Peak Music

I was sitting outside during my lunch break last week.  There was one of the housekeeping staff also outside on lunch; he was listening to music.  As I sat there, I heard songs from the Velvet Underground, Suicidal Tendencies, Def Leopard, and more.  Now, this wouldn’t be surprising except that this young man was just that – maybe 24 or 25.  I was stunned, and after hearing a bit of this, I commented on it.  I said something to the effect that he wasn’t even alive when most of that was popular and I was amazed that he listened to ‘oldies.’  He replied that it was what he grew up listening to, and he likes it better than what passes for music on the radio anyway.  We had a (from my point of view anyway) good talk and even discussed the Ramones and how, as a former punker, my kids were exposed to the same sort of music and one of my sons has the complete collection of the Ramones’ music.  He laughed and said he has it too.

Then, I was at the grocery store yesterday, walking back to my borrowed truck with my bag of purchases.  A young man who couldn’t have been more than 17 was cruising slowly past the front of the store with the windows rolled down, obviously driving his parents’ car, and equally obviously looking for someone.

THIS was blasting out the open window.  I started laughing.  For the second time in just over 8 days I heard music that I grew up listening to, coming from not middle aged listeners like myself, but from young people who *theoretically* should have their own music to listen to and identify with.  I turned to the middle aged man sitting smoking a cigarette at the table on the sidewalk and remarked on it.  I said something to the effect that this kid isn’t much older than I was when this came out!  The man laughed and agreed, and shook his head.

Having listened to some of the newer stuff on the radio I have thought that I was the problem – that I just couldn’t relate to this new stuff because I’m old and I don’t get the references or something.  I remember my mom getting that way, and Mr. TF has shared a story about driving his father somewhere as a teen – dear FIL finally turned to Mr. TF and asked “who ARE these screaming a$$holes?” when forced to listen to some 80’s hair band for too long.

I’m now thinking that maybe young people, particularly those who play an instrument even a little, just don’t care for the modern stuff any more than I do.  I can’t think of more than one or two people I know under the age of 30 who even listen to the radio – they are all either listening to 70’s era punk, or 80’s or 90’s era stuff.  Or they are listening to indie music that defies being stuffed into a single genre.

Have we come to peak music too?  I suspect we may have, if these young people are any gauge.  More than anything it tells me we are on the downslide of our current civilization. (and off topic, I want to know why spelling civiliSation is wrong).

RIP Michael Ruppert. You deserve it.

I didn’t know him personally, but I was a follower of his original website From the Wilderness since its inception in the late 90’s.  He was a brilliant, flawed, tortured man with a message that is too hard to hear (i.e., understand and act on) for most.

May he rest in peace.  He deserves it, for he found none in this life.

Words can’t describe how sad I am right now.  He will be missed, both by his friends and family, and by those like me who heard the message.

Feminists and the kerfuffle over communities that abide

renaissance childbirth

Dimitry Orlov recently published his second in a series of posts about communities that abide; i.e., subcultures within a larger culture that have maintained their distinctive character for hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of years. Apparently he was castigated by at least one and possibly more feminists who were present at a talk he gave on the same subject recently, because the cultures he used as examples happened to be patriarchal and very male-dominant woman-subservient types of communities.

James Howard Kunstler has also been castigated multiple times for asserting that in the future, things will go back to how they ‘should be’ (at least that’s how I take his rhetoric) and women will be in the home, and men will be the dominant sex.

Well, I hate to break it to the women of the modern world, but the only reason women have been able to assume any kind of economic or social equality while still marrying, having sex, and having children, is thanks to the fossil fuel era. It’s what has made research into the menstrual cycle possible; it’s what has made birth control possible (I remember hearing about “The Pill” on the news as a very small child). The consequences of sex, throughout history, have always been borne by the women. Only industrial products courtesy of fossil fuels have made that no longer so.

Think about it: historically speaking, women had 5 to 7 children (or more) during their married life, if (and that was a big IF) they didn’t die in childbirth, from postpartum infections, or from some other sickness. The only forms of birth control were abstinence and breastfeeding; since if you were at all wealthy you didn’t breastfeed because you had wet nurses, you didn’t even have access to that.

Because abstinence tended to work then about as well as it does now, most adults were as sexually active as finances and access allowed them to be. Many men didn’t make enough money to marry. They might have made enough money to support themselves and a wife, at least as regards food, but that wouldn’t have included money for even replacements for the clothes on their backs nor for the cost of children, nor for the cost of housing. Since, if one married, one assumed children were going to ensue, that was not even an option for many men particularly in the Elizabethan era.

If you consider this in light of what is going on in Egypt regarding the incidence of sexual assault of women who go out in public, it is obvious that the lack of access to economic opportunities and therefore marriage is at the root of much of this violence and unrest.  The high cost of bread is one of the things that began the protests that ended up as the Arab Spring.

I don’t presently know where I read this statistic, but fully 25% of all men born throughout time did not leave progeny behind. This doesn’t mean they weren’t having sex at all, it just means they didn’t impregnate a woman, or their progeny didn’t survive to adulthood if they did. I suspect homosexuality was at least as common historically as it is now, and I also suspect many of those men were sexually active, just not in a man/woman relationship.  And of course, there is always the “world’s oldest profession” as well as outright rape.  Which is often nothing more than frustration over lack of power and lack of access.

And for the women who did marry, they were considered property, legally speaking, not equals in a contractual relationship. And it *was* a contractual relationship, albeit not one easily broken. Their responsibilities related very much to the home: bearing children, managing the household, putting up stores for winter, laundry, cooking, spinning, weaving (both of these were for home use only as the guilds controlled products sold to the public at large), caring for the gardens, and much more I’m not even touching on. This took time – modern women, particularly those who have a ‘high powered’ lifestyle such as a lawyer or upper level manager (or even the school teacher or local store clerk)– have absolutely no concept of how much labor and time managing a household consumes, let alone a household where there are no modern food processors, no supermarkets at which to pick up ready-made food, and take outs in every city and town of any size at all. The monetary costs are staggering compared to doing it all oneself, but the time costs of doing it oneself are similarly staggering. And the reason women were responsible for all of that is for the simple reason that they had small children around; most of these tasks can be picked up and put down at will to tend to a hungry infant or small child.

This isn’t to say that women weren’t treated well by some men; many were quite adored. But in the public sphere, they were not in any way equal to men. I tend to think this has something to do with the fact that men can leave. They are freer in every way: freer to abandon their wives, freer to go to war, freer to interact in public, freer to travel. In a time and a place where being an adult woman meant that, except for rare cases, you had children at your side, there is not much freedom for women at any time in their lives.

Now, yes, there are cultures that endure even today that DO view women as equals, where the women are as free to engage in relationships with men other than their spouses, but those are few and far between, and are mostly hunter gatherer societies. That is not a sustainable model for the vast majority of humans, even should the population drop drastically to the 250 million number I’ve seen bandied about. It bears keeping in mind that human nature being what it is, those who have power tend to want to retain it…and in most of the world, even today, it isn’t women who have the power.  And it helps to keep in mind, too, that rigidly defined roles – even when it means women are not considered equal, means society understands what is expected of each and every person, and helps keep it stable over the long term.  I don’t like that, but I know it is so.  My husband has said on more than one occasion that I’m too smart for my own good.  I can assure you that being intelligent is not always a good thing.  It would be much, much worse if I lived in a time when women had no ability to even have a public voice.

Kunstler has referred to much of modern thinking as “magical thinking” because it seems in many circles that thinking about something, focusing on an as yet imaginary solution, will make it so. I think that the feminists who are so stridently calling out men like Kunstler and Orlov are engaging in magical thinking about this issue themselves. The facts about living in the times before birth control stand. Only birth control enables women to engage in sexual relations like men – without considering the possible costs to themselves and their future, in terms of stress on the body and in terms of the financial, emotional, and temporal costs. As we cycle down to an energy scarce future, both because of peak oil and because of financial constraints, I do not see birth control as being a high priority for our society to maintain – though it should.

This hasn’t been an easy post for me to write, because I am a woman.  It needed to be written though.  As a woman who has three children, all of whom are the result of birth control failures, I know the consequences of sex.  I know how it changes your options and your future.  And I live in the modern age, which means that the social and legal consequences, not to mention the economic consequences, were negligible compared to what might have happened 100 years ago.

I love my children dearly, but life would have been much easier for all of us had I been able to choose the time to have children.  It is what it is though, and while I regret many things, having my children is NOT on the list of regrets nor on the list of poor decisions.

The ability for a family to choose when to have children, and how many to have, is vital to making sure that the family has enough to eat, whether it’s a family in the urban core or a family on a small holder farm. I would like to see less diatribe aimed toward the “chauvinistic” males who are honestly bringing up this issue and more dialogue about how we will preserve common sense access to birth control, among other modern day technologies. It would be time much better served than railing against the inevitable.  It would behoove feminists to examine how the separate roles in those communities that abide could be used to better the lives of women, men, and children in an age of resource – including birth control access – scarcity.  It would behoove them to examine how women will be able to retain their voice, to retain a say in what and how life happens to them, in the coming age.  Because this *is* coming.  No amount of magical thinking will make it not so.  It would be sad to see much of the last 50 years become merely a momentary blip on the timeline of the human race, because choices are good for everyone, even men, though they may not think so….

The cognitive dissonance hurts.

My husband and I went to a preparedness/survivalist meeting last Saturday at a neighbor’s house.  It was held at a Mormon’s house, with several Mormons and other die hard republicans in attendance.  One person stood up to talk about forming a tribe, and how we needed to form a tribe of like minded individuals.  Another stood up and challenged everyone in the group to go without electricity after 4 pm every night for a week.  My husband, on being invited to this meeting, volunteered me to give my talk on When Zombies Attack!  that I developed as a preparedness lecture for fellow HAM radio club members (sadly, the tongue in cheek zombie references went unappreciated).   The talk dealt with the practical items one should have on hand so that when an emergency happens one is prepared, such as minimum water storage per person per day, foods that store well and can be eaten without a heat source, medicines, records, and so forth.  My husband seemed to think the talk went over well.  I was not so sure, for several reasons I’ll outline here.

The first thing is that these people are trying to be hard core survivalists, it seemed to me.  They are expecting just that thing, the “zombie apocalypse” and that a sudden and irreversible catastrophic event a la “The Road”   or something equally catastrophic though perhaps not so cannibalish.  I stated at the start of my talk that this was originally aimed at preparedness for a local disaster such as occurred not too many years ago; a local creek flooded due to the massive amount of rain we received from a storm and as a result many many people were stranded for up to 10 days without electricity, water, food, and no way to cross the creek to access said items.  I referenced what had recently happened as a result of Hurricane Sandy, and what had not so recently happened as a result of Hurricane Katrina, and pointed out that the great majority of people, even with the lessons of Katrina plain, refused to do the bare minimum FEMA recommends regarding food and water storage.  I then very clearly and emphatically said that, while preparedness for a disaster is wise, prudent, and appropriate, I do not think that there is going to be any sort of catastrophic event that will forever change the landscape in America and cause a sudden, profound die-off as so many survivalists do.  I referenced the last days of the Roman Empire, and pointed out that the center stood firm for a very long time after the periphery started contracting, and pointed out how that’s happening even now in our own nation, our own time.  I gave very specific examples from my own experiences as a home health nurse in our own community that show very clearly that the periphery, economically speaking is already most definitely contracting.  There were a few nods of agreement but I couldn’t help but notice that there were also those jaws set tightly and the shakes of the head disagreeing most vehemently with me as well.

So that right there was one point of cognitive dissonance, it seemed to me.  For the most part, the down and dirty items one should keep in a ‘bug out bag’ were practical and I was asked for a list/printout of the presentation so that people could use it for stocking their own bags.  The dissonance arises because it seemed so odd to me that these were people who, for all intents and purposes, are committed to prepping and have been so for quite some time, but don’t have the faintest idea of what to store or have on hand in the event they actually might need it.  Of course, the Mormons in the group have their lists of items they are religiously required to keep on hand and I do believe a years’ supply of stored food per person in their household is one of them, but what to have other than food or herbal remedies didn’t seem to have crossed anyone’s mind.  As Mormons, I suppose the apocalyptic viewpoint is part and parcel of the religious outlook, but I don’t think it’s necessarily wise to only prepare for the short term…

The second part of the cognitive dissonance was that most, if not all, the people present were either self professed “Tea Partiers” or had sympathies with them.  One of the people present is also going to school, though he is pursuing his bachelors degree.  He began a rant about how our country is turning socialist and communist.  I interrupted and said that he said that like socialism is a bad thing, and told him I really don’t think he has the faintest understanding of what socialism actually is, nor communism either.  I went on to tell him that we ALREADY live in a socialist society, and that we enjoy the benefits of said socialism:  postal service, public schools, fire and police service, public roads, libraries, retirement.  He then said something about Marxism (I don’t really remember what) and I responded that he didn’t understand Marxism because if he had ever actually READ Marx’ writings he would know that Karl Marx never advocated for socialism or communism either.  I told him that Marx was an economic theorist, plain and simple, and he was pointing out the problems with capitalism and positing a theoretical alternative.  Yes, Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto, but he and Engels were positing a definition of socialism and of communism very, very different than what became the United Soviet Socialist Republic; he was fighting against the the standard of the time, the absolute monarchy with a parliament that represented only the wealthy and landed, and advocating for the common man to have a say in his own destiny, government, and a piece of the wealth pie he was working so hard to create.

His point was that same one Romney was making in his speech to the wealthy where he was surreptitiously filmed saying that 47% of Americans are takers.  Whereupon I put him on the spot by asking him how he was funding his education…and yes, he’s getting federal aid for his schooling.  So I told him that he’s a taker too, then, just like those he wants to hate.  I didn’t say it cruelly, or with malice, I just wanted him to see the hypocrisy inherent in his viewpoint.  And I could tell he got it, and had never even thought about it before.  We were unable to continue our conversation because we were both reminded that there were to be no political discussions at this meeting.

Another painful dissonance was the stated intention of these people to hold our community with a perimeter via the use of firearms from any of those from ‘outside’ (both the have-nots within our community and those who might come to try to take what little we have) as though we have in any fashion a self sustaining community here.  A couple dozen chickens and a ranch miles and miles away does not make any sort of community that can supply all its own needs for food, let alone anything else one might think goes with a modern lifestyle.  Which brings me to the final point…

Perhaps the most glaring cognitive dissonance it seemed to me was that these people actually think that they will maintain their standard of living in the face of this coming apocalypse.  The hosts, while having much experience in canning and food storage, do not have a swamp cooler.  They have a large, energy sucking air conditioner/heater, as most houses in the Sun Belt do, and no solar or wind power, and a very inefficiently insulated home.  They have no visible water harvesting system.  They do have chickens, but I didn’t see much of a garden area; nothing like Mr. Tin Foil and I have developed over the years.  I really don’t know how they expect to maintain their living standard if there is an apocalypse, especially if the electricity goes off for good.

I guess it just goes to show that I can’t relate to Tea Partiers any more than I can relate to fanatical Obama supporters.  The lack of critical thinking skills from both sides, and the blinders to whatever doesn’t fit their particular world view, is simply amazing.  And they are so tuned into their points of difference I’m certain they are blind to the fact that in many ways they want the same things from our government, our society, and life.  How very sad.  And I stand at the periphery of both, wondering how the divide will ever be crossed, because it surely has to if we’re to remain anything resembling a polite society.

The dangers inherent in a new serfdom

While medieval serfs and lords had an arrangement that kept the powers of the lord in check, and gave the serfs many protections – such as the right of inheritance – there are no such protections for the common person today, mainly because it hasn’t been particularly thought of yet.

While a medieval serf was able to will his land parcel to his children, without the permission or interference of the lord (the actual ‘owner’ of the land), that is not the case today.  I recently read of a wealthy man in California who was offering a small stipend and a furnished guest house in return for gardening and landscaping duties at his mansion.  Sounds like a pretty decent deal right?  Not really.   The problem was that the stipend was vanishingly small – buying food would essentially wipe it out – and the duties encompassed being at the wealthy man’s beck and call, available for his whims, at all hours.  The duties themselves involved between 60 and 70 hours a week of hard labor.  The astounding thing was that the wealthy man couldn’t understand why he couldn’t keep a gardener.

I have also read recently that there is a farm in Oregon that uses free labor under the guise of ‘teaching’ farming to ‘students’ who come to live on the farm.  There is no pay, only room and board provided.  And the workload is just as great; the teaching is merely the performance of manual labor at the direction of the owner, and little is carried away by the student other than a general distaste for being taken advantage of.   This is not like Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm, where real teaching of the nuts and bolts of what he does and why is part of the daily labor, where part of the evenings are spent answering questions from students.  It is merely taking advantage of eager or desperate people wanting to learn a skill.

On the local Craigslist last year in the farming and gardening section there was a recurring post by a farmer who was looking for labor as described above.   The farmer also gave a warning that his farm was a Christian one, and that there were strict rising and sleeping times, mandatory church and prayer, and no drugs or alcohol allowed.  I haven’t seen the posting in quite a while; I don’t know if he had no takers or if he got some willing labor.  I suspect that his farm was much more like the farmer in Oregon than like Mr. Salatin’s though, regardless of the religious bent of the farmer.

These examples (not Salatin, the others) are to me exactly what we must guard against.  If there are to be land owners using serf type labor, there MUST be accepted rules  and laws in place, commonly known and accepted by society at large, to govern the behavior of the owners particularly, but the serfs as well.  Land owners cannot demand labor on the level of slavery in exchange for housing.  They cannot keep the serf from performing work for himself and his/her family in order to be at least a little self sustaining.  The owner cannot demand labor 7 days a week, with no holidays.  There must be bonuses paid to the serfs, at least in the form of food gifts, money, or offers of land purchase.  In return, serfs must do the contracted labor or they cannot keep their housing.

It sounds simple, or crazy, or both.  I really think, though, that we must begin thinking about these boundaries now, before serfdom/slavery becomes the custom of the land again, or many thousands of people will be taken advantage of a la Tom Joad’s family in the The Grapes of Wrath.

Post Peak Medicine

As I’ve said before, I am interested in preventative care measures much more so than after the fact fixes.  And I’m advancing my education with the aim of being able to give primary care to my neighbors and community which will be needed even more so in the coming years.

I have had concerns for years about the impact of Peak Oil on medicine as we understand it today – syringes made from non renewable resources, used only once and disposed of just as a for instance.  All the medicines available today are available only because of fossil fuel inputs – what happens when those are too expensive to ‘waste’ on medical purposes?  I think perhaps even those in the medical community who might be Peak Oil aware tend to close their eyes and put their fingers in their ears chanting “LaLaLa” because there appear to be no answers to the question, and there is presently no alternative.  I admit, it is depressing and stressful to contemplate.

I found a site today that really excites me: Post Peak Medicine .  This is exactly the answer to my concerns even though much of it is still a work in progress.  I even found a page where the owner is asking for submissions from registered nurses and I really want to begin working on a submission!  I never pictured myself as having much to add to the nursing community but in this case I believe I do have important contributions to make, and that I have an obligation to try.  I will post here if my article is accepted so you can read if you are interested.

In other news, this house has been alcohol free for over a month.  No freak outs, no fights, no lapses of memory, no drama.  While I miss a cold beer on a hot evening, I’d prefer the money to stay in my bank account for things like the tire my husband suddenly needed to replace on his car, or the TB test we just found out he needed.  We both get more done as well…although I am still a gamer’s widow.  It evens out though, he loses me to the loom, spinning wheel, and school work.


Yep. All riled up.

Update:  found this blog thanks to a post on Facebook :What if Collapse came and nobody noticed?

We really got into politics during class.  Particularly the politics of health care, insurance, and why we don’t have socialized medicine.

I think I am the most politically aware person in class.

What we have is a two tiered health care system.  And too many doctors and providers – indeed too many health care staff period – to serve the few who can afford our high tech health care system.  What we’re facing is a crash.

Some of my classmates were outraged that France (and other nations like them with socialized care) does not pay for things like dialysis or heart surgery for those over 75 (for France, not sure about other countries), instead choosing to spend that public money on sectors of their society who still have a chance to be productive and contribute for many years to come.  They just refused to understand that those same French elderly CAN afford, like most of their society, to purchase private insurance that DOES allow them to receive those treatments.  They are not denied them, they are merely on their own to pay for them.  My classmates were insistent that it should be on a case by case basis.  Really?  How cost effective is that?  And how can one not understand that their system, BECAUSE it is offered to every citizen, allows them a much freer life without the stress of trying to navigate the health care system and worrying about how they’ll pay for their care? How can one not understand that insurance is so very much less expensive even when purchased for the simple reason that it’s NOT required?   How can one not understand that the French have a longer life span, even so, than we in the U.S.?

How can one not understand that in the U.S., we spend 9o% of ALL THE MONEY SPENT on health care for a person in the LAST YEAR of life?  How does that make for sound fiscal policy?

Regardless, even those systems are on the verge of crash.  Look at Spain, where they just recently declared they will no longer offer health care benefits for illegal aliens.  Look at the controversy here in AMERICA where people are outraged at that – like we have any sort of a higher ground to stand on?  We don’t even offer services to all of our citizens, let alone illegal aliens, and people here have the gall to be outraged that Spain is doing what it needs to in order to attempt to preserve some sort of health care for its actual citizens?  It will crash soon, violently.  And they too will have a two tiered health care system with far too many medical providers and staff.

Some classmates were dubious because they thought they would be told where to work and would make less money if they were employed in a socialized system like Canada’s.  Since I have in law family in Edmonton, when they started saying how awful a system it was because people had to wait so long for treatments and surgeries, I called BS on that.  I explained that issues that affect nothing but one’s quality of life may have to wait, but issues that affect life and death get first priority.  Unlike here, where those that have the most money go first, regardless of the seriousness of their issue.  And that in Canada, there is still a thriving private practice of doctors and nurses, it’s not illegal as far as I know to purchase private insurance and many Canadians actually do purchase it just in case.  The key here is that it’s optional, not mandatory, and even if they don’t purchase it they’re covered via the public option anyway.  It seems the Canadians they treat here in the American hospitals – who are being treated courtesy of the health insurance that it’s mandatory they purchase if they are traveling here – like to gripe. And misrepresent a very good system.

Regardless, it’s going to crash.

Why do I keep saying it’s going to crash?  Well, for the simple reason that taxes are dependent on employment; other things as well, but primarily on that.  And employment is down everywhere in the Western world.  50% of Spanish young adults are unemployed.  More than 24% of the population is unemployed.  These people aren’t paying the taxes they were, and they’re drawing on public benefits paid for by taxes.  How long do you think that can continue?  And it’s the same everywhere.  Demands on the system keep going up but tax revenues aren’t rising at the same rate.

It’s even worse here in America.  We offer subsidies to banks, coal and gas companies, oil companies, insurance companies, car manufacturers, ‘green’ energy companies, agribusiness, … the list goes on.  Plus what we spend on keeping our military overstaffed, because to make our military smaller would mean releasing massive numbers of angry young men (and women) who are overly familiar with firearms and accustomed to viewing life through the lens of the conquering occupier, onto our streets with no jobs for them.  We can’t afford to offer any sort of safety net (such as it is here) to our citizens when they need it, because we’re tapped out doing all of that.  It’s going to crash.  It’s bound to.

And the idea that Americans don’t buy into it is because we’re supposedly so ‘independent’ is utterly and completely crap.  Independent?  As in not following fashion trends…? As in not watching the Kardashians, and others equally insipid and irrelevant…?  As in not tweeting our every boring move…?  As in not merely parroting what we hear and see on the news….?  Riiiight.  We may have been independent 100+ years ago, but not for a long time.  And this country was ripe for socializing medicine at the turn of the 20th century, but the AMA got involved in undermining that, and now they get to reap what they sowed so long ago.  Shitty reimbursement, other people telling them what is and isn’t approved for medical treatment, and the reality that in order to survive they have to work for a big corporation and be just a cog in a really big machine instead of an independent, wealthy, respected individual who offered an important SERVICE to their community.  Which, by the way, are they very bogeymen the AMA invoked to prevent our country getting any sort of socialized medicine all the way down the line.  The only time they lost was when Medicare and Medicaid were passed by Congress.  Only it’s not the government imposing those restrictions on doctors now, like they claimed, it’s insurance companies…after all, the insurance companies have stockholders and bottom lines to protect.

I looked up how much it would cost me to get insurance – because since quitting my full time job I no longer have any – through the ObamaCare Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan.  It would be a minimum of $240 per month.  For the two of us it would be nearly $500 per month.  That’s just not feasible, and to think that I’ll be assessed a tax penalty because even at this price (as opposed to the nearly $2000 per month it would otherwise cost me) it’s too expensive makes me feel trapped.

Medicare benefits for all – the true public option – is the only answer, and it’s not the answer because our system is unsustainable.  So as you can see, there is no answer, only a soon to be overabundance of plastic surgeons, aesthiticians, orthopedic surgeons, and dermatologists and no primary care for the great majority of regular citizens.  Prices will come down, dramatically, but still most of us won’t be able to afford care. Maybe the system will keep lumbering on for a long time yet, and the crash will be slow and gentle, more like a ride down a hill than a step off a cliff.  Maybe.

And what do I think I’m doing furthering my education?  Just to do my best for the people I live among.  I have never been out to get rich, just to get by.  What do I expect for all of my sacrifice to become an NP?  Just to be able to pay my own bills, and to be able to help those who come to me to live the most healthy life they can.  You know, a life of service.

What is the answer?

I wish I knew.

I wish I still believed in the ability of the system to be responsive to the needs of its citizens and to change.   I hate politics.

Peak Oil hits close to home.

We get the propane tank filled once a year; we can usually make 250 gallons last an entire year because we no longer use it for heating.  We also got rid of our old stove which had pilot lights and bought a used gas stove with electronic ignition.  So our only uses for the propane are the hot water heater and for cooking.  We were down to 19% in the tank, and it was getting harder to cook because the flame wasn’t really very big.  This was a problem; we had gotten propane last year in July during the summer rates which are usually significantly cheaper than the winter rates – by about 40%.  This year we called every month but were told that they didn’t know when the summer rates were going to take effect and to call back.  We finally had to give in and purchase, at the price of $2.89 per gallon. Because I am off work we couldn’t afford to get the entire tank filled, which is going to hurt us later, as you will read.

When the propane guy was here I invited him in (it’s hot, wanted to make sure he got water if he was thirsty) and while I was writing the check we talked a little.  He appeared truly worried about the coming winter.  He said that he doesn’t know what a lot of people are going to do when it gets cold because he knows they can’t afford to buy the propane.  He also told me that the day after we ordered our propane the price went up even further, but that we were getting the rate quoted to us.  It seems that by winter time the price of propane could literally be $4 per gallon.

We only bought 100 gallons rather than 200 because of the price – last year we filled the entire tank for approximately the same price as half-filling it this year:  $310.  Most of our neighbors are living on less income than ours, and many are living on fixed incomes.  With the changes to Social Security in the works thanks to our elected representatives, I can’t imagine how they will afford to heat their homes.  In our community, most people heat with propane; there is no natural gas out here, and the other option is electric which just isn’t that popular.  Historically speaking, electric has always been the most expensive option.

Getting a wood stove is still in the plans, but I need to figure out the the best price for this.  I want to shop local and avoid the big box stores, but I also need to spend as little as possible.  In the winter our biggest propane use is baking bread; with a wood stove I can bake with my camp oven on the top of the wood stove so hopefully that 100 gallons will last us as long as the 200 gallons did before.  I plan to check with our two big box stores, Home Depot and Lowe’s, to see if they have a mobile home approved stove and if they offer installation, and if their price will be cheaper than the $2800 quoted to us by the local guys. I can also check with the local Ace Hardware; if I can get the stove delivered I can find my own contractor to install it.

I just don’t know what we will do when it is next time to refill that tank.  If the price keeps going up, we will have to rig up some sort of solar water contraption and figure out an alternative method of cooking.  If we, as already prepared as we are, are feeling the pinch, I can’t imagine how this is going to affect our neighbors.  We are truly in interesting times, as the Chinese say.

TEOTAWKI preparations…why?

For those of you not in the know, that stands for The End of the World As We Know It.  This blog was designed originally as a political commentary on topics close to my heart — TEOTAWKI among them.  Now, while the CDC did recently publish a preparedness memo for the Zombie Apocalypse,  I’ m sure it was more than a little tongue in cheek.  HOWEVER.  That does not eliminate the fact that their preparedness memos are designed for EVERY citizen, and it would behoove one to pay more than a passing bit of attention on their list of *must have* items in one’s storage.

Why?  You ask.  And well you might.  I have a good reason, from my own experience.  When I was growing up, we lived for a time in a cabin in the woods of Northern Michigan.  In the winter, we had no running water — the pipes froze from October until June.  We often had no electricity — snowstorms knocked out power lines. We were snowed in, sometimes for weeks at a time — we lived 6 miles from the main road.  We had no central heat — we had a wood stove (that kept the house pretty warm) and a fireplace (that was pretty to look at but mostly just sucked the heat out the chimney).  So:  we had a large store of canned goods, both those that my mom canned and those we purchased at the store.  My dad hunted and we fished from the river for our protein (meat) needs.  We had kerosene lamps, and gallons of kerosene for those nights we didn’t have electricity.  We had cords and cords of wood cut and stacked.  We heated snow on the stove and bathed as well as cooked and cleaned with melted snow.  All in all, other than the time that I broke my little sister’s collarbone by playing the overly rambunctious bucking bronco (she was 2, I was 7), it was a pretty good life.  Oh, and when my rabbit ate the feet off my barbie dolls wasn’t so great either….  But back to preparedness.  Now, this was a long time ago, and it was special circumstances, and maybe you think that would never ever happen to you.

So how about a more recent example or two?  Recently a storm knocked out the transformer that served our corner of the county.  Our community along with four others were without power for a day.  We were without power for most of the time, others were without power for part of it and intermittent for the rest.  For us, that meant we had no water –  the community pumping system has no generator backup.  We had no electricity — so no lights obviously; we also had no oven because our stove is electronic ignition and, while a lighter will start the burners, the oven has a safety backup and will not light if there is no power.  We also had no heat as we use space heaters to heat the rooms we’re in, and a heated mattress pad on the bed, and the central heating doesn’t work without power (not that we have used it in the last five years anyway).  It was wintertime, keep that in mind.  Even in Arizona, temps can get pretty low, especially when it snows where we live.

Or how about the time a friend of ours had a power outage when they lived in Yuma?  Two weeks without power, water, heat, etc.  They had to move into a hotel.

So what did we do without power?  Well, we had stored food — and we had a pressure cooker.  We have a camp oven that could have made bread (or cake) on the top of the stove.  We have kerosene lamps, which provide heat — and light — and we have gallons of kerosene stored.  We did NOT have enough water, even though we have a water filtration system, so we had to go to the store for water (and thankfully we thought far enough in advance that there was water at the local market).  We had rain barrel water storage for bathing (boil first, of course) and toilet flushing.  And we had solar power backup, which meant we could keep the cell phones charged (no land line, no power) and the computer running, as well as the HAM radio.  We also have clothing appropriate for the weather — wool sweaters, long underwear, and are familiar with the idea of layering.  I even wore a hat in the house to keep my head warm.  Our outage only lasted a day, but we would have been comfortable and well fed even if it had lasted for weeks — unlike 99% of our neighbors…who went to stay with friends or family for the duration if they could, or suffered in the cold and the dark if they couldn’t.

Why do I think *you* should do at least a little of the same?  Well, the reason is pretty simple.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (the ones who make sure the highway over passes, water systems, sewage systems, electric grids, etc — all the things that make modern life possible) say that American infrastructure is failing. 

The power outages are going to get more frequent, the water quality from the tap is going to get worse, gasoline is going to become unaffordable (even if prices drop — if you don’t have a job you can’t afford gas) and food INsecurity is becoming an increasing concern of our government regarding our citizens.  Do you want to end up having to impose on friends or family, or do you want to be the one being able to offer shelter (and really good food) for those who *need* shelter?  For me, the answer is simple.  I’m a hedonist, I want to be comfortable no matter what the circumstances — so I prepare.  I’d much rather be hospitable than impose.

I had a conversation with some coworkers this past weekend — they were talking about sources for rubber seals for their pressure canners and cookers.  I informed them that I own an All American Pressure Canner.  And that if the end of the world happened, I would still be happily canning away while they cursed their cookers and canners.

Why this one?  Well first of all, because it was given to me, before I realized the benefits.  Second of all, IT DOES NOT REQUIRE A RUBBER SEAL.  If TEOTAWKI happens, I can still can to preserve food — because my canner doesn’t rely on industry to provide rubber seals.  If seals quit being made tomorrow, I could still can.  And canning our excess is definitely a large part of our preparedness.  It’s cheaper — don’t believe anyone who tells you it isn’t — and the quality is much higher.  I KNOW what is in those cans, I grew it and canned it.

You should store water, at least the amount you drink in 48 hours — and you should rotate it monthly, and you should put either iodine or bleach into the storage container to prevent bacterial and fungal growth.  We have a 2. 5 gallon water jug but that wasn’t nearly enough for our needs for the amount of time we were without water — which is my mistake.  I had foolishly thought we would just use the rain barrel water — but when it came down to it we weren’t brave enough to run the water through the filtration system.  So, we now have several containers that I need to fill and store.  We use between 5 and 8 gallons of water daily, between drinking needs, coffee (this is *not* a luxury in our house) and cooking, as well as for the animals.  In the summer we use more, because it’s Arizona and it’s HOT.

You should store at least a week’s worth of food — peanut butter, rice, dried beans, canned veggies and meats.  Admittedly you can choose food you would NEVER eat if you didn’t have to, but why not choose foods you already eat and buy extra?  Then just rotate it through your normal stores. I believe the CDC recommends two weeks’ worth.   If we couldn’t get to a grocery store for six months, we would still eat like we always do.

You should have a lantern or two — or at least a bunch of candles.  Believe me, light makes the difference between depression and hope.  And candles put off a hella good amount of heat — maybe it won’t be 70, but it will be a little warmer, especially if you keep several in a smallish room.

For our further preparations, we have planned to install a wood stove.  It will allow us to heat without being dependent on electricity at all.  And we also plan to get solar powered lanterns.  Kerosene got *quite* expensive this last year, enough so that it justifies the cost of solar lanterns.  Unlike kerosene, though, we buy them once and they will last for many years (provided I remember to put them in the window to recharge…) – and they give off better light for knitting, reading, etc.  And are cleaner — no nasty smell.

In short, you should actually pay attention to at least some  of the recommendations of your government.  It could possibly save your life, your dignity, or your marriage.