Friday, June 30, 2006


Wishing everyone a happy 4th of July.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

smart car

A while back I was complaining about the lack of choice concerning automobiles available in the United States that get good gas mileage. So it's my duty to report that Mercedes Car Group and DiamlerChrysler AG have just announced that the ForTwo model of their smart brand will soon be available in the United States. By soon they mean 2008 but we are talking about a car that gets 60 miles per gallon. It also meets U.S. Dept. of Transportation safety regulations and fits 2 to a parking place.

The smart ForTwo will be entering its 37th market and will be exclusively distributed by the UnitedAuto Group. The manufacturer sites its popularity in Europe and the rising price of fuel as the main reasons behind the decision to enter the American market- the largest auto market in the world.

“We believe the U.S. market will embrace the smart vehicle with its exceptional fuel economy, environmentally friendly features, and advantageous price point.”

Duh! What have you guys been waiting for?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

coming my way

Hi there -- I'm a Miami resident, and have recently made some tentative inroads into the Peak Oil/Long Decline discussion with my family. I've convinced them to begin thinking about moving out of Miami in the next five years, and part of that was suggesting we move to Asheville, North Carolina. They like that town. I lived in NC (durham) for five years and spent many summers in hendersonville, and it's one of my favorite parts of the country.

But even though I'm learning more every month about sustainability
issues and localized communities, I still don't know specifically about the situation in that area North Carolina. I guess before I keep pushing my family there, I would like to know more. As an NC native interested in 'powering down', do you have any thoughts on NC or asheville specifically as a promising place to relocate? Are there resources that I should look into?

Thanks for any help you can give!


Hello Craig,

It’s great to hear about someone considering a move to North Carolina as a response to peak oil and the coming energy decent. There are two locations in NC that I think would make especially good relocation destinations. One of those is the Chatham County Area- including Pittsboro, Carrboro and Chapel Hill. The folks in this area are forward thinking and in many cases well aware of the larger energy issues beginning to affect our nation. Some resources to begin with concerning this area would be:

Central Carolina Community College These are wonderful folks teaching some standard community college courses but they are also very involved in courses concerning sustainable agriculture, bio-diesel production, solar power, etc.

Piedmont Biofuels If you’re interested in a co-op concerning recycled oils as fuel.

The Chatham Marketplace – Tami Schwerin and the gang just opened a new food cooperative.

Blue Heron Farms Community – Wonderful people experimenting with all sorts of sustainable aspects of living. Sally Erickson lives there and is working on a documentary called, “What A Way To Go”. I saw a preview at the Triangle Peak Oil Conference in Durham this past spring.

I bring all this up as examples of all that’s going on in this community concerning sustainable living.

The other location that I think would be an excellent choice concerning a sustainable relocation to North Carolina would be the Asheville area.

Asheville and the surrounding communities are very in tune with these same issues. Home to an established ecovillage and at least one co-housing community the general feeling is Asheville is of progressive individuals who are living with an eye towards sustainability. Black Mountain would be well worth a visit when considering your final destination. When returning to North Carolina I thought Asheville was an excellent option but ultimately chose to be closer to family.

Earthaven - Ecovillage

Westwood – Co-housing

Western Farmers Market in Asheville NC – Open all year long 7 days a week!

Buy Appalachian – Community Supported Agriculture in the NC Mountains

Asheville Homepage - A quick visit shows the focus of this community on quality of life

I hope this helps as a jumping off point for your possible relocation. I should hasten to add that there are plenty of individuals who believe city life is sustainable. Public transportation, established relationships and the safety of numbers all lend credence to the idea that living outside of town may not be a better idea than living in town. It probably all boils down to the scale of the city. Rebecca Carter of greenerMIAMI covers sustainable issues right in your current backyard. Just thought I’d mention it.

If you move forward with your relocation to NC please let me know. I would like to keep up concerning your move in advance of global oil peak and also I would be willing to help with logistics in any way possible. We’ve got a guest room and we’re two hours from Asheville. Stay in touch!

Best Wishes and Good Luck,


Friday, June 23, 2006

faith science and skill

“Of course, the end of the world has been promised by Jews, Christians, Muslims and assorted crazies with sandwich boards for as long as there has been a human world to end. But those doomsdays were the product of faith; reason always used to say the world would continue. The point about the new apocalypse is that this situation has reversed. Now faith tells us we will be able to solve our problems; reason says we have no answers now and none are likely in the future.”

From "When Technology Fails" by Matthew Stein. Read the whole article here. Via Jeff Vail.

The garden's warming up!

For those of you who enjoi listening to the James Kunstler as much as I do you can download this audio of his recent lecture at the University of Winnipeg. He actually uses the word hopeful.

Lastly let it be known to all that an adult chicken is hard to catch. Catching a baby chick however requires the skill of an olympic athlete or several people with nets. The escapee shown here by our rice paddy did not want to return to the safety of her brooding container. Eventually order was restored.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

potatoes and rutabagas

Many thanks to Erin for this 'baga recipe. It was passed down by her Grandma Oleta Stevens Skinner. Enjoi!

Potato and Rutabaga Casserole

6 potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 cup sour cream

1 big 'ole rutabaga, peeled and cubed so as the cubes are 'bout the size of your thumb

1 t. or so sugar

1/4 cup butter (not that margarine stuff, no sir)

dash salt

8 oz. cream cheese, cubed

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Big 'ole handfuls Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and then return to pot and dry (she means leave it in pot over low heat). Place potatoes in a large bowl. In the same potato pot, cook your baga in boiling water until tender (maybe 20 or 30 minutes? I don't rightly remember exactly) Now drain and return to pot and dry this too. Now, while that's doing its thing, you mash hot potatoes with some of the butter. I always use a fork to mash, not one of those fancy masher things. A fork will get it all mashed good. Add your cream cheese, cheddar cheese, sour cream, sugar, salt and pepper. Throw a little salt over your shoulder to scare them devils off (she laughs here because she says this in every recipe that includes salt). Beat together. Mash that soft baga; add to mixture and beat 'til all creamy. Transfer to a greased 2-qt. casserole dish. Melt remaining butter and stir into bread crumbs; sprinkle over casserole. Sometimes I might even sprinkle some extra cheese on top of the crumbs. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

chicks and more

I leave for the Bonnaroo music festival tomorrow! This four-day music extravaganza, held on 700 acres in Manchester TN, has been held annually since 2002. I’ve been twice before and I am very much looking forward to the trip. This year I will also be covering the festival’s greening initiatives for powering down and Groovy Green as a member of the press. Many thanks to Lee Schnailberg for helping me set this up. I’ll be based in the camp-only/no-car section of Bonnaroo with friends if anyone wants to stop by and say hello. We’re planning to build a large bamboo and tarp structure to provide some shade. It should be easy to spot. There will however around 75,000 people so I’ll understand if you can’t find me. More on this when I return…

Spring chicks have arrived, just in time as spring is coming to a close. This past Sunday I picked up 11 baby chicks to add to our backyard flock. I currently have only 2 adult hens and want to add more. At this age (5 days old) it’s extremely difficult if not impossible to tell male from female so odds are we have 5 or 6 rooster chicks. These we can’t keep adult roosters and will be giving them away or selling them once we’re sure of what we’ve got. Ultimately I’d like to add 5 new hens although that will depend on whether I am able to complete a new chicken enclosure planned for early this summer. It will also depend on my wife’s level of chicken tolerance;) The chicken enclosure will be built primarily out of bamboo which will allow me to share information on working with that material as well. In the meantime I want to use this opportunity to share with readers the process of raising baby chicks. A good place to start is my previous post on raising backyard chickens- Chickens Feed Me.

I’ll be posting regular pictures and summarys about the chickens as they grow. I’m toying with the idea of adding a webcam to the container currently housing the chicks. If anyone out there knows anything about what it would take to do this please comment on this post or send me an email. My address is in my profile at the top right hand side of the screen.

I’m beginning to harvest some large rutabagas. Now… anybody know what to do with these things? I tried growing them for the first time this spring as an experiment and I have been successful. I would greatly appreciate any recipes you the reader might have that include rutabagas. I’m am also harvesting two types of onions new to my garden; walking onions and potato onions.

Walking onions or Egyptian onions, also called topsetting onions, produce onion bulbs in the ground but also produce baby onion bulbs at the top of each stem.

If left in the ground long enough the tops bend over and the baby bulbs root and grow more onions. It’s easy to see how they got the name walking onions. They produce smaller in-ground bulbs for consumption but that actually works well for small families like mine. No more left over halves of onions in the refrigerator. As I harvest the edible bulb from the ground I am replanting the baby bulbs in hopes of a constant supply of onions. I have also harvest this year’s crop of potato onions.

They were a gift last fall from a family in the NC foothills. I planted small, individual bulbs and this spring when the temperatures began to rise the tops of the onions died back to the ground. I dug up the bulbs to find large bulbs mixed with small bulbs- they multiplied underground like potatoes hence the name. None of the bulbs were huge like the onions you might find in a grocery store but again they’re a great size for cooking a small meal. I’ve set aside the smaller bulbs for replanting. I’m going to plant a few next week and I’m going to plant a few this fall. I’ll keep you updated on how my replenishing onion supply works out.

Please let me know how your gardens are going this year. Send pictures and I'll post them.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

growing hope UPDATE

At the end of May I wrote about the prisoners currently held at Guantanamo Bay by the U.S. government without due process. The vast majority have not been charged. They’re just being held by our government indefinitely. Call me crazy but that doesn’t sound like justice. If someone should be punished get the process moving but don’t just to hold them forever. It makes me sad to know that the American people tolerate such injustice with such little protest. I guess our assumption of their guilt is enough to help us sleep at night.

I wrote to share news about a garden created by the prisoners despite the difficulties in doing so. They saved seeds from their food.

“Using water to soften soil baked hard by the Caribbean sun and then scratching away with plastic spoons, a handful of prisoners have reportedly produced sufficient earth to grow watermelon, peppers, garlic, cantaloupe and even a tiny lemon plant, no more than two inches high.”

Yesterday came news that hope died for 3 of the prisoners who committed suicide using sheets and clothes to hang themselves. If the rest of these men and boys (some were seized at the age of 14) were involved in terrorism they should be put on trial and punished accordingly. Holding them indefinitely however is its own crime of brutality.

I learned from Transition Culture about a campaign to send seeds to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay for use in their garden. A group called Reprieve is hosting the campaign. You can send new unopened seed packages along with a message concerning gardening advice to: Reprieve, PO Box 52742, London, EC4P 4WS

It won’t change the inaction of our government but it might bring a bit of hope to what must be a horrible existence.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

groovy green

I am pleased and excited to announce the launch of a brand new online magazine- Groovy Green!

I’ve been hinting for a while now about a change in the way I address issues of resource depletion and energy decent through my writing. Several months ago I was offered the opportunity to join a talented group of writers in an adventure aimed at creating a more comprehensive website for sharing news and information regarding sustainable issues. It has been quite an exciting experience. The magazine will include a variety of perspectives on various topics concerning a greener way of life. Media formats will include blog posts, featured articles, interviews, videos, product reviews and more.

We plan to pay special attention to the subject matter most important to our readers. Many Americans are waking up to the realities of energy issues and the environmental problems facing us as a result of our over consumptive lifestyles. Scores of people are beginning to recognize the need for a change in the way we live our lives. Our goal is to be The People’s Green Magazine. We want to facilitate change and we want to help others do the same. If you wish to know more about a specific topic or are interested in a certain idea please let us know. Contact us and we’ll check it out.

At first I was a bit apprehensive about contributing to Groove Green. My main concern was that I wouldn’t have enough time to participate in something new and still continue to write often enough here at powering down. During this transition period that has been true but ultimately I think being involved with Groove Green will actually improve the quality of powering down. When I began writing it was as an act of self prescribed therapy. I was writing to get out all the ideas pent up in my mind over peak oil and other such seemingly enormous yet unavoidable changes looming on the horizon. Then a curious thing happened. People started to read what I was writing. I discovered there are plenty of others with similar feelings. I also discovered many individuals already working on ways to address these issues. As my small but loyal audience grew I noticed a change in my attitude towards writing. I began to feel an obligation to write regularly and to provide polished posts of substance. Sometimes it even felt like work. As I began to contemplate contributing to this new site a thought occurred to me. Here’s the new plan:

Groovy Green will be a place to combine and develop ideas in a more comprehensive direction. This will allow me to grow as a writer and allow me the mental freedom to return to a loose and spontaneous style here at powering down. In other words I will continue to plant seeds here at powering down. As they sprout I will transplant some of them to Groovy Green where they’ll have more room to grow. Perhaps in the future they’ll develop into mature plants bearing fruit for many years. I hope so.

There will be some overlap in my work. I may reference other items I’ve written in alternate locations. I will also be writing under a different name at Groovy Green (I think you’ll be able to figure it out ;) I welcome any comments you have regarding this development. It’s starting to feel like a journey now that I’ve taken a few more steps. I couldn’t be happier to have you all along with me as we walk.



Groovy Green Online Magazine

Groovy Green Blog

Friday, June 02, 2006

let us enjoi summer salad

For a long time, I shied away from growing lettuce. I grew up eating grocery store head lettuces like Iceberg. They are tough to grow here in the southern U.S. Several years ago I tried growing leaf lettuce and had more success. Of course the chickens have to be kept out of the garden while the young lettuce sprouts begin to grow. The slugs must be kept at bay by putting out an old Tupperware container of beer (party animals at heart). A simple cold frame structure made from old salvage windows lets me start seeds early. Last year we grew lettuce in the winter. But the ultimate limitation on growing lettuce still remains- hot summers! As it gets warm, lettuce becomes bitter and bolts (which means quickly goes to seed). We’ve had a few weeks of high temperatures in the 80’s and most of my lettuce is on the way out. However, one variety is doing just fine.

‘Bronze Arrow’ lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a new addition to my garden this year. I am here to rave about it. I grew this lettuce from seed. Some of them were started directly in the ground; while others were started indoors and moved. Many varieties are tough to transplant. This is one is easy. This heirloom grows quickly and produces oak-shaped leaves of green and red. The outer leaves can be removed for salads leaving the plant to re-grow and produce more leaves. The flavor is great. The best part though is that it isn’t bolting. While my others lettuce varieties are calling it quits, ‘Bronze Arrow’ is still going strong. I highly recommend this lettuce for those of you looking to extend your garden salad season but also for those of you who unfamiliar with growing lettuce and who’d like to try. Best of luck with this one. You won’t need it.

Seed Sources:
Seeds of Change
Fedco Seeds

Bountiful Gardens
Seed Savers Exchange

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Rare Seeds