Saturday, January 21, 2017

Is the bubble bursting???

We moved into the Bioshelter 10 years ago and role modeled a different kind of western living.  We learned so much, but we also realize it’s not enough.  Curt and I are really taking a hard look at retirement. How do we reshape a system?  It’s so much easier to start over.  I think we should become Amish and go live in the woods at the cabin.  Curt isn’t so sure, but the system we are in, our culture, is really becoming more and more DE-generative and the possibility of something that’s regenerative seems out of the realm of possibility.  

If suddenly Big Ag can’t feed us there would be a crisis, so we’d be forced to change.  So how soon is that crisis coming?  I read 1491, a book about before Columbus arrived.  It seems the woods were abundant food forests that the indigenous cultivated.  Could we do that?  Maybe, but in a crisis situation, it’s better to have the life boat already built.  So how do you build the ark, if it hasn’t even started raining?

I think our culture is almost at the edge—the crisis is almost here.  It’s so hard to know.  We have to take exponential growth seriously. This video helps explain it.  Please watch it.  

   These days hockey stick graphs are everywhere and they seem to be getting worse every year.  




And the next hockey stick graph we aren’t really allowed to talk about:  too many people.  The UN put this graph together.

So how do we get these graphs to change?  How do we use less energy and have a better life?  How do we use less water and have a better life? 

I think oil consumption is my number one concern. If that bubble bursts we are in big trouble.

Thinking about our big ag system made me do some research.  This came from the University of Ottowa, so this might be Canadian statistics.  It takes 400 gallons of oil to feed one person for 1 year.  

  • 20% is the farm equipment; 
  • 16% is the transportation; 
  • 13% is irrigation; 
  • 8% is live stock; 
  • 5% are pesticides.  

I’m wondering how much it is to feed our Alaskan family?  How many gallons of gas do we use to go to Chitna, put the boat in, motor up and down the river dip-netting?  How many gallons do we use to pull the boat and a 4-wheeler to the mountains to get a caribou?  How many gallons do I use driving to town to get seeds, or to Palmer to get manure?  If there’s suddenly no more oil……Curt and I don’t know how to live without it.  And we are not very dependent on the Big Ag farms.

 It stresses me out to know that when the fictitious Beverly Hillbillys struck oil, they paid $0 to get the oil out.  Now we may be using a barrel of oil to get a barrel out of the ground.  Here’s the quote:  If we have energy returned on energy invested (ERoEI) = 1 then the net energy is zero. We use as much energy to gather energy as energy gathered.  

Here’s the historical numbers from the Energy Matters  blog site is:  “ERoEI for finding oil and gas decreased exponentially from 

  • 1200:1 in 1919
  • 5:1 in 2007. 

The EROI for production of the oil and gas industry was 

  • about 20:1 from 1919 to 1972, 
  • declined to about 8:1 in 1982 when peak drilling occurred, 
  • recovered to about 17:1 from 1986–2002 
  • declined sharply to about 11:1 in the mid to late 2000s.” 

So where are we now???  How much energy does it take to pull more oil out of the arctic?  According to Peak Oil, for things to keep going as we are used to, we must have at least an ERoEi between 5 and 7. 

Okay, I’ll stop now. I’m beginning to feel like Chicken Little. “The sky is falling.” Who wants to come to the cabin with us and live off the land??? ☺

Monday, January 16, 2017

Reflections on my Biome

 I’m so confused about my biome.  I can’t understand it.  Where are the boundaries?  It reminds me of OUR TOWN, the play.  Here’s the quote I’m remembering from it. 

I never told you about that letter Jane Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: It said: Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America…Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the mind of God – that’s what it said on the envelope. 

So my address would be Cindee Karns, AlaskaBioshelter, RamValley drainage, Eagle River Valley, Anchorage; SouthCentral; Alaska; and then the rest and finally: the Mind of God.  The Mind of God is the coolest. 

Permaculture says to design from WHOLE to PARTS and to look for patterns.  What’s my whole?  If I work on designs for all of my biomes, will that thinking process of mine somehow seep out into other’s thoughts of their biomes?  Since Permaculture also says start with observations, that’s a good thing.  It gives me some focus, but then I get lost when I’m hearing a podcast about the similarities between Italy’s President and our in-coming president.  That’s a pattern and if you look closer at other countries you can see other similar patterns in leadership.  What pattern is that?  Do I have a responsibility for that Biome? 
And then I go out to shovel snow.  I don’t hear the birds that I know winter here.  I hear snow blowers all around me.  That’s a pattern.  Is that a sign of our pattern of oil dependency?  Or am I just observing that because I have a shovel in my hand and am feeling a little elite in my attempt to become part Amish.  J

Eklutna Lake
I often think of who might have come back to this valley in ancient times:  where was the glacier?  It’s still astonishing to me that Knik was the named because it was the END of the Knick glacier when the town was founded.  Amazing.  We still have a glacier hanging above us I think.  No telling when it will be gone.  Soon I fear.  It sends water down to us—on both sides of our neighborhood.  Many of us drink it right from the stream. 

I see cottonwoods everywhere---an awful tree to partner with in terms of a heat source, but they are responsible, along with the willow and other water-loving plants, that sprouted and grew really fast because of the water source.  All of those leaves over the years have turned this valley into a place of soil, a place that can be cultivated, albeit with LOTS of rocks throughout.

There are many animals up here, but they are also down in the valley:  moose, bears, coyotes, rabbits.  We could have warm clothes, bear fat and meat to eat, but I’m not sure we could feed the current population in our neighborhood.  We have plenty of year round birds to entertain us:  ravens, eagles, chickadees, nuthatches, and stellar jays, and my favorite:  the grouse.  Our nocturnal residents help us keep our vole populations down:  owls and coyotes, but unfortunately they eat the grouse too.   

 So, if I think of my ancestors, I don’t think they would have settled here.  Even though there’s fresh water, and SOME spruce trees, it’s 1 mile up on the side of the mountain.  They might have lived in the valley after the glacier receded. But not up here. 

It certainly makes me wonder if I should live here?  I rely on fossil fuel to drive that mile up and then another 10 miles to town.  We use lots of electricity and natural gas to stay warm.  We have to import our wood because we live in a cottonwood forest.  However, it all might be changing.  Our summers are now warmer and I see the cottonwood struggling, but so are the birch and the willows.  There isn’t enough water or snow melt.  Apparently this area used to be covered in PINE trees before the last glaciers covered our area.  Maybe that will be the new tree? 

The mind of God……up here in the mountains.  What pattern is that?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Largest Community Garden in the US.

Largest Community Garden in the US

The Shiloh Field Community Garden just happens to be in Denton, TX where my son and his family are living.  Today we toured it (11/23/16) and talked to the founder, Gene Gumfory. This garden has been open for seven years and they have learned a lot, most of which is very relevant for the Central Urban Farm in Anchorage, especially since both gardens are on church property.

The Shiloh Field Community Garden prides itself on being a teaching, sharing and growing garden.  They welcome everyone.  There are 159 individual 15x15 garden plots for anyone to use for free.  You simply have to register each year.  There are no fences around the garden, but each person can add fences to his/her own plot.  It is open 24/7 so that gardeners can come and tend their gardens as they need to.  Water is free and is supplied by the church, as are wood chips. However, they don’t allow sprinklers.

Gardeners are encouraged to use organic fertilizer, but that is not supplied by the garden. 

Here is the sign that is up at the 
entry of the garden.

Across from the private plots they have a large orchard with pecan, pear, plum trees. Toward the back of the acerage is another type of community garden.  It relies on the community, church members, students from the two universities located in Denton, K-12 studetns and even some court-ordered community service volunteers to grow, harvest and weed the gardens.  Each Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings at 8am before the heat begins, they start arriving.  They all must sign up in order to work there.  Homeless or hungry people are encouraged to sign up as well to work side by side learning with the more experienced volunteers.  During harvest season at least, each volunteer is allowed to take home his/her own food for that night’s dinner. 

To access free fertilizer, they now have horse farms delivering to them directly as well as the tree companies.  In the fall, they put out an all call for raked leaves and people just bring them.  They also have all of their chicken manure.  The long rows of compost mixes right there on site and stays very hot all year. 

The garden also boasts 3 high tunnels for winter growing, 15-20 doz eggs a day, honey, blackberries and grapes.  All of the extra food is shared with many, many organizations who feed the poor.  In Denton 1 in 5 persons lives below the poverty level. 

Gene recommends a committee of 4 or 5 to run the garden, which is not what he has.  He is trying to manage it himself.  He also recommends that every community garden organizer join the American Community Garden Association.  They have lots of ideas there, he told me. 

I left with lots of ideas---especially signage.