garden waste and weeds goes to the compost heaps or the chickens. Human waste still gets flushed away – a composting toilet just seemed like too big a leap. Laundry is line dried or in front of the fire, or in the electric dryer in the depths of winter.

    As for the house renovations, so far I’ve insulated the ceiling with wool batts, replaced and insulated the bathroom, rewired the whole house and put a new steel roof on. Next year our old insert logburner is going to be illegal under the clean air regulations so we’re looking at a freestanding model with a wetback and a cooktop. There are no actual cooking woodstoves that are approved so a cooktop is the next best thing – I figure that if we are going to have it burning all weekend in winter anyway, we might as well have a kettle and a pot of soup going on top. This project is going to suck up all the renovation money for the next couple of years so everything else will be on hold. The long term plan includes solar hot water heating, rain barrels, moving the laundry inside (currently installed in a dilapidated shed, so potential to include a greywater system there), and a new chicken shed, and acquiring a bee hive once some new treatment for the varroa mite is on the market. All of which will have to stay long term until finances permit. Given that the cost of electricity sneaks up nearly 10% a year some form of power generation would be welcome but the high cost of any home system put that out of reach.

    I’ve gradually increased the amount of food stored, and we usually have 6 months supply of grain for the chickens, but we can still do better in this area. Further storage is awaiting the installation of some shelving. Right now the overflow is piled haphazardly around the kitchen and dining room :)

    I reckon we’re doing okay but still have a lot of work to do………

  18. Wendyon 02 Aug 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Our adapting-in-place story here in the suburbs could actually be its own book, and while every place has its quirks, the suburbs are particularly notorious for their very antagonistic attitude toward many of the steps that are necessary for “adapting-in-place.” Luckily, for me, my particular neighborhood isn’t so bad, but my town is particularly restrictive, and many of the things we like to do, we can’t do.

    At any rate, it’s a very long story from the whys of our decision to stay in the suburbs to the how’s of making our lot more sustainable, but the highlights in our journey include: raising small livestock (chickens, rabbits and ducks), swapping some energy-sucking systems for more efficient alternatives (on-demand hot water, clothesline instead of a dryer, woodstove instead of a furnace), edible landscaping, setting-up rain barrels, and INSULATING to reduce heat loss during the winter (as heat loss is more of an issue in Maine than keeping the house cool :) .

    We’re also trying to invest in things like hand tools that will help us in a lower energy world. We’re building a really awesome library, partly because we homeschool and partly because we know we’ll need the information in the books we’ve been collecting if we lose access to the Internet, we’re taking classes in things like beekeeping, wild foraging, and woodcrafts, and my husband is learning to bowhunt. Every year we learn to can or otherwise preserve one new thing, and every year, we add something new to our landscape. Every year, we learn to live without one more modern “necessity” (like cable T.V. :) .

    It’s an ongoing process, and the only concern is that we’re running out of time. We’re not *there*, yet, but we’re definitely closer to being okay if TSHTF tomorrow than most of the people in our neighborhood ;) .

  19. Apple Jack Creekon 02 Aug 2009 at 9:17 pm

    I don’t know how much of what we do is considered “in place”, since we are recent transplants to the country from the city and have done much of what we do from scratch, knowing that the future will be different than we were raised to expect. However … once we got here, we did keep what we call “future proofing” at the top of our minds while we planned our layout, so maybe it counts.

    We started off with one small-ish house, well suited to a single mother and her son, with occasional visitors. Then said single mother (yep, me) got married and acquired a husband and two half time kids … so, that meant we needed different infrastructure. We built an addition to the exisitng house, but we built it with a big difference: it is an entire ’separate house’, or could be. We ended up with two houses, attached by a hallway, and each house can be entirely self contained (although sharing utility connections and laundry and such). The ‘new house’ has all the plumbing and wiring for a kitchen to be installed – although we didn’t install anything, as we live in both houses like they were one big house – but the idea was that if things changed and we ended up with, say, adult kids living here longer, or parents needing to move in, or whatever, we would have housing that could be made to work for a variety of family configurations. We joke that we can each go into our ‘own houses’ and lock the doors between if we have a big fight! However, I have the kitchen, and he has the pantry so … that’s one way to encourage negotiation. :)

    We have solar power on the ‘original house’: by the time the addition was built, having grid power brought in was affordable, so we have grid backup – but, the essentials in the ‘new house’ (sump pump and heat circulation fan) are not hardwired to the power system, so they can be plugged into the batteries from the solar system if the power goes out (which it did yesterday and most of today, due to a storm). That means we always have lights and power in part of the place, at least, and our system can be upsized if time/money permit. Oh, and solar powers the well pump – very important. :)

    We have a wood stove in the ‘original house’ and plans to replace it with an Aussie Bakers Oven stove, and then move the original stove over to the ‘new house’ so both are able to be heated with wood – we live in the midst of lots of forested land that can be sustainably harvested for firewood.

    We have six acres, which we are determinedly fencing for sheep (we have those, too), we have a garden (which grows a lot of grass, I have discovered, but vegetables are slowly expanding year by year), and free range chickens (guarded by the LGDs who also guard the sheep). We also have a Dexter cow, trained to milk, and her calf … the idea is that if we are really, really stuck, we’ll at least have butter and eggs and lamb meat, plus whatever we can grow in the garden. The variety may be limited, but at least nobody will starve. :)

    If our story can help, we’ll be glad to send along more info. Pictures and such on the blog, contact links are there as well, if we can be of assistance. :)

  20. SuperMomNoCapeon 03 Aug 2009 at 8:46 am

    I don’t really have an adapting in place story other than just trying to do what we can to prepare within the confines of living in a rental. This summer we’re concentrating on getting our water and food stores where they need to be. I’m canning and freezing as things become available from the farmers’ market.

    We’re limited in what we can actually do to our house and yard since it’s a rental but we are fortunate that when this house was built, it was made very energy efficient with regards to insulation and type of windows and doors.

    We got the landlord’s permission to add some gardens as long as they look nice and have started three 4′X4′ square foot gardens with plans for two more, plus experimenting with growing in containers. The house doesn’t have eavestroughs, so I put buckets under the places where the water runs off the heaviest and use those to fill rain barrels.

    We’re only allowed to have a clothesline if we make sure that it can’t be seen from the road, so we’ve strung lines across the top of the gazebo. The tenting for the gazebo was destroyed in a wind storm, so we figured this was a good use for the frame.

    Our story is small compared to others, but I did want to post a comment to let everyone know how much I’m enjoying reading what they have achieved and are in the process of achieving. It’s giving me more ideas for things I can do here and now. Even things that might be able to be taken with us to the next place as with my husband’s job, we know there will inevitably be a next place.

  21. rdheatheron 03 Aug 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Hey, Susan, you should check out the holopump from Mother Earth News-I can’t remember what issue but it shows up when you search.

    I made one to get water from the horse’s 1000 gal tank and it works! I had to modify the plans a bit, but pvc is easy to work with at least.

  22. madisonon 03 Aug 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I am a single mom to a six year old boy with ADHD, who is partially deaf. We are doing our best to prepare for a low-energy future, bu I was laid off a month ago and we are barely surviving. If TSHTF today, we would instantly become refugees.

    We live in a travel trailer dependent upon electrical AC and propane heat. Without either, a trailer is an utterly miserable place to live! We had 18 inches of snow this winter and even with the heater going 24/7, it was very cold at either end of the trailer. Our AC broke a week ago in 105 degree heat and it was the most miserable few days of my life until friends rescued us and gave us a new AC AND installed it. God bless AC! :) If a catastrophic even occured, I would most likely be forced to abandon my trailer and most of what is in it to a storage unit and live with what I could fit into my car. There would be no option to shelter in place here.

    What I am able to do, however, is collect tools and skills for a lower energy life that would be applicable to wherever we end up.

    I have acquired replacement systems for:

    LIGHT – crank flashes and lanterns, candles, oil lamps, thousands of matches

    HEAT – warm clothing & boots, sleeping bags, LP heater. Working on getting a wood stove for the future

    WATER – a Big Berkey water filter, a backpack water filter, bleach, tablets, gallons and 6 gallon water carrier

    HOT WATER – solar showers, Kelly Kettle

    COOL – battery powered fans, solar chargeable batteries &

    COOKING – Volcano stove & charcoal, Butane stove with fuel, LP bbq with fuel, lots of cast iron cookwear, grain mill, dehydrator

    FOOD – 6 months worth of grains, beans, rice, herbs & spices, salt, sugar, coffee, dehydrated and canned foods; I have a small container garden with herbs and am starting winter vegetables now; am working on a CSA membership

    TRANSPORTATION – beat up old car that no crook in their right mind would steal that runs great, decent bikes with parts and tools, good walking shoes and boots; am working on finding a second-hand kayak.

    What we lack, besides a long term home, is community. While I hate to leave Oregon with it’s food producing capabilities (none of which I have access to since I don’t own land) and it’s nice weather (which still isn’t great if you are living in your car), I am gradually deciding to relocate to Colorado where my best friend and her family lives, and throw in my lot with them, as they ARE my tribe.

    IF TSHTF, I’d have to come as a refugee with what I can fit in my car. However, all the preps I mentioned above WOULD fit into a car, so I wouldn’t come empty handed!

    I also have skills. I am a gardener, know cob and strawbale building, seed saver, an excellent cook, some first aid skills, soem wilderness skills etc.

    Adapting in place is not a real option for us. When we do find a place, I have confidence that we will be able to take part in building a viable future wherever we end up!

  23. madisonon 03 Aug 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Thought of a few more replacement systems and more thoughts:

    HEALTH – some knowledge of medicinal herbs, lots of OTC meds, general good health, I am also a trained doula with extensive first hand breastfeeding experience

    SAFETY – belt knives, mace; working on getting a bow with dozens of arrows, would like to have a dog; community and friends

    WASTE – know how to build composting toilets and sawdust toilets

    LAUNDRY – mop bucket with wringer, washboards, Zote soap, biodegradable laundry soaps.

    I’d also like to learn how to can (I have all the equipment) and make cheese, actually build a rocket stove (I have the book), and have a small greenhouse and some cold frames. I’d also like to build a small deck for my travel trailer and use the space underneath it for storage instead of having a storage unit in town. I am hoping also to take a foraging class this fall up in Portland.

    I also know how to use cloth diapers, make wool diaper covers, build rocket stoves and build cob bread ovens. :)

    Anyone want us????

  24. Chileon 03 Aug 2009 at 3:04 pm

    As you know, much of what we’re doing is already up on my blog. As you will read here, we are doing a lot already but getting our own place will allow us to really step up our efforts. As I see it, our biggest hurdles are heat, water, and food. Almost everything we do boils down to dealing with those things in one way or another.

    Transportation: We have bikes for transportation and the capacity to carry cargo on the bikes using panniers, a trailer, or our Xtracycle bags. To enable me to use pedal power during the very hot summer months, we added an electric assist motor to my cargo (Xtracycle) bike. We hope to get a solar panel to charge the battery on it at some point. During the cooler months, we bike or walk many places. Being centrally located makes access to services and businesses easy. We do have a vehicle, not the most fuel-efficient one either. Careful planning of errands and gentle driving optimize its use. Keeping stocked up on food and supplies minimizes the need for last minute errands.

    Temperature control in house: We are renters and therefore have not retrofitted this house beyond weatherstripping and foil-backed insulation pressed into some windows in the summer. Keeping window coverings closed during summer days and winter nights helps with indoor temperatures. We maintain the furnace and evaporative cooler for best performance, and employ clothing strategies to help maintain comfort (cover up in winter, strip down in summer). Once we buy our own place, we will go far beyond these efforts as we can afford it: more insulation, double-paned windows, window quilts, and shutters perhaps.

    Cooking outside helps keep summer temperatures inside more comfortable. Currently this is done with two solar ovens used several times per week. In our own place, we’ll add a rocket stove and cob oven to the outdoor cooking facilities, as well as an exterior outlet for appliances such as the rice cooker and electric grill.

    We hope to find a smaller house, too, to minimize utility costs.

    Utility use: we switched from many electric appliances and tools to manual ones. My husband sold many of his power tools and replaced them with hand tools. I use less electric appliances in the kitchen. On the wish list is converting our blender to pedal power. The new place will have a permanent pedal power station that can operate the blender and possibly a small generator as well as the grain grinder we already have.

    Gas use is minimized by washing laundry in cold water, hanging it on a clothesline, and taking fewer and shorter (and cooler) showers. Solar cooking helps reduce the oven’s use of gas. When it is turned on, as many dishes are cooked as possible at the same time or consecutively to maximize efficiency. The thermostat is kept at a low temperature for winter and turned down very low for nighttime.

    Water conservation: Water is sparingly used in the first placed and usually re-used as greywater. Sponge baths are the norm with two showers per person per week only to save water. Clothes are reworn until dirty reducing laundry needs. Laundry water is sometimes re-used as greywater. This currently entails hauling water out by the bucketful but in our own place, plumbing can be set up to do this automatically. Water dispensed from any tap while waiting for hot water to come out is saved and re-used to either flush the toilet, soak clothes, or go on the garden. We’ll probably install a composting toilet in our own place.

    Garden and landscaping plants are heavily mulched to reduce water loss from evaporation. Once we have our own place, we will install rainwater harvesting equipment. Currently, about 1/3 of our roof space redirects rainwater to two citrus trees. We also will look at the possibility of contouring to retain water on the property when we get settled.

    Food: 90% of our produce comes from a CSA with the rest from farmer’s markets, garden, or stores. The CSA also provides most of our wheat, oats, and dry beans. As vegans, this covers a substantial portion of our diet although we also buy rice, vinegar, spices, salt, sugar, and a few other products. Not all of these are available from local sources. I preserve large quantities of food from the CSA, markets, and wild harvesting. My husband is experimenting with finding out what plants will grow well in our desert climate in traditional soil gardens and hydroponically. He also wants to do vermiculture once we have our own property. To supplement feed for our dogs, we plan to look into aquaponics and chickens (for eggs).

    Possessions: we take care of what we own and buy used when we can. Function is far more important to us than appearance and our home reflects this. It is comfortable but not stylish – just like my wardrobe. We also both possess relatively good health and try to take care of ourselves to maintain it.

    Security: we added a large dog to our family about two months ago. He is very protective and seems to have increased the protective nature of our other dog. I go to self-defense classes every week and am teaching some of the concepts to my husband. Being aware of what is going on around you when out and about goes a very long ways towards personal safety. We are not terribly concerned about zombies because one of our dogs is always hungry…

    Community: I’ve been volunteering with the CSA for about two years and enjoy the community from that group. Now that we’ve decided to stay in Tucson, we’re actively working to form more community by getting involved with other groups. (Solar, sustainable community, vegetarian, gardening, and even weight loss)

  25. Emilyon 04 Aug 2009 at 9:06 am

    My husband and I currently are still employed full-time (thankfully!), so we’re investing in infrastructure instead of stocks or even regular savings. Each year, we update some part of the house infrastructure: roof insulation, defunct fireplace–>fireplace insert, new well with both electric and hand pumps, wall insulation.

    I’ve taken up canning and expanded the garden, but you’ve heard a hundred stories like that. My husband has taken an interest in pickling; it appeals to his lab-science background, I think. ;)

    Finally, I’ve started a group called Preserving Traditions (http://preservingtraditions.org/) that operates out of the Grange to teach canning, pickling, and other kinds of cooking and preserving. We source ingredients and equipment locally, and it’s all volunteer-run. We often start meetings by having people gather in groups by geography (west side, downtown, east side) and get to know their neighbors. In addition to classes, we do work days where we just get a bunch of ingredients and process them together on shared equipment. In our fist session, we did 71 jars of jam! Salsa’s next…we’re aiming for six gallons. :)

    If anyone would like to start a branch of Preserving Traditions in their area, let me know. I’m happy to help folks figure out how to make this happen in their areas.

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