Depletion and Abundance...

Plant a garden

Depletion and Abundance are just two sides of the same coin. We're no longer speaking of the future when we talk about climate change and peak oil. So now the project is to accept depletion, and still find a good and abundant way of life, not just for ourselves, but for those who will come after us. We can do this - it is one heck of a challenge, but we have to find a way, so we will. That's what this site is for - finding a way forward.

I am the author of three books. _Depletion and Abundance: Life On the New Home Front_ explores the path to finding a good life in spite of tough times. _A Nation of Farmers:Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil_ analyzes our current food situation and offers steps for creating meaningful food security. _Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation_ explores the connections between food storage, food preservation and our democratic heritage.

Anyone Know What To Do When Your Site is Virally Contaminated?

Sharon February 10th, 2010

I’ve tried asking for tech support, but I can’t figure it out. This site has a virus in/on it, and it isn’t working very well, but I have no idea what to do about it. Anyone have any suggestions? Help!!!!


Why This Blog Has Been So Quiet

Sharon February 5th, 2010

I haven’t forgotten y’all – I’m having technical difficulties. I’ve also finally figured out how to keep this blog active but also fully differentiate it from the other blog, but that’s a project to explain another day, and one that will probably have to wait until I’m done with the book.

Meanwhile, lots more content over at my new blog I’ve also got a post up there about the next class (farm and garden design starting in two weeks!), the next apprenticeship weekend (Memorial Day, for families with kids who want to learn livestock care, gardening skills, preserving, etc… together) and my next two appearances (Concord NH and Boston, MA)

More soon, I promise, as technical difficulties are finally resolved.


For Men

Sharon January 26th, 2010

One of the things we’re talking about right now in our “Finding Your Place” class are issues specific to men and women.  The women’s issues often seem to focus on material and physical discussions – what can I do about menopause, how do I handle birth control, menstruation and other bodily issues, or about sex and love.  When we have these threads about men, they invariably end up focusing on the psychological results that seem particularly acute for many, if not all, men.  While all of us have anxieties and many women struggle with these issues, somehow when we get to gender-specific consideration, what comes up for many of the men in the discussion in how difficult it is to deal with shifting roles, and the prevalence of anxiety, depression and over-reliance on drugs and alchohol.
Statistics from cultures undergoing major crises seem to bear out the assumption that often, women adapt better than men to many difficult situations.  The decrease in lifespans in the former Soviet Union that accompanied the collapse was in part due to loss of health care, but a lot of it had to do with rises in suicide rates, stress and alcohol abuse.  At one point, the division between lifespans for women in Russia and for men was more than a decade.  In Studs Terkel’s _Hard Times_ and Jeane Westin’s _Making Do: How Women Survived the 30s, we hear story after story of men who simply couldn’t handle the strain of unemployment and dependent family, the destruction of his role, and left, or subsided into alcoholism. 
This does not mean that every man facing a transition into a poorer, less energy rich world is doomed to crisis.  But I think it is important to talk about – because just as I’ve written many times about the changes that peak oil and climate change and their economic consequences are likely to bring about for women, the ones that come for men are important and real.  All men, and all  of us who love husbands, fathers, brothers, friends, sons need to be aware of these  issues – to be aware of the degree to which watching your world unravel seems to engender different responses.  Women who turn to each other, who talk, whose identities may be more complexly built on a mix of personal and professional identities may not grasp how hard this is for the men in our lives to face unemployment and shifts in everything they’ve known. I think this is an important thing to be able to be open about, for both men and women, and also and important thing to be conscious of.
Have you had this experience, either personally or for someone you cared about?  None of us want to see the rates of suicide rising. None of us want to watch the guys in our life struggling.  None of us want them to turn to drugs and drink to dull a sense of loss.  Of course many men won’t.  In many cases it is the women who struggle with these issues.  But overwhelmingly history suggests that the psychological trauma of watching your world transformed often strikes men, particularly men of middle age and above, harder than it does women.  How do we soften the blow?

Independence Days Update: Mac the Marshmallow

Sharon January 19th, 2010

So the big event around here was the arrival of our Great Pyrenees puppy, Maccabeus.  He arrived along with six inches of snow the same color as he is yesterday.  He’s a very sweet dog – he already loves the kids and wants to be with them.  He’s very nervous, and a little sad because despite being six months old, he’s only just been taken away from his Mom.  He’s clearly looking for her everywhere he goes.  He is beautiful, affectionate and while a little nervous about the unfamiliar surroundings, astonishingly relaxed around people and animals.

The fly in the ointment has been Mistress Quickly, who has always been fairly mellow about other dogs, but is officially NOT PLEASED about Mac’s arrival.  He is already twice her size, so he mostly ignores her growling and snapping, but she’s convinced he’s a threat – every time one of us goes to pet him, she puts her body between him and us.  We’re working on reinforcing her positive behavior, and on softening her attitude towards him (there was a temporary truce when we did a little joint training, in which both dogs realized they had common ground – they both like cheese ;-) .)

So between Mac the Marshmallow whimpering at night without his Mommy (I finally slept downstairs with him, and he wedged himself between the sofa and me to get a Mommy substitute) and Mistress Quickly asserting herself as boss, things have been a little hectic and dog-centered around here.  We’re still figuring out how things are going to work, but it is, at least, exciting. 

I’ve also got a line on a couple of possible bucks for our girls, which is really exciting to me.  We have to work out timing and details, but it looks like our goat situation may be set to expand fairly soon, and, yay! no more “drive thru goat sex!”

Not too much else going on her, except that Mom was visiting and we were able to borrow her BJ’s card to actually get a couple of things that we can’t get as cheaply anywhere else.  I don’t think it is normally worthwhile to pay for a warehouse membership for us – we get most of our bulk materials elsewhere – but there are a few things that are a better price, most notably the pull-ups Eli has to wear to school and the dog food that Mac has been eating (we’ll shift him gradually over to our food, but we do *not* want a giant dog with an upset stomach!) ;-) .  So we did a little stocking up.

It took me a few days to really recover from last week’s workshop, and I’ve been focusing on the book as much as anything else.  I still haven’t finished my seed orders, which are one of the pressing issues for this week – since I want to do a lot of stratified things this year, and am planning on going to market with my plants, I need to get organized ASAP.  Otherwise, not so much going on here.

Plant something: Not this week

Harvest something: A few leaves of kale out from the snow during our thaw last week, as well as milk and eggs.  Got 5 eggs today (we don’t light) as well as finding a broody cochin hen, so spring will actually come!

Preserve something: I made some applesauce out of apples that were failing.

Waste Not: Nothing new

Want Not: Added more pull-ups and dog food to our reserves as well as a few other odds and ends (worcestershire sauce, old bay seasoning, nutella for the husband ;-) ).  Also picked up more cat food earlier in the week.

Eat the Food: Roasted vegetables wraps, stir fried kim chi and lamb in garlic sauce were highlights. 

Build Community Food Systems: A possible new project came my way, but has to be tabled until after the book.  Otherwise, nothing new.

How about you?


Fair Thee Well Come Summer

Sharon January 14th, 2010

It has been two weeks of agony.  Not for me, and not for Simon, who has a very mellow approach to this, but for Isaiah.  Isaiah is picking out his own chickens for the first time, and well, this is a difficult process for a six year old with a strong desire to do well.  The Murray McMurray catalog has been considered so many times it is now a tattered mass of paper.  After all, these chickens aren’t ordinary chickens – they are going to the fair.

Now most of you probably go to a fair somewhere or other once a year.  Most counties and regions have an agricultural fair or two, and lots of people take their kids to see the animals and go on the rides.  But going to the fair for an evening is rather different than taking your livestock to the fair – that’s a whole ‘nother thing.  And this year, we promised Isaiah and Simon that they could take their very own chickens.  Which means we have to order them early so they will be full grown by August, when we are off to the country fair for a week.

These chickens aren’t just about the fair, though the thought of a ribbon or two is heavy in my boys’ minds.  These will be their chickens, and the start of a small poultry business for Simon and Isaiah.  The two of them are entitled to all the profits of the eggs (although they have to track the feed and earn that too, although we’ll provide a modest subsidy), and can expand their flocks, or sell extra roosters to us for meat.  They will be in charge of records and tending the animals. 

But the very fact that we are making this partly about the fair is something of a big deal.  When you take your critters to the fair, you have to be at the fair several times a day to tend their needs, plus you also have to be there for judgings and such.  I expect that a week at the fair will be time consuming and expensive for us.  Thus far, we’ve never felt compelled to do it.

But there are a couple of compelling reasons to do it.  The first is that I’ve seen too many agricultural fairs dwindle into carnivals with a couple of animals and a few bits of handwork or jelly.  If people don’t participate in the fair, they become merely another carnival – and that’s not how they originated.  Instead, the fair was the one time each year when you exposed what you’ve been doing on your farm to others, exchanged ideas, and looked at your practices in clear comparison to your neighbors.  We’ve let so much of our agricultural knowledge and history disappear – participating in the fair is a way of holding on to something that matters.

The fair is where you look around you and discover things you never knew about.  Did you know that someone was raising mohair just a few miles away?  Had you met the other person with your breed of hens?  Wow, who knew that the world’s third rated sheepdog trainer is in your county?

The fair is also when you show accomplishments that otherwise exist only inside your home or barn.  At the fair you let other people taste your jam and show them the mittens you knit.  At the fair, the claims farmers make at the diner – that their hay is the best or their cows milk X lbs get tested, amid the general laughter when a culture of overstatement is occasionally exposed, or to general surprise when the woman who always says her hay is the worst wins the prize.

The fair draws on local knowledge for nostalgic purposes that may not be wholly nostalgic – at the fair, you realize just how many people still use draft animals, at least for showing, or know how to repair old steam equipment, blacksmith or make linen from flax. 

The fair is a heck of a lot of work.  I’m not wholly looking forward to it.  My boys are old enough to be gracious winners and losers, but just barely – if these chickens don’t perform well, I know that there will be private sobs and sorrows.  But I’m also planning one pair of knitted socks good enough to enter in, and some jams and jellies that I might enter.   Because being part of an agricultural tradition means an obligation to preserve it. 

So we’re on tenterhooks. Isaiah has until tomorrow to settle on his breed of chickens.  Simon looked through the catalog, stopped at the cochin bantams, picked his color and moved on.  Isaiah has been through Polish hens and Salmon Faverolles, Millefleurs and Red Laced Cornish.  We’ve weighed the merits in eggs and coloring, what judges might be looking for.  We’re definitely counting our chickens before they are even hatched.  But hey, it is the fair. 


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