Oct 302010

I’ve been following Chris Martenson’s list of recommendations on what individuals and families can do to increase their resilience in the face of an uncertain future. Protecting wealth is a controversial subject. The experts are divided into camps. Inflations and deflationists each have strong opinions about what might happen. All agree that the future will bring many challenges and that one best take steps to prepare.

Martenson’s approach is a middle of the road plan that is worth reading in detail. His first recommendation (Getting out of debt) is the key. It’s not an easy thing to accomplish but can be done.

This blogger tells his story of how he eliminated $125,000 of debt in two years.

Oct 282010

Continuing the discussion of Chris Martenson’s recs on “What Should I Do?” to build resilience into our lives we come to  the section on Heat, Power and Electrical Outage.  Since this is something islanders face on an annual basis I’m going to guess that it is one area that almost everyone has thought about and has done something about. We are subject to several days a year of power outage and it’s nice to have that backup generator (something Chris doesn’t mention), a wood stove, batteries, lanterns, blankets and comforters.

He makes a crucial point that is true regarding any kind of disaster preparation: “Think of it this way:  The difference between having 3% of the electricity you desire and having 0% is literally like day and night.  This also goes for heat, communications, and every other system you rely on in your day-to-day life.  So even if you can only move your total preparation from 0% to 3%, you will still have significantly improved your situation.”

Isn’t that the whole point of this exercise? Do something to prepare for an uncertain future. If you are operating under the presumption that things will be okay, that we are just in a down cycle, that jobs will be created, that homes will start selling again, that your pension checks will continue to arrive in the mail and that our “leaders” know what they are doing, you’re taking a big risk.

Take a bit of time and read through the Chris Martenson articles on What Should I Do? and do something, even it it’s just a little something. Also, Martenson has some very smart and faithful readers and at the bottom of each article are comments that add lots of interesting ideas and illustrative photos to the discussion.

Oct 262010

The average person has no idea what’s coming in the next five years. Thus, it’s very hard to motivate oneself to do the things that people like Chris Martenson recommend. So, let’s take a brief break from Chris’s What Should I Do? recommendations and listen to an interview with Nicole Foss.

We are all used to so-called experts bloviating on their subject. It’s rare to listen to a person like Nicole Foss. If one were taking notes you’d want a transcript. Every word is of value and presented in an articulate, accessible manner. Ms. Foss is known as Stoneleigh in the blog world and you can keep up with her work on The Automatic Earth,  a blog I’ve been following for several years.

In the following 35 minute interview (which I guarantee will be worth your time) she lays it all out with excruciating precision. We are in big trouble and it’s important to take steps, even baby steps to get yourself ready. If you are fortunate enough to be on Bert S’s mailing list you’ve already received this. Hopefully, you’ve listened as well.

This is an audio file so you must click on the link and select one of the audio players: Real Player, WinAmp, Windows Media, or MP3. As Bert says: “…just sit back in your heavily padded chair….turn down the lights….close your eyes…..and listen….find the time!

If that isn’t enough Nicole Foss for you go here for a  second interview. Then, bookmark The Automatic Earth and read it once in awhile.

Oct 242010

Chris Martenson continues his recommendations for “What Should I Do?” to increase resilience in one’s life with the subject of Health and First Aid.

His is a pretty conventional approach. Way too conventional for my taste. But I can’t disagree with his recommendations to have a huge first aid kit on hand, to take the Red Cross First Aid Course, to have spare glasses, contacts, hearing aids or other items that could possibly be in short supply.

I’d go much farther than Chris because if the system breaks all our sub-systems will break as well. Medical insurance will no longer dictate where you can go for help. There might not be any insurance. Hospitals could be in a state of dis-function. Transportation might be difficult.

I’d like to suggest something more radical: Be your own damn doctor. Here’s the reading assignment—How And When To Be Your Own Doctor by Isabelle Moser which is part of Steve Solomon’s Soil and Health Library one of the treasures of the internet.

Dr. Moser tells her personal story, explains the nature and cause of disease, writes about fasting (including her own experiences), colon cleansing, diet and nutrition, vitamins and supplements. In the last chapter she relates a number of cases she handled at her clinic in Oregon. Dr. Moser, by the way, was not a medical doctor. She had a Ph’d in Psychology and was at one time the Mental Health Coordinator for Whatcom County.

Dr. Moser died at a fairly young age (56) of cancer which she had first had diagnosed at age 26. Her husband, Steve Solomon (yes, that Steve Solomon who writes garden books) took her notes and finished her book for her. On the irony of her death he writes in the Forward: “Many people consider death to be a complete invalidation of a healing arts practitioner. I don’t. Coping with her own dicey health had been a major motivator for Isabelle’s interest in healing others. She will tell you more about it in the chapters to come. Isabelle had been fending off cancer since its first blow up when she was 26 years old. I view that 30 plus years of defeating Death as a great success rather than consider her ultimate defeat as a failure.”

Dr. Moser herself explains the essential problem with natural healing: “Finally, and this is why natural medicine is doubly unpopular, to prevent the recurrence of toxemia and acute disease states, (people) must discover what they are doing wrong and change their life. Often as not this means elimination of the person’s favorite (indigestible) foods and/or (stress-producing) bad habits.” It’s a simple prescription; not so easy to accomplish. It takes will power, dedication and is socially straining. You can’t just take a pill. And, what if those pills aren’t available?

So, if you aren’t going to read Dr. Moser’s  book and become your own doc, then at least get a first aid kit and take the Red Cross First Aid course.

Oct 232010

We are talking about Chris Martenson’s recommendations on the subject “What Should I Do?” to build resilience into one’s life in the face of impending financial disaster. In addition to making provisions for pure water and storing food staples for short or long term emergencies there is the strong suggestion to get closer to your food supply. This might mean learning more about local sources of food (see Whatcom Locavore by islander Nancy Ging and her articles in the Bellingham Herald). More specifically, it means beginning to grow some of your own food.

On Lummi Island if you know nothing about gardening you might want to consider participating in the Gardener’s Network run by Master Gardener Ginny Winfield. This group meets once a month at the Firehouse except in winter and will soon (Nov. 3, I believe) begin a series of workshops with arborist Sean Tate. Hanging out with gardeners is a good way to start. You don’t have to do it alone. We have a Community Garden at the Curry Preserve. I presume there is a waiting list for that one and perhaps there is a need to build a second community garden.

Sharing a garden is another way to begin. If you don’t have a good place for a garden, someone you know might have the space but not the physical ability to build and grow a garden. One doesn’t need a huge space to grow significant amounts of food. Amazing amounts of food can be grown in pots, in flower beds or in a small, raised bed. The square foot garden is a very popular idea.

A family can only eat so much fresh stuff. To extend the eating season one has to freeze, dry, can, root cellar, pickle or otherwise preserve the garden output. There’s a learning curve to some of these techniques (canning, pickling), and some physical requirements for root cellaring. The point is that it’s possible to put up massive amounts of food. Even putting up a little bit is very satisfying.

We have a friend, who back in her hippie days, would can 500 quarts of peaches on a wood stove, carrying water from a creek using jars picked up at flea markets and garage sales. That’s resilience. We don’t need to set goals that high—yet. Best get started, though, growing some food and putting some by.

Oct 212010

The next topic on Chris Martenson’s What Should I Do? list is Food Storage.

He makes an interesting statement for which there is no reference so I can’t endorse or refute it: “Once upon a time, there was a person in every community whose job it was to ensure that sufficient food stocks existed in their town to carry the people through the winter.  Their job was to travel to all the farms and granaries, total up all the food, divide by the number of people in town, and assess whether the community would be able to make it through the winter.  In fact, it is only very recently that we have lost this function, and today most people think it rather odd to even wonder about food security.”

Since we have no food police to make certain you have supplies on hand, you’re on your own. Clearly, having some long term food storage is important. In his blog this week Dr. Mark Sircus has some alarming things to report about impending food shortages.

Storing food isn’t that complicated. You start by buying extra. Canned food is easy to accumulate and store. Begin with a case of chili or refried beans. Buy some cases of canned fruit and tomatoes. Consider adding some of the dehydrated foods offered by stores like Costco. If you want to get really serious and put up a years supply of staples buy some food grade buckets, some mylar bags, a Food Saver, oxygen aborbers, fifty pound bags of stuff and get to work packaging them up. I detailed how we did it here.

It’s been a couple years now since we did these buckets and have opened a couple and eaten the stuff and it’s fine, even the flour that we put up. You can feed yourself for a long time on rice and beans. It helps, I think, to be familiar with how to use polenta, brown rice, couscous, bulgar, quinoa and other odd grains to provide a bit of variety.

While you are building up food storage think about those other necessities to have on hand. Some suggestions: toilet paper, baking soda (an extremely useful item for a lot of reasons), laundry and other soaps, vinegars, cooking oil, salt, sugar (I try not to eat it but it’s useful for preserving some foods and I’m told it good for packing wounds), a big first aid kit, batteries. The list goes on and on.

Storing food builds some resilience into your life.

Oct 182010

In our last post we began to discuss Chris Martenson’s article, “What Should I Do?” The first step was to get familiar with the basics concepts. Step 2 involves water.  We need to have water for survival. Since most of us see large bodies of water in our view scape several times a day, water may not be high in our list of potential problems to deal with in a long term or short term emergency. However, water is crucial and we need to have water on hand and methods to filter it.

Water on an island without natural lakes or rivers is dependent on recharge from rain. There is the potential problem of dry years and of salt water incursion into our wells. In normal times our island is in pretty good shape for water with so many different wells, water systems most of which have some sort of storage capacity with above or below ground cisterns. And, islanders have started to harvest rainwater with more and more above ground tanks capturing water. Even rain barrels are a good start.

An economic slowdown benefit is that if fewer new homes are added to the island,  the pressure on our water supplies will be reduced.

In addition to storing water we need to purify it. Martenson recommends the Big Berkey filter. We’ve had one for a couple years and use it to filter our drinking water. It even has filters for arsenic, a problem that crops up in certain areas. The Big Berkey is easy to use; the filters are easy to clean.

Chris’s article on water is short and focuses on storage and purification. The comments added by readers are worthwhile and suggest some great ideas. They add to the discussion. One fellow describes in detail an ingenious purification system. Another has a good idea for storing water that will also help keep your freezer cold during a power outage. There’s also the Water Bob if you have some advance warning. Composting toilets and low volume flush toilets can save thousands of gallons of water each year.

One thing islanders need to think about is desalinization. The technology is expensive, though available. Islands like Eliza have desalinization systems. There are small units that can do a few gallons at a time. These are too expensive for one family to purchase but are excellent candidates for cooperative ventures.

Clearly, building resilience into one’s life has to start with water.

Oct 162010

I hope that everyone will take a look at the link to Chris Martenson’s “What Should I Do?” (to build resilience into our lives). Chris Martenson is the author of The Crash Course and is one many who beat the drum predicting a coming financial and societal crisis and begging people to take at least some baby steps to get ready. Chris recently attended the ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil) Conference and came away with the conclusion that things may unravel faster than he previously thought. And, it’s his conclusion that no one has a Plan B to deal with Peak Oil. He reports on a presentation “…given by Rick Munroe, who did his best to discover where within the civilian governmental departments lie the plans for what to do in a liquid-fuel-starved future. To cut to the chase, it turns out that virtually every department that he contacted in both the US and Canada denied having any such reports.”

It’s really not too surprising that the wise men and women of Washington are not looking ahead. After all, they are the same people that brought us to the precipice. We are left with the option of planning for ourselves.

Chris Martenson gives us the outline of a plan, the elements of which have been discussed on this blog over the last several months. His outline provides  a nice road map to follow on a personal or family Plan of Resilience.

Step 1:  Is  Getting Started

Read the whole thing via the link just above.

There are six concepts to getting started.

The first concept  is to build RESILIENCE into your life. Chris writes:

“Resilience, then, becomes the lens through which we filter all of our decisions.  It is a great simplifying tool.  Should we buy this thing?  Well, how does it make us more resilient?  Should we invest in developing this new skill?  Well, how will that help us be more resilient?  Should we plant these trees or those?  Well, which ones will add the most to the natural diversity and abundance around us?”

“The second concept of preparation is that actions are both necessary and insufficient.”

“But let’s be perfectly honest:  Any steps we might take to prepare for a potential environmental, societal, or economic disruption, no matter how grand, are nearly certain to be insufficient.  Nevertheless, they are still necessary.  They will be insufficient because being perfectly prepared is infinitely expensive.  But actions are necessary because they help us align our lives with what we know about the world.  In my experience, when gaps exist between knowledge and actions, anxiety (if not fear) is the result.  So it’s not the state of the world that creates the anxiety quite as much as it is someone’s lack of action.”

“The third concept of preparation is to set realistic goals.”

“There’s an enormous difference between being zero percent and 10 percent self-sufficient for food production.  In the former case you rely on the existing food-distribution system.  In the latter case you have a garden, local relationships with farmers, fruit trees in the yard, perhaps a few chickens, and a deep pantry.”

“The fourth concept of preparation is that your community needs you to get yourself prepared.”

“Some have commented that they think of personal preparation as a selfish act, possibly involving guns and bunkers, but that’s not what this is about.  My experience in life tells me that being a good community member means having your own house in order.  If you do, you’ll be in a better position to add valuable resources and skills to any future efforts.”

“The fifth concept of preparation is to start with small steps.”

“Examples might be taking out a small bit of extra cash to store outside of the bank in case of a banking disruption, buying a bit more food each week that can slowly deepen your pantry, or going online to learn something more about ways you can increase your resilience with regard to water, food, energy, or anything else you deem important to your future.  It doesn’t so much matter what it is, as long as an action is taken.”

“The sixth concept of preparation is that community is essential.”

“I would recommend working with people you trust or with whom you already share basic values.  The closer they live to you geographically, the better.  One of my core values is this:  I have no interest in living in fear, and my plan is to live through whatever comes next with a positive attitude and with as much satisfaction and fun as I can possibly muster.  So it has always been important to me to be in community with others who share this outlook.”

These are brief excerpts. There’s much more. Chris Martenson is a very bright guy who has done lots of research, thinking and acting in this area. I urge you to read the whole thing. And, I’ll be sticking with Chris for awhile as he talks about “Storing Water,” “Storing Food,” “Growing and Preserving Food,” “Health and First Aid,” “Heat, Power and Communications,” and “Protecting Wealth.”

Oct 142010

I keep suggesting that our ferry crisis is the canary in the coal mine for Lummi Islanders. We can look at the current situation as “Peak Ferry.” That is, our ferry service is not likely to be as good or as cheap as in the past. “Peak Ferry” is like “Peak Oil.” It doesn’t mean we won’t have any. It just means we’ll have less, maybe a different kind of service and that it will cost much more.

Looking at financial problems facing the world, nation, state and county it’s clear that there are no short term solutions. We probably shouldn’t even be thinking in terms of solutions. Instead we should be trying to figure out how we will respond and adapt. We need to work on intelligent responses and thoughtful adaptations.

I’m pretty certain that the majority of us believe that we are just in a down economic cycle and that at some point, in the not too distant future, we will come out of it. Jobs will appear, people will start buying houses again and everything will be okay. The problem is that the fundamentals of our economy are so rotten that an upswing can’t happen very quickly. I’m guessing not in my lifetime. Evidence leads me to conclude that we are still going down.

Start reading about the suspension of foreclosures. Some might think this is good news. We are saving people’s homes. What it actually seems to mean is that the chain of ownership and paperwork is so corrupted that banks don’t want to reveal the rot in the system. This foreclosure thing could be the bomb that blows up the banking system. When that happens our currency system, as well as your own bank account, can take a hit. This is why gold and silver are racing to new historical highs. Smart money wants a backup plan. Buying gold could be considered an intelligent response. Own some gold/silver and you are in a position to be your own central bank.

The foreclosure crisis will further slow down the housing market. One of four homes sold in the second quarter were foreclosures. Who will buy a foreclosed home now that all 50 state AGs are investigating corruption in the system?  How can you buy something that doesn’t have a clear title?

“Peak Ferry” is a wakeup call to help us work on intelligent response and adaptation to the huge transition that will be taking place in our lives. Instead of waking up the majority of us are working as hard as possible to protect the status quo.

Oct 102010

When I was in the military I was glad I never had to work in Plans, the shop that did all the contingency planning in the Pentagon. Trying to visualize all the possible things that might go sideways can make your head hurt. Military planners are pretty good at thinking though all the scenarios, i.e. what do we do if N.Korea attacks S. Korea or in Venezuela goes after, say, Columbia. At the Wing level I sometimes had the responsibility to maintain and account for the plan documents. There were huge stacks of red softbound books often three inches thick. They made interesting reading and provided lots of detail. Clearly, our military planners did not want to be caught with their pants around their ankles so they pretty much thought of everything. There were plans for events where the possibility of the event occurring was very low.

It’s surprising to me that no Lummi Island group is doing any contingency planning for events that probably could occur, such as the Lummi Tribe barricading the ferry dock on October 15 (or any other date). There seems to be no formal plan to deal with the possibility of the Tribe and the County not reaching an agreement. Likewise, no planning to deal with the contingency of the county going broke and needing to cut costs in radical ways. Or, if the boat just broke for whatever reason.

I haven’t read any discussion about the obvious possibility of losing the Gooseberry parking lot two years from now although it appears clear that Lummi Nation has plans for that property. If passengers or drydockers had to take a bus to the casino or the freeway to find their car in a parking lot would that change the way anyone looks at Gooseberry Point? No parking on the Gooseberry Point side create contingencies that need to be considered.

Ideally, contingency planning would start with the worst case scenario and work backwards:

1. What would we do if there were no ferry service at all? Mosquito fleet, private operators, barges, amphibious vessels, co-op ferry, etc.etc.

2. What would we do if Gooseberry Pt is not available and we have to take a passenger ferry to Fairhaven? Island bus, island parking, parking in Fairhaven, car sharing, barge service, hauling services, gasoline storage or fuel manufacture on island, services, etc. etc.

3. What would we do if there is no parking at Gooseberry Pt and we have to bus to the Casino? Shelters, buses, car sharing.

I don’t have the answers; just questions. There are many more scenarios to consider such as: If we were to have a general economic collapse as many are predicting, how accessible do we want the island to be?

Some group or organization ought to be thinking about contingencies. It sort of falls into the realm of disaster preparedness. It also seems to involve protecting the Lummi Island community.



 Uncategorized  Comments Off on THE SOIL DOCTOR
Oct 082010

The Lummi Island Community Garden and the Gardener’s Network group have been doing soil sampling recently. The question is: what do you do with the report when you get it? It’s akin to getting a blood test then trying to read it yourself. You need a soil doctor.

This year, via the Soil and Health Group run by Steve Solomon, I began to work with Michael Astera author of The Ideal Soil: A Handbook For the New Agriculture. On Micheal’s Soil Mineral website he describes in detail how to take a soil sample and how to get it to him for analysis. A soil sample costs around $20 and his prescription is $45.

Organic gardening has evolved from mimicking chemical agriculture to a point now where it’s possible to build soil that grows highly nutritious food rather than “huge volumes of lush, watery crops.”

As new gardeners we just want to grow some stuff. It’s only natural, as we progress, to want to grow better stuff. To do this properly I’m convinced we need a soil doctor to assist us.

The soil doctor’s services and how to take a soil sample are explained here.

Recently, Michael explained his background and philosophy to one of the participants in the Soil and Health Group:

“I put together my first Rodale-style organic garden in 1973, believing that more organic matter, compost, and manure tea were all I needed. In the mid-1980s I found Steve Solomon’s COF and used variations of that up ’til 1999, when Gary Kline of Black Lake Organic in Olympia WA turned me on to Albrecht’s work. The last eleven years have been spent studying and experimenting with soil minerals and mineral balance. I am not exclusively focused on minerals and soil chemistry; I only have eleven years hands on experience with them, as compared to over thirty five years of organic gardening experience.

The results of each step in this learning process has been an order of magnitude greater than the one before. I would say at this point that the most important and necessary change in agriculture worldwide has to be the understanding of soil minerals. There are no shortcuts; generic rock dust is NOT going to do it, any more than “more compost and manure” or “permaculture” or “Biodynamic preps” are an answer in themselves. They are all valuable tools, but used in isolation apart from an understanding of soil minerals they are about as useful as teaching physical exercise without mentioning nutrition. If a person is just growing a few veggies for summer salads while the rest of their food comes from elsewhere, maybe it doesn’t matter much what minerals are available in the soil. If the goal is to feed one’s family and livestock without long-term health problems, balancing the soil minerals is of primary importance.

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