A place where one woman has gathered resources and information to help her family survive in an uncertain future; together with occasional personal musings.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Preliminary Thinking, or Planning how to Make a Plan.

When I envision the homestead I want to create for my kids and grandkids, I think about a place that is safe, comfortable, and which can provide for many of the essentials of life. In what specific ways is my homestead of the future different from our current homestead, and what steps need to be taken to bring those changes about? 

Many things are the same, of course. The physical place is the same. This is it; this five acres. That's what we have and we're working with it. Is it a good place, in the context of climate change? Well, who really knows? We just don't have any ideas at all yet about how regional climates may change. One of the stupid oversimplifications that annoys me (and everyone else who has a smidgen of knowledge about the issue) is that the term "global warming" means things will just get hotter, everywhere more or less equally. Some places will get colder, most likely, as ocean currents shift around. Some places will get hotter in some seasons and colder in others. Some places will experience more and stronger hurricanes... and on and on. We just don't know yet which places will experience what.

That being said, though, I think this place is better than most. The climate is historically mild, neither hot nor very cold. There are still abundant water resources, though of course those might be drained/expropriated more quickly than I hope. And more specifically, we live on the broad flat top of a high hill, and we can see the weather coming in all directions. Or any other things that might be coming. We get lots of wind for power generation and have full sun all day long. We have decent neighbors who have the same amount or much more land than we do. My future homestead also has the same house on it (in better repair). This house has some very nice features which I'll discuss further later on. Mostly, enough storage to lose a horse in.  

When I think about the differences, I mostly think in broad categories. I'll list them as I see them now, and then go over each one in  more detail. In the future, we will need to have new functioning systems to replace the old systems that will presumably not be available or not be affordable. I'll call these alternative utilities. We will need new knowledge and skills. We will need supplies,  and we will need to have some provision for security. I lost my train of thought for a while while I was having coffee with my guests, so I think I've temporarily forgotten something. It'll come back to me. I think, actually, the fifth thing is food security. It might go under "supplies" but because of the size and complexity of the issue, it gets it's own category.

There are also many intersections; for example, a big subsection of knowledge and skills is maintenance of the alternative utilities. But that will straighten itself out as I write and think more specifically. So far, I've done the most thinking on the categories of alternative utilities and food security. So let's start with one of those.

Alternative Utilities:

Tomorrow morning, Homero and I are going downtown to talk to a guy about installing a solar system. We've done a fair amount of background research - Homero more than me, because he understands the language of electricity and I don't - and we know more or less what we want. In terms that I understand, we want a grid-tied electricity generation system with batteries that is capable of providing emergency power for the whole house. By that I mean, keep the fridge and the chest freezer running, the stovetop, the furnace fan, and a couple of lights. We don't need to run the computers and the TV too. At least, not yet. Solar systems are modular, we can always add on. Because of our excellent southern and western exposure, I think this is feasible. Now is a good time to buy because of generous tax incentives. So:

1. Solar electric.

2. Rainwater Catchment.  Right now, water is cheap, plentiful, and of excellent quality. But if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that that situation will change. Eventually, water will be very expensive. And we will be growing a large part of our own food, and that means using more water. So I want to put in a large rainwater catchment system with an underground cistern of at least 10,000 gallons. I don't know much about those systems yet, so that's an area of more research. It's also something that can wait a little while.

3. Alternative Heating. We use propane now. It's already expensive, and because of the state of the house, not even very effective. Last winter, when the temperature stayed in the teens for weeks on end, we had to run the furnace full blast 24/7 just to keep the house at a chilly 60 degrees. Gotta do something about that! I'd like to take a three-pronged approach: a) insulate the house and make needed upgrades to windows and doors. b) get an insert for our fireplace that is capable of heating the house at least mostly, and c) eventually convert the furnace to biodiesel, assuming that Homero ever gets the biodiesel processor running well. Insulating will take place within the next three months. The other two are probably further along.

Okay, my allotted worry time is over. I'll be back tomorrow to continue planning. 

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