I watched the news this week and I can only hope you are all up to date on the important stuff going on in the world. In case you missed any of it, here’s the recap.

Madonna can adopt a child from Malawi: What I did not see was any mention of the 600,000 kids sitting in foster care in this country and the huge number of them that need permenant  homes. With the money spent on this fiasco, Madonna could have adopted a US child from the foster care system for free and used the savings to fund a health clinic in Appalachia or a community garden and food preservation center in Detroit.

Chastity Bono is getting a sex change operation: It’s her money but I can’t help but think of the thousands of elderly choosing between food, heat and medication and it seems wrong.

Celebrities were mistreated on the show, “I’m A Celebrity-Get Me Out Of Here”. I am not hearing much about our American journalists being held in a forced labor camp in North Korea. I can only hope that more is going on behind the scenes than we are aware of.

What does all of this have to do with preparedness and sustainability you might ask. Maybe nothing and I am just complaining but maybe a lot. Mental preparedness matters as much as physical preparedness both during a crisis and in long term sustainability. Stored food and supplies will get you only so far down the road, then you have to rely on your wits, work ethic and ingenuity to get by. I so fear that a nation that cares about any of the silly stories that pass for news in this country is in big trouble. I know I am preaching to the choir on this blog; we all have real lives to attend to, but I am thinking about our responsibility to our communities. The reason this is coming up for me at this time is probably because I am doing a September workshop on food preservation. When I called the County Extension Service for more canning information several months ago, I was told they had no one on staff who did that any longer because there was no interest. One of my goals for the coming months is to spread the food preservation word. I have gotten my adult children canning supplies this month. I give canned goods for gifts whenever I can(pun-pun) (alright- a boy graduating from high school might not be impressed with a jar of pickles but a new mother might appreciate a box of home canned food). I will bring preserved food to every pot luck and serve some at every dinner I prepare for friends and family. I will offer free classes to any low income group that will have me. I will do what I can to make canning news. I probably can’t compete with Madonna but I will make headlines in my own little world.

It is a beautiful day. I am going to find the time to sit on my porch swing and listen to the birds, look at my flowers and remember to be grateful for my blessings. It is my way of going to church every day.

 

PS I want to thank chicky-bit-run for the lovely post on her blog. It made my day.

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 We had our monthly sustainability meeting last night and, as always, I came away with a bunch of ideas and projects. The one I am most pleased about is a planned walking series. A bunch of us are going to be meeting each week at different homes and do a land walk to access what wild edibles and medicinal herbs exist in that spot. We have some experts in the group and a lot of people with good experience.I am no expert but I am enjoying the opportunity to learn. I am getting a lot better a picking out individual plants on my property. Not that many years ago, I only saw a sea of green; Now I can pick out the nettle, the plantain, the mullein, the Jerusalem artichoke, the raspberry leaf. It is like my husband and bird calls. I hear a cacophony of sound. He hears the individual call of the Jay and the Cardinal. He can tell you the day the Orioles return in the spring.

Another project that sounds terrific is a garden exchange. A group is setting up a farm stand at our local market. People will be encouraged to drop off excess produce and take some away with them. If you don’t have a garden and are in need of food, the hope is that you  will take what you need. The same group is working to get local farmer’s market and farm stands to accept food stamps for produce, seeds and seedlings. What a concept!

Finally, we talked about our local, small school. We are always at risk of losing it to a big, regional school as a cost cutting measure. Our children would be bussed about 40 minutes to the larger central school. Apparently, the people in charge are not worried about the the effects of peak oil and are not including the rising cost of gas in their calculations. A group is working on taking charge of our school. We are having a work bee on Saturday to paint, plant and otherwise spruce up our school. We refuse to let it go to inferior,centralized education with larger classes and rotating staff. Sustainability is about a lot more than food.

On another note: I drank the ginger ale yesterday. It was very fizzy and had a strong ginger taste. DH thought it was a bit too strong but I liked the flavor. It isn’t Canada Dry. It is a lot better. In the coming days, we will all have to get used to the idea of food that is less predictable. In mass production, what matters is uniformity and price. Our own food, locally sourced and made from scratch will be subject to the changes in weather and availability of ingredients, even our own moods may affect the outcome.

I write a lot about the importance of community in the coming hard times. The following anecdote, hijacked from a speech given by Warren Buffet, is one of the more beautiful examples of what I mean.

A woman by the name of Belle Eisenberg, who recently passed away, lost her entire family in Auschwitz. She was the only one to make it out. She told Mr. Buffet that every time she met someone she asked herself whether this was the type of person who would hide her from the Nazis. He said that if you had a dozen people in your life who would hide you and you them then you lived a pretty successful life. Mr. Buffet said that he knew billionaires whose own children would not hide them.

This has been quite a week for our neighbors needing favors. Our friend Tom had his bees come in at a time he was not available to set them into the new hives. Bruce was afraid her would lose the bees as it is still pretty cold here so he carted Tom’s hives up to our bee pen and got them settled in. That same night, my friend Leni realized she couldn’t get her risen bread home from cooking class on the back of her scooter (long story)so I drove it home for her. Same Leni’s husband, Mike, needs to borrow our truck tomorrow. Next dook neighbors are getting a new driveway put in and Bruce told them they could park in our driveway until theirs is ready for use.

Some weeks we are on the recieving end of the favors. We have eaten countless meals prepared by others when I was ill. We have planted adopted seedlings and worn hand-me-down clothing. Our children have been minded by friends as have our animals and our plants. We have been picked up from airports and driven lent cars. Our life is a series of good deeds done by people who probably found it inconvenient but did it anyway.

This economic mess is a terrible thing for many families but when I look for the silver lining to a grim cloud it comes from the world getting smaller. Small makes it easier to hold hands with each other.

It is not a good news day. Between the auto industry and AIG the markets are getting hammered. I had a notion of writing a piece about small pieces of good news like my tomatoes popping up in their little greenhouses and the taste of a just pulled carrot but I just can’t pull it off. These are real people losing jobs and homes and dreams. The feds are going to send in disaster recovery teams to communities that will be decimated by the restructuring of the auto industry but, in spite of their best intentions, you can’t create any job without the demand for that product or service and people who are out of work don’t demand more than the bare essentials.

Most of us are familiar with Kubler/Ross’s work on the stages of grief. Essentially, we all go through a similar series of emotions when we have a major life loss. First there is denial followed by bargaining, then depression, then anger and finally acceptance. I hope that, as a country, we get through these stages very quickly and move on to acceptance. We need to accept that a life of credit funded consumption is over. The feds can make all the promises they like, but ultimately, we are going to have to take care of ourselves. That means prioritizing your needs.

You need shelter. You don’t need fancy shelter. You need a roof over your head, even if you have to share it with family or friends. The best shelter will have space to grow some food and be something you can keep warm. It will be in a place where you have the support of people who care about you.

You need food. When things are desperate, you need to treat the acquisition of food like a job. You will probably need to use multiple food sources rather than simply heading off to the grocery store. That may mean buying clubs, co-ops, farmer’s markets, the woods behind your house and the planter on your deck.

You need to be warm enough. Fleece jackets and wool socks, closing off rooms that don’t absolutely need to be heated, getting used to sleeping under quilts in cold bedrooms could  all be necessary.

You need a reason to get up in the morning, a sense of purpose. Even if you don’t have a job to go to, get up and make a plan. Set up a neighborhood pot luck to discuss how you can work together to grow some food or work with your children. Start a scout troop of set up a 4-H program. It will take some doing to wean your kids from video games and structured programs and teach them to have fun and learn something without spending money.

Take care of you health. Take care of you marriage. Take care of your neighborhood. Take care of yourself.

I met with our new community preparedness team last night to firm up our plans for a crisis management plan. We decidedon a very short survey-basically, name, address, phone number, number of people in the home, ages and any disabilities that might make a family more vulnerable. We also ask whether the family would take advantage of a shelter if one were offered and whether they would need transportation. The survey will be printed on card stock. Red dots will go on the first tier homes. Those would be the homes of the elderly and the disabled. Yellow dots will mark the second tier homes. These are the families who are very isolated or the homes of single people who may need to at least be checked up on. We are planning a survey day when the fire department, council on aging, police department and the crisis team will be canvassing door to door. Our hope is to have 100% compliance and get this all done in one day. We plan to sit with folks to fill out the cards and take them back with us. If a family chooses not to participate, that’s fine with us. We are keeping the cards at our safety complex. They will be filed in three separate boxes. The reds, the yellows, then everybody else. The rest of the plan is very specific to our town. It involves communication, transportation, food, water, sleeping arrangments, sanitation and clean up.

We contacted both FEMA and MEMA (our state emergency managment agency) and got a lot of terrific hand outs. One of the things we recieved was a DVD for children on family preparedness. We will be handing one of these out to every family with children when we do the survey. We are also distributing a list of necessary supplies, and info geared to the elderly, people with pets and the disabled.

This was a pretty easy process for us for  a couple of reasons. There are only a few of us on the committee so reaching consensus is easy. We only have about 300 families to reach. Our town is pretty civic minded. Lots of people vote and volunteer. A lot of people have deep community roots. The street they live on may be named after their great grandparents.

If you are looking for crisis info, go to the FEMA website. They really have a lot to offer.

Bruce wants to go over my post on tools. He has a much longer (and better) list of essential tools.

I try to avoid much political talk here. I am no economic expert but I have a fair amount of common sense. I hope you are all getting stocked up on necessities now. I fear our dollar will be worth much less in the coming months. I know I went to town yesterday and then this morning. Gas had gone up 4 cents overnight  and by the time I returned home this morning, 2 hours later, it had gone up another 7 cents. Food is the place that inflation will hurt most people first. Stock up on essentials, seeds and canning equipment.

The economic news continues to go from bad to really bad. In spite of some happy talk when the markets rise a bit, there is no doubt the fundamentals are not strong and we may not be looking at recovery this year. If you have not already done so, the time has come for you to take a look at the “other” economy. This is the place where a lot of transactions take place that wall street will never calculate into the GDP numbers although, for a lot of families, it is the economy that puts food on the table. Let me give you an example.

Bruce lent some sap buckets to a neighbor who wanted to boil some sap with his kids. The neighbor found some more buckets on Craig’s list and not only returned the original buckets but gave us another 15 or so. Bruce then brought over the little wood stove we picked up in the fall from a different neighbor who was not using it. Now our first neighbor had a way to boil outside. He and Bruce have begun to talk about a small sugar house and sharing equipment. Earlier in the day I picked up my daughter’s birthday cake from the Creamery. They gave her the cake because she drops by the store 2 or 3 days a week to wash dishes, sweep floors, bus tables and generally help out. She started doing this when she was home schooled as part of a vocational curriculum. She continued after she returned to school because she loved the work and knew she was a valuable part of the team. I needed someone to walk me through some computer stuff and a friend spent an hour of her valuable time helping out. Last night yet another friend stopped by to borrow the key to the church. We have set up a couple of donated sewing machines there and people use the space to sew reusable shopping bags that are donated to local businesses. I gave some of Bruce’s honey to a friend who was needing to get rid of some eggs. Happy to oblige. No money changed hands during any of these transactions (Oops-not true. We paid for the little stove, but not much.)

Do you have a skill? Is there something you can do well and with some word-of-mouth advertising turn into a business. If you sew, maybe you could repair clothing. Do you have a green thumb or a way with animals? Can you tutor or give classes in something?

It is hard to know exactly sometimes, where the informal economy ends and being a good neighbor begins. Not everything should be about what you are likely to get out of it. If I bring soup to sick neighbor, I am not keeping track of what is “owed me”. I just know that when I was laid up this winter, a lot of meals appeared on my counter. When a friend gave me a bushel of tomatoes, I don’t think she expected to be rewarded with a couple of quarts of sauce (but of course she was!). Shared garden produce and child care and the proverbial cup of sugar are what makes the world go round. Lets, hope the feds never find a way to tax being a good neighbor.

I have been doing my morning internet news read and I don’t feel good about it. I keep reading about another year, another two years, maybe another ten years of pain and recession. What I don’t hear, except from a few like Sharon Astyk,Dmitry Orlov and James Kunstler is that this is not about a time line. This is about a shift in the way we will live forever. The bills will come due and we have no money to pay them with. We will need oil to fund massive infrastructure repair and that will take peak oil off the back burner and set it right on the kitchen table. The auto industry isn’t coming back, not looking anything like the old Detroit at any rate. We can’t spend our way out of this any more than a bankrupt family can spend their way out of homelessness. It is time to face this new paradigm and get to work making a life in it. Start today.

If you haven’t ever grown food, start today. Go to the library and take out a few good gardening books. If you don’t have land, check out your faith based community, your local government, your homeowner’s association and find some empty space to reclaim for food. Pull out the ornamentals and plant perennial food plants. Join a Church, even if you are not a believer. The church model holds the most hope for a working system of support. Get involved in your local government, volunteer fire department or school system. Buddy buy when you shop. Get two of something and put one away. Get an energy audit on your home. Consider doubling  up with another family to save on expenses if things get very tough. Get healthy.

A few years ago I took a serious fall. I broke my hip and shattered my elbow. I spent several days in the hospital and during that stretch, I had a constant stream of visitors. Family, friends, neighbors, church members came in droves. They phone rang constantly. Flowers and books arrived. The woman who shared my room was so unwell and had only one visitor. She got a few phone calls and it was clear from her end of the conversation that her life was like something out of a Jerry Springer show. I apologized after everyone left for the chaos. She looked at me with tears in her eyes. “I never knew anyone could be so loved”, she said.

Find love. I don’t mean this in a touchy, feely kind of way. I mean it in a concrete way. Lend a hand. Reconnect with your extended family. Learn to enjoy this different life. We are going to need each other in the coming dark days. Don’t let fear win.