My husband and I watched a great documentary on CBC Newsworld last night, entitled "Oil: Apocolypse Now?". It was, of course, about Peak Oil. Here is a link with a brief synopsis: http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/passionateeyemonday/2008/oilnow/
While there are mixed opinions about WHEN Peak Oil is going to take place, there is no doubt that it IS going to happen. It was mostly the big oil corporations that were hyper-optimistic that new technology was going to allow them to dig deeper and further into the oceans to get at oil stores that are currently out of our reach. But even they acknowledge that this will merely temporarily delay Peak Oil, but will most certainly not stop it. The fact is, our abundant, easily accessible supply of oil has been depleted. The best estimate of when Peak is likely to occur is 2010. Once we reach Peak, it is difficult to predict the series of events that will occur. I'm certainly no expert on economics, but it seems our entire economic system depends on having a cheap, abundant supply of oil. Surely economic demise is the only certain outcome. Some predict a depression as bad as the 1930s. Our governments do not seem to be acknowledging this fact, and certainly do not appear to be doing anything about it. Watching this documentary was a good reminder that it's time to start building my homesteading skills, and preparing for a worst-case scenario. Even if we pretend that Peak Oil isn't happening, homesteading skills are still an important means of defending ourselves against economic uncertainty, including basic things like job loss or under-employment.
There are so many homesteading skills that I would like to/need to learn, that it's difficult to know where to even begin! I've been slowly collecting books on different homesteading skills I would like to learn, such as knitting, crochet, quilting, etc. I bought a book about living off-grid, and how to convert your home to alternate energy sources. I know next to nothing about growing and preserving food, so I need to find some books about that, and get started putting it into practice. I would like to learn more about herbal/natural health remedies, not only in case we no longer have a medical system to access, but because it's something that interests me anyway. I know all of this information is readily available on the internet, but there is something about holding a book in my hands that I really like. Plus, in a worst-case Peak Oil scenario, internet access will be a joke, so I think I'd rather have the books! We're working at paying down our debts as aggressively as possible, because at the rate that costs are rising, we will need to have our full income available to cover current living expenses, not servicing debts. Ideally we would like to own our home outright as soon as possible. I believe owning your own home is the best source of security. If you don't have a roof over your head, you have nothing. We are also trying to build a savings cushion of 6 months to 1 year's worth of income. We are already using wood to heat our home, which I LOVE. :) There is nothing cozier than the heat and light of fire. Our woodburning insert has a cook-top on it, so if we have a power outage, not only does our home stay warm, but we can cook as well! And it's comforting to know we have enough wood in our yard to heat our home for an entire winter, and all for about $600.00. If we were heating with oil, that $600.00 wouldn't even last a month! This winter we're planning to complete insulating our 85-year old home, and put in new, energy-efficient windows. Even though we're heating with wood, energy efficiency is still important. I'm trying to get better at using the clothesline, and just being less dependent on energy in general.
I'm not a doom-and-gloom person. I much prefer optimism. But I am a realist. I believe we should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. If we prepare for the worst, and nothing happens - well, we'll be debt-free, have some money in the bank, and be self-sufficient enough that my husband will be able to take early retirement, and we won't miss the income because we'll be able to take care of ourselves. If the worst happens, we'll be prepared. If it falls somewhere in the middle, hopefully we'll barely feel the pinch. The nice part about it is that I'm interested in learning all of these skills anyway! They're fun to learn, they will save us money, and they're almost-lost-skills that hopefully I will be able to pass down to my children. What could be better than that?
So, what's on your homesteading to-do list?