Monday, July 18, 2011

On My GREEN Nightstand...Part I

Recently I've been reading 2 GREEN-themed books.  The first was a cookbook which I mentioned in a previous post, In the Green Kitchen by Alice Waters, which was really just about standard technique in th kitchen.  Other than a brief introduction where the word organic was used, I don't see much in the book which really lives up to the title.  I mean, sure, cooking with fresh & organic food is GREEN, but I think it was a little misleading and I didn't get much out of it.  In all fairness to the author, I already have most of those basic skills down like a kitchen ninja.  (Just for fun, try cooking one night like you're a ninja, with lots of cool moves & swinging your knives around like swords...oh and sound effects - though ninjas are silent - it's really hilarious.  Just be careful if you own really large knives like I do!  Be especially careful if you also like to drink wine while you're cooking!)

2nd GREEN book I'm reading feeds nicely into my paranoia that we should always be prepared for the worst!  It's called Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs, by Wendy Brown.  Great title, right?  (There's a subtitle that reads, "The Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil.")  Totally caught my eye.  The basic premise is this: untimely disasters happen that change what we call 'life as we know it' (think of the recent natural disasters, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis that have interrupted life for so many people leaving them without electricity, water, communication, transportation, food & basic needs.)  The author, like the Boy Scouts, says that we should be prepared.  She's former military, and structured the book into a matter of days.  What if we knew we had only 21 days to prepare for "the end of the world as we know it?"  She goes day by day in order of priorities to help people survive not only the possibility of natural disasters but of a loss of petroleum-based products/oil, food shortages & power outages.  (BTW, the author had also written a blog on the subject, but it only had a few posts and ended abruptly when the book was published.)

While I won't detail the entire book to you, I'd like to share some of the ideas I found interesting, including some of the things I'm SO going to do...because, hey, does it hurt to be prepared?  (There are several sections I'm skipping though.)

1.  Your first priority isn't food, it's shelter, so take good care of your home.  As a Realtor, I went "ding, ding, ding!" when I read this.  A lot of people think it's about food, but according to Wendy Brown, they're wrong because humans can go 3 weeks without food, but less than say 6 hrs in the worst weather conditions without proper shelter.  She goes on to tell you that you need to make your home energy-efficient, make sure your roof is in shape, etc.

2. Water.  If you rely on public water and suddenly there is none, you may need to dig your own well, build a rain barrel or cistern, boil/treat nearby freshwater or distill & desalinate salt water.  For once I am happy that I live in a pretty rural area where I have 2 wells on my land.  While right now we rely on a submersible pump for water from the deep well, we have a shallow hand dug well that we could access if needed.  I'm thinking we could pick up an old manual pump somewhere just in case, or drop a bucket in the bottom if needed.  Also the rain barrel is on my wish list :)

3.  Day 3 of the 21 is devoted to creating fire for heating your shelter and/or cooking.  The author lives in Maine and heats her home with a woodstove, the thought of which has become rather appealing as the price of oil has climbed higher and higher.  She's all set.  She discusses other ways you can bring fire inside, and how to build fires and cook on them.  I have a lovely propane fireplace, but were the propane to run out we'd be left in the cold.  Hmmmm....

Days 4-6 are about cooking, food, & food storage.  She discusses an outdoor kitchen, camp stoves, using a solar oven, cooking over a sterno can or candle, and building a methane digester.  On food she discusses stocking up, but also in her opinion the importance of only eating from your local food shed, so that in the event we no longer have access to things like sugar or coffee or chocolate (because there are no trucks delivering them to our local stores anymore) that we don't miss them.  I don't think I could do that, as much as I love to and try to eat locally, I'm not going to give up chocolate because one day there might not be any.  That's a horrible deprivation!  I say better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all!

What I did like in the food section is the part about canning and preserving, something my families have always done and I feel is disappearing with my generation.  Maybe it's time to get over that fear and start boiling those Mason jars just like my mom...because the truth is her strawberry jam will bring a smile to my face any day...even if it is the apocalypse!  The other thing I got out of it is that I need to reorganize my pantry.  Actually, I liked most of the food section.  Don't skip that part.

Day 7 is devoted to growing food.  Yes - the organic gardener in me loves this part!  She stresses the importance of being efficient )& getting the highest return on investment) in your gardening space (which she has to be - she has a quarter of an acre lot which also holds a chicken coop, rabbit hutch, outdoor kitchen, etc.)  I'm planning a small orchard behind our new carriage house, probably just north of the small greenhouse, and while I was all about planting a variety of peaches, apples, & maybe pears, I hadn't even though of a nut tree.  Hello, protein!  Now to find a variety that would do well in my growing zone.  I'm hoping that ends up being something like hazelnut or almond, though it's almost certainly walnut.  That's ok, those are good too.

Livestock & Laundry are the topics of Days 8-9, neither of which I have great interest in pursuing, though the goat sounds adorable...I'm afraid it would eat my entire yard.  Here's hoping that in the event of disaster, at least one of my 2 neighboring properties with chickens would share a few eggs with my kids.  After all, I get to wake up to roosters (& a noisy donkey) every morning!  BTW, I get the whole idea that laundry is important and often overlooked.  You know how much better you feel when you're wearing clean clothes after say, traveling for 27 hours or so, right?  She shares her recipe for making laundry soap.  I just added her ingredients to my grocery list.

Days 9 & 10 are really good!  Light & Electricity, respectively.  Stock up on candles or make your own, as Wendy Brown does with the remnants of other candles, or use an oil lamp.  Kerosene can be dangerous and eventually hard to get, but olive oil burns cleanly (won't pollute the air in your home) and isn't as likely to start a fire.  Didn't know that.  Also don't have kerosene in my house, but I do have flashlights, several oil lamps and gallons of olive oil :)  I'm good for light!

The part about not having electricity that scares me, other than no water because my main house is hooked up to a submersible pump, is no computer for communication.  What if our cell phones go dead?  Ugh, I hate not knowing what's going on.  Enter the solar powered cell phone charger!  Mind you, it's not going to charge your phone 100% as quickly as your regular charger does, but in a pinch, it'll get you some extra time, and you can keep charging it.  I'm SO getting one - or likely 2 - so that I can give one to my parents so that if there's no electricity we can both charge our phones and talk!  Time to do a little research on those :)

This post is getting long, so I'll share the highlights of the other 11 days in my next post...Apocalypse Part II!