2012 - Year of Self Relience

SUBHEAD: It will take a couple of years to become even minimally self-reliant. There's little time to waste getting there.

By Juan Wilson on 11 May 2010 for Island Breath -
mage above: Detail of movie poster for "2012" by Roland Emmerich. No, I do not think that is our fate 0n 12/21/12. From (http://richardwillisuk.wordpress.com/2009/11/14/2012-–-the-movie).  

There are indicators that there is a limited time to get our houses in order, and battened down, for the storms that loom over the horizon. How much time? To be generous, my guess is about than 24 months - if we’re lucky. Why? A financial and energy crunch that will be worse, and last longer than our experience in 2008 is in the making now.

This time around it will be a crisis involving Europe’s sovereign-debt as well as the bursting China’s building-boom-bubble. The $3-trillion of debt taken on recently by America, Europe and China to hold off this calamity is merely a band-aid on a bleed-out.

Two years may seem like a long time. So why rush? Later, you can always go online, charge whatever gear you need at www.survivalcave.com and have it delivered next-day FedEx. Well, that might be true today. SurvivalCave has a sale on a six month supply of food (for one person) for only $2,599 (not counting delivery).

What you'll get is 468 pouches of delicacies, including freeze-dried ramen-noodles, powdered gravy, and something like beef-jerky, for just $5.55 a pouch. But things could fall apart sooner.

Who knows what that 468-pouch deal will cost when crude oil is $200/barrel and you have nothing in the cupboard? Will your credit card have in excess of $10,000 left on it to feed a family of four long enough for your garden produces its first carrot? No. That really won't do.

Waiting to stock up on survival gear will likely not be affordable, or even possible, when push comes to shove. Get prepared now for growing your own food, producing your own electricity and even supplying your own water. Get prepared for working without relying on corporations, telecommunications or daily automobile travel. I say “now” because it will take you a couple of years to master these vital elements of your future life.  

It has taken us over a year to have a working hen-house with healthy producing free-range chickens supplying all our egg needs (and a bit more). To get the chicken-thing working took learning, experiencing, and adjusting what we thought would work. It takes time, but now we can sell a few eggs on the side or trade for other food.

The same goes for figuring out what vegetables grow easily here in Hanapepe Valley. It takes time. The soil is not great and you we needed to amend and maintain the fertility of the soil.

We used over 60-3 cubic foot bags of organic composting material to get things started. Learning how to compost and mulch effectively takes time too. It is too dry in the summer and too wet in the winter for some plants, and learning which ones work takes some experimentation. It has taken us over a year to figure out how to grow Molokai sweet potato and then protect the beds from chickens. Variety is important in order to keep food available throughout the year.

Permaculture advocates estimate that self-reliance begins when you regularly achieve producing half of your own calorie needs at an ongoing rate. This is because when you are producing bananas, or papayas, you produce more than you can consume, so you have some extra to trade for other produce you are short of.

Hopefully, your neighbors will have something extra you need in trade. After a year past planting them, about the only trees producing food you’ll have are your banana, papaya and cassava trees. A breadfruit tree, an avocado tree, a macadamia nut tree, all take years to produce anything edible. Get what you'll need in the ground sooner than later.

Unless you can write a check for $40,000 worth of solar-voltaic panels, to be installed by a contractor this season, you are unlikely to live the lifestyle you have today i couple of years from today. Once KIUC becomes unreliable or too expensive (or both), you will probably not be operating a freezer, refrigerator or even a washing machine in your house. Cable TV, internet access and even telephone service could be as iffy as in Bagdad in 2005 (two hours a day). Start building a PV system now to take care of achievable and critical missions.

Keep your KIUC account, but start adding a redundant system running by extension cords to the 120-DC inverter running off the 12 volt battery(s) that is charged by your PV panel(s). That would include a light in your kitchen near the stove and sink. A light in your bathroom, one in your bedroom and another in the office/den/livingroom.

 For those times when the KIUC lights go out, do not consider a PV system without battery storage... That is, if you want to read a book or bandage a wound at night. With even a budget of less than a $1,000-dollars you can begin to get those tasks covered. Like gardening, it will take time for you to learn what level of photovoltaic power works for your family. You need to test a system to see what it can deliver based on how you use it.

We have only one 60-amp-hour battery for our off-grid kitchen lighting. That means we don’t have more than about 90 minutes of homemade lighting for dinner prep and cleanup in our kitchen once it is dark. If you want to run a refrigerator or freezer you will need a lot more PV/storage.

Even an undercounter refrigerator/freezer must run 24/7/365. Marine units used on ocean sailing vessels cost a few thousand dollars a pop. The power to run even a small unit will be at least as much money. So unless you have $5,000 to keep that six-pack frosty you may have to experiment living without refrigeration for food. It can be done.  

Unless you live on a clean perennial stream, you should start looking for other sources than the Kauai Water Department. They consume over a third of KIUC generating capacity to pump water uphill into reservoirs in order to supply us tap water. Water could get expensive and scarce if diesel prices double. I have done just minimal work in achieving water independence. We live next to a gravity fed water ditch in our valley. It does not flow all the time and is not good for drinking, but it can water our garden.

We sank a garbage can in our yard next to the ditch with a pipe connected to it so we can pump water from the garbage can though a garden-hose. The pump is electric, but not running off PV... yet. I've burned up two pumps in the 8 years.

They were bladder type sump-pumps designed for occasional use, and they did not have automatic shutoffs. A sturdier, more expensive impeller pump, that can run off a PV panel, is my next test unit. There are a couple of ways for you to get your own water. If you live where the water table is close to the surface you might be able to dig a well. Here in Hanapepe Valley I estimate that a hole 10 feet deep would be sufficient for pooling water to be pumped.

 A friend dug a successful well with a backhoe in Waimea Valley that was about 12 feet deep. He has been pumping garden water out of it for years. Another friend, here in Hanapepe, and close to the mouth of the river, dug a well and hooked up a windmill pump only to find he had brine. He was sadly disappointed.

Obviously, if you want to drink from a well, testing will be required before consumption and water treatment may be necessary.

Wells are iffy things. Your best chance at potable water may be collecting rain water off a suitable roof surface (corrugated metal, not asphaltic roofing). Fairly simple gutter systems and screening can get that job done. Agriculture storage containers for water run about a $1 a gallon. Gathering, keeping and protecting drinkable water will become another job around the house. Like food and power, this will be something that takes time to get right, and require frequent attention.  

When my mother’s parents were born in upstate New York, most people did not have jobs, phones or cars. They lived and worked on farms. They walked to school and used draft animals to get them to town or church. They talked to their neighbors.
  • Our current way of life is in an anonymous virtual world. The credit card purchases over the internet, with swift delivery to our outer island homes will end with any serious disturbance in the teetering financial sector.
  • Our instant contact with relatives on the mainland with FaceBook, and our entertainment by real-time events on HDTV will be interrupted the day just a few global corporations find it unprofitable.
  • Our only "private time", ensconced in the air-conditioned mini-van with the tinted windows, seven-speaker audio system, and 44-ounce cup-holders, is a really just an isolation bubble about to pop.

We may soon be out of touch and out of the loop. What will that mean? If you work for a corporation (or the government), if you require telecommunications to get your job done, or if you need to travel daily by car to perform your duties... start thinking about another line of work, or at least another way of delivering it.

Your new work will need to be needed by the people in your neighborhood. It won't be just a “Howzit brah? to the people you drive past on the way to the office.

Time and effort will be required to figure out what activity might actually be rewarding to you and worthwhile to them. With as little as 24 months, there is hardly enough time for you to get the knowledge you'll need on the basics of self-reliance. Get your priorities straight. Then get busy. Time’s a flitting.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Here's the Deal 7/5/09


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