Thursday, November 29, 2007

Just call me "Scoop"...

Can I be smug for a sec?

I scooped Time Magazine. And National Public Radio. And the Wall Street Journal, too. By a year and a half, no less.

Now, I'm not a reporter. I don't play one on TV. Heck, I don't even write in complete sentences sometimes. I'm just some dude with a computer and some misdirected curiosity.

So how is it that I wrote something here back in May of 2006 that just last week hit the front page of the mighty Wall Street Journal? That NPR spent an hour discussing? That Time Magazine is just now jumping... all... over?

If you don't know about peak oil, you need to find out about it. Like yesterday.

Okay, so in reality, lots of other people knew about this even before I did. Sometimes waaay before.

But if peak oil is coming, or is here now, or already happened, join me (and some others) over here for ideas on what to do about it.

Sigh... I didn't want it to be true. Sometimes I wish I was just a paranoid nutjob.

PS - We got the carseat problem solved. And we didn't even have to buy a new vehicle. Woohoo!


Monday, November 26, 2007

Ignorance is Bliss

Okay, so while Lori was checking on infant car seats for our upcoming bundle of joy, she learned that the type of child car seats we're using for our kids are, well, less than optimal for safety. So we were checking on prices for the good ones - 5-point restraints and whatnot. First of all, ouch. Anybody want to chip in 400 bucks to keep my kids safe? But obviously child safety is a high prioroty, so while we mull that dilemma, on to the next problem...

We drive a Subaru wagon. If you add up the width of two acceptable child seats and one acceptable infant seat, they are wider than the back seat area of our car. Even with our existing seats, which are narrower, we still come out a couple inches short.

So suddenly we're looking at selling the Subaru - which has a busted tail light, a dented bumper, a scratched fender, and a driver's side mirror held on with Gorilla Glue and covered with residue from the duct tape that was previously holding it on. It's pretty filthy after years of kids and neglect and rural life. It's almost 10 years old and has 135,000 miles on it. And buying what? A minivan or an SUV? Gee, that sounds great. Now I can drive an even lower mileage vehicle 200 miles every Thursday. And pay for it with the pathetic resale value of our current vechicle, plus the zero dollars of spare budget capacity that we have available. The Subaru isn't perfect, but at least we know what's wrong with it, and as you can guess, aesthetic problems aren't a big deal to us. But they are to prospective buyers.

Sigh. All this from a stinking car seat. And to think I used to ride in the very back of my grandmother's station wagon, with no five point harnesses, no seatbelts, no airbags or crumple zones or crash helmets or fire suits.

I do wish I could think of a reasonable solution that didn't involve conjuring money from thin air while the economy swirls in the background.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007


Which is weirder: To steal bagged leaves from somebody's front yard, or to knock on somebody's door and ask them if you can take the bagged leaves from their front yard?

I'm on a never-ending quest to add all kinds of organic matter and nutrients to my garden soil, to the extent that I may need professional help. So far that has included organic dairy compost, Com-til from the local wastewater treatment plant, hay, straw, ashes, charcoal, cardboard, newspaper, shredded paper, goat/donkey/chicken manure and bedding, garden crop residue, wood chips, dried molasses, and now, leaves.

You see, we don't have any mature trees on our property. We have a few beech trees and a thicket of willows growing around the edge of the pond, but as this was cropland just a few years ago, most of the trees are the ones I've planted, and few are taller than me.

So while I was in town running some errands, I snagged some bags of leaves. (I asked, in case you're wondering. I didn't want some nice old lady calling in my license plates to Circleville's Finest.)

A secondary benefit to this particular facet of my little organic matter problem (I can quit whenever I want) was that my kids, for once in their lives, got to play in a big pile of leaves.

The chickens didn't really need to be introduced to the scratching potential of the leaf pile, but e5 was more than happy to show them around anyway.

Six garbage bags of leaves in a big pile, and within an hour our feathered friends had spread them in a nice even layer across the whole garden expansion area.

Hello, my name is e4, and I'm an organic matter addict.


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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thursday!

As I mentioned before, the only turkey we're eating today is leftovers. (Not that that's a bad thing). So what does one do with a day without any obligations? Play with Lego's of course. It was sweats and jammies and lounging and laziness for all.

E5 asked me to make something for him out of Lego's. This is what I ended up with:

It started out as a parrot, but by the end, we all agreed that it was probably a chicken.

And of course, after that I had to make a turkey:

If you celebrate Thanksgiving today, well, Happy Thanksgiving. If you celebrated it last month, or half a year ago, or not at all, Happy Thursday...

Drawing courtesy of e5

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving us The Bird

I'm smitten with OEFFA. This year they offered a Thanksgiving box of local food that was pretty amazing. Our box contained:

5 lbs of potatoes
1 bunch of carrots
1 bunch of beets
2 lbs of onions
2 butternut squashes
1 pie pumpkin
1 head each of red and green cabbage
1 head of leaf lettuce
1 dozen fresh eggs
1/2 peck of apples
2 lbs of broccoli
1 bunch each of sage, thyme, and parsley
1 bunch of celery
1 lb of whole wheat flour
1 head of garlic

Throw in a 15 lb turkey and we must have a good two weeks' worth of food for our little household. Not to mention the fact that they also included recipes:

Squash sage bisque
Potato leek soup
Roast turkey
Herbed giblet dressing
Fried cabbage and onions
Herb roasted potatoes and vegetables
Winter squash puree
Boiled potatoes with parsley and chives
Honey-mustard glazed carrots
Parsley/walnut beets
Raw broccoli salad
Russian beet and egg salad
Squash biscuits
Baked apples
Spicy pumpkin pie
Prize-winning apple pie
...along with suggested menu combinations

We cooked our turkey with the brine method that's come into vogue, and I can see why it has. The meat was really tender and juicy. The potatoes were fabulous. The apples have been a big hit with e5, who never used to like to eat apples with the skin on. We tried the parsley/walnut beet recipe, and it was quite good. Of course we didn't get to eat it until the next day because it took a lot longer for the beets to get tender than we anticipated. So it cooked while we ate, and we just served it with leftovers.

Yes, I'm talking in the past tense, even though it's only Wednesday. Among other reasons that aren't worth explaining, we decided that since we had a fresh turkey, and no travel plans, we'd just toss tradition and cook it on Monday. And now the bonus is that we've got a fridge full of tasty leftovers and plenty of fresh stuff, and a four-day weekend to do with as we please. And I can assure you that I won't be getting up early or standing in line to buy junk we don't need. In fact, I'll do my best to not spend a single penny...

I know, I know. It'll ruin the economy, right?



Saturday, November 10, 2007

Four season gardening

We planted eggs in our fall garden, and look what sprouted!

Actually, they're just taking some dust baths in the soil, now that I've pulled the last crops out and tilled the ground up a little. They do love their dirt.


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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Better batteries

Rechargeable batteries are a great idea. One less thing to have to buy, one less thing to dump in the landfill. But the reality of rechargeable batteries for general use leaves something to be desired. I mean, if you're like me, you don't know the batteries in your CD player are getting low. One day the thing just stops working. So you go to the drawer or bin or cupboard where you keep the rechargeables, and you pop them into the player. (Some of you are saying, "CD player? ... Oh, like an old fashioned iPod, only lame." Yeah, that.)

So you pop the rechargeables in and... they don't work. Most rechargeable AAs and AAAs don't hold a charge well at all. So you have to charge them right before you use them. But if you need them right now, you're out of luck. And if it's some device that you don't use very often, the next time you go to use it, the batteries have lost their charge again. For me, it's always just been a series of awkward moments with these things.

But I've been happy to discover a new generation of rechargeable batteries turning up here and there. They come already charged, so you can use them right out of the package. They hold their charge for months. And they can be charged up in whatever battery charger you already have. These are finally starting to fulfill the potential of rechargeable batteries.

The two kinds I've tried are:
- Sanyo Eneloop
- Rayovac Hybrid

(Hybrid? Whatever...)

I can't tell you which performs better, but I've been pretty happy with both so far. The Rayovacs have been showing up in local stores, where I've only seen the Sanyos available online so far.

Throw in a low-cost, high-powered universal solar battery charger* and you're good to go.

* Well, almost universal. These things never seem to handle 9-volts. I don't know why...



Monday, November 05, 2007

Quickie Project: Weatherstripping

Our attic that has a rectangular piece of drywall to cover the opening. You need a ladder to get up into it. And on a cold morning, you can feel the chill falling down onto you when you walk under it. Time to remedy the problem.

Weatherstripping comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. It can be used to improve the seal on your door, your windows, your garage door, or anything else that opens and closes between a climate-controlled space and a non-climate-controlled space.

For this I just needed a ladder, a damp cloth, a roll of weatherstripping, a pair of scissors, and ten spare minutes.

"Danger: Do Not Stand or Sit"

If you look at this particular weatherstripping from the end, the profile has kind of a "P" shape. The back of the P has peel-off adhesive, and the curved part forms kind of an air tunnel the length of the weatherstripping. You can see what I'm talking about in this photo:

It actually looks more like a "B" than a "P" there, because I haven't separated it yet. This is actually two strips joined in the middle, which is kind of nice, because you can cut the left and right strips (front/back, top/bottom, or whatever) both at the same time, insuring they are the same length:

That air channel will get compressed by the weight of the attic lid, which should create a pretty good barrier to cold air infiltration.

So really, it's this simple: Clean the target surface with a damp cloth to get rid of dust & debris. A smooth surface makes a difference. Cut the weatherstripping to length. Stick it to the surface where the lid sits, and set the lid on top of it.

One more tip: Cut a piece of thick insulation to the same size as the attic lid, and set it on top of the lid. This will keep the hot side hot and the cool side cool...

Now put that ladder and those scissors away before somebody gets hurt.

That's it. Next cold morning, we'll see how well it works...

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Friday, November 02, 2007

'Cause I'm bored

I'm teetering on the edge of pathetic again. I'm a bit of a crap magnet, as Lori put it. I've got a cold. After months of denial, my camera has to go back into the shop again. One of our chickens up and died. Didn't even leave a note or anything. And to top it off, I spent yesterday wearing an eye patch and watching TV (doctor's orders, if you can believe that) because my talented daughter managed to bruise my top eyelid and put a big scratch on the inside of my bottom eyelid. Don't ask me how, because I'm not really sure. Whatever it was, I never saw it coming. But I am sure it hurt like crazy. The eye itself is fine, and actually feels much better today. My wrist is doing pretty well, probably 85-90% usable.

So meanwhile, I'm taking on a couple of new writing projects, which makes no sense. But I'm nonsensical that way. I can only reveal one at this time, because the other one is, well, uncertain. Mysterious, eh?

First, a story...

Last Saturday I attended the Community Solution conference in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Well, mostly. I was only there for one day of the conference, but I got to hang out a bit with fellow Groovy Green contributors Aaron, Matt, Sharon, and Steve. Sharon was one of the featured speakers, and she introduced me to Larry, the somewhat unlikely star of the conference. Actually, just between you and me, Sharon and Larry were the two most interesting speakers there. Of course I didn't stick around for the Big Names, but Sharon and Larry were worth the trip.

Of course I was already feeling guilty on the way over, because burning up gasoline to go listen to people talk about Peak Oil creates a bit of cognitive dissonance, but I mean, hey, they're not gonna put this kind of conference much closer to me than Yellow Springs. Anyway, here I am cruising down some nondescript country road in the pre-dawn gloaming, listening to the sound of a few more gallons burning away forever, when I hit a deer.

It was a glancing blow, and did no damage to the car. The deer may or may not have teleported back to wherever it materialized from, because it was gone as fast as it appeared. But from that point on, soaked in orange juice, I was spooked by four more clusters of deer, a dog, a cat, and a raccoon. What was going on with the animals anyway? Even walking up to Antioch Hall through the suddenly crisp fall air, a squirrel leaped out from behind a tree and I got another surge of adrenalin. Coffee? None for me thanks.

So fresh off this motivating conference, and partially inspired by Larry's presentation, I've decided to start a Peak Oil related blog. (Any peakniks who might be reading are going, "Oh great, not another one.") I will be keeping the focus away from questions like "What is Peak Oil?", "When is the peak?" and "Have we peaked?" and and "What are the Saudi's up to now?" Nor am I going to make dire predictions or meditate on the gloomy prospects and possibilities. I'm done with that. If you want that stuff, it's out there aplenty. I'll just say that I'm fairly convinced we're already at peak, and leave it at that.

What I'm going to focus on instead, is individual actions, low-cost solutions, and low-tech mitigation. Peak oil or no, petroleum is setting new records almost daily, and it's only a matter of time before that $2.75 gas looks like a real bargain. There are a lot of things that we can do to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. As a bonus, the very same things almost always help with that whole climate change thing too.

You'll just have to wait to find out about the other writing project...