My good friend over at Tiny House Designs, Michael, posted this on his personal Facebook page last night and I really liked it. It sets the stage for the issues surrounding peak oil, then talks about how Cuba coped when economic sanctions block most imports of oil and other key resources to their country. Why is this important? Because they essentially experienced what peak oil would be like on a very rapid time line, then rose to meet the challenges. They shifted to local economies and small scale urban agriculture rapidly when they suddenly couldn’t get gas to run tractors, to import food, to really do anything. The power went out, the shelves were empty and their world was turned upside down. See how they met the challenge head on!
A few months back we had a post on the future of farming, where the idea of forest gardens was talked about and in the comments we talked some too. The basic idea is you take a piece of land that is just a field and you design it to grow into a forest where each plant has a purpose. The rub is you can harvest year round for about 5 days of maintenance a year!
Here is a video of a 300 year old Forest Garden, spanning back 28 generations!
Not too long ago I talked about my two focus areas of my life: Affordable housing and sustainable food. I have recently picked up Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which has been a really good read. The author talk about the many issues of our food system, primarily stemming from large agribusiness.
None of this is new, in fact it is rather old news to me, but something spurred inside of me to take a look at buying local. I once made a big push for this, but when I arrived at the farmers market and discovered them simply repackaging produce from Argentina and placing it under the “produced in North Carolina” sign, I gave up.
I think what really motivates me is that I want real food, actual real food, not some chemically, induced genetically modified, adulterated and processed food. After taking a look around, I realized something, it is hard to find real food. Today’s companies market the fact that they use real sugar as if they are somehow an industry leader, I can only think “you are proud to say “our food is actually real food” “.
The other day I was at Walmart – I know, I know – and was excited to see that they had a “seasonal foods” aisle, I rounded the corner to find seasonally thematic candy. Not what I was expecting. How far as a culture have we gotten away from our food when our seasonal foods are candy, simply repackaged?
A mental picture always comes into mind of the bumper stickers all over Asheville, NC and beyond “local food: 1000’s of miles fresher” and it is true, the food we find in the stores is a bastardization of mother nature’s brilliance aka fruits and vegetables. I have tried to find a local place to start buying milk – let’s not get into the whole raw vs. pasteurized debate – and have found it can be quite difficult to procure without driving an hour. For eggs I soon will be producing my own, I could raise meat chickens, but I think it would be easier to just find it locally. For cheese I plan to start making my own from the local milk.
I know there are simply some things I must resign myself from getting locally such as flour, rice, and a few other things. In all honesty, I love fruit so much that I don’t think I will ever stop buying out of state or country fruit, just can’t. But it has caused me to rethink things and discover the local side of my food. I think once I can get it buttoned down pretty well I can then start sharing my experience within my community, to show the ins and outs, the pros and cons.
Share your thoughts on local food in the comments
So as the gardening season comes to a halt (I don’t do stuff over winter) I ramp up my efforts on learning and planning. Many people take this time to plan for next year, flush out ideas, do research and start getting excited for the spring. In my time online I have found a pretty neat idea, that isn’t new, but the guys that have put these together have flushed out the idea pretty well and I thought I’d share.
Basically this is two 5 gallon buckets, one inside the other, with a tray and a bottom reservoir. I have seen this in practice at a local community garden: the Johnson & Wales University Community Garden. When I first heard about this garden, it was described to me as a garden, on a cement slab…. I was pretty curious, how could they be gardening on a slab? They use these buckets and it’s ingenious! The best part is that if push comes to shove and they had to move, a few hours with a pickup and they could do it pretty easily. See their garden below.
I really like this idea because it bring in the potential for using much more spaces, it is flexible and semi-mobile. The kicker came when I saw a video on how you can use simple atmospheric pressure to auto water the entire group of buckets, weather 1 or 10,000, all without power or any special equipment! The other thing they did that I hadn’t see was adding black plastic, this allowed them to reduce the water needed by 70% because it prevented evaporation.
How to make a Global Bucket
Automatic Watering System
Three years ago I set a goal for myself to start growing most of my own food. Many of you might remember this past summer when I got my chickens, I had put up some post about them (see them here). Well now they are almost full grown and soon to lay eggs.
I then learned of quail which have a few unique attributes that really appealed to me. In my journey to grow my own food, I have set another goal to design everything to minimize work put in, maximize what I get out, to integrate ergonomics, set the stage to ramp up production in the event of a long term crisis (think Katrina) and develop a high level of diversity.
Quail does all these things, they are raised in a square foot per bird, are able to be kept on wire without harm (so dropping simply pass through the mesh) to minimize cleaning, they are prolific breeders laying 300 eggs a year, and I have two species of birds to add to my chickens, making a higher diversity.
Oh did I mention they’re really cute?