May 19, 2012
The garden is in. I planted the last of the summer vegetables on Monday and, as it looks to be another hot, dry summer, I planted the corn, beans and squash in two big mounds – the three sisters of Indian legend. I did this, of course, in hopes the squash will provide ground cover to hold moisture in the soil for the corn and beans – and the okra I planted at the other end of the patch – and the beans will provide the nitrogen for the corn. Then I planted some melons next to the peppers and tomatoes in hopes the melons will provide some ground cover for them. When the lettuce, spinach and radishes have gone to seed, I’ll start a fall crop of them and add some more beets and carrots.
We’ll see how that turns out. For as long as I’ve been gardening here, I’ve considered my gardens a series of experiments – looking toward impending climate change, energy depletion and, now, old age. Because, it seems to me, all of these involve negative changes in EROEI – the energy returned on energy invested. This means I’m going to have to be cleverer in the way I use those declining returns, whether it involves the upheavals of changing weather patterns, the rising costs of fossil fuels or the slowing down of my own body as I age.
Like most doomers, I no longer believe I can affect the way we use those declining returns on a worldwide or even a national level. (That is why we call ourselves doomers, after all.) So, I look for ideas to affect them on a personal and, perhaps, more local level and write this blog hoping to share some of those ideas with you.
And, as I said last week, my own aging process as I try to maintain home and garden, seems as good a metaphor for the aging Empire and its determination to maintain a presence around the world as any other I can think of. Fortunately, I’ve learned – which the Empire has not – I can’t maintain business as usual, as I and the world around me changes.
I’m adapting. It’s a balancing act, decreasing my energy use, trying to use it more wisely as the local weather begins to bend with climate change and utility prices fluctuate. As I’ve said here before, the house was built in 1900, a little before the transition from oil lamps and wood heat to electric and gas around here. I’m trying to use that to my advantage.
Even though I tolerate heat less than I used to, rather than turn on the air condition with the first hot afternoon, I open the windows, use the fan, wet a washcloth to mop my face and arms and find I can do quite well without the air conditioner.
The cleaning and laundry get done less often and in smaller chunks of time and that’s all right. I’m the only one living upstairs, here, so I can set my own pace. I do what I can on my own to maintain the overall health of the house and pay others to do what I can’t while I have the money to do it.
I get outside earlier in the day, while it’s cooler and the garden is still in shade from the old walnut tree as the sun rises. I use my long handled hoe to turn the soil and weed between the rows rather than power tools. It’s easier to keep my balance, good exercise and the only energy I use is mine. I still get down on my hands and knees to plant or do the close weeding – though getting back up is more ungainly than it used to be. As with the household chores, I do these things in smaller chunks of time and rest more, in between.
My yard is large enough that I can expand the garden and collect more rain water, put in a few laying hens and, as they say around here, make do or do without as times get tougher. I don’t have ten acres and a mule, nor do I need them. I’m not thirty anymore; I’m one aging woman striving to make my own way, work with my neighbors where I can, help others when I can while enjoying the process as much as I can. My plan is to do that as long as I can and when I can’t anymore, die with as much dignity and as little trouble to myself and others as I can.
I don’t mind that. I don’t fret a lot over it. And, so far, I rather enjoy it. We humans were around for a long time without much more than our wits and our own energy, before we managed to outwit ourselves so badly. Each of us have to find our own plan for these tough times and that’s my plan. My guess is, it’s as good a plan as any in these times of declining EROEI.