The Next 100 Things You Can Do To Get Ready For Peak Oil (And Whatever Else Comes Down the Pike)
1. If you live in a place where it gets hot in the summer, consider building a screen room (a room with screened windows all around or almost always around), either attached to your house or seperate. You can put a wood cookstove in the screenroom and use it as a summer kitchen for cooking and canning, avoiding adding heat to your house. You can also sleep in the screenroom when it is too hot to sleep inside, and reducing or eliminating the need for air conditioning. The room can double in the winter as a woodshed. If you cannot build on, freestanding screenrooms are also a possibility. For sleeping even a mesh camping pavilion or tent under the trees will be better than many houses.
2. For those in cold climates, consider a four poster bed. These were once not merely decorative – with heavy coverings for the top and the sides, they could be heated with your body heat, and provided a cozy sleeping space in an era when bedrooms were unheated. A frame can be added to many existing bedframes if you are at all handy, and curtains are easily made. You can also add wall hangings and tapestries as cheap forms of insulation to existing walls. They can be made from old blankets and cheap fabric, or can be as artful as you like.
3. Clean and organize your house, and get rid of anything you don’t need. Time is at a premium, and will only be more so in the future. For things that you wish to keep for the long term, pack them up and keep lists of where they are. You may need to find things quickly. Make sure emergency supplies, such as medical items, flashlights, etc… are readily available and can be found in the dark and under stress.
4. You’ll save yourself trips in the car and problems in the future if you stock up on fasteners of every kind – commonly used nails and screws, pins, hinges, latches, shoelaces, twine, rope, tacks, you name it – if it holds one thing to another, you’ll want it and running out is a pain. Stash a few extras of everything, and make sure you know where they are.
5. Expect if times get hard to consolidate housing with friends and family. Make sure you can live fairly comfortably. Yard and rummage sales are excellent sources of extra blankets, towels, and pillows. Fold up futons, tatami mats, even rolled up carpets make excellent emergency guest beds, and can be stacked and stored pretty easily. It may get crowded, but it doesn’t have to be miserable.
6. Pay your mortgage ahead whenever possible. If economic times get hard, and you are unable to pay, the bank will foreclose first on people who own only a little of their home equity. The more payments you can make on your *principle,* the more secure you will be, even if you don’t own the whole thing. If you rent, be a good tenant and establish a relationship with your landlord, who is thus more likely to be accomodating of you in difficult times.
7. Make sure you have a reliable source of non-electric water, whether rainbarrels, a cistern, hand pumps on your well, or a community source, such as a public pump. If you cannot easily create a private such source, consider advocating with your community that public water sites, with either manual pumps or solar powered ones be created at local public centers, such as schools, parks and community centers. Use the examples of extreme weather to emphasize the need to ensure a reliable local water system in a crisis.
8. Invest in several solar shower bags – there’s nothing like a hot shower, and they can be left in the sun in warm weather or hung in a greenhouse or behind a heat source in the winter. A good sized washtub also has many uses, from bathing kids to doing laundry by hand.
9. If you decorate for holidays and special occasions, invest in permanent, sustainable sources, or consider making them. Wreath making, for example, is comparatively simple and many of us have access to local evergreens. Decorate your sukkah or for a birthday party with hand knit or sewn “streamers” made in the shape of intertwined tubes or in roughly the style of tibetan prayer flags. Festivals and rituals are important – maintaining them sustainably is equally important.
10. Time to put in a composting toilet! They can be purchased at places like Lehmans (www.lehmans.com), or you can make one from plans readily available on the web. John Jenkins’ book, _The Humanure Handbook_ is available for sale or internet download, and covers all the relevant issues.
11. I know you’ve already converted over to compact flourescent lights, but have you also converted to LED, solar or hand cranked flashlights? Have you got a solar battery charger and rechargeable batteries for your flashlight? How about a solar charger for your cell phone?
12. If you plan to buy a house or land, remember, that an acre is a lot of land. It is easy to get all worried about peak oil and imagine you need 20 acres, but one acre, or half an acre or even a quarter can do an awful lot.
13. Take an introduction to permaculture class, or read up on permaculture. Toby Hemenway’s book _Gaia’s Garden:An Introduction to Home-Scale Permaculture_ is an excellent start. Begin replacing ornamental plants with edibles that are also beautiful.
14. If you are concerned with having to grow much of your food and don’t have a lot of space, prioritize root crops, especially potatoes and sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes can be grown in much of the northern half of America), rather than small grains, and beans, instead of meats. The people at Ecology Action, who have done more than almost anyone to figure out how to grow the most food in the least space recommend that 60% of your land be in cover crops, 30% in root crops and 10% in everything else.
15. Grow only or mostly open pollinated varieties of plants and practice seed saving. It may take some experimentation to find suitable varieties, but the security of saving your own seed is worth it. Seed saving does take practice, so start early. Check out Suzanne Ashworth’s _Seed to Seed_ for ideas, but beans and peas are an excellent starting place. Overwintering biennials like carrots and cabbage is easier than it sounds, so don’t assume you can’t save such seed. Join Seed Savers Exchange www.seedsavers.org
16. Connect with local garden clubs and beautification projects, and encourage them consider replacing street trees and public landscaping with edible trees and shrubs.
17. Start a new trend. Grow food plants in the shape of a V, or spelling out “Victory.” Bring back the Victory Garden!! Encourage victory gardens in your neighborhood.
18. Encourage your local religious community to reconnect with the agrarian roots of your faith. Every religion has harvest and planting rituals, traditions associated with spring and rebirth, etc… Create special gardens for religious holidays and community festivals to grow some of the food to be used in these. Share it publically, or donate it to the poor in your community.
19. Make compost tea out of your weeds. Many weeds contain useful trace minerals, and they’ve already absorbed some of your soil fertility. Dump them in a bucket of water, allow it to sit for a couple of days, and then fertilize plants.
20. Urine is sterile, and a person’s yearly output can provide a good part of the fertility for 1/2 acre. Pee in a bucket, jar or commode, and fertilize your garden with liquid gold, diluted 1 part pee to 10 parts water.
21. Encourage useful plant volunteers, and learn to propagate more plants by cuttings, layering and grafting. Plant your extras, or share them with neighbors and friends.
22. Many unusual fruit trees have few pests or disease issues, unlike some of the more common varieties. Consider trying pawpaws, medlars and quinces as well as apples, peaches and plums.
23. Barter your gardening skills, or offer them as gifts. Off er to put in a food garden for your neighbor, either in trade for something or as a gift, perhaps for an anniversary or child’s birthday. Or ask a neighbor to do you a favor, and let you garden on some spare lawn in exchange for help maintaining the property. Do whatever you have to get people growing food, even if it is a little sneaky.
24. Now is the time to get comfortable with season extension techniques to keep your supply of fresh food going as long as possible. Build a greenhouse or a strawbale coldframe. Put up floating row covers or a hoophouse.
25. Grow some food for your animals in your garden. Alfalfa, root crops, even wheat are easy to grow in garden beds, and the animals can sometimes even harvest them themselves.
26. Make sure your animals have updated vaccinations, in case the time comes when you are unable to revaccinate. Try and get 3 year rabies boosters when possible. Plan to keep pets indoors or contained if disease outbreaks in animals occur.
27. Shredded newspaper makes good animal bedding, as do dried leaves and even dried weeds. You don’t have to depend on purchased shavings or hay for your animals.
28. If you are attempting to get chickens in an area that hasn’t had them before, talk to your neighbors
first. Ideally, bring samples of beautiful fresh eggs and the baked goods that come with them. Approach your zoning commission after you’ve gotten the support of those around you.
29. Some small varieties of sheep and goats are appropriate for even suburban lots. You might convinceneighbors by offering to graze the animals on untended marginal areas that make the neighborhood look messy, or by letting goats clean up brush on other properties.
30. Spay and neuter any animals you do not intend to breed. Hard times are tough on animals, and we can expect proliferation of hungry, unwanted pets.
31. Consider training your dog to “go with” your children – train the dog to stay with your kids at all times when commanded, as an added measure of security. Or perhaps teach the dog to fetch small objects, guard animals or even dig holes for planting trees and perennials. Everything you can do to make your animals more functional will help you. Feel free to try it with cats.
32. If you are choosing a dog and taking peak oil and climate change into account, think seriously about a dog suited to your climate, environment and skills. A St. Bernard in the south may be miserable without air conditioning, a hairless dog unhappy in the wintery north without lots of heat. If your means of accomodating your animals include driving, fossil fueled temperature control, etc… choose an animal that doesn’t require these things. Remember that dogs and cats must be fed and have an ecological footprint. Think hard about how you will feed them in hard times.
33. If you are knowledgeable and committed to do it well, a small home business breeding working dogs, excellent mousers, meat or fiber rabbits or other useful animals might be an excellent source of income.
34. Consider horse transport and basic animal traction. Could you give up your vehicle if you had a horse? Do not, however, assume that hay and feed will be readily available – only raise horses if you have the land to feed them, or reason to believe it will be available.
35. Choose breeds of poultry that set, and can hatch out their own eggs in case replacement chicks are not available. Orpingtons, Cochins and most Bantams are good choices, although there are others.
36. Practice doing laundry without power. There are several ways, including long soaking, using a plunger and a bucket and various devices such as hand washers and pressure washers. But make sure you are not dependent for clean clothes upon power.
37. If you are troubled by towels and jeans that don’t dry as soft on the line as in the dryer you can add vinegar to the rinse to soften them, or use less detergent. Or just get used to it.
38. Acquire basic patterns for simple clothing that is comfortable and sturdy, and will adapt to your family over the long term. Practice making clothes.
39. Buy sturdy, high quality, well made boots, and make sure you have several extra pairs. The same is true for work gloves.
40. Always make sure you have extra pairs of glasses, including sunglasses and reading glasses for everyone who needs them. Even if you don’t yet need reading glasses, it might be wise to store a few pairs for the future.
41. Many people with indoor jobs don’t have an appropriate wardrobe for a life largely spent outdoors – their winter clothes aren’t warm enough for extended periods of outside work, their summer clothes are made of artificial fibers and don’t breathe well, they don’t have appropriate shoes, hats, etc… Now is the time to assess your wardrobe and overcome its deficiencies by checking out thrift shops, ebay and yard sales.
42. Many rummage sales have “bag sales” on the last day, allowing people to fill an entire bag with clothes for 50 cents or a dollar. This is a perfect time to acquire clothes for making scrap quilts and braided rugs, shruken and felted woolen goods for rug making, and clothes in other sizes to be able to offer refugees, family members, and growing children.
43. Consider creating a neighborhood clothing, book and toy exchange – it can be run out of a spare room, a garage, etc… Each family brings its outgrown and used items and others are free to take them. This expands neighborhood cohesion and also makes sure everyone has what they need without feeling uncomfortable about it. It can be expanded to include many other goods.
44. We dress our kids for winter nights in unheated bedrooms in several layers – long johns under blanket sleepers. Sweatshirts and sweatpants can be added over those. So even small children who don’t reliably keep covers on can be warm at night with minimal or no heat. A nightcap really will keep you considerably warmer.
45. Save some baby clothes and children’s items. Someday you or your children or a family member may need them when there are fewer available at greater cost.
46. Watch carefully that older family members do not overdress in hot weather. They often don’t feel the heat, but their bodies need to be free to cool off. Don’t overdress babies, who have difficulty regulating body temperature, either.
47. Switch to cloth menstrual pads. They can be made from patterns available on the web or purchased. Orconsider a diva cup or keeper. Use rags instead of paper towels, cloth napkins, handkerchiefs instead of kleenex, cloth diapers that you wash yourself instead of disposable.
48. Consider growing cotton or flax in your garden, and spinning, weaving, knitting or crocheting with it. Even if you cannot grow very much, we will need people with some experience with small scale clothing production.
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