Original Letter here.
Hi Peak Shrink!
I’ve thought about you many times over the last few months and just handed gotten around to sending you an update. the first of May 2007, I moved in with a someone I’d known for many years. I first met him through a fellow employee and then he became a (massage) client. The house is paid for, except for a loan he took out to do a remodel/addition which he changed his mind about. He used the money instead to install double pane windows (at my suggestion and he’s continually amazed at the difference they make. The heater hasn’t come on once. It also helps that he’s becoming acclimated to lower temperature settings.)
The house is on a 1/3 acre and we’ve completely transformed the back yard, and half of the front. We’ve sheet mulched and plan to finish the other half and plant more cover crops, plants for mulch and plants for the chickens. Originally he was planning on putting in a lawn in the front and the back too. I talked to him several times about that and he finally realized it wasn’t such a great environmental choice. So after watching the clover growing under the fruit trees, he said “there’s my lawn! and he likes it a lot.
We’ve got 7 chickens. Four of them are seven months old and three of them are laying, and three are four months old. They are such characters, highly entertaining. We’ve planted a berry garden with strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, and close by are blueberries. There’s a 15 yr. old Valencia orange tree and we’ve added two dwarf Washington navel orange trees. Nearby is a dwarf persimmon which is now bearing fruit. We’ve had several tomato plants, but they’re gone for the year and sent off to the compost pile. My worm box (almost two years old now) is nearby. There’s an area for the flower/medicinals which we’re currently redesigning (sending annuals off to the compost pile and moving perennial lavender plants closer together with the echinacea next to them. I plan to add a lot to that area. Oh yeah, there’s six St. John’s wort plant getting established and I transplanted the lobelia. There’s a pre-existing dwarf Asian pear in there and we added a dwarf lemon tree.
Moving towards the back of the yard off to the side we planted over a dozen dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees (apples, pears, and plums) and the clover is planted underneath to fix nitrogen and beef up the soil fertility. There’s a 15. yr. old Beverly Hills apple tree. We just recently did two raised beds (using salvaged bricks) for the perennial veggies and we have three good sized areas for vegetables and in a few months we’ll be rotating crops which will be exciting and educational too. We’re both learning so much. I’m finally somewhere where I can start putting into practice what I’ve been reading about for two plus years since learning about peak oil.
Soon after moving in, I starting talking about Peak Oil to my new “landlord,” and he’s caught on rather quickly and started connecting dots much more so than a lot of other people. A dream came true, he said he does want my money and doesn’t need it, so he doesn’t charge me rent. He fortunately had retired over a year ago and so he has lots of time to spend in the back yard. We both have so much fun out there.
Oh yeah, I just remembered, there was about a two foot slope, so to prevent erosion and to help with water harvesting/permeability, we started a swale in one area where there’s a vegetable garden, and periodically I’ve been extending the swale in bits and pieces so it will go completely from one side to the other. I just have a few feet to go (quite an accomplishment as I think about it since the yard is 60 ft. wide (75 ft. to the back fence from the patio). We have a couple of areas with chairs and benches to sit and drink our beers and admire/enjoy our accomplishments. More to do tho…that’s okay!!! Having a blast!! My cat is a lot happier too. She can go outside, the yard is completely fence in, so sometimes she wants to go out and explore…
Anyways, I’m glad to hear from you. I still check your site, along with a few others quite regularly. Recently I had the “Evolve Your Brain” book in my hands and was thinking of letting it go and sending it to the thrift store or ???. If you’re interested, I would love to give it to you. I wish I could do more, for what you do, I’ve gotten so much from your website. I’ve printed out the majority of stories and put them all in their own special binder and when my landlord gets in a major funk/meltdown/despair/anxiety, etc. etc. I encourage him to go read the stories in there so he can see he’s not the only one dealing with these feelings and stages, and that they come and go….
Comment from Peak Shrink: I did want the book…
I forgot to tell you that years ago, my new landlord used to be a commercial beekeeper (had 50 beehives at one point), and because of all of the press about colony collapse, he’s going to have another beehive next spring,(for pollinating, beeswax, and the honey). He’s sooo excited.
I think I forgot to tell you, we’ll be doing some rainwater harvesting too. In fact, just today the order of ten 55 gallon barrels arrived. now the next thing to do is for the order of downspout adapters to arrive, go get the hoses, etc. and figure out the first flush diversion thing. The chicken house was built with mostly salvaged materials, including some corrugated metal sheets that became the roof. It’s amazing the amount we’ve collected there. (The house is 8 ft. wide by 6 ft. high by 6 ft. deep. We used four pieces together to cover the 8 ft width and since they’re 7 ft. long, we used the extra length for the pitch.)
I’ll send the book first part of next week. I forgot to mention that I underlined a few key sentences. Hope that’s okay…
Next year I want to get more into the seed saving, seed storing, food preserving, making more cheese. This year’s been mostly about getting the gardens, etc. up and running. And, adding more vegetable crops to up the production. I did dehydrate some broccoli and summer broccoli this year. So most of the additions to the pantry are canned goods from the store. I bought a pressure cooker but haven’t used it yet. So many things I can’t remember them all…
I just remembered something else right after I pressed send, we’ve been using greywater for the fruit trees, etc. since July. We calculated the first month, and we able to divert 850 gallons!!! to the yard. We used 19 gal. buckets and 5 gallon buckets to add up the shower water, the dish water, and the laundry water. We’re using simple, low-tech methods since that’s what the books suggested. Less likelihood of breakdowns, etc. My “landlord” was very impressed to see all of my books, once I was able to get them all out of storage and we have them in bookcases all over the house. They’re organized by topic and tried to put them in areas closer to where we use them (like all the cookbooks are in the kitchen). I haven’t added them up lately, but I’m sure I’m past 800 by now since I’m on my 8th pack of 100 index cards for the “library catalog”.
I just remembered something else, he dug a trench for the three mini-refrigerators, with the freon and electrical removed, all different sizes, for cold storage for our root vegetables and apples. (Whether we grow it or buy it at the local Farmer’s Market it doesn’t matter at this point. Oh yeah, that’s another thing I’m looking into also, what to grow for the chickens and how much of it so we won’t be so dependent on the commercial stuff. I’ve got alfalfa seeds for the front yard (which isn’t ready for us to plant stuff there just yet), and already have clover, and buckwheat just starting out.
Massaging the Pain
You’ve done a remarkable job and you must continue to keep us updated on your progress! Thanks so much for writing!