Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back home, and a renewed commitment

Well we're back from our lovely vacation, and back to our daily grind. It's always so nice to get away, but also nice to get back to our regular routines. The kids get pretty out of sorts when they get off their routine. But a rest from that routine can be good as well. It gives us a chance to step back and reflect on our lives and on the direction our lives are taking. An opportunity to re-evaluate that direction, and decide if we need to make any changes. For me, being away inspired a renewed enthusiasm and determination to continue on this path that we're on. For some reason, when we're on vacation we tend to stray from our values a little. We spend a little more freely than we normally would. We buy things that we wouldn't normally buy. We ate fast food several times a day, which was horrible for us, and produced a tremendous amount of waste (but is difficult to avoid on a 3-day long trip). We feel the influence of others who are more into consumerism than we are, and lose sight of what we are striving for. It's also difficult when staying in someone else's home to continue to be environmentally conscious when they are not. You don't want to offend anyone by insisting that they should compost or recycle or NOT clean with toxic cleaners while your children are in their home. As they say, "When in Rome...". That being said, I love my family dearly, and I was also reminded of how much I miss being close to them and having them to lean on. Families are an important network, and will be increasingly more so in the future. I think that it's better to inspire others to change through example, rather than criticism. While we were staying with my Aunt, she had run out of her usual dish soap, and instead of purchasing regular dish soap, she bought some that was eco-friendly. I also noticed she had some organic shampoo in her shower. That could have been purely for my benefit, but it's also possible that I inspired a teeny-tiny change in her habits. It's only one or two things, but as we all know, the only way to get from point A to point B is one step at a time. No matter how small the steps. I know that there are so many people who just don't realize how destructive their own habits are, and what kind of impact they themselves have on our environment. It wasn't so long ago that I was one of those people. I would buy cheap, made-in-China crap, not realizing that I was contributing to child labour, to global warming, to oil depletion, and to our landfills (which is where the stuff ultimately ends up). I didn't realize that what I was cleaning with was making us sick. That what we ate and where that food came from was crucial to creating a sustainable environment. It took a huge awakening to realize the impact I could have on our planet and on our own health- either positive or negative. I have to bear that in mind when I get frustrated that we are working so hard to make our planet healthier, while others are making it sicker. Sometimes I feel like we are spinning our wheels, because others are undoing what we are working so hard to do. In a sense, that's what makes me happy that Peak Oil is upon us, and we are facing an oil-deprived future. For those who won't change out of concern for the environment, they will change for the sake of finances. It will no longer make economic sense to purchase crap from China, because the cost of getting it here will nullify the advantage of cheap labour. Buying things locally will eventually be cheaper than buying things from far away. Petroleum-based chemical cleaners will cost more than vinegar and water (and probably already do). The price of gas will be out of reach for the average person, so riding a bike or walking will look like a much better alternative. Growing your own food will be cheaper than buying it at the grocery store. All of these things are already true, but as petroleum skyrockets in price, the differences will be magnified, and people will start to notice. I just pray that the effects of Peak Oil are severe enough to inspire change before global warming reaches the point of no return.

As part of our renewed commitment, we built another garden after arriving home, so that we could plant some more food. (I'll take pictures soon - we're using the Square Foot Gardening method!). We bought some canning supplies so that we will be able to preserve some of that produce. We bought some books that will help us on our path. Books on composting, on preserving, on sewing "green" (with recycled materials), and one on general self-sufficiency. We are trying to build a library of reference books that will help to learn all of those skills that died with our ancestors. I'll add these books to my side bar as we accumulate them. It's funny that in talking about sustainability, I'm also talking about the things we are buying - but we are buying things that will help us to be more sustainable and buy less in the future. As inflation takes hold, these things will be invaluable to keeping our cost of living affordable. We've started a Wish List of things we want to buy in the future, as finances allow. On that list is things like a bike for me (my husband and kids have one, but I don't). Other reference books we want to get so that we can practice our skills in those areas. More canning supplies, and possibly a dehydrator. And as the cheap things we already own break, we are replacing them with things that can be repaired, and will hopefully last a lifetime. Like good, sturdy kitchen tools. We're planning to insulate this year to keep our heating costs low. We'd like to build a wood shed so that we can buy a winters' worth of wood all at once, instead of buying more halfway through the winter when costs are high, and the wood is not as well seasoned (meaning we burn more in order to get enough heat). These things all cost more money up front, but will pay huge dividends in the long-run.

Many of the Peak Oil blogs I follow have indicated that we have already reached the Peak (in July of 2008), and that we will soon begin the descent. Oil prices, in spite of the economy, are beginning the creep upward, and it won't be long before they surpass the prices of 2008. Is anyone else feeling a sense of urgency in preparing for the future? If so, what concrete steps are you taking to make sure your family is fed, clothed, and has a roof over their heads? Are you concerned that Global Warming might beat it to the punch? Have you tried to influence your loved ones to help make them more aware, and thus become a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem? How have you gone about it?


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday! I'm enjoying reading yours . . . it seems like we have some similar goals! :)

    I wanted to recommend a few books to you:
    "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" is the end-all, be-all book for everything you might want to do or make by yourself. Want to can jam, build a chicken coop, castrate a cow or assist in a birth (animal or human?) This is the book for you! :)
    "Four Season Harvest" by Eliot Coleman. The latter I haven't read myself, but it is on my wish list and looks like something you might be interested in as well, especially living further North!

    Good luck!


    PS - I also just bought several new packets of seeds yesterday to finish up our garden. Some to add, and some to replace that got eaten up by woodchucks when they just started to sprout leaves! They never recovered. :(

  2. Thanks for visiting, Sarah! Yes, it does seem like we have a lot of similar interests. :)

    Thanks for the book suggestion - that's EXACTLY the book I was looking for. We don't have any major bookstores where we live, so whenever we travel, Chapters is always one of our stops! We visited two Chapters and I couldn't find that book. I might have to cave and order it online. Does it give enough detail on each subject to actually be useful? Or would you still have to get other books in order to expand on the information?

    I'm also curious about the Four Season Harvest book - that sounds interesting too! This is the first year we've tackled gardening (other than tomatoes and herbs in pots), so we're just plodding along and learning as we go. Once we get the basics down, I'm definitely going to learn more about extending the harvest.

    Off to read more of your blog!

  3. It's a pretty thorough book! Obviously, if you decided to raise a large herd of cattle or something, there are books that go further in-depth on specific subjects, but it is a perfect go-to book with tons of information and detail.

    Another line of books to look out for is the Firefox series. You can often find them used. Our family's copy is from the 70's. :)

    We buy most of our books via amazon.com. Normally with free super saver shipping, if you're worried about that. Most of the titles we search for can't be found in an average store; they're not exactly best sellers in our city!:)


  4. Oops! I meant Foxfire, not Firefox.

  5. Great - thanks for the info! I'll add that to my book wish list. :)

  6. That must have been a Freudian slip... (Firefox)... are you a Mac girl too? :)

  7. I am so right there with you. I do feel frustrated when I let myself focus on all of the stuff other people do that seems to "offset" the steps my family takes to keep our footprint as small as possible. So I try to just not look, and instead focus as much as possible on what we can do. Our current projects in the works are home-made wind turbines for energy, and homegrown food. We just moved to a house with 3/4 of an acre of land, and we've begun the process of growing what we need from our little patch of land. We're slowly replacing grass with veggies, and we've got one fruit tree planted.
    We've shifted away from eating meat/dairy, and are nearly vegan at this point. It takes far less land and resources to support a vegan diet, and that's a change we felt good about making. I wish you all the best, and agree with you in your hopes that Peak Oil makes conservation a financial necessity before it's too late for our little world.
    Also, I just read "Balance Point" and "The Humanure Handbook", both by Joseph Jenkins. I highly recommend them...

  8. Hey Frugal Babe,

    I've been following along with your new house saga, glad to hear you guys are doing so well with it! Is your 3/4 acre lot in town?? If so, that's incredible! You guys were already doing well growing food on your tiny lot, I can't imagine how much food you'll be able to grow on 3/4 of an acre.

    We are pretty close to vegan as well. We eat a small amount of cheese, and use eggs and honey for baking. Those are pretty much the only animal products we use. We buy our eggs from the farmer's market from a free-range farmer, and our honey from a local beekeeper. We used to buy organic cheese, but the price has doubled since we've started buying it, so we've been buying conventional cheese and using it sparingly (I actually think I could give it up altogether if need be).

    You're so right that we need to just focus on our own efforts. So many people use that as an excuse NOT to do anything (ie - how much impact can I really have, what's the point of trying...). If we all did a little, imagine what a collective impact we could have.

  9. I feel the same way about so much of this, Alissa! Especially about family relationships and sharing your values gently. We also found ourselves eating at places we wouldn't normally while traveling this summer, and creating way more trash than we'd like. Just reminded me what a difference it makes to cook and eat at home the rest of the year, and not being too busy in our daily lives to make that a priority.