Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Delicate Sound of Wonder

Something about a 3 month drought makes me want to hide under a shady fig tree and not come out until the rain falls.  Sort of like a snapping turtle latching onto, well, whatever happens to be dangling down into snapping turtle territory, and not letting go until the thunder rolls.  While that particular thought leaves my stomach a little queasy, rain is something we have finally witnessed in real life in south Georgia, so I have kept my promise and emerged from the veil of fig. 

And when the drought finally broke all hell broke loose with it.  The storm howled and unleashed its first round of hail from the south, then southwest, then west (with more hail), then northwest, then north (I swear I saw Elvira Gulch ride by on her bike in mid-air), and for just a moment there I thought we might emerge into a technicolored landscape, with Pink Floyd's "Money" rising in the background.

Losing streak suddenly over, and a few days' reprieve from endless watering duty, perhaps it's time to share some photographs of Small Batch Garden, and talk about some of the wondrous things that have transpired here since we last met behind the camera.

It was a long wait, but I finally got to see how my new on-contour French Intensive market beds performed in a downpour.  The first adverb that comes to mind is "smashingly."  The second round of okra is high and, well, maybe not dry, maybe good and soaked is closer to the truth, but considering the fact that we probably had 4 inches of rain in an hour, I'd say the young okra plants are riding a moist but very happy perch of safety. 

Busy day before the storm.  I pasteurized a bunch of wheat straw and stuffed eight new buckets of golden oyster mushrooms for production through the heat of summer.  I'm hoping the Po Hu variety already bearing in the shop, along with these bright yellow 'shrooms, will keep us in nutritious fungi for a while.  I had my first two bucket pre-orders for this weekend's farmers market.  At $25 a pop they pay for themselves pretty quickly. 

Ozone Pete, if you're reading this, those are your runner beans climbing up my little shed!  In the foreground, Swiss chard and a couple varieties of kale are mainstays for us at the farmers market.  In between is chicory, and of course the bane of our first season here, bermuda grass.  Still trying to find the silver lining of bermuda grass.  Front and back of this bed, I've allowed all the lettuce varieties to finish their life cycle, and they're about ready to lay down for the season.  Should have a variety of lettuces coming up everywhere when the weather is right.  Along with chicory and flat-leaf parsley, the flowers and seed pods, or "arugula peas" as I call them, of the bitter bolting arugula, are favored additions to our rabbits' diet.  I highly doubt we'll have to plant arugula again!  Although I have the perennial version, 'Sylvetta,' entering the line-up this fall.  The more rabbit food we can grow the sooner we can close that part of the loop, and arugula seems to have a lot of promise in that regard.

While a had a large vessel of hot water, I also dispatched a few extra roosters from this spring's McMurray order.  And in between got several shiitake logs plugged.  Productive day for sure.  We do quite a bit of summer cooking on this little campfire, and the big black canning pot makes a nice oven when placed over oven-y things like sweet potatoes; hopefully next summer we'll have a full-on outdoor kitchen working, and potentially a little solar cooker.

One of my tomato patches up by the shed.  The bushes got beat up a little in the storm, but they'll recover, they're tomatoes.  Word of caution:  maybe it's not the best of ideas to plant succulent red tomatoes right next to the chiken pen, if they can manage to get over the fence! 

Some big boys on a potato-leaved variety called 'German Johnson'.  (No jokes;)  This is the first potato-leaved variety that's been productive for me in the deep South...if I can just keep the damn chickens off of them.  I think that poultry yard roof project needs to be moved up the list!

Just a quick update on some of the more important elements in this garden.  The fruit trees are all doing well, especially the peach trees.  I wondered why they were performing so much better than the others, but I think I found the answer.  See that power pole directly behind the row of peach trees?  It's supporting a wire that runs directly over them.  Dawned on me, seeing a pair of doves perched up there, that this particular stretch has probably seen a lot of bird poop over the decades.  In essense, the electrical wire is serving at least a couple of the ecological functions that an upper forest canopy would serve.  Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for small fruit like cherries, I'm considering running a series of high wires over all the fruit tree rows in the orchard, coupled with some flowering and fruiting vines and birdhouses, to try and recreate the results we've seen in the peach row, without having to wait decades on a high canopy to grow, or forfeiting any significant solar access for a densely-planted orchard.

On to that little ailing nectarine tree we talked about in May 24th's post, Fast Forward.  At that time the tree was not happy, looking like it was ready for some winter rest, and sporting a black spot issue on the leaves.  If you remember, we treated it by chopping that big healthy comfrey plant underneath it back to the ground, and using it as a mineral dense, high-potassium mulch, (which is the whole reason it's there).

I took this photo right after the rain storm when it was pretty windy, so it's not the best shot, but you can see that the little nectarine tree in question has greened up considerably and ditched the black spot issue, despite the stress of an ongoing drought.  (It did this before the rain, smart alec, I just happened to grab the shot while I was taking the others;o) It's almost as if we've transferred some of the life force of the comfrey to the target nectarine, and in reality, that's what has happened.  The comfrey is not quite back to full strength yet, after only 4 weeks, but you can see that it is coming back on strong.  It will be ready to cut again in a few weeks.

Well, no aerial tour this time.  The black asphalt roof is too hot to climb up on!  But hopefully there was something useful in this photo set that you can apply to your garden, and more importantly, to your philosophy.  I'll check back in with you again very soon...


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Addition By Substraction

It's a terribly un-American notion to presume that life can be enriched by removing things from it.  Yet nearly four years into my own energy descent I can report back, to those who still buy into the idea that whoever dies with the most toys wins, that my assertion is unequivocally true.  Life can be richer with fewer things.  Life IS richer with less.  Heretical as it may sound.

Five years ago I started with Andrew Weil, started subtracting things from my diet, certain ingredients like MSG and trans-fats, and started trying to eat more organically.  In just a few months time I lost 30 lbs and dumped both my acid reflux and sleep apnea on the curb where they belonged.  Good start to this whole addition by subtraction idea, no?  Ever seen what they make you wear to bed when you have sleep apnea?  That CPAP machine made me feel like a Star Wars version of Mr. Snuffleupagus.  And talk about sexy!  It was a lonely month or two in our bed for sure.  Subtracting that from my life was definitely a plus.  And have you ever tried to do biological field work with acid reflux?  Every grass and herb way down there on the ground that had to be collected and identified, every soil profile that required digging even lower and describing, was murder on my throat.  It was not a boon to my career.  Actually it was downright unpleasant.  But with such handicaps alleviated from my life via such simple changes, it was a no-brainer to press the pattern.  What else was I missing out on?

Well, by then I was starting to notice that I was thinking more clearly, more critically.  Surely some of it had to do with the 30 lbs I had subtracted from my waist line, and the improved sleep I had added without the apnea, but that wasn't all of it, so I started studying the ins and outs of what made organic food different.  And what I found was that the primary difference in organic (in real organic at least) and conventional was not the missing pesticides, but that the foundation of the organic philosophy was to repair broken mineral cycles, to increase mineral density in the food, by bringing the soil it was grown in back to life.  A human is a rare animal that requires an extremely mineral rich diet, about 90 of them, which (go figure) is almost the full periodic table, minus the obvious undesirables like radioactive uranium.  Which is one of the reasons why 7 billion of us are so much harder on the biosphere than say, 7 billion horses would be.  Where conventional crop production had really taken a wrong turn was in its failure to perpetuate stable mineral cycles.  When you grow food with the idea that the only minerals plants really need are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, that's eventually all you're going to get.  And when the human diet becomes deficient in the other 87 minerals necessary for optimum health, all sorts of problems start cropping up.

Like obesity, acid reflux, and sleep apnea.

The average human metabolism "knows" what it needs, but if the food being utilized to acquire those necessities is minerally-impaired, as industrial food has increasingly become over the past 60 years or so, then the body automatically requests more of it in an attempt to gain access to a sufficient dose of the minerals it needs to function.  And that's how obesity begins, because eating 2-3 times the amount of food we should be eating in order to acquire the minerals we need carries a lot of empty calories along with it.  And of course this trio of ailments aren't the only ones.  It's no coincidence that industrial world rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, ADD, autism, you name it, have increased proportionally with the decline in dietary mineral density.  This is not an area that you want to try to gain by subtracting, unless you mean by subtracting the entire system that produces food in this way.  One can't simply stop using pesticides and keep tilling and fertilizing the bare soil and expect to rebuild proper mineral cycles.  As we covered in a very popular post a few weeks ago, cultivation actually causes the pest problems that we want to avoid.  It also supercharges the microbial economy in your soil, and, in those abnormal hyper-aerobic conditions, consumes whatever organic matter is in the soil before turning on your plants as the only available carbon source left.  Cultivation causes long-term fertility damage, pest problems, and broken mineral cycles.  In order to move to an intact mineral-dense food production system, we must stop disturbing the soil to the greatest possible extent.

Subtract cultivation, add minerals to your diet, and break disease cycles, both in your garden and in your body.  This is a real game changer, but it obviously requires a lot more participation in the process of food production.  The only way we could have ever gotten to a point where only 2% of our population is required to produce the food we all need was to use an anomalous amount of energy to destroy the mineral cycle, abuse our valuable topsoil, and basically force food to grow "against its will" with spectrally-impoverished fertilizers.

Just as an example, I read a recent study that compared two carrots, one grown in a small, mineral-dense, organic system, and the other in a large petro-powered monoculture.  The parameter of comparison in this study was the Brix number, which is, broken down to its simplest explanation, the amount of high-quality sugar contained within the carrot (or for whatever else it is being used as a yardstick).  The carrot grown in the small ecological system had a Brix reading of 13.8 (insert jaw drop here), and the one from the monoculture registered a big fat goose egg.  Zero.  No sugar at all.  Which, aside from the distinct lack of flavor that would accompany a carrot like that, points to a lack of desire on the carrot's part to live.  A carrot that was growing in conditions suitable for reproduction would contain sugar/energy for seed building.  This carrot didn't "see" any reason to go on (I know, only potatoes have eyes;).  But why would it?  It lived its whole life in a system that was at the end of its rope, and the so-called "carrot" growing in that system could sense that it was game over.  Why bother?

Sad.  Just like a society raised on zero-Brix carrots would be.

So realizing that "organic" couldn't really be done in large commercial systems that relied on mechanization and monocultural efficiencies, we started taking back our food production for ourselves.  And our food production systems really took a giant leap forward when we discovered permaculture (as did every other aspect of our lives).  For the past three seasons we've applied permaculture ethics and principles to the design of large family gardens and livestock systems, mostly with remarkable success.  But our successes in the first couple of years made my head swell, and I thought this time I could introduce more animals to our system right up front.

Enter our four American buff geese.  The waddling lords and ladies of destruction.  Who had dwindled to three by last weekend.  But still three American buff geese that were awfully hard on our young permaculture system.  I had always heard from the more experienced permies that poultry can only be introduced to the system when it was mature enough to handle their physical presence.  I thought perhaps I could sidestep that requirement by keeping them sequestered from the rest of the site until it was ready, and we could get our breeding stock established in the meantime.  But then, chickens, geese, and ducks are rather unlikely to wander cheerfully around on a lawn when there are so many luscious things to eat just across a fence that most of them can squeeze right through with a little effort.  They devoured my expensive kiwi vines, they worked my red raspberries over, they decimated my little banana tree, and relieved the young Lapins cherry of most of its bark below about 24".  Oh, and they irreparably handicapped about half of my corn too.

Here we must stop and analyze the situation to determine what the lowest energy route to success would be.  The industrial system that always prescribes adding something to the system to control the problems it creates for itself would want to fence off the expensive plants, or install a hot wire to keep the geese in their place.  Both of these options require a net importation of energy into the system for its benefit, the addition of expense and complexity to force the system to comply with the will of its manager.  But all of this time and expense could be avoided by subtracting the geese from the system...which is exactly what we did on Sunday.  Let me tell you, geese are a PAIN to pluck.  There must be about a million little downy feathers to tease out after you get the big ones.  Now we have three fat young geese in the freezer, three less (very hungry) mouths to feed, and our valuable nursery stock is on the mend.

It's hard to admit that you were wrong.  That you made a decision that didn't work out right.  But where permacultural thought begins to diverge from dualistic, reductionist patterns is in its contemplation of subtraction in order to gain.  One of the first things we should analyze when confronted with a problem is what we can remove from the system to make it function more optimally.  Where are our leverage points?  What creates the biggest bang for the proverbial buck?  If we can accomplish our goals by removing elements from the system, instead of adding complexity, I've discovered that money and effort are always saved, resilient systems synergies tend to emerge, and anxiety levels usually drop.  Oh, and illness subsides too.  In a world of aspirin for your pain this is radical stuff.  Corporate economies aren't supported by folks who prefer to address the cause of their headache instead of medicating its symptoms.  No one's going to promote or fund a system that guides you to the belief that less is more.

When less becomes more all the extraneous bits and bobs of our high-energy culture stop making sense.  And the people who profit from diabetes, and heart disease, and cancer, and ADD, and acid reflux, and sleep apnea, start to suffer, because you are committing a radical act of self-reliance, taking full responsibility for your own health and welfare, and showing the profit mongers to the door.  By the way, these are the same profit mongers who have the money necessary to bend public opinion toward a culture of reliance on their products.  The same profit mongers who steadily repeat the mantra that you aren't smart enough to take care of yourself.  The very same profit mongers who believe in complexity, and that every problem has a viable solution for sale.  Cancer is a disease of excess, of unbridled growth; it behaves much like the industrial economy does, and, like the industrial economy, it will attempt to consume its host, one way or another.  Unfortunately the industrial economy's host is planet Earth.  The same Earth that is suffering its own versions of diabetes, heart disease, and acid reflux.  And it is counting on a return to health by way of subtraction for its recovery.

Will we subtract the system elements that are consuming the host?  Or will the host fight its cancer by subtracting us?  I know which one I prefer.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm Sorry, Mr. Deere, but We're Going to Have to Let You Go

It occurred to me the other day, watching the uber-high energy farm across the road operate in its usual uber-high energy way, that each of the million-ish dollars worth of green and yellow tractors busily humming around doing highly specialized tasks was taking the job of at least 100 humans.  Each one of them was, and there were several of them.  If a gallon of fuel burned in a car represents the energy of 2-3 weeks of hard human labor, what does it equal when it's coupled with a massive yet efficient high-torque device like a 65 horsepower tractor?  Would that one gallon of fuel not translate reasonably (and I think very conservatively) into a job for at least two able-bodied people for two weeks?  And when was the last time a big tractor only burned one gallon of fuel on a given day's task?  Let's say the big tractor in question burned 5 gallons of fuel on this hypothetical day.  That would translate roughly into a two week job for 10 men.  Condensed down to the same time period of work that the tractor accomplished its tasks, we're talking about a full day's work for 100 men (10 working days for 10 men would be 100 man-days of work, if we don't count the weekends, and I'm not certain that's what the energy comparison actually means, so this is a conservative estimate).

The numbers I've used here are somewhat arbitrary too, and it's difficult to do a direct translation from tractor power to human power, because the system employing the 65 hp tractors (and that's what we're doing, supporting a system that is employing machines instead of humans) evolved alongside them to fit their particular strengths and minimize their weaknesses, but the idea is roughly accurate.  I can't really envisage 100 men walking shoulder-to-shoulder hoeing a hundred acre field by hand.  If humans were growing crops at a human scale, we would surely go about the task differently.  So perhaps it's safe to say that cheap abundant energy, and the technology it has spawned, has created something of a design cul-de-sac that absolutely doesn't allow for a seamless transition from oil power to human power, even if we understood that this was what needed to happen.  And of course barely any of us understand that.  But while millions of industrial humans stand in the welfare lines, desperate and hopeless about the jobs outlook, the cold, soulless diesel-smoking lungs of high-energy agriculture churn away day after day, employing almost no one of any consequence.

What has to give?  Would the disappearance of cheap, nearly slave, labor for harvesting vegetables do it?  Would that get the people back to work in a job that will be a much larger part of our future reality?  Not if the state of Georgia is any kind of example.  Recently, we, er, that is, the congress of Georgia, decided to crack down on illegal immigrants.  I, personally, was fine with a gang of hard-working Hispanic people picking all of "our" vegetables in the blazing sun and stifling humidity for minimum wage and no benefits, so I don't take any credit for this one.  Not really my economy anyway, so not really my responsibility.  Those aren't the vegetables I eat, but if that's the system you support with your buying habits then you damn well ought to try to keep it working the way it works, or be prepared to do something pretty different.  Like pick the veggies yourself.  Not that that's how voters in this country ever really behave.  No one's going to go out there and pick tomatoes all day in 98 degree, 80% humidity weather!  Now the laborers are running scared, to other states that aren't so disconnected with the way things work these days, and at the peak of veggie season in south Georgia, the booty is rotting in the fields. Serves us right, to be honest.  One of the biggest vegetable growers in our area voted against my uncle in the last state house election, and not just voted against, stumped against.  Went on TV and made a big deal out of his support for the guy who just voted all his cheap labor across the border, and now no one is around to cut his okra for five bucks an hour.  Mr. Brim, you of all people ought to know that you reap what you sow.  Or didn't they teach you that in your 2 hour horticulture survey?

Why is the big picture so hard to see??  It's not like it's called the nano-picture, or even the micro-picture.  BIG is a word that seems like it was made for seeing!  Yet it's so hidden from most people.  Systems thinking is a skill that must be honed if we are to move into energy descent effectively.  And when everything around us is changing so radically, so fundamentally, the answers at which we arrive from systems thinking can be pretty abrupt.  But then, nothing works the same in contraction as it does in growth.  Nothing.  Even my drains spin the wrong way these days;)

Sheesh.  Moving on.  So are the long-since-unemployed going to seize this opportunity to go get a job that was "stolen" from them so many years ago by outsourcing?  Hell...No.  Not one white collar guy out there is going to go cut Mr. Brim's okra for five bucks an hour.  Wouldn't even do it for ten!  It's way beneath them to do such hard trivial labor, and why the hell can't I get a job in my field that pays what I'm worth, dammit!  They ask.  I have a degree for Chrissakes.  I ain't cutting okra in the blazing sun for less than minimum wage.

Why not?  I do.  But then, I've gone to some serious lengths to keep my dignity about me in the process too.  It takes time to work out a system in which you cut okra in the blazing sun AND have interesting people stop by to ask you how you got there.  We certainly don't do that with common laborers in the fields.  They don't matter to most of us, until they're gone.  They are the end product of one trajectory, and what we're doing is the beginning of a new one.  Altogether different, even if the work looks the same sometimes.  We had our first customer stop by the farm today to buy a sack of produce.  Squash, onions, garlic, and oyster mushrooms.  Not a lot, but worth celebrating because it's the way we want to see things go around here.  We want people to come to us because they know we have the best produce in Tift County, and we want them to leave here feeling a bit taken back by how different our philosophy and operation are.  It's not just the next organic system; permaculture is a fundamentally different approach to life.  It was a good day.  Seems like it's always a good day when people get their first exposure to permaculture.

But now it seems like we've come to it as a society.  Some time ago I told my father that, by the end of my days, we, as a culture, would be spending something closer to 90% than 9% of our income on food, and that more like 80% than 2% of us would be directly engaged in the production of food, fiber, and fuel.  Those numbers are pretty far out, I know, it's not like I just throw figures like that around about anything.  But here, right now, in mid-2011, real wages are declining steadily, the dollar's value eroding from the "print-and-pretend" countermeasures our government is taking to "address" the economic maladies of an empire entering its descent phase.  The campaign to sustain growth at all costs, even when it is a physical impossibility, is very rapidly bringing the curtains down on the middle class.  Mr. Obama is making overtures toward withdrawing expensive US military support for more than one theater of global conflict...as he should be.  And as soon as OPEC reaches the (openly, outside of the US media circus) sought-after day when they'll trade oil in reserve currencies that, above all, aren't the US fed note, as is their absolute right, we will see what intrinsic worth our almighty dollars contain within them.  My guess is they won't even make good lighting tinder.

And so we go about making other preparations for a most unusual future laid out before us.  And by unusual I mean unusual for the short-ass blip on the radar that represents industrial culture.  Extremely usual by all other measures.  The people who are most prepared for that future will be the ones who understand that this reality, the one full of HVAC, IRAs, CFLs, and SUVs, in other words, the one that runs on so much energy that we don't even have time to spell out our words anymore, is just a fleeting apparition.  That they represent that once-in-human-history kind of moment when we have access to enough energy that we can convert a significant amount of natural capital into spectacular material wealth for a few select people, and push back the real costs of that wealth for a little while.  For as long as we can afford the maintenance anyway.

That's really the problem with industrial society.  Like all instantly-wealthy people, we didn't invest our lottery winnings in the establishment of perennial systems that would've made us wealthy in perpetuity.  We didn't have the discipline that a slow build-up to such heights would have given us (that all-important "use small and slow solutions" principle you'll find at the heart of permaculture).  Viewed from the distance the graph of human population and material wealth during the fossil fuel age will appear to be a giant narrow tower rising from, and falling just as abruptly back to, a more-or-less flat field of human presence and impact on Earth.  We figured out how to use coal and oil, energy sources that represent the collected solar wealth of vast stretches of geologic time, to our advantage, and we went straight to work dreaming up the myriad ways we could spend it all, like college students lying in bed imagining they have in their possession "the big ticket."  Who will I buy the first sports car for?  We had to spend every last calorie, every last btu, we could get our hands on.  The pace at which we spent it seemed only to be limited by our ability to imagine new ways in which to burn it.  The height of our petro-empire, its scope and complexity, represents the distances we rode that winning horse.  But like any pauper-cum-prince, we have blown it all on coke and whores...and by coke and whores I mean high-energy structures and systems that require constant and expensive maintenance, unless you want them to disappear for good.  Which they will do, whether we want them to or not.

Now we need to leave Afghanistan.  Now we need to pull out of Israel.  Now we need to end the expensive and un-winnable war on "drugs," and war on "terror."  All of which are very acceptable, very feasible, in the long view.  But the one thing we spent our wad on that won't be so easily withdrawn from is the industrial food production system.  It's annual maintenance costs are out of sight (and rising!), and it will consume itself from the tail.  It won't be long before local, organically-grown food is less expensive than long-range, oil-soaked food, but we will still attempt to keep the machines employed preferentially over the people.  As long as we keep spending our money that way.  You know, this is the one thing we actually have a whole lot of power over.  You vote with your fork every time you lift it.  We've voted the majority of our neighbors out of work by buying cheap disposable goods made in developing countries preferentially over their products that perhaps cost a bit more.  That was actually completely normal; it was a direct product of our access to cheap, abundant, energy-dense fuel.  But if we put our faith in the same cheap-oil-dependent long food chain as energy prices continue to creep upward, and real income continues to slide, we will seal our own fate here at the end of a what's already been a really bad stretch.

And I personally don't want to be outsmarted by a tractor.  I find that pretty embarrassing actually.  So I am actively taking steps to behave in a different way than yeast behave, as they convert their energy source into poison in their environment, sugar to alcohol, just as we convert valuable natural resources into worthless trash and toxicity, and I have no interest in keeping the machines employed at our own peril.  We should withdraw our tacit approval for keeping them employed while so many humans go jobless.   There is a lot of work out there for us - about 100 jobs for every tractor in use today.  I have never once said that the future wouldn't require radical behavioral innovation from us.  Not once.  I just think most of us don't understand that the future we're talking about is already upon us.  That the actions we engage in every day, right now, are actively designing the future outcome of this skirmish.  If a straight conversion from tractor power to human power is impossible - and really, how many of us are going to leave culturally-exciting cities and towns for the hinterlands - what will the transition look like on the ground instead?

I offer that it will look something like permaculture.  Something like millions of tiny site-specific cellular food production systems and local trading networks, instead of plush green lawns and big box shopping centers.  It's not something that can happen overnight, and only the craziest among us think it can, but it will happen eventually. What we call it on the way from here to there is a secondary matter.  Permaculture is what it is because it is modeled on Nature's patterns and solutions.  That's why it has evolved from "permanent agriculture" in 1978 to "permanent culture" in 2011; it seems 30+ years of permaculture-in-practice have demonstrated that its principles are somewhat more universal than originally expected.  Which only seems right in a system that derives its principles from natural law.  Permaculture applies just as powerfully to politics and investing as it does to gardening.  If we are a natural biological population then we will be engaged in something strongly resembling permaculture for the next few centuries most likely, until we reach some future, stable, much lower-energy culture.

Forget about the Mexicans.  They are just filling a niche created by our high-energy, ethically-dubious petro-culture.  But if we spend any longer on this trajectory we will eventually breed tomatoes that can be picked by a machine and used to fill an even less food-like role in our culture.  The same thing we've done with all of our other food crops.  And it would accomplish the same two tasks the other "efficiency gains" accomplished.  Lower quality food, and fewer people employed by it.  But, if you look around you will see that that is not where we are headed.  If you're paying attention you'll see that more people are gardening every year, more people canning and freezing food for winter, more people sewing, more people brewing, smithing, knitting, chopping wood, keeping small livestock, keeping big livestock!  I milked a cow this morning for christ sake.  A cow!  Four years ago I was waking up to an alarm, driving 22 miles both ways to work every day, staring at a computer in a cubicle.  Now I'm milking a cow, and brushing chicken poo off of beautiful green eggs to go with my local sausage and fresh milk.  And by fresh I mean just cooled down to fridge temperature.  People all over the industrial world are falling in love with food again, because we are starting to regain access to food worth loving.  In this case hedonism is also ecologically-appropriate, as good tasting, mineral-dense food is always the food grown in the most ethical way.  Intact mineral cycles make good food, and our bodies recognize it, even after all these years in exile.

The thermometer on my PC says '100' in this ominous red font that has replaced the normal friendly green, and it's been mid-90s for weeks now, and brutally dry, but we haven't caved on using our AC unit.  Instead we are saving our pennies to buy a solar attic fan.  The fan won't make the house 76 degrees and dry like our house was when we drove 22 miles home from work to that comfy little cottage on the lake, but it will make it bearable, even in triple digit heat, with practice.  The same practice that is required to give John Deere and his thugs their walking papers, and start producing food for ourselves, right around us, employing humans in rewarding tasks.  Good food, with characteristics besides shelf life and uniformity.  The kind of food we used to eat before our brains were replaced with sweet crude smoothies.

When the weather is hot you compensate by slowing down.  The same strategy applies in a world of crappy food and lost jobs.  Slow down and do it the right way, the only way that can be sustained into the future.