Saturday, April 01, 2006

Eyes to See and Being Prepared

I’ve been enjoying Mountain Fire Keepers latest video recording of the “Powers Out” workshop. The predicament we all find ourselves in of complete reliance on the electrical system is something that is almost continually on the back of my mind. Just try going without electricity for a day or two or three and see exactly how much our lives are intertwined with the grid. Even now as I write this post I can hear the hum and buzz of the washing machine in the background. Since the washer is using warm water, the power vent on the water heater is humming along as well. The refrigerator is also mingled in with all that background noise as it is calling for another cycle of cooling. Or how about the constant drone of the this computer I’m sitting at.

We are so used to the noise it’s almost deafening when the power does go out. It becomes so quiet that it’s almost eerie. That fact alone makes me realize just how much electricity is a part of my life.

I remember a time as a city kid when I took all that for granted. You just flip a switch and the light goes on. No thought of how it happened. It just magically comes on, presto the whole room is illuminated, you don’t need to know why or how it happens, it just does. The hardest thing about it is having to replace a burnt out light bulb. Or there was the occasional outing during a thunder storm and that was always a cause for excitement because we got to go around the house with lit candles and flash lights, a great novelty for a young boy.

The older I got the more I realized that the electrical system was just that, a system. Just an elaborate piece of machinery. And machines are subject to failure. That to me is enough to consider having a plan in place to do without electricity if need be. To be prepared. The fact that if at any time and for whatever reason the system could break down either for the short or long term is a very good reason to have a real working plan ready to go into effect should something happen. And really it’s not a matter of if, but when, because there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine. All systems and machinery need energy, fuel and maintenance. Which is all subject to breakdowns. Break downs in the system and or the machinery itself. Just ask people living in Iraq how easy it is for the power supply to become disrupted. How many years has it been now, for them? Many of them are having to make do with major disruptions or go without entirely.

For us in America we are used to having our conveniences. Many of us are just born into it and we don’t know any other way. Not just with electricity but, also with our food supply. Our food is provided to us by a system and machinery as well. We don’t know any other way. We grew up just going to the store and buying everything we need with no real thought to it. Not much different than just flipping on that light switch. It becomes automatic and you don’t even have to think about it.

With that in mind it’s a real shock to us when we are forced to have anything less than what we are used to. It seems we are dependant on and even addicted to these conveiences that have become vice. We almost can’t do without. It’s like pulling teeth to release the level of comfort we are used to. Look how so many people were taken back when the levies failed in New Orleans. Actually that is a perfect example of what I’m talking about right now. Any body with common sense can look at those dikes and see that it’s just a matter of time till something happens and the whole place is sitting under water. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know it’s gonna happen eventually which it did. I mean duh, the entire place is below sea level!

The same thing can be said of the system that we have become so used to. It’s all interconnected and if there is a major disruption it has a ripple effect and it wouldn’t take much for the whole system to come grinding to a hault. It just makes sense to have a plan and not just for a few days disruption. A few days disruption is only a minor inconvenience or to some, an annoyance. It is entirely possible that even us who live "securely" on the other side of the planet, could have long term major failures in the system. For those with eyes to see it’s just like looking at those levies and dikes in New Orleans.

The Turtle Mountain folks have most definetly got eyes to see, because they are taking it seriously and are taking practical steps to be prepared. It’s just common sense.

Until Next Time


Blogger Lynn Bartlett said...

Us Turtle Mountain people still have a long ways to go, though! The Power's Out workshop was great, but we still continued to forget and turn on lights, use the oven, turn on the faucets,etc. We probably drove poor Steve crazy! It has to be a total change of mindset and attitude, as I for one really enjoy convenience. Thanks for your post!

10:37 PM  
Blogger Scott Holtzman said...

We are so used to the noise it’s almost deafening when the power does go out. It becomes so quiet that it’s almost eerie.

The older I got the more I realized that the electrical system was just that, a system.

I spent the past Monday with my wife standing on 19.7 acres of wood lot with spots of open field………….so silent I remarked to her “I could hear myself think!” It was one of the most refreshing feelings I have felt since our trip to Montana last September.

As you remarked about our nations ‘systems’ fuel-power & food, it makes me as well consider what we “take for granted”. I can honestly say we have begun ‘augmenting’ our supplies with alternative systems to eventually replace the presence of modern systems that they become the augmentation rather than vise versa.

The concepts I fear would prove overwhelming for most if something sad & tragic on a large national scale did transpire. Just considering what a learning curve it has been for us with our cropping plants and now chickens ~ imagine you want to supply eggs to your family. First find a supplier of day old chicks, or try to incubate some fertilized eggs (even harder) then keep ‘em warm because you got them in winter and the powers out because of rising price increases or interruption of fuel supply to local power stations. What do they eat, where do you get the feed?

Food cost escalate astronomically due to $6-7/gal transport fuel costs decide its time for one of those “Victory” gardens, whose got some of those non-GMO seeds? Oh, yeah right – no backyard! I know a tad bit “doom & gloom” and I sure don’t want to be, but it does make me scratch my head on quiet hill tops when the only thing running is the creek in the distance………..Hydro anyone?

1:28 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

You make a valid point, Russ. It's frightening how dependent we have become on the various "systems" that run our lives these much so that not only have we become slaves to a life of convenience but are incredibly lazy as a result. Those of us who desire to get off the treadmill find it an uphill battle at best. As Scott pointed out, there are so many facets to becoming self-sufficient that it almost makes one want to wring his hands in despair. That is why we need one another so desperately! I'm so grateful for this little community.

2:02 PM  
Blogger RL said...

I know what you mean about convenience. I'm hooked on it. When we first moved to the farm we didn't have many conveniences. We lived in a garage, where we still live by the way. But, now it's looking more like a house. We bathed at the public beach which is a mile down the road. Laundry was done in wash tubs and hung on the line to dry. We showered in the green house with one of those solar hot water bag things. That worked OK but you could only have a hot shower around noon. Now, I really appreciate having the convenience of a hot shower any time I want.
We have a long way to go here as well. The Powers Out workshop was a good exercise, even if folks did forget and use the electricity.
The only time we get experience here is when the power is actually out! It was out for around 3 days once. I think it was our second summer of living here. By then we had a lot of freezer food and it was an issue to keep the freezers cold by running a little generator. Which goes to show that unless it's winter preserving food in freezers would be a tricky thing in any real emergencies.
It would be good to have more dialog on this topic in the coming days.

The "learning curve" would certainly be something to consider in the event of a worse case scenario. That's something that I have been very aware of these past 8 years. I guess you could say we're still on it.
I don't think it's doom and gloom at all. It's just plain common sense to consider the different possibilities. I like how Steve (Mountain Fire Keeper) compares it to observing the storm clouds approaching on the North Dakota prairies. It's having the sense to know when to get in out of the rain.

Change can be scary. Especially if it comes at a time that is not of our own choosing.
It seems like there are a lot of forces at work to keep us slaves to conveniences and an indulgent way of life. Going back to a more agrarian way takes a conscious effort. It is indeed an "uphill battle". Kind of like going up stream. Going against the flow.
For me I think if there is anything scary about it, it's the fear of the unknown.
I've been reading a lot about life in Iraq lately. Seeing how those folks are coping with war. Many of their cities are modern and not too unlike what we are used to. I mean they have electricity, they buy their food in stores, they have jobs and all that just like Americans. Yet in all the chaos they are surviving. God gave people a very strong instinct to survive. It's almost like when we imagine the worst we imagine it to be unbearable, but in reality we get by. We make it one way or another. It's kind of like that test we dreaded in high school.
And about this little community. It has been a huge blessing to me. Just seeing all the wealth of information that is being exchanged not to mention the emotional support, is really a cool thing. I think that the Lord has brought this agrarian group together.

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Russ!

Well, it's finally spring here in the hills and I've been out playing in the mud with my bobcat. I've been trying to dig a pit for a neighbor who's house burned down last week. That's been kinda hard to do considering I'm trying to break thru 2 feet of frozen ground while the bobcat is parked on 2 inches of greasy mud.

Anyway, thank you for your kind words about us Turtle Mt. folk. I'm really glad that our videos have inspired your profound post and the insightful comments that followed.

As Lynn said, we still have a long ways to go.........I'd be really hard pressed if I had to give up my chainsaw!!! If we were only rationed 5 gallons of gas per year and it cost $50 per gallon, I'd still buy it for my chainsaw!!!!

I do hope to get a team of draft horses this summer. I had a team back in the late 70s and early 80s. I'd like to do some horse logging and see if I can learn how to cultivate corn and potatoes using horsepower.

We've got some good video from our March CLS workshop. I'm downloading it to my computer & hope to produce my own DVDs. Would you prefer a DVD or VHS when I get them done?

Best wishes for a warm and productive spring!

Your friend,

11:58 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Excellent post. We moved from a city to the country last summer and we are striving to make our place a homestead. Our goal is "as self-sufficient a lifestyle as we can manage". A very long learning curve, but at least we're out of the city. I'd rather be thought a tin-hat fanatic than close my eyes to what I see happening around me in the world.

It's not been that long that we've had modern conveniences. My grandma (still very much alive) tells of bathing in the wash tub on Saturday evenings by the fire. One of her chores was to clean all the lamp chimneys and trim any wicks that needed it in late afternoon before dusk. Now she drives and vacuums and has dish network. That's a lot of change - but then, she had an entire lifetime to make that change. Not just a few years or months. I wish I had her memories and skills.

2:37 PM  
Blogger RL said...

Howdy Steven,
We didn't have much frost in the ground this year since we got a good snow cover early enough before the deep cold. It took me a while to get used to the sandy soil that we have here but, spring times like this it dries up quite fast. In that regard it is nice. On the down side during droughts it gets extremely dry.
Yeah chain saws are pretty handy tools, eh? I did lots of chain saw work on our log cabin when we built it. I wonder if a person could invent a chain saw that could run on cooking oil? Can't imagine it would rev up very high. Or perhaps a 2 cycle engine could be modified to run on corn alcohol or something. Maybe that could be a challenge to present to some of the mechanically inclined bloggers out there.
About the video, it doesn't matter if it's DVD or VHS. We have a player that excepts both. I imagine DVD would be easier for you since it would be faster to record and cheaper to ship. So what ever you prefer is fine.
It's been a busy spring so far. Been doing lots of stuff. Should give me something to blog about in the future.

Hello and thank you. I'm glad you made it to the country. You said "at least were out of the city". I have the exact same sentiment.
My grand parents lived agrarian lives too. It amazes me how fast families can lose the age old homesteading skills. What is that saying? "If you don't use it, you lose it?"


10:06 PM  

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