Monday, January 28, 2013

Plucked from the garden this morning:

In the post-peak world, perhaps after a settling period, I like to imagine that we in the developed world will eat better than we did before The Change. Seem like a crazy dream? Perhaps. But when I read, a few years back, that the English diet actually improved in quality (if it was perhaps short on calories at times) during WWII, I was further convinced of the problems inherent in our modern, oil-subsidized, convenience-based, developed-world diet. For the wartime English, meat products and imported American grains became scare due to the war effort and shipping blockades. Previously, two-thirds of their food had been imported; thus they were forced to make dramatic increases in domestic production—and not of meats, but of vegetables. Of course, the increase in potato production (it was doubled) may not suggest an improved diet, but along with the tubers came other, more healthful produce.

I don't recall where I read that article about the English wartime diet, but I found several other interesting links looking at the history:
A BBC History link about the wartime diet.
A BBC article from 2004 about one person's attempt to eat that way for a week.

Meantime, I would urge you to examine your own diet and consider what level of nutrition it provides. I have a strong tendency to look at problems in their totality, to become overwhelmed by the degree of change and the amount of effort needed to overcome them; but when I have the inspiration (and calmness of spirit) to break the problem into smaller parts—miniature problems—and address those more manageable bits one at a time, I find that not only can I gain a more useful perspective on the overall problem, but I can free inspiration and the impetus to effect meaningful—if limited—change.

About three years or so ago, in an effort to make some small, tangible improvement to my diet, I began to add "green smoothies" to my morning regimen. A blenderful of water, apple, kale, and carrot was the basis for numerous improvisations that included fruit in season, other vegetables, fresh ginger—whatever seemed interesting and healthful. All raw, all as fresh as possible. I've since included freshly ground golden flax seed and chopped beets as regulars in the mix. And I'm an inveterate sweet tooth—I won't eat or drink anything regularly that isn't at least leaning toward the sweet end of the spectrum. But almost all the smoothies I've made have been delightful, if not all truly sweet. A half-cup of organic apple juice does the heavy lifting, if I have some. And ground cinnamon can counter any bitterness of the kale and add its own delight to the drink.

I continue to look for ways to improve my diet, which is by no means completely healthy. But I'm very pleased with the start I've made. Growing my own foods would be the next obvious step, and that handful of kale in the photo is the result of this morning's small harvest. It went right into the blender with the other ingredients for a truly delicious morning breakfast. Though I'd love to do so, I'm not in a position to grow all, or even a major portion of, my food intake; but if I could have a small kale bed, and perhaps some carrots, I could do well for at least part of the year. I took a chance with this planting of kale. I put the seeds in very late, and we've had to protect them from some sub-freezing temperatures, but they're doing well, if a bit behind the warmer-season growth curve.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

More evidence of climate weirding. Shot this video this morning:

Until recently, the nights had been quite cold-- down into the 20s some nights-- but now the days are sunny, into the 60s, and the nights are warmer. I'm not familiar with the long-term weather patterns here, but them as knows have said this tree blooming now is way out of line with the norm.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Preparing for the post-peak future.

Practical skills, such as cultivation of food crops, may well come in handy in a post-peak-oil world. Last summer I joined my sister's family on their 3-acre place in central California. They'd planted a moderately sized garden, including several raised beds, and were having mixed results. The extreme heat kept much of the potential produce of the garden in check; when the heat began to let up late in the season, though, the larger tomato varieties began to shake off their heat-induced torpor and rather suddenly we had late tomatoes (the cherry varieties didn't seem to be affected by the heat).

Being a latecomer, I wasn't involved in spring planting, but I did enjoy lots of tomatoes, a wee bit of broccoli (didn't do well in the heat), a few bell peppers and hot peppers, and a surprising harvest of carrots—given that they had not been thinned, and the soil (they were not planted in the raised beds) has a lot of clay and is quite hard. I did, however, take advantage of the mild weather (I assumed) to put in a late planting of kale and spinach, from seed. My bro-in-law put in broccoli, carrot, and cauliflower seeds. I confess to being quite lazy, and could have had it in much earlier than I did. I planted the first seeds in mid-November, and followed up with 2nd and 3rd plantings in the following few weeks. The result has been the cold-stunted plants you see in this photo. Lacinato, Russian Red, and the typical super-curly varieties (I call that last one "fractal kale"). We've had quite a run of sub-freezing nights, down into the low 20s once or twice. We've taken to covering the beds at night. Now we're in a warmer spell; nights will hover just above or about freezing, and days have been sunny and in the 60s.

All this is, for me, an effort to become more aware of what I can do, and how I can do it, as we move inexorably into increasingly uncertain times. By most accounts, the actual moment of Peak Oil has passed us, but the event's most important consequences are ahead of us. Is there any connection between the worldwide financial meltdown and Peak Oil? I've heard some affirmative response to this question, but nothing definitive (not that I've been searching for it). Would evidence of such a connection make the mainstream media headlines? or even below-the-fold news? Probably not, is my guess. So what are we to do? Go all doomsday-prepper and stockpile Spam and ammo? God, no. Well, stockpile seeds, sure. Heirloom varieties. Maximum genetic diversity as a hedge against the coming social, financial, and climatic uncertainties. Yes. Yes, indeed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fire on the prairie

The changes we're wreaking on our planet are of such a scale, and of such ferocious speed, that they can be seen by day and night. This image was made from nighttime satellite photos of North America. The circled area shows the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, which are flaring natural gas that's coming up with the oil. Though domestic extraction has reduced our imports of foreign oil, the cost to the environment (and to ranchers and farmers) has been considerable. Domestic groundwater supplies have been impacted, as have surface waters, including rivers and lakes.
Read the story and see more photos-- and a fantastic time-lapse video of nighttime Earth from the orbiting space station-- at this link: NPR story.