Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wherat has I bean?

Ize bean in the country, plowin up some ground. Last week I asked Festus* if it was too late to get in some corn and he said no it wasn't, I could put corn in right up to July 1. I'd been wanting to do it but I just hadn't had a chance what with working on the house and not getting time off from my city job and so forth.

So I went down there on Friday and I hitched up the tiller and I made about a 1,200 square foot corn patch. This got me to thinking about a few things.

Number one, if you didn't already know it, the way it is now, going back to nature and living the country life means consuming a whole lot of fossil fuels. Like just about every ear of corn grown in the U.S., mine depends on a diesel tractor. It may be less diesel intensive that average because I won't be using fossil fuel to reap it or process it and I won't be shipping it 5,000 miles, but I still need diesel to make the project work.

And alas, it turns out I was short a linchpin to hitch up the tiller. I had to make a 12 mile round trip to buy a 50 cent piece of hardware before I could do the job. Now sure, once I get settled in and I'm doing this every year I'll have a drawer full of hardware and I won't have to make a whole trip for something that stupid, except when I'm stupid enough to screw up and make it happen, which will be more often than I expect. But the point is, when you live out in the country, you have to drive some miles to buy groceries, visit your pals, get to the feed store, you name it. There's no bus and there's definitely no subway. In the city, I use my vehicle twice a month, if that. But in the country, I have to use it every day, and go some distance at that. I'm lucky enough to have a big woodlot, so I can heat with biomass. I need a gasoline powered chainsaw and log splitter and the diesel tractor to do that, but there's still a big net energy gain. I can get by on deadfall and trees with serious bole rot, and wood that's being cut anyway for other reasons, so I'm not clearing forest. (Full disclosure, I did clear three or four acres when I first bought the land.) Still, how many people are in a position to do that?

So all this started me thinking about the old days. What did the first Europeans who came to Windham County do, 300 years ago? What would happen if we tried to go back and do things their way, without using any fossil fuels? The answer might surprise you. I'll give you my conclusion tomorrow.

*For those who haven't been reading all that long, Festus is my friend who operates an organic farm with his wife in Windham County. I'm lucky he has time to talk to me in between working.

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