22 Sep 2018

ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Defined by Webster as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” I’m not very good at resilience and I doubt highly that most Americans are. Yet it is what allows us to survive as a species.

For me, it all started with a little webinar, self-guided free online classes with the Regenerative Institute. It lead me to an overwhelming amount of information and youtube videoes. As Odin said, “From a word to a word, I was led to a word, from a deed to another deed.” And so down the rabbit hole I went. After seeing “Years of Living Dangerously” with Harrison Ford on Showtime, I was in such despair as to what mankind has done to this planet. So depressing. I wanted to do something, anything to stop the destruction. I found direction in Permaculture. I drank the kook-aid. I am not a touchy, feely, community-oriented person. I am not a joiner. I’m not a prepper. I am a fiercely independent loner. And I am not rich. So how does that work then?

With limited resources, I started growing my own food. I live in the city. My yard is not fenced in. The yard is on an incline because, well, hills. I observed my site and just started. If something doesn’t work, try something different next year. It’s all an experiment. The soil didn’t really exist. Yes, there is dirt but not a functioning soil biome. My understanding is that it takes 5 years of no-dig for the soil to recover. With our heavy clay, the best thing for it is Daikon radishes and comfrey. Daikon go deep and then you let them rot in place. Comfrey also has deep roots., taking minerals buried deep in the ground and bringing them to the surface. So a mulch with comfrey leaves is a great benefit. There are entire books on the subject. Gaia’s Garden is a good place to start.

So year one, I covered a lot of the yard with cardboard, coffee grounds and sawdust from my favorite woodworker. I bought comfrey at a garden club sale, and heirloom seeds from a place called Restoration Seeds. I created the Mandala garden under the Japanese Maple and quit digging in my front yard garden. I was already farming it. I put in swales for water retention. And started collecting fruit bushes, a few more each year. The point is to plant more perennials and have fewer annuals. Also to add biodiversity and stack function.

Year Two: we looked at energy and water usage. We cut back on our water usage. We analyzed electric appliances and established a list of what needs to be replaced first. We know where our biggest drafts are in the 90 year old house. We can’t afford the repairs we need. But we know what they are.

Year Three: Our focus shifted to getting out of debt. Almost every dime has gone into paying down credit cards, paying off the car, paying off the mortgage, paying off medical bills, etc. It will take 5 years to get out from under this debt burden. And it isn’t easy. It’s a delicate balance. We have aging vehicles. I am trying very hard not to buy into the rat race which requires getting into more debt. Yesterday a new report was issued by Bloomberg that more Americans are taking out a Home Equity Line of Credit or HELOC to make ends meet. This is how we got in trouble last time along with predatory lending. Anyway, for us, the car is paid for. The first mortgage will be paid off by April. The medical bills will be paid off in June. Three major credit cards will take much longer unless I can negotiate rates down. And in order to place most of our income into debt reduction, that means we are not consumers. We don’t buy anything that isn’t food or related to growing food. I can’t tell you how tough that is. It’s everything from “Do I really need to drive there? to I haven’t bought new underclothes in years.” Yes, my best bra was purchased in 1998. That bites. Funds from my Etsy sales were allowing us to buy food. They changed their algorithm and now I have no sales at all. I can’t begin to tell you how that hurts.

Getting back to resilience, the wishlist is long. It doesn’t start with clothes. A recent conversation made me realize how different our approach is to the world we live in. A friend was positive that one could not live without a crockpot. She wanted to send me one. I told her I wouldn’t use it. One, it runs on electric that I can’t afford, two, it’s not how I make meals. Three, I have a solar oven for slow cooking as well as several clay pots for a fire pit or oven scenario. To be fair, it’s because my oven is dying. You see, I bake. I’m not making bread in a crockpot. But I can in a solar oven. Her recipe repertoire is very different than mine. I make everything from scratch. She buys cans of things to throw together.

On the top of on my list would be a Pressure Cooker to can low acid things like beans or meat. Followed by new storm doors to quell the draft. Back porch needs to be replaced and gutters rerouted to reduced basement moisture. One drainpipe is still going into the cistern which was filled in. It now leaks directly into a bucket I have in the basement through the cystern water pipes. Then the basement can be treated for mold. After that’s repaired, the back window wood is rotting out so the house needs a window and frame replacement. It’s a 10’ long window. None of this stuff is cheap. We were also looking at ceiling fans which are more energy efficient. There are two brands that meet EPA guidelines. The EPA has a cool appliance efficiency page. https://www.energystar.gov/most-efficient/me-certified-ceiling-fans/details/2322221
The two brands who have better products are Haiku and Fanimation. Getting back to my wishlist, I think I want a flushing upstairs toilet before I want a crockpot. I also have eight broken light fixtures. Not bulbs, whole fixtures. Hence, the ceiling fans but also I’d just like to see in the basement without using a flashlight. Yes, I think I need a lot of repairs. So I think year four of this permaculture journey is going focus on maintenance for zone zero, the house. So we’ll look at ladders and plumbing tools and hope CCAC, the community college, offers the electrical wiring class again.

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