Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The oil will run out.

The end of the cheap oil has become a scary thought since I moved out here, far away from my family and most of my friends. So far every trip I’ve taken home to visit has relied on the old black gold, and I can’t see any way out of that. I’m hoping I’ll suddenly become an amazingly fast cyclist.
   While I don’t know exactly how to prepare for the day when I can’t afford a bus ride across the country, I am starting in small ways to get ready for the upcoming oil-crises at home.
   I think a major global crisis inevitable. When I go to the city what I see is that people are not changing. Some people are changing yes, and trying to get others to follow along. But the vast majority of people are not ready or willing to change their ways, and would much rather ignore the problem all together – the problem being global warming and the decreasing availability of oil.  Business will continue as usual until it’s gone. And when it’s gone people will be screwed. 
   Unless they get ready. 
   This is probably one of the biggest reasons why I’m here on Denman – after Oli. Maybe this is why Oli’s wants to be here too, but I can’t speak for him. It seems to me that there are certain factors that will make it easier to live off the land here – some of those factors being climate, a local government that seems to be focused mainly on environment, and a very strong sense of community.
   Anyway, I don’t want to blather on too much. A few months ago I joined up with a group of people who are trying to turn Denman Island into a Transition Town. “Transition Towns” is a global movement that started in Totnes, England. Each Transition Town creates a plan to go from oil-dependence to oil-free (or very low-oil) sustainability or “Local Resilience,” as the TT movement likes to call it. Denman, luckily, already has a whole bunch of groups working on various components of the entire goal.  In ten to twenty years, if all goes well, Denman will be producing all of the food and energy it needs to continue day-to-day life, without help from the monster oil industry. On the side bar there is a link to the “Transition Denman Island” blog, which I created. The website is www.transitiondenmanisland.org.
   As for Oli and I, we are hoping to build a house that is completely off the grid and doesn’t rely on maintenance people from off-island. This is going to be a challenge – but a good challenge. We have been watching Oli’s parents build a log cabin with barely any power tools. They peeled the logs with a hand tool and used a chisel for the notches to link the logs. It is totally ridiculous in some ways, but it reminds me of how much can be done without standard electricity.
   I’m really glad that I was brought up in the country and taught to use a saw and a hammer and to light a fire. There are lots of people out there who can’t do these things. I don’t know what’s going to become of these people. Thanks mom and dad.

"Skinning logs" as I like to call it - cuz I will never skin anything else. Except potatoes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Moving Dirt

For the last couple of weeks, on my free days, I’ve been working on the plot of land where we are going to build our little home. Before any house starts to happen, we are putting in gardens and fruit and nut trees. The trees take a few years to start producing edibles so we want to get them in asap. And the garden is something we can do while we are still deciding about house stuff.
I’ve been listening in on Oli’s conversations with other people to try and figure out what kind of garden to build. Last winter Oliver took a “Permaculture Design” course given by Jesse Lemieux of Pacific Permaculture. (www.pacificpermaculture.ca)  Through the course Oli met several of the people who are now our friends on Denman. Whenever we get together with any of these friends, they speak in tongues. Permaculture language. I don’t always understand it, but I’ve caught on to a few things and I’m trying to use them in my garden project.  I’m sort of trying to get my way with the garden – I want it to have nice aesthetics. But I’m also sort of trying to impress Oli, who thinks I don’t give a rat’s behind about permaculture – which is not true, I just don’t care for the jargon.
I’ve been spending all of my time so far on this one garden bed. It started out as a four-foot-deep ditch between the stumps and top soil that were pushed over to clear space for the pond, and the sandy gravel that came out of the hole that will be the pond (once we get it sealed and the rain fills it up). I filled most of the ditch with living and rotting logs and branches and salal and then I dug top soil out from the jumble of stumps and put it on top. We got a load of seaweed and put that on, and some sawdust. Then we were given 6 truckloads of soil that had been built by Jesse for one of his courses – so we really lucked out. The soil was built from various types of plant matter that broke down into rich earth over the summer. So that went on next. Now I have a fairly large garden bed with some stony key-hole shaped pathways into it. The layers of organic matter will turn to soil over time, as will the stocks and leaves from the veggies we grow in it every year.  In a couple days I’ll be planting garlic into it – the first crop. The soil is raised in a way that water should flow into the garden when it rains, and the mulchy soil should hold it for a while, so it doesn’t have to be watered as often.
Next I think I’ll take over Oli’s project. He is building an even bigger garden and is doing it the way I did mine, but more accurately. He’s been busy planting and fencing our trees and helping his folks build their own house, so he hasn’t had time to work on his garden bed.
I’m really excited to be putting in big gardens that I will be able to keep, instead of move away from when the lease is up. I’m going to grow stuff, and can it, and get totally ready for Armageddon. Yay.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Welcome Home

It’s Friday night, 8:00 PM and I’m in my twenties. A year ago I would have been sipping on a glass of wine and getting ready to go downtown in an hour or so. That’s when I lived in Toronto and was into live music and clinking glasses with friends and looking nice. But right now I’m in my pyjamas and in bed. And if only it were a bed, but in fact it’s a piece of blue camping foam and a blow up Thermarest sleeping pad on the loft floor of a tiny sauna. When I say tiny, I’m not kidding – your average basketball player would not be able to lye down in here.
I’m living on Denman Island – a tiny speck of land surrounded by a moat of salty pacific ocean off the east side of Vancouver Island. It’s rural to say the least. I’m in the middle of the island, in the middle of a clear cut that is quickly becoming forest again. I’m dirty and I have a headlamp on. I haven’t had a shower in two weeks, since I got back from my visit to Ontario. I have attempted to bathe with a bucket of water and a giant sponge – and I tell you, after a couple days of digging in the dustiest kind of dirt even a bucket of cold water feels great – but it’s not the clean I’m accustomed to.

My partner, Oliver and I came to Denman Island last January after playing a dozen gigs on a little tour across Central and Western Canada. Oli’s parents live here on this clear cut and have been doing so for six years. They are off the grid. They have a couple solar panels that they use to charge a few batteries – One for some light, a hand blender, a seed grinder and a cell phone charger, one for pumping water from the pond to the gardens, and one for backup. They have a woodstove to heat the air and the rain water they collect from the roofs of their 10x10 house and all of the little out buildings. They fill drinking water barrels at neighbours’ houses. They eat raw food – fruit and vegetables from their garden and from local organic growers, nuts and seeds and Ryvita crackers and rice wraps.
I did not in a million years see myself living this way. But somehow, I am. Except, Oli and I don’t have a 10x10 house or our own solar panels. We have a 7x7 room where one of us sits on a bench and the other sits on a pail that is turned up-side-down, and we have a woodstove to keep warm when the days get cold enough to light it. We have a tent made of sails that contains a chair with a toilet seat and a bucket full of grass, and a pail of sawdust, and coffee container with toilet paper. I keep calling it the bathroom, even though it will never include a bath.
I wear overalls covered in dirt. My hair looks like the high school Janitor’s mop, tied back in a flat ponytail with frizz sticking out the sides. I go to bed when it gets dark and I get up when the sun comes out. I only see my reflection in windows and when I do I am embarrassed to be seen by the dear that roam the property, desperately trying to break in to the gardens. They even smell better than I do.

We are going to build a house here. We will probably be very dirty for a couple years, but in the end our house will have a shower.