It's been a while since I've done any writing. I've been busily growing the veggies out front...picked the first cucumber this week! But mostly I've been collecting. I'm a packrat by nature but lately what I've been collecting is information. My library selections are very eclectic or maybe not to Jericho fans. Some of the topics are homesteading, gardening, solar power, wind power, self-sufficiency, underground houses, nutrition, hydroponics, cookbooks, especially those about camp cooking, vegetarian recipes, cultural cookbooks. I've been collecting little bits of information from all of these books and writing them in my notebooks. Writing helps me remember things and I'm not counting on having a working computer at all times in the future.

The future is uncertain. We're seeing rising gas prices (Ok, they dropped some this week but I'm not going to count on them staying down), rising food prices, a crisis in the mortgage and banking industry due to bad loans, the possibility that we've reached peak oil and the list goes on. So what do we do in uncertain times? We can worry. We can imagine. We can prepare. There are well respected segments of the religious community that teach members of their faith to be prepared. They recommend having a years supply of food stored. That has been taught for many years...before the oil embargo of the 70s, before the S&L debacle of the 80s, before our current uncertainty. I think it's a good idea. After all, I really don't expect food prices to drop anytime soon. So buying and properly storing some extra food can't hurt.

My summer gardening experiments in hydroponics have been interesting. I've determined that during the summer, there is no real advantage to growing my tomatoes and cucumbers in a hydroponics tub. The tomato might have slightly larger fruit that it's counterpart growing in soil. However, they are different varieties so it's a bit hard to determine the size difference. The New Zealand spinach in the dirt is certainly larger than that in the tub but again the spinach in the tub tends to get pinched off and eaten more since it's clean all the time with no grit. Cucumbers I can evaluate side by side. I have one in water and one in soil very near each other so they get almost the same sunlight. The one in soil is much larger and produced cucumbers faster.

I will admit to not being as precise as I should be with the hydroponics. I haven't been dumping my solution as often as recommended, etc. I'm trying to imagine using this setup in hard times. In hard times, I won't be able to afford the nutrients. Talk about sticker shock! I put a gallon of nutrients on the counter and was told it was $118. Excuse me? The sign said $24.95...turns out that was the price for a pint. The tags were in the wrong spots. Needless to say, I went looking for something less expensive. This calls for more reading to find a way to make a natural solution for growing plants. Something that I could make and feed the plants if commercial solutions weren't available. There's that self-sufficiency theme popping up again. Comfrey popped up in several places as a tea for feeding soil based plants. So it's on my research list.

There are several books that were quite informative. Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon was very good and set for some interesting points. This book provides good information on saving seed, growing food in dry conditions, organic fertilizer and irrigation. I hadn't really thought about it until I read this book but think about the lot size of older homes. Homes from the 40s and 50s and even through most of the 70s are on what are now considered HUGE lots. Those lots were the perfect size for a house and a garden spot. Victory gardens were grown during the war to provide food for families. Rationing was in effect. Men were away at war. Times were hard. People grew as much food as possible. Growing a garden then was not the 'hobby' that it's become now. It was something that almost anyone with land did. I'm beginning to itch for more land. Growing a few plants this summer makes me want to plant a big garden again. There are community gardens but the plots are tiny, if you can get one, and just the gas to drive there to water the plants would make it inefficient. Water is a very important factor. If you live in the city or a suburb, your water most likely comes from the faucet, from the water treatment plant. What if these services are unavailable in the future? It will be hard to get drinking water for yourself, let alone water for plants. From this book, I learned about spacing plants for growing in the dry season.

Another book surprised me. I expected a foodie book and instead found some wonderful tidbits of information inside. Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon. What would happen if you suddenly decided to eat only foods that were grown within 100 miles of your home? Easy? Maybe until you begin to think about things like salt, flour (wheat), apples, oranges. Imagine spending several weeks at a cabin with no running water, electricity, or nearby store. How would you feed yourself? If it's summer, you may be able to find food in the woods and fields nearby. You may be able to catch fish from a nearby stream. It occurred to me that there's lots of food around most of us. We walk on it. We throw frisbees and footballs across it. We may sniff it and admire it's color. The parks around our towns may hold food that we've never considered before. I shall soon be buying a native plants handbook for my area. I need to discover the food plants that may be growing nearby. Reading the detailed history (as opposed to the high school history book version) of expeditions such as Lewis and Clark may tell us what people in our region were eating at that time.

Our agriculture has changed over the years. Most of the small family farms are gone. The methods of the small farm have been replaced with growing on a mass scale with tractors and irrigation systems. We've come to think of certain regions of the US as areas where corn is grown, or wheat, soybeans, rice. We've been told that wheat only grows in a specific region. What I learned from Plenty is that this is not entirely true. Perhaps wheat grows best in Eastern Oregon or Montana but it can also grow in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. Start visiting farmer's markets. Get to know the farmers. Ask where the food is grown. This information may become important in the future. Knowing someone locally who has grown wheat may give you a chance at loaf of bread in the future. It can also lead you to some food that tastes very different than that in the local supermarket.

Maybe it's being the child of a mechanic that makes me want to know how things work. I've been reading more science books and watching some interesting things on The History Channel. People don't often tinker as they once did. We've become a throw away society. If it stops working, buy a new one. I think that those who are mechanically inclined and able to fix things, will be valued if our country falls into hard times.

That is enough rambling for tonight. Hopefully I'll get a chance to write again before another month passes.


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