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The Power of Eight and Three (Reinventing our Native Cuisine)
(Noah Cicero, June 23, 2008)
There is a revolution taking place. A revolution without guns, without ideology, without rules and regulations. Without spies, gulags, power-hungry rich people verses power-hungry poor people. This is a revolution involving the elderly, middle-aged, young, and even child soldiers. This revolution has upper class office workers, professors, factory workers, restaurant workers, rednecks, and poor people in the ghetto. This is the Permaculture Revolution.
I was introduced to this revolution six months ago. I found out about Peak Oil over a year ago and began researching everything I could find. I think I've watched the first ten pages of Youtube videos on Peak Oil. I checked the “Breaking News” at Life After The Crash everyday. I checked the Bloomberg site for the price of a barrel of oil twice a day. I was going nuts with fear. Then I realized what I must do is take control of the situation. Then I read about Permaculture and all the activities people are doing to make their cities able to produce their own food.
I had grown up around gardens and farms living in rural Ohio. My father had a large garden and so did one of the neighbors. So I went to the book store and bought a bunch of books on gardening and started reading up. Also my roommate's father, on whose land I'm gardening, grew up without electricity in rural Kentucky. He used to plow with a mule and live the whole year on what his family grew, buying only sugar and flour.
This first year is a training year. I have cabbage, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and corn and beans growing up together. I have potatoes growing in tires, a watermelon and squash patch growing amongst weeds. I planted two apple trees, one cherry and a plum but the plum died recently. I also surveyed the area and found wild edible plants, there is wild asparagus, grapes on a fence, domestic apple trees, burdock, white pine, and dandelions. All of which can be eaten or made into teas that are rich in vitamin-C.
I have a well which can't be used for watering plants because Global Warming-related lack of rainfall has caused the water level in the well to drop fifteen feet, and any excessive use has been causing the pumps to break. Also I live in the middle of a natural gas field. Their drilling has messed up the water table. So I hooked up a plastic garbage can I got from work for free to the gutter system of the house.
I worked recently with a gardening group called Grow Youngstown. Grow Youngstown started this year. They are a non-profit organization that is trying to bring gardening to Youngstown. Youngstown has many empty lots and has a lot of room for possible gardening. The group's leader is Elsa Higby who I met and who has a sincere interest in bringing gardening and farming to the city. Grow Youngstown for their first year received one lot of ground. They had to throw down a lot of soil and manure to make the land usable but they have persevered. They have potatoes, onions, tomatoes, etc. growing on the lot. When I worked with them they brought in a group of young people from the Juvenile Dentition to help. These supposed “trouble makers” behaved perfectly and worked hard to pull weeds and mulch. People walking down the street kept stopping and asking what was going on. Grow Youngstown is planning on getting more vacant lots and hosting more seminars on how to garden.
Having these groups in our cities is really positive. When diesel gets high enough, our truckers will not be able to deliver their loads. And who knows what the floods in the Midwest will do to the price of corn in the future.
As things get worse people are going to be looking for food and ways to get food. If there is already a group of gardeners and farmers in the community, the community will have a place to go for instruction and help. They won't be starting from scratch. People will be sitting in their houses hungry and go, “Hey, I think we should grow our own food. But I don't know how.” And their friend, husband, wife, or kid goes, “Hey, there is community thing down on Oak Street. Lets go ask them how to do it.” As opposed to, “There's no food and I don't know anything about farming, maybe we should riot or steal.”
Reinventing our Native Cuisine
I read this book called History of Food by Reay Tannahill. The book describes ancient cooking methods, how they could only eat what was near by, how they cooked their foods based on possible cook times: by how much fire wood they had.
The book showed that if there are no semi-trucks and boats bringing food from far off places, you're going to have to create a cuisine based off what will grow where you live. You are going to have to find staples that will grow in your native environment and figure out combinations and ways to cook them together that make a meal.
The Power of 8 and 3: I live in North-Eastern Ohio and am basing my picks for possible crops on the environment here. It must be noted that things like eggplant and watermelon can grow here. But eggplant needs pesticides because they get attacked by bugs. And the small version of watermelon will grow here but it doesn't produce a large amount of food and takes up space, and it cannot be preserved and kept through the winter.
1.Corn: Corn can be preserved, made into cornmeal, and used to feed animals.
2.Beans: Beans can be preserved and dried.
3.Squash: Squash is easy to grow here. You throw down a pile of compost, put the plants in, and they grow.
4.Cabbage: This is a Russian staple which has kept them alive during some hard times. You could easily grow two seasons of cabbage here and it is easy to preserve in different forms.
5.Potatoes: Potatoes are another staple that can grow here. Potatoes I think would be the savior of many places if they were taught how to rotate crops so the potatoes do not become diseased. And potatoes can be grown in car tires right on top of concrete. And we know we will have a lot of car tires to go around.
6.Tomatoes: They can be eaten raw, or preserved in sauces.
7.Peppers: Peppers will grow easily here.
8.Apples: Apple trees grow easily here. You can make apple sauce, apple-cider, to preserve apples, and you can eat them raw.
There are many staples that can grow here. If yards, empty lots, empty fields, large spaces in parks, and fields that are currently being used for feed-corn were covered with these staples, it would be possible to produce enough food for the people of this area. This would create jobs because without huge tractors and the ability to crop dust and pesticides, it would require a huge human workforce to maintain the farms, but they should be able to grow a surplus so we could still teach our kids how to read, have markets, people making clothes, entertainment etc. Also it has been proven that human maintenance yields more than machine maintenance. If a plant falls over, a human can push it back up with some dirt. A human pays attention to detail. As opposed to throwing a bunch of seed down on thousands of acres and some live and some don't. Let the tractor sort it out theory.
The other three may surprise you. There are wild edible plants that live beside us and we love to mow over and weed whack. What is important here is the vitamin-C content. Because if a human does not have vitamin-C they get scurvy. And if live in Ohio and you want coffee and tea two of these plants can make it.
1.Dandelions: Dandelions can be eaten and even made into coffee. The flowers and leaves can be eaten. The leaves need to be boiled for a short time to rid them of a bitter aftertaste and they are edible as a salad. The flowers can be fried and taste very good, like eggplant. The roots can be dried, crushed, and made into coffee. The coffee does not contain caffeine, but it contains a large amount of vitamin-C which will replace the lack of oranges and the possible lack of milk that may take place. As we could see from Germany's milk farmer strike it is possible to be without milk.
2.White Pine Needle Tea: Native Americans drank white pine needle for its vitamin-C content. If there is no milk and oranges White Pine Needle Tea will become important. It has five times the amount of vitamin-C than oranges and helps fight colds. And the sap from a white pine can be used to heal cuts. The easiest way to get mass production of this is to get Christmas Tree Farmers to focus on White Pines.
3. Burdock: Burdock is a weed that grows everywhere, and is in everyone's yard. It has large elephant ear sized leaves and in the second year of growth it becomes that horrible Velcro plant. But the first year root can be taken out of the ground and eaten. The root is very good for you, Burdock helps with coughs, colds, tonsillitis, sores, arthritic conditions, contains 45% insulin etc. The leaves can also be eaten when they are cooked. In Japan, Burdock is eaten everyday, but we Americans mow it over. Burdock can also be stored all winter.
I have this terrible image in my head if things got really bad of some sad looking Americans starving to death surrounded by dandelions and burdock.
These are plants native to North-Eastern Ohio. Different areas should check out what staples can be produced, what fruit trees grow, and what can provide Vitamin-C if there is a shortage of milk and orange juice.
We need to figure out what grows well in our local environments and can produce a large amount at the same time. In San Diego it could be The Power of 5 and 5 because California can grow grow different types of fruit trees. But we need to address there are certain power crops that can grow an abundance and alert people of what those are.
This year's planting season has passed. I propose that this winter those who know about gardening, in gardening clubs or organizations get motivated and start canvasing their neighborhoods and town halls. Start writing opinion articles for their local newspapers and town reviews. Start getting the word out. There are organizations like Grow Youngstown in many cities. Go there and join or at least participate. Try to make friends with people with similar ideas. There are a million things to learn about gardening, you can learn from each other. Someone might be a master tomato grower, another a master potato grower, trade knowledge, socialize in person, with the soil, be a human. Because in the last six months I've learned that growing food can't be taught by reading it, reading about it can give you ideas, but learning from a person is the best way to go. You aren't going to learn the difference between loam, clay, and sand soil from a book. You're going to need to stand next to an experienced gardener, and hold the soil in your hands together while they point out the differences.
If you live in a neighborhood of several gardeners, go up and introduce yourself. Start a dialogue about world events and how it would be good for the gardeners to meet. Ask them if you tried to get more people in the neighborhood to garden by canvasing see if they would like to help the new gardeners. Most people will be happy to help their neighbors learn how to garden.
Make a small pamphlet of world energy issues, why it is important garden, and a list of staples that can be grown and wild plants that can be eaten in your area.
Something beautiful can happen here if we let it. Grow Youngstown has a lot of land where eight people garden together. The gardeners are working together. They are working for free. Everyone is going to take home some of the harvest. There is no sole owner. No overseer or boss making sure they do their work. They are doing it because they know it is important.
We have a choice in the future. If the semi-trucks stop delivering and the farm tractors don't run either. We must choose between latifundia or The Permaculture collective farm. A latifundia farm is a plantation with a sole owner who forces people to live in shacks like serfs. The serfs go out and do all the work, get paid little, and live sad lives. But we could choose Permaculture. We could choose to work together. To find farm land together, clear those spaces together, and work those spaces together.
This is why Permaculture is a revolution. It is people working together to bring back agriculture to the normal people. The group dynamic has been lost during three hundred years of industry and capitalism. But we can regain it. We can regain a sense of unity, of control over our lives.
There is an alternative resource, it is YOU! YOU are the alternative resource that can produce your own food. And if all YOU, view yourself as a person that can produce YOUR food, and create YOUR own world. Then you have a collection of YOUs, which make a group. Which make a TEAM. And what do you have then? UNITY.
The problem isn't Peak Oil or inflation or The Republicans or The Democrats or the big oil companies or Saudi Arabia. The problem is that YOU think you can't do it. YOU think you can't do it because all your life people have been telling you to listen to the television for answers, to listen to politicians for answers, to listen to advertising for what to buy and where to go. YOU can tell yourself what to do.
Get out there. Stop constantly reading Peak Oil articles being paranoid, stop being angry about oil companies or Republicans. YOU don't need them. Take control of the situation. Google your city and the word permaculture or grow or garden. Find those people, join them if you know how to garden, learn from them if you don't. Figure out what grows best and can be preserved through the winter. Stop planting stupid ornamental trees and grow some fruit trees in your yard. Instead of letting your kids play video games all day. Get their asses up and have them help you work on the garden. You'd be surprised, kids love to do things with their parents. If you didn't know your kids want to spend time with you, going to the zoo or a ball game once a year isn't spending time with them. Working with them all the time in the garden, building things together, creating together, sharing responsibility together, that's spending time. And you will be surprised how much work they will do.
Most of all when the semi-trucks stop delivering massive amounts of sliced bread, McDonalds, and Doritos. And your neighbors who never paid attention are walking around looking for food. Don't put on the attitude of, “I was prepared, go screw yourself.” Look at your neighbor as a human like you, who wants to work again, who wants to feel like a person again, who wants to live. Be a human and show them how to grow food. Have a community meeting, find out who knows how to grow what, who did construction and knows how to build things, who might be a welder, maybe there is a person that used to work for a theater company and knows how to make clothes. And even go as far as finding out who plays instruments so you have entertainment, find who has books, build a small community library in an abandoned house. There a million things that can be done, you know that one neighbor with the big ugly fence around their yard. Use that yard to keep the chickens in.
A Prmaculture Rvolution will not create a utopia. People in the north will be cold in the winter, and those in the south will be hot without their air-conditioning. Without hospitals getting supplies as they used too, many deaths will occur from simple things. Personally I've had spinal meningitis and was bit by a brown recluse on my chest by my heart. If there were no hospitals stocked full of antibiotics I'd be dead twice now. There will be a lot of sadness over dreams never being fulfilled by those who lived during the oil-age era. Personally I wanted to be a writer or maybe a restaurant owner. Now I think I want to grow potatoes and maybe if flour is coming in make gnocchi with them and sell or barter the gnocchi. But you will be alive with a sustainable life that allows for some leisure time. What we have to recognize is that we are alive not for cell-phones, cable television, video games, fancy cars and Internet blogs. We remain alive for those special moments with friends, lovers, our kids. There will still be the beauty of sunrises and sunsets, of the smell of spring, the color of the autumn leaves.
The problem is in how we view the world. How we view ourselves. We have been trained to view ourselves as commodities that sell ourselves on the “job market” like one sells cars or cheeseburgers. We have come to view ourselves as consumers, owners, as people who don't create their world. But let others create it for us. We go to college and vocational schools to work for people we never meet. We eat food from farmers we never meet. We drive cars and live in houses made by hands we've never seen. We don't believe in ourselves and we don't believe in each other. We think that FEMA or alternative resources or some super leader will come along and save us. The problem with that is that if everyone thinks there is somebody somewhere going to save us, then there is actually no one trying to save anyone, just a bunch of people waiting to be saved. We think that if we have enough money we will be happy. We think if can get enough products and gadgets we will be safe. Our world-view is going to have to change. When Rome fell they switched from the opulence loving profiteering Roman world-view to Catholicism. Which was the world-view of Jesus which is that man lives a suffering life, but by desiring less, we can live through hard times. The new world-view will have to contain the spirit of Jesus, Buddha, and Diogenes, that we must lesson our desires. We must make our desires relative to what we need and not to what we want. Or at least focus on our needs first, and our desires when the work is done. Unlike now which is to get jobs to fulfill our desires and hardly ever worry about our needs.
I leave you with a quote from Diogenes, “Diogenes was knee deep in a stream washing vegetables. Coming up to him Plato said, 'My good Diogenes, if you knew how to pay court to kings, you wouldn't have to wash vegetables.' 'And,' replied Diogenes, 'If you knew how to wash vegetables, you wouldn't have to pay court to kings.'”
Here is the link to Noah's entry on his blog:
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