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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Sky Might Really Be Falling

First let me start off this post by assuring you that I am not a gun-toting, backwoods-living, hard core survivalist, and I probably never will be.  I'm not built that way.  But I do believe in reading signs and taking action- if I didn't, I wouldn't be living in Oregon, and I wouldn't have the garden that I do.  And I probably wouldn't know all you wonderful people.  And I'm not a conspiracy theorist, although I might sound like one.  Really.  I'm not.

Stumbling around on Amazon the other night, I ran across a book called 'The Crash Course' by Chris Martenson, PhD, which was published just last month.  It had eleven reviews, all of which were five-star.  Dr. Martenson describes how our economic future is on a very quick collision course with peak oil, which is necessary for expansion and growth, and which is not going to be there.  One of the reviews mentioned that you can take a quick view of the book by watching the videos on his website, which he posts there for free because he thinks that it's important for as many people to be aware of what's coming as possible.  So I did, and I really hope that you will too, regardless of where you are.  What he has to show you is pretty scary, and he doesn't even talk about global warming.  That wrinkle is not part of the discussion.  What is part of the discussion is what's coming, and what you can do to prepare for it, and guess what? Building community, not running off into the woods, is part of it as well.

I've been working these last several years trying to get ready for something.  I keep thinking something bad is going to happen. I don't know what, but it's going to be big and it's going to be bad.  I thought maybe the recession was it, but I don't think so because I still have that feeling that the big bad thing is still out there.  After watching his videos, I have a more concrete idea of what it's going to be. Martenson thinks the next twenty years are going to be very different from the last twenty years, and he says that it's going to start in the twenty-teens.  Well, that's only a couple of years away, right? He starts off by explaining how our monetary system will be part of the cause. He does a really good job of explaining complex economic ideas, theories, and policies, and making them completely understandable.  So much so that I spent part of yesterday moving some investments around in my IRA.  I may do some more.  If you have some time, please watch his videos.  There is no trickery here. In fact, he explains some of the trickery our government uses to keep us all in the dark.  Do you realize that economists have been able to get away with telling us that the recession is over because they don't use the price of gas and groceries in their calculations? That prices in the consumer price index (CPI) are subject to arbitrary valuations placed on things by the practice of hedonics, which basically measures the value of something by our enjoyment of it?  Really eye-opening stuff.

Today I managed to get our grain mill ordered. I've been wanting one for a very long time, and I think that if Steve wasn't planning on using it for cracking malted barley for his brewing, I'd still be trying to make an argument for it, but he relented. I did some research awhile ago and settled on the mill made by Country Living.  I like it because aside from being well-rated, it has a grooved flywheel that you can use to attach the belt for the mill to a stationary bicycle or electric motor, if you like.  It has steel grinding plates, instead of stone, so they'll last well.  The best part is that it's fully adjustable and can go from cracking corn (chicken feed, anyone?) to milling cake flour.  It's not cheap though.  I got mine at the Canning Pantry dot com because the price was pretty much in line with what I saw elsewhere, maybe fifty cents cheaper, and the shipping was free.  The biggest reason I bought it from them was that their prices on everything else I might need for it (spare grinding plates, emergency repair kit, etc.) were way cheaper than everywhere else, including at Country Living Grain Mills.

On the way home from some running around this afternoon, we also stopped to get some bulk wheat at Bob's Red Mill Store, which is in Milwaukie. We bought two twenty-five pound bags of organic white wheat- one hard, one soft.  The next stop was the local grocery store where I picked up eight five-gallon food grade buckets and their lids from the bakery for free.  I'm not planning on long term storage here because I'm going to start grinding our flour.  When I need more, I'll go back to Bob's.  In the meantime, I'm going to try to learn how to grow wheat.  That's why I've had a copy of Gene Logsdon's (author of The Contrary Farmer) 'Small Scale Grain Raising' for awhile now. Speaking of Gene Logsdon: on his blog this morning he wrote about something he thought important and something the media isn't covering.  The price of corn is skyrocketing- it's at seven dollars a bushel right now.  The consensus among corn farmers is that it's going to ethanol producers, which may be the case, but it's a seriously dumb use for corn.  Corn is a heavy feeder, and takes a lot of petroleum-based fertilizer and diesel to bring to market.  Ethanol is a net proposition at best.  I think what's going on is that the oil speculators are whacking out the prices because of the unrest in the middle east.  We don't get oil from Libya (that's more Italy's problem) but that doesn't stop speculators from doing silly things, for which everybody else is going to pay at the grocery store and the pump.

This afternoon when I talked to my hog farmer (I found a pasture farmer!), I asked her what the price of grain is doing to her operation and she said that it was making things a little more difficult but she was more curious how I knew about the price of grain going up.  She was surprised that someone who is not a farmer would be informed that way.  She may be pasturing cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens and turkeys, but she still has to feed some grain.  They are turning some of their pasture over to raising their own organic grain because it's the organic grain that is really going up.  You'd think that with the price of oil rising, it would make organic farming come more in line price-wise.  At least make it look more attractive than conventional farming, anyway.

At any rate, I'm glad that I'm getting my half-hog, ten chickens, and a turkey at this year's prices. And that I have fifty pounds of wheat in the house, and a grain mill on the way.

We may not be able to afford them next year.

19 comments:

Miriam said...

I've been reading and thinking and worrying, too, and trying to build up our food stores without feeling like a wacko.

Have you read any of Sharon Astyk's books? In the last few weeks I have read both "Depletion and Abundance" and "Independence Days", both of which I highly recommend. She is articulate and funny and highly practical, and she eschews buying a gun in favour of building community instead.

click clack gorilla said...

Thanks for the link to this. I'm curious, have you read any Derrick Jensen stuff, and if you have, what did you think?

When I think about the falling sky, I do feel a twinge of sadness at it meaning I won't get to read your blog anymore, it's quickly become one of my favorites. :)

Jennifer Montero said...

My biggest fear is how little I truly understand about the global economy, though I try to redress that gap through reading and internet radio. I'm the least economically astute person I know.

I'm almost looking forward to a breakdown of society, as my hunting and gathering skills are better than my banking and investment skills!

I do have a bad feeling in my gut about the unchecked power of corporations, from tax avoidance to the ridiculous bonus culture to their influence over government policy. I read that if a corporation was a person, that person would be a sociopath.

I can - and do - buy wheat and barley straight off the estate farmers, mostly for animal consumption, though I've started making bread from the wheat. It's perfectly good. I would like to try and grow oats.

I'm putting a bet on with you that, sooner or later, you will try raising your own pig. You can supplement its feed with spent brewing mash you know! And think of all the digging it can do for you. I'm just saying...

becky3086 said...

Oh my, nobody wants to comment? Well, I think you are on the right track myself. I am not a crazy survivalist either but I have been having that feeling that I need to get my stuff in order and stop "playing" self sufficientist and start really doing it. I have not bought a grain mill because we have no where to grow grain but I do have some food storage now and do have my garden in order and do have the meat chickens growing. Just have to keep at it...just in case.

Heidianne said...

Excellent post! Thanks for the heads up, on all of it, and the links. Can you share your farmer with others? I would like to find a good source for local meat. We just don't have the space for critters, unless you count the pack of raccoons who live off our compost as "livestock".
I grow a patch of Black Knight wheat for use in decorations etc..but last year had some viscious rust problems. What can one do to grow organic grain and avoid fungicides? Maybe that's why organic is more expensive, trying to grow it without using all that toxic stuff.
I too have been feeling that we (the Hubby and I) need to get are butts in gear food production wise. Growing and preserving what we need as it is only going to get more expensive to rely on purchasing our food.
It's just so daunting.

Paula said...

I haven't, Miriam, although I've heard of her. I'll look for her at the library (natch).

Paula said...

I haven't Nicole, so I can't have an opinion on Derrick Jensen. Some of the reviews of his work on Amazon are pretty interesting, though.

And thank you for the kind compliment!

Paula said...

What an interesting analogy Jennifer! I never thought of the corporation as a sociopath, but that's probably very apt. It kind of makes you wonder about the folks in charge of the corporation. I don't believe that all corporations are bad, but as long as they're publicly held, they'll continue to take whatever advantages the can squeeze out of the government. I am really, really miffed over the supreme court allowing them influence in our government and elections. It's really hard to see just when and where our government became of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.

I will tell you now that you will lose your bet on the hog, because I've read Novella Carpenter's Farm City. In it she describes the flaming hoops she had to go through to feed her hogs in downtown Oakland, California. She was able to feed them from the waste stream, but that meant nightly forays into local dumpsters with a headlamp strapped to her head. It was a LOT of work. In the end, she wasn't very happy with their slaughter as well. So I think for the foreseeable future, I'm leaving the hog raising to those as has the room for it.

Paula said...

Becky- even if you don't have the room for grain, you may want to get the mill and lay in fifty pounds of wheat for long term storage (there are all kinds of places on the net for getting the how to for that). One thing Steve and I seem to really go through is flour. Between his pizza dough, pretzels, and the occasional loaf of bread, and my pancakes and pasta, we go through ten pounds of flour fairly fast for two people. Whole grains keep a LOT better than ground flours do, so that's the reason for keeping wheat around.

I'm glad that you're thinking about food storage already. Don't forget water. Our next capital outlay will be for a fancy-schmancy water filter so that I can filter rain water for drinking (if I have to) or river water (if I really have to). You can go a long time without food, but only three days without water, so be thinking about that. Steve and I have only fifteen gallons socked away, which is a start, but I won't feel comfortable until I have an on-the-ground way to replace it.

Paula said...

Thanks, Heidianne! If you have some cornmeal, next time you suspect rust, mix some cornmeal with warm water and spray that on it. I first heard about cornmeal and warm water as a remedy for toenail fungus, but the guy who thought that one up first heard it used for treating fungus on roses. Experts think the warm water releases enzymes in the corn which eat the fungus. I can say with some authority that it works on toenail fungus, and I'm pretty sure it's what got rid of the powdery mildew on my roses last year.

The farmer I chose to go with is Deck Family Farms (do a google and you'll find them). They're in Junction City, which is on 99 south of Corvallis. S=I spoke with Christina, who couldn't have been nicer. She is going to let me come down on processing day to learn how to dispatch chickens. She also wanted to know if I was interested in a raw milk newsletter, because they are trying to figure out a CSA for raw milk, which is six months to a year away. I am feeling pretty good about finding them. Mention my name if you talk to her. Neither one of us will get anything from it, but I'd like her to know that I liked her well enough to recommend her.

As far as the growing and preserving aspect goes, start somewhere. Start soon. Let me know if you need a hand with planning or ideas or anything. I'm right across the river.

Sydnii said...

I was just talking to my sister last night about what we would do if calamity struck. (Well, we were using the word "apocalypse"). It seems oddly coincidental that almost on the heels of that conversation, I am reading this post of your's. I just wish I was at a point in my life where I was better able to prepare for any future disaster. Ah, well. I'll just keep reading your blog (among others' blogs and whatever publications I can find) and keep learning.

Paula said...

Sydnii- Start by buying an extra something with your groceries every week and tucking it away somewhere in your home. Take advantage of sales on something like canned goods. If you don't have a backpacking stove, look online (google Zen alcohol stoves) for free information on building an alcohol stove out of soda or beer cans- look for the penny stove, which is pretty much the best design I've run across yet. If you are in a non-earthquake area, tuck a quart or half gallon glass jar of water away (look online for information on that as well). Buy some sprouting seeds and pack them away in the refrigerator. Don't think large and overwhelming; think of small steps and get something tucked away. If you have any extra money and can buy some gold or silver, do that.

The important thing is to do something so that you won't be of the thousands looking for help and not finding much of that. Squirrels don't get ready for winter buy hiring a guy to deliver a winter's worth of nuts; they prepare one nut at a time. You can too.

morgaineotm said...

Think I started worrying about that questionable future sometime in the early 1970's. Lived right in NYC and began learning how to can, dehydrate, etc. In the 80's got a chance to move to a more rural environment and began gardening. Still learning skills. One of the big lessons back then was the first "gas crisis". That's when it became obvious that businesses hadn't been factoring in fuel costs, it had been so cheap up until then.

Ethanol, by the way, is not good for your car. It's harmful to some of the components of your fuel system. So not only is environmentally an unsound policy, it is personally unsound fiscal policy!

Our government dollars at work!!

Suggest water purification equipment/knowledge (build a still?). Water will be a big issue and if you live near a stream or lake, that may make all the difference in the world.

Paula said...

Water purification is the next thing, Morgainetom. I'm looking at a Doulton Berkey gravity filter. A still would require too much fuel. Speaking of fuel, I need to figure out where I'm going to put my eucalyptus and get them planted soon. Fuel is going to be an issue for us later, I think. I have a couple more tricks up my sleeve, but already I'm feeling so much better just by having a few key things on hand.

In response to your 70's comment, I think Carter first warned the American public about the dangers of our levels of oil consumption and suggested that we needed to scale back on our consumption and do smart things, so we thanked him for that warning byu drumming him out of office and building, buying and driving gas-guzzling SUVs, which no one but folks who live down an unpaved road really needs.

If we'd listened up to Ol' Jimmy then, and started working toward a cleaner future, we wouldn't be in the predicament we are now.

JustAnotherGraphicsGirl said...

Thanks for the post and the links. Although I haven't had time to check out the links yet, I must agree that something bad is coming at us fast! I too feel that dark cloud. What happened to common sense? I'm planting a garden this year, growing my own hay for the horses and have two wood stoves that will be installed later this year. If things get really bad, I can take my hand saw out to the woods and get my own firewood...at least I will be warm! JAGG

Paula said...

You're welcome JAGG- I'm glad you're making a start toward preparing yourself (and your horses!). Good luck with it all.

Heidianne said...

Thanks for the cornmeal tip, Iam so doing it!I will also use t on the roses for blackspot etc.. Also I will contact your farmer, not just for meat, as I have wanted to make Devon clotted style cream for ever. BUT and it's a big but if you have no dairy cows to hand, you need un- pastuerised cream.
So thank you again! :)I hope we get some sun soon..

becky3086 said...

Paula, I just store flour. Easier,cheaper and less work. I don't store water because we have city water plus a back up well and we live right next to the lake. I also have a rain barrel. I think we have the water covered.

Paula said...

Wow you really do have water covered Becky- you're lucky! All we have is a river nearby, which is why we need the filter. I hope it never comes to that, though. What a serious hassle it will be.

Grain doesn't keep as long once it's been busted open, which is why I suggest it. Flour is a lot cheaper and easier and less work, but it doesn't keep as long as whole grain. Plus you can't plant it if it comes to that which is another reason why I have it.

But you've probably figured this all out already and have it somewhere like the freezer where it will keep much longer.