Have Attitudes Changed?

Building the garden

I thought I would share a personal anecdote and see who else is experiencing this strange phenomenon.

Almost 3 years ago I started seriously preparing for Peak Oil. I installed water tanks, planted 30 fruit trees in our back yard, tore up a lot of lawn, planted a permaculture garden, installed two giant fish tanks, started breeding edible fish in an aquaponic set-up.... and, well, did everything else I could think of, regardless of cost.

I wanted to move quickly, so I didn’t economize, I spent whatever it took to get quick results. I spent more than $10,000 a year - sometimes a great deal more, I didn't stop to count the dollars.

My wife was a little disturbed by this, but did not complain - viewing it (I suspect) as a harmless hobby. I don’t smoke, I spend about $10 a week on alcohol, don’t gamble, don’t put anything on credit card, and earn a good salary - so she put up with this sudden, uncharacteristic interest in cultivating fruit, brewing, gardening, aquaponics, etc. because it really wasn't a hardship for us.

But her tolerance was under sufferance, and Peak Oil was not really something she wanted to talk about. Then, a few months ago, things changed.

My wife saw the price of petrol shoot up. She started reading disturbing stories in the news about food riots, fuel protests, airlines going out of business, trucking firms struggling, and so on. Pretty much exactly what I was talking about 3 years ago.

My first hint that things had changed occurred when we were looking at items that we should be budgeting for in the upcoming month. My wife’s proposals: - $400 for a significant stockpile of food - $690 for more secure gates

She also proposed that next month we earmark $1,000 for better fences and a few hundred dollars for seeds, fertilizer and some bare-rooted grapes.

We chatted until late about strategies for the years ahead, and even discussed Dmitri Orlov’s views about collapse in the Soviet Union. Not a conversation that I had expected, I must say. Nor was it our last conversation in this area.

Is anyone else finding that friends and family are suddenly more receptive to these conversations?

Are you finding differences at a larger scale? Are letters to the editor getting published that previously would not have been? Are meetings being scheduled where previously you would not have got an audience?

What are you doing in this newly-receptive environment? How do we take advantage of it?

I'm finding people more receptive to the idea that there is such a thing as peak fossil fuels, and it's quite persuasive in combination with issues of climate change, simply because the useful responses in each case are the same: more walkable and bikable cities, more mass transit, renewable energy, more localised production of food and other goods, and so on. "Sorry, no more burgers and SUVs."

This doesn't exactly galvanise people into action, but they do at least accept the ideas. Every problem in public affairs goes through five stages

1. "There is no problem."
2. "There is a problem, but The Market! and Science! will solve it, so it's not really a problem."
3. "Holy shit, there really is a problem with no easy solutions."
4. "I guess I better do something."
5. "Hey government! Get off your arse and help us!"

Climate change issues are in Australia between #3 and #4. GreenPower customers went from about 500,000 to 750,000 in 2007 alone. Peak fossil fuel issues are between #2 and #3.

Nice list of stages, though I've seen #5 occur up with #2, and usually "I guess I'd better do something" comes last.

Most of my family/friends who thought I was a raving nutcase a year ago are now much more approachable about PO, and some have done their own research & become peakniks.

There's still some though who don't want to listen, who blame high fuel/food prices on speculators & greedy oil companies and therefore somehow convince themselves that there isn't really a problem. I find that logic really hard to follow - I mean, if the truth is there's no oil shortage & the high prices are the result of some massive conspiracy, doesn't it mean the same thing as PO for the ordinary citizen & shouldn't we take the same remedial action?

Btw aeldric, I like your garden, looks like you're doing very well :) Wish my wife & I were half as organized, though we're getting there. Good intentions alone are a poor fertilizer. Still, we don't want to be the only folks in our neighbourhood with a decent veggie plot. A critical mass of people around you need to begin making the same preparations, else your garden will end up being overrun no matter how good the fences. Hence whenever I talk to someone who's new to the PO situation I always recommend they take up gardening as a first step.

Btw aeldric, I like your garden, looks like you're doing very well :) Wish my wife & I were half as organized, though we're getting there. Good intentions alone are a poor fertilizer. Still, we don't want to be the only folks in our neighbourhood with a decent veggie plot. A critical mass of people around you need to begin making the same preparations, else your garden will end up being overrun no matter how good the fences.

Yup. I hope that Australia never descends to the point where there is real need, but even a moderate degree of desperation can be tough on your veggie patch. The fruit trees and veggie garden are not visible from any public area, and our fences are extensive (and we are getting a backing 2.3 m high chainlink fence soon).... but ultimately the best protection is to give everybody around you seeds and cuttings.

Related to this concern over new attention, security, and being the only one on the block...

July 1st a TV crew from South Korea spent a day with me. They were from KBS, a public broadcasting network. July 2nd a TV crew from South Korea spent a day with me. They were from SBS, a private broadcasting network.

So yes, this is something new: I have never had two TV crews come to my home from South Korea in the same week.

I'd also like to add that my home is "decked out" like aeldric's. The only difference seems to be that my wife pays for all of it since I am not "employed." This was absolutely fascinating to my new Korean friends who filmed all sorts of interesting details like where I hang onions and how grains are ground and my bees and garden, etc. But then came "The BIG question," that went something like this:

Korean reporter (camera rolling): "Jason, you have done a lot of work here preparing for peak oil. So, what if, tomorrow, no more oil comes to Willits. Is your family going to be okay?"

My response (big eyes): "Oh, no. We would be in a desperate state if that happened. We are totally dependent on oil still."

Korean reporter (squinting, confused): "But Jason, I don't understand, look at all you have done?"

My response (sage like and calm): "People are social creatures. We depend on each other. My family is not alone. We live in a neighborhood. Our neighborhood is in a town. Is my family really going to be fine if my neighbors have not made similar preparations? Is my neighborhood going to be alright if the the town is not ready? Trucks deliver food every day to Willits. Does the whole town look like it can feed itself now?"

It was like a light bulb went off in their heads. "Ahhh, that was good answer!"

I have a significant garden going (Mill Valley), and very rarely buy a vegetable these days, and still have jars of dried asian pears (from a friends land up in your neighborhood, Wilits)--
But you are right- until the whole community is on board, we are all dependent on the conditions that we live in.
I work with many social justice organizations, and it is hard for even these people to face reality and get beyond denial.
Picked several quarts of huckleberries yesterday in West Marin, and the flavor is intense.
Thank you for all the good work you are doing.

Let me give a plug for a book I just finished, Plain Secrets - An Outsider among the Amish by Joe Mackall, ISBN 978-0-8070-1065-5. It is about a real Amish family in Ashland Ohio. The family is Swartzentruber Amish, perhaps, the most conservative sect. One of the points made is the individual must subsume himself/herself for the good of the community.

This is something we seldom see today. And, I have to admit, I'm as guilty as everyone else lots of times.



I'm of the same mind and have a large garden/orchard in southern Marin. Have become a de-facto teacher for lots of people who want knowledge Right Now! It's odd, from quirky hobbyist to being pleasantly pestered by people who suddenly are very interested in all this and are asking the oddest questions, want plant i.d, "give me advice where to plant" etc.
Maybe we can do a plant exchange?
Send me an e-mail.

permanent_agriculture at initials for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle"

Thanks hightrekker. Sounds like you are doing a lot of good work yourself. Marin County is such a pleasant place to grow things too.

Reports from local nurserymen/women are that they had the biggest year ever for vegetable starts, and many gardening neophytes are asking questions. Some people saying they can't afford to buy as much fresh food as they'd like so feel the "need" to garden. I have overheard conversations in coffee shops to the effect that life is going to get hard, better plant a garden, etc.

Still so much to learn I feel barely ready to be a teacher.

hightrekker - I'm also in Mill Valley, would love to connect some time and check out your garden, and learn where to pick huckleberries! I canned 12 quarts of jam two weeks ago from my native/wild cherry plum tree. Drop me a line, email in my profile.

My husband and I bought 13 acres of "black dirt," i.e. really great soil, 65 miles from NYC and are growing vegetables organically. We were going to have a CSA and a friend of mine was going to run the CSA. Because of a serious illness in our immediate family, my "friend" took over the CSA and then decided to buy vegetables from a conventional grower whose prices were much cheaper than what I and other organic growers were charging. And so, we have tons of vegetables coming in with no outlet. Of course, we could sell them ourselves but have decided instead to donate the produce to homeless shelters and food banks (there is a "gleaners" program run by Cornell Cooperative Extension who will pick up the vegetables and distribute).

A local reporter heard about what we are doing and I reluctantly agreed to being interviewed with the hope of getting a core group of volunteers to help plant, weed, spray and harvest the vegetables (the volunteers will also be able to take vegetables for themselves). Right now, it's just me and my husband and I'm exhausted trying to keep up with the zucchini coming in! But as crops are being harvested, with a little help we could be planting so much more. I'm hoping that with some community involvement, we will be able to grow this farm organically and organically it will grow us.

Having been raised in this society to be "independent" and "self-sufficient" and "private" it is really difficult to change, to work cooperatively with other people and allow any sort of attention via the press being drawn to us. Also, I find that people are not very trusting and suspicious of our "generosity" even though I tell them we're not being altruistic, we just want to make sure we have a good supply of really healthy food!


This is what I'm looking to do. I found some good land in Oswego, but too much of it. I'm having a hard time getting any of my family or friends on board. Frustrating. If you are still considering making a go of this, please contact me. A land trust and a real CSA is exactly what I'd like to do.

As for your friend, what is she/he gonna do as food prices keep rising? Also, if your friend is buying elsewhere and reselling, it's not a CSA, it's retail. People will buy from you if it's set up right and once they realize that what they are eating is not healthy and will disappear when the economics of fertilizer, etc., get worse.


Hi there,

My husband and I (and our 2-year-old) are looking for just that kind of work. We decided that instead of taking a vacation and flying somewhere and paying for a hotel room, we would rather help out on a farm nearby. So we signed up for the WWOOFing thing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, you can google it). It's a great way to get volunteers, if you still need them.

And we actually haven't been able to find a local place that will take us yet. Most places don't want to deal with a young kid, no matter how much I assure them that he's well-behaved. Need any help? We could do a week or two in August...

"ultimately the best protection is to give everybody around you seeds and cuttings"

I like how you think. :-)

A critical mass of people around you need to begin making the same preparations, else your garden will end up being overrun no matter how good the fences.

He needs better friends as much or more than better fences.

Sure decent fences are a fine thing... but they can't compare with being surrounded by neighbors who are looking out for you, and you for them.

These are the five stages of reaction to catastrophe, not necessarily experienced in the same order, and subject to intermittent recurrence, but given time, experienced by all sufferers, and usually beginning with:
Most people need to go through all of these stages in order to be able to respond efficiently to a catastrophe. We need to go through the whole emotional roller-coaster ride to grasp the full extent of the problem, before we can see ways to mitigate its effects.
We are creatures whose motivation is largely emotional, but look at the list and look at how remarkably efficiently this series of emotions is organized for the fastest bestest possible resolution :
if the problem is no biggie, denial is the most efficient response
If the problem persists, anger can chase the danger away, while making you aware of the size of the problem.
Trying to negotiate, trying to deal with it, is smart, and can be successful.
Depression comes when you know your problem is too big to handle, the only thing that can save you now is to hide in a dark corner and stay out of harm's way.
Acceptance is when you finally understand what happened. You now know what you have to do to alleviate the nastiness your problem caused.
You may not be able to eliminate the problem, but as long as you can live, you can live with it.
We'll be going through hard times, and whoever survives this mess will have to live with whatever is left of our great global industrial culture.

I appreciate your comments, lukitas.

My concern is that our culture is biased to stop at anger and find scapegoats and then to develop narratives that justify resource war.

Some variation of "we are the good guys and are justified in ridding the world of those evil-doers and taking all of their good stuff ... oil, for example..." always seems to come up.

A bit of an aside for an example of how truth often fares in our culture....

Scott Nearing was an American academic who was marginalized for speaking the truth on these and other matters. He noted the role of resource acquisition in two world wars as well as others.

He also spoke out against child labor at a time when some of the big supporters of Penn State relied upon child labor to make themselves rich. He was fired without due cause -- an injustice that Penn State acknowledged only when Scott Nearing was much older and the damage had been done. Meanwhile, he was blackballed by academics who would not tolerate his critique of militaristic capitalism.

Not to be discouraged, Scott and Helen Nearing lived and wrote and spoke about "The Good Life" which involved radical ideas about tending to one's garden, treating the earth and others well, and living simply.

Back to my point: the cultural institutions and processes we have set up are still very much designed to marginalize and even to do violence to reasonable and reasoned critique. People may not need to be killed physically in order to exclude them. In more and more cases, they are simply excluded from public discourse, or used and co-opted by political or corporate players.

I do find positive change at the grass roots, but find even more people looking for scapegoats to blame and then kill ... so we can have "our" oil ... and anything else "we" might need ... or want ...

Those are the stages of grief. For reaction to a catastrophe, you forgot panic, scapegoating, suspension of ethics, hoarding, and a panoply of generally dangerous, antisocial behavior. I'm not worried about people being really bummed out. I'm worried about a secure food supply, and keeping hungry neighbors away from my tomatoes.

Thank you Ben, I'm very tired of the five stages of grief, which so far don't even adequately sum up my own reactions and emotions and actions into a neat little package.

Because I have a business that sells manual garden and digging tools, I hear from people almost daily that want to create or expand food gardens at their homes. More and more say they are doing it out of concern - primarily about the economy, but occasionally about energy. I think many people still mentally blend economy issues and energy issues together, and that is justifiable.

So yes, I am seeing more awareness and concern here, along with a desire to "do something" about it.

I'd put razor wire on the wooden fence when the trees start bearing fruit.

I think the people who will do best at self sufficiency started years ago. People who are just 'tuning in' now may have been in denial or postponement mode. Therefore they will not only make all the same mistakes but in their haste will make some shockers. For example inadequate soil preparation or insecure water supplies. Tomorrow I have to check on a stash of very poor quality waste vegetable oil for home brew diesel. The people who are trying to pinch it from me probably have no idea that it requires major pre-treatment. If they knew what they were doing they would already have done it by now.

So I wouldn't equate community awareness with readiness. I also believe there are people who cannot function outside the comforting environment of an office or military base. We live in interesting times.

Until recently, my avocado tree was just another tree in Southern California suburbia. Over the past couple of months a number of people have come up to my door asking if they could take some avocados. I was glad to share, but this behavior is very un-Los Angeles. We typically don't even say "hi" to our neighbors, let alone ask strangers for fruit from their trees. If the food situation gets bad, I think my trees and garden may be more of a liability than anything, attracting desperate and possibly dangerous people into my back yard. I sometimes wonder why our public areas couldn't be landscaped with food-bearing plants, rather than just decoratives. This could supply a great deal of free local food

When we converted our rental house landscaping to food production, the neighbors became VERY interested in it. I felt like vultures were circling around our food. I have come to the conclusion that any preps beyond stuff you can keep in your house are much more of a liability than a help. It's better to have someplace remote lined up.

This is a transitional phase.

When everybody who has space has a garden, the pressure will likely ease.

When kids are taught gardening in school, the pressure will ease.

When public parks and by-ways have vandal resistant cropping trees, the pressure will ease.

Feijoa 'break' into new growth easily from damaged/snapped 'old' wood, such as tree trunks. So does guava. So does macadamia. So does avocado.

It will take 6+ years from a standing start to get initial crops on most cutting grown or grafted trees, and it will be 'set back' by damage.

Six years from now - mid 2014 - under a 6% decline rate and nominal new production in the intervening years of around 11 mbd, we could be down by 10 mbd nett crude + lease condensate. Add in tar, ethanol and oil rags to gain maybe 10 mbd oil equivalent (ish), and we could still be somewhere in the region of 74 mbd burnable liquids, not 84 ish as now.

By then, the communal mind will be well and truly intently focussed. Street side and back yard food production will be a major topic of conversation, and a major topic of communal action.

You are an early adopter, a beacon, an example. Many lessons will be learned, including unease at being the location of a 'patchy' resource.

Ride it out.


Then again, people may have switched to vehicles getting 50% better mileage like almost the rest of the world, drive a little less and still enjoy the unblemished supermarket vegetables, watch sport on TV and drink beer. If the Romans could enjoy bread and circuses as their empire slowly declined why not US?

all this may be true ... nobody can accurately predict the future. This ... or that ... might happen. Nevertheless, gardening is fun and rewarding. It's hard work and sometimes frustrating, but watching things grow and seeing that your input matters puts you in the center of nature's business.

Watching television and drinking beer don't quite do that.

Good food is a new trend. So, yes, people's attitudes are indeed changing:


Your point about public areas being planted with food bearing crops is something that I have said for years. If every street where I live in Sydney was planted with hardy trees such as olives instead of ornamentals there would be more fruit grown than in the biggest commercial groves.

Not sure about the veracity of the story, but my father told me that prior/during World War 2, Germany had a program of planting fruit trees in public spaces, like roadsides. They could be rented, just like in the old times when farmers rented an apple tree from a specialised apple-tree orchard farmer.

Some of those trees still survive along the roads in some places, but my dad warned against eating one. They're tiny and sour.

Of course the trees need reworking, or replacement by more cultured varieties.

Danno: Have you checked out the "Fallen Fruit" project in LA? You could put your avocado tree on their map of free-to-forage fruits.

Also, KCET put together a nice little web site that includes links to Fallen Fruit: Sustaining LA

I'll check that out, thanks. People might have to fight the opossums for their avocados, though.

Out here in suburbia I would say that 95% of the residents are still well and truly in the 'There's no problem' stage. The only problem they see is that it is costing them more to fill up their V8s and 4WDs and that it's all Kevin's fault and he should fix it.
I'm sure wise old Brendan and Malcom will introduce a fix in the very short term and we'll have fuel back down to 'normal' levels for ever.

My friends and family, even though I have been gently whispering in their ears about PO for the last two years, are possibly one step further along than everybody else.

Give me strength!

Embrace your darkness and let the power flow to begin. Control the very essence of the Force and destroy all those who oppose the "Peak Oil theory" and you. The Force shall devour your enemies.

You know, I've got the same issue. People don't wanna listen. My friends call be "lizard-brained" coz I talked about Peak Oil. Hopefully, with time, their reality would change.

Home aquaculture sounds cool. Is it expensive/time consuming/take up a lot of space?

If you could point me to a primer on the topic that would be greatly appreciated.

I work in the Transport planning area of a State Transport Department and everyone seems well aware of 'peak oil'. I even borrowed 'End of Suburbia' from the library here a few years ago. There's a lot of people here quite passionate about bringing about a more sustainable city.

Most of my friends are lefty green types and so resource depletion is not exactly a novel concept, and they seem well aware of 'peak oil'. I don't talk about peak oil though. But I enjoy many topics that are part of the (sensible) responses.

I have about 12 sq metres of vegies, 5 chooks, bananas, pawpaws, pomegranate seedlings and an unhappy orange tree. But I grow vegies because it's fun esp. with kids. Fun is a good way to sell things. But if you want to grow vegies it does take a few years to get even half good at it.

Three years lurking and it takes home aquaculture to get me to respond!

hi mark

thanks for coming out of your lurker state :-)

hopefully aeldric will come back with some aquaculture links.

which city are you in? you can contact me here:



Hi Mark31,

Regarding Aquaponics, I learned everything I needed to know from http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/

Your questions were:


Initial setup was expensive - very expensive in my case because I experimented a lot to find a robust, fault-tolerant system. However the payback is that it provides you with fish that are high in Omega 3 oils (a big selling point for me, as I have young children) and it also provides free nitrates for the garden.

Cost can range from $50 for a system that provides you with a lettuce per week and a small fish once a year to $2,000 for a system that would supply most of one person's vegetable and fruit needs (but not grains) and give you a fish and a yabbie each week.

time consuming?

Not for a modest system. Once set up you will need about 30-40 minutes a week.

take up a lot of space?

Not when you consider the productivity. It is a form of polyculture. Effectively you use the square meters 3 times - once with bottom-dwelling critters such as yabbies and catfish (tandanus is one of the tastiest fish imaginable), then above that you have fish that don't bottom feed (perch fall in this category and are very high in omega oils), then above that you have vegetables (often lettuce) that soak up nitrates from the water (no fertilizer required, but some trace elements - notably iron - may need to be added once every few months).

However, most of the systems you will see at http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/ require constant, reliable electricity. I experimented for a few years and put together a simple system that requires little electricity, is tolerant of outages, and can function with no electricity at all in event of a long-term outage.

If you would like to talk further about aquaponics, drop me a line at aeldric [at] optusnet [dot] com [dot] au

It did not seem to make sense but I grew a huge crop of chillies, tomatoes and climbing beans just from my first try with aquaponics this year. Planted many crops as trial crops for aquaponics and the chillies were a real surprise, need any I got buckets full. Pumpkins and melons failed miserably however. Our fist barramundi was delicious but chopping off it's head was a bit of a post traumatic stress trigger, Catfish, now there's a great idea.

Thanks for the link aeldric. From a quick inspection the site looks very good.

I may take you up on your offer of assistance after I've done some background research.

Cheerful Regards

Hi Aeldric,

If you have time, it would be great to see an article about your aquaponics setup and how you managed to put together a system with little electricity requirements.

I'm about to join the increasing group of folk making lots of mistakes for the next 3 years, when I quit my job in a couple of months :).

Hopefully I'm not starting too late, but if it's taken me this long to actually get off my backside, how long is it going to take for the rest of them?

Hi Aeldric,

I'd like to hear more about your system and how you minimized electricity requirements too. Maybe a small article on it would save some of us from trying to re-invent that wheel?


I'm awful late in getting to the party, but will add this even though it's been awhile since the article was posted.

I studied and experimented with several types of aquaculture off and on for 30+ years, and still raise a number of fish species. But for those of us in higher latitudes, the backyard aquaculture and fish portion of hydroponics is a quite lengthy and energy intensive effort. In short, it doesn't work. Not without energy and commercial food supplements for the species cultivated. Both the fish and the invertebrates cultured as fish feed, if one is trying to go without purchased feed, are poikiothermic, cold blooded, their metabolism determined by the environmental temperature. There have been many attempts to get around this-greenhouses, geothermal water(one that works if you have that resource) various methods of heating water, but all comes to it's inefficient in northerly latitudes. How far north? Well, you should be able to maintain 70 degree water year round for both your culture species and its food source-which if it is invertebrate is quite an operation in itself.

The most obvious solution is to stick with fish that aren't carnivorous-either to fish or inverts-and this led quickly to a wealth of interest in Tilapia, who grow quite well on algal based food sources. It also led to a bunch of broke investors or disappointed culturists. The industry thrived for a short while in Florida and southern CA, but was wiped out by Asian imports of 1/10 the cost of production.

For those northerners truly interested, I suggest doing some early research before trying to reinvent the wheel, or enriching a web site. A good starting point is the early work of William McLarney, who worked in part with bullheads in New England. Also John and Nancy Todd. Rodale put out quite a few notes, pamphlets, etc. also. Home Aquaculture is one I recall, but fails for several reasons. Some interesting ideas at least were tried.

An early excellent review of the field is Aquaculture, by Bardach, Ryther and others. McLarney's later book, The Freshwater Aquaculture Book, is also a multispecies holistic look, well worth its price.

Having a parallel experience with my wife aeldric, woke up this morning to find my wife hunting down loans for BIG solar PV systems. What brought this on I queried. The answer, "Did you see SBS world news last night ?". Yes I had heard world news last night whilst reading TOD, there were about 5 really bleak "Peak Supply" or AGW related stories in a row, interspersed with hurricanes and earthquakes for some comic relief.

How's the garden going, looks pretty healthy.

I've mentioned peak oil to friends and recieved "Oh I think Peak Oil is a media fad - not too serious" brush off reply, two weeks later they were in the hunt for solar PV systems, soon I'll convert them to permaculture as well.

The local Buddhist temple is doing workshops on gardening which I am going to attend, that will be a good place to wave the PO flag.

All the best

Hi Lucifer,

Where is the Budhist temple? I'm always keen to see how other people do things.

37 Archer Street
WA, 6101

Sundays 4 pm

Wow - I never would have picked Carlisle as a place with a Buddhist temple !

I summoned it, and it came to me. Believe it or not. THE OLD SHELL PETROL STATION, redeveloped. I need a smiley right now.

Paradoxically, my main emotional reaction during the month of May (The Month The World Became (at least partly) Aware) was one of relief. At long last the moment of certitude was here (peak oil is really REAL) and I felt that I could now switch from the proselytizing mode and begin to actually DO something.

But, DO WHAT? Like Hamlet, I am almost paralysed into indecision by the possibilities that face me. I have recently retired and live in a suburb of Canberra. Neither my house nor my garden are readily adaptable to a sustainable life style and I am thinking of moving. But where?

Most of my family and friends live south of here, in Victoria, Tasmania and SA, but the CSIRO climate-change maps suggest that those areas are going to become drier. [But maybe that’s not such a big problem: Kiashu said somewhere that one only needs about 30 square metres (per person?) of veggie garden and 400 mm (??) of rain.] It would be good to be able to live near a railway line within reasonable distance of Melbourne. After having been through three bushfires (one of which destroyed our house) I am not keen on living in close proximity to fire-prone bushland. Hence places like Mt Macedon and many parts of the Dandenong Ranges are out of the question. Tasmania might be a possibility, but only if I can afford to visit the mainland regularly, and the way airfares are going that’s becoming moot. Geelong: too drought prone? Ballarat: too cold? Woodend: nice but now almost a suburb? Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas: no trains. I do not know Victoria all that well, so suggestions would be welcome.

Second question is WHEN. At some stage peak oil awareness will mean that the price of housing in inner city areas and within walking distance of commuter rail will increase even more dramatically than they have in recent years. At the same time prices in the long-commute, peri-urban areas will probably decrease (at least in relative terms). So, do I move now or wait for the SUV-driving commuters in the outer suburbs and regional towns to sell at reduced prices?

Daylesford, Castlemaine, Seymour, Shepparton, Echuca, Wodonga

Ie the wedge north of Melbourne to the Murray.
Most of these towns have rail, are compact (maybe not Shep), especially the gold towns, and thus "walk able". Some of them have some eco awareness (Daylesford, Castlemaine).
Water is going to be the issue though.
Proximity to a large tributary of the Murray (eg Goulburn River) or the Murray itself, or major irrigation infrastructure will help.

Some of the towns on the Murray eg Yarrawonga and Echuca, being touristy, cater to holiday makers whose hobby has no future - power boat owners. Yarrawonga, last time I drove thru has doubled in size with the kind of development that Kuntsler would be "proud" of... complete with slogans like "Envy next 1 km".

This area is also one of THE major food producing areas (fruit, veg, dairy, wine etc) in the country.

Geelong and Ballarat draw their water from the same river... which is stressed. Bendigo is in a similar position. Conservation would help... but...

Canberra is not ideal, but at least you have the Murrumbidgee, and, total collapse aside, no politician or senior public servant will ever express an opinion other than that Das Kapital must be maintained.
What's the alternative? Defederation?

Lovelock says a handful of survivors will end up at the poles. Seems consistent with the theory behind the latest Martian rover.

FNQ and the Kimberlies seem to have reliable rainfall but I don't know if air conditioning will be allowed when energy is rationed. Tasmania appears to be going though dramatic rainfall decline eg from 1500mm to 500mm where I live. That's scarier than high fuel prices.

The northern rivers area of NSW gets plenty of rainfall and has lots of green towns. It may even get rail service restored one day.

North west WA gets plenty of rain and will remain healthy economically as long as the gas lasts - which should be several decades.

Queensland also gets plenty of rain (too much sometimes, though perhaps not enough to keep Brisbane and the Gold Coast happy). If coal seam methane turns out to be as big as some people think it should also do well.

Its probably best to avoid the areas that are drying out and don't have good natural resources - though if we develop solar, wind and tidal/wave power some dry coastal areas may still be fine if they go the desalination route...

Many thanks to Boof, SP and Gav for your comments and suggestions.

I am aware that parts of northern NSW, Queensland & WA have abundant rain. But they are too humid for me. (I note that the humidity was one of the things that drove Bill Mollison from Northern NSW back to Tasmania.)

The reason that I am focusing on the southern parts of Australia is that my family and friends are there. Up until now we have been able to keep in regular contact by car and by air travel. However when the oil crunch really hits this will not be possible (or at least be horrendously expensive). I think that the issue of family reconsolidation or repropinquitisation (to coin a word) is one of the great undiscussed issues in the Post Oil debate. I suspect that, in the future, occupational (and retirement) mobility will decline and that families will tend to stay closer to their “home territory”, where relatives and friends live. This will not only facilitate mutual support among family members, neighborhoods and the wider community but may also eventually engender a renewed sense of place, and, over many generations, strong regional identities (cultures?) may emerge as in, say, France or the USA.

Hi Tasman,

May I suggest you check out Albury-Wodonga. We have rail access to Melbourne, The Murray flows right through us, The Hume Dam just 10ks to the east has 8 times as much water as Sydney Harbour, The old town is defineitly a walkable city, and some of the developers are starting to wake up to new urbanism as the way of the future. We have a great airport with Qantas, Rex and Virgin flying from (still with $80 fares but who knows for how long). We get hot summers, mild winters, but we are clsoe to mountains and plains to the west. Great cattle breeding country, fruit, dairy, grain, hay, wine, forestry and mining. 10 min drive from anywhere to anywhere in the city. You can get a really good house on some land for $350-450K. Three hospitals, two universites, and one community wood fired oven which is my favourtie part of the whole city. Come and check us out.

A lot of people forget that most of Northern Australia has a monsoonal rainfall pattern.Dry for 9 months of the year and a summer wet season not much longer than 3 months + a very high evaporation rate.Reliable irrigation is needed to grow crops.
In most parts of Australia it is a trap if you look at just the average annual rainfall.Look at the distribution over the year and also the historical record for the frequency of droughts.
For all except a few favoured areas,mainly along the East coast,irrigation will be necessary.A bore is an option but they are expensive to put down,expensive to equip and there may not be a reliable supply,especially if a lot of other people in the area get the same idea.
Best wishes to all those gardeners out there.It is not an easy row to hoe - but achievable.

Yes ... I wince when I hear politicians and others suggest more Australians should live in "Northern Australia" because that is where the water is. After ten years in Darwin, I am thoroughly convinced it would be a very difficult place to grow a lot of crops. Apart from the wet-dry tropics problem (drought for eight months, monsoon for four), there is high evaporation (as noted above), intense sunlight and heat, lots of bugs and weeds, and very poor leached soils.

It took years of investment and experimentation to find crops that would grow successfully in the Ord River Irrigation scheme, and even now that there are many hectares of strawberries and melons, distance to markets are a major negative - and presumably an increasing one.

Outside of the coastal strip from say Taree to the Tweed River, and parts of the NSW South Coast, I suspect that parts of Gippsland would be close to as good as it gets, especially of proximity to Melbourne is desired. Anywhere south of the Dividing Range has reasonably reliable averaged rainfall over the year, moderate to cool climate, good soils, access to railways, and quite a lot of infrastructure. If your property had a permanent creek, and reasonable immunity from bushfires, I think you could do pretty well there, especially if Northern NSW summer humidity is an issue.

I think the "wedge" north of Melbourne (Woodend to Echuca) is not going to solve its water issues very easily - and a lot of the well-watered areas are quite expensive now. Some quite good towns though, without the same "hick" reputation of Gippsland.

Kiashu said somewhere that one only needs about 30 square metres (per person?) of veggie garden and 400 mm (??) of rain.

From 30m of raised garden beds - plus another 12m2 around them to walk - or equivalent containers, plus 1lt/m2 daily (assuming about 20 degrees C year-round, you need less water in cold and more in hot, or some shade) you can get about half a tonne of fruit and vegetables annually.

But for that you need,
- good soil, which you can manage in 2-3 years with almost any starting soil at all plus grass clippings or leaf-fall and kitchen scraps composted
- reliable water, either the water comes steady around the year, or else you capture it in the rainy season and use it in the dry, water tanks and so on. But altogether it's only ten thousand litres a year, compared to the 240,000lt national average for household consumption
- skills, which take 2-3 years to develop from nothing
- time, a weekend to set it up, and about 4 hours a week to maintain and harvest it all
- patience and open-mindedness, referring again to the 2-3 years, and the fact that people will tell you all sorts of stuff about growing food - some will be good, and some rubbish, you just have to try it and see.

And again that's just giving you half a tonne of fruit and vegetables. You still need a source of carbohydrates, some grain and/or tubers. Historically those are relatively cheap, and fruit and vegies relatively expensive.

As I write in the shape of food to come, I think we can expect to have industrialised agriculture producing our grains and tubers for some time yet. Even in that commie hippie organic "paradise" Cuba where most of their oil use is just for electricity, they use fertiliser and diesel tractors for the wheat and corn and rice and a lot of their spuds, all those urban gardens make the fruit, vegies, and small livestock like goats and chooks.

Many thanks, Kiashu, for the info and the encouragement. Maybe I could do quite well with a suburban block in Melbourne.

It's worth remembering that the classic "quarter acre block" was specifically designed so that it'd be large enough to feed a typical family all their fruit and vegies as well as provide play space for the kids. So this idea that the suburbs are doomed to cannibalism post-peak and we'll all have to live in bunkers with our assault rifles and spam is just so much macho wank.

1/4 acre was 1,000m2, more or less. Take out 150m2 for the typical house of the day (1940s-50s), 50m2 for the front yard, 100m2 for access all around and a clothesline, put in 200m2 for play area, barbie or whatever, and you were left with 500m2 for fruit and vegies.

But we gave that up, that's why across Melbourne you see a lot of blocks subdivided, the quarter acre becomes an eighth or even twelfth.

You can email me and I'll give all the gardening hints I can ;)

An eight acre is ok. Sixth is luxury.

We must discuss the ballistic extension to the human food gathering and security faculty at length some time.

How do you put pictures in these posts, I've got pictures of chook eggs, chooks, dog, aquaculture, harvest HELP!

In this joint, you can only link to images from other websites. If you have your image uploaded somewhere, that's easy to do. If not, then upload it, google up flickr or imageshack.

Right-click on the image on the other webpage, "copy image location".

Then write,

[img src="http://www.example.com/example.jpeg"]

replacing the http://www.example.com/example.jpeg with the actual link copied, and replacing the [] with <>.

For example, at the top of the webpage is the TOD:ANZ logo. I right-click, copy image location, now paste: http://www.theoildrum.com/images/TODANZ_logo_final.png

Now I put it in the little thing,

[img src="http://www.theoildrum.com/images/TODANZ_logo_final.png"]

Now I change the [] to <>.

If you put a space after the " and before the >, you can put in stuff like width="360" to make the image a sane size which will fit on this page. For example,

[img src="http://www.theoildrum.com/images/TODANZ_logo_final.png" width="600"]


Make use of the "preview comment" to see that it turns out alright. Some websites don't allow linking like that and will substitute some other image saying "we don't allow hotlinking" or whatever. So find the image on another site.

The other thing you can do is, if you have a blog or whatever, go to "my account" here and put that link in your profile. Then you can just tell people to go there and take a look.

That should do you, I reckon.

Many Thanks Kiashu

Can the two of you expand on this a bit? We've had precious little in the way of real world reports on people feeding themselves. I think it is vital that people understand it is possible. For example, I am working towards homesteading/joining an intentional community/starting up a CSA. My primary problem is being far from where I want to do this and having nobody to hook up with - no family nor friends are fully aware, and those that are reasonably close think they have years and years to get ready.

I'd love to know what you think it takes to feed one family using whatever means. Personally, I'd love to have a permaculture/intensive gardening/aquaponics set up. Redundancy is good and having food to trade/sell also good!

The backyard aquaponics states their four bed system can feed a family. Realistic? Year round? Or feed a family on an 1/8 acre? Am I being too anal about having enough land when the poop hits the fan? I've been wanting a minimum of an acre and looking at ten, hoping to stumble across a very cheap, partially wooded 100 (wood for building material). (Found it, but don't have the 100k.) Of course, the larger sizes are with the community and/or CSA in mind.

What's it take to get, respectively, a permaculture acre, an intensive bio-gardening or one-family aquaculture up and running?

Then there's building your off-grid home...

BTW, anyone else thinking along the lines of building a community or CSA, let me know.


Hi ccpo,

I'm working on AV presentations for permaculture and aquaponics but they will take a little while. I have pulled down all my "experimental" ponds and garden plots and am rebuilding "my whole urban micro-property" as a permaculture/aquaculture garden, documenting the whole process with cameras and video (which is really slowing me down). (I'm not really an engineering sort, I just started experimenting a couple of years ago and concluded that "I'll never starve if I keep my garden & fish pond happy"(I may lose some weight, which would be good). Peak Oil gave me an opportunity to get really motivated and serious about it, otherwise I may have just gone on experimenting forever.

I'll write a short introductory essay and submit it to hurry things up a bit as someone is asking for information, although I'm more interested in motivating people to grow their own food rather than overall "numbers". (even if its just one lettuce in a small pot.)

If you get hold of ten acres then that's one very large market garden for a small community (village), and a fair bit of work I should imagine. (You can probably trust Kiashu's numbers.)

I can say that mother nature surprises me pleasantly every day now that I am working with her instead of against her.

"The Permaculture Home Garden" by Linda Woodrow is a small Australian publication that has everything you need to know to get a good start and it is a book for everyperson, No doubt there are many others.

Also, in a post on TOD a couple of days ago Fremont and WisdomfromPakistan were talking about their "mini-farms".

If things get real bad food will be a better currency than money.

One Example from my micro-farm;

At the moment I'm giving away Tangellos, One tree - more tangellos than 10 people could eat - one square metre - with a lime, grapefruit, lemon and mandarin tree, I've got tons of fruit from May through August, Then the Mulberry tree has fruit in September (it used to be November but AGW has changed the seasons by 6 weeks in the last three years). Mango tree should start fruiting this year, that's Februaries fruit, Loquats in March (so many that they just rot in piles on the ground - disgraceful really but nobody wants to eat them simply because they are so plentiful - they taste like a mild apricot), and I'm getting Capsicum (Bell Pepper), Paprikas and chillies 12 months of the year thanks once again to AGW. So I got Vitamin C, Bioflavinoids, Sugars and Fibre nailed for the year with a bit of Jam Making (My Lemon Marmalade is to die for).

And that only takes up 20% of my 1/6 acre of growing space, and I can use all the soil under the fruit trees in summer because the sun is so bright here that vegetable plants will die if not in partial shade all day.(Tomatoes cook on the vine in summer)

(I should point out that nutrients come onto the property via the aquifer 8 metres underground, big Jakaranda Trees pull it up from below, then I compost all the Jakaranda leaves - abaracadabara, free fertiliser.)

I guess I'm saying you need to choose the land with care, whats on it, what's under it, what's above it.

Gosh, that got me talking. I'll try to get back to you with something a bit more formal next week.

Interesting discussion this morning. I'll throw in my two cents. Because we're here in the middle of the Colorado Plateau High Desert, water is very key. Annual rainfall is in the area of 3 to 7 inches, and some years it's less than 3. The soil is poor, either too much clay in the river bottom, or too much sand, or way too much rock. There is a single river system in the area, The Fremont, and it's tributaries, The Muddy, and The Dirty Devil. Anywhere else these "rivers" would be called small creeks. The developed agricultural areas are along the Fremont primarily and amounts to about 3 percent of the available land in the county. So, on that 3 percent we grow primarily Alfalfa for winter feed for cattle. About 97 percent of the county is devoted to open range cattle grazing. Because we can't rely on rainfall for our hay production, we've built irrigation systems that are fed by the Fremont River. In our little valley we've developed a pond which lies upstream about a mile and a half from my place. Through grant money available from the US Department of Agriculture we've then developed a pressurized piping system that brings irrigation water to each of the ranches down the valley. Pipe pressurization is due to the land fall from the location of the pond to the pastures and fields at lower elevation. In my case, I'm second to last on the system and there is about a 300 feet elevation drop from the pond to my hayfield. So, the water in the 4 inch pipe that comes to my place is under pressure of about 50 psi. We all use either hand lines, or wheel lines for our sprinklers. Nozzle diameters are generally 1/8th inch, or slightly smaller. I water my garden from a "riser" with a hose adapter on it. There is plenty of water between April and the middle of October when we shut the system down for the winter. This summer, we've been working on a project to stabilize the river banks as it runs through our valley. The river flash floods during heavy summertime rains and readily changes it's channel. So, again, through funding provided through the US Department of Agriculture, we've been riffraffing the river banks with large rocks brought in for the purpose. The process is expensive and would be impossible without government funding. I've taken advantage of the possibilities and have purposefully been using the rocks to create fishing holes on the river which is already habitat for Brown and Rainbow Trout. Hopefully, with improved habitat there will be more fish. Because the river runs through private property fisherman do not come here to fish, although they are allowed with the permission of the property owner. So, our water problems are pretty well taken care of, but, it has been very expensive and more than the average land owner could handle individually. Community purpose is extremely important.

There are lots of cows here and always will be, I think. The issue is how does one keep meat over the wintertime, without using electricity. My plan is to use smoking and canning techniques to cure meat for cold weather storage. I have hung venison in my barn during the cold months and just "whittled" on the carcass as I needed meat. That works, but crows and magpies are a problem if they get into the barn, and if there is a warm spell, your meat will spoil. A smokehouse will serve a similar function as the freezer downstairs now serves. It'll make it possible to keep meat over the winter. I just slaughtered a pig, enough meat for me for a good six months, as long as there is electricity to keep it frozen.

A cold cellar is the next priority project. I think it's a must for keeping vegetables over the wintertime.

All in all, in this environment, becoming self sufficient to the point of feeding oneself throughout the year, is a very large project. But, it can be done. My tips for those just starting, with the idea of homesteading ground in the American West, are 1). Look for land in a small community with a tradition of self reliance. Many areas of the west have been recolonized by wealthy people who possess few or any of the skills necessary to sustainability. Stay away from the 5 acre "ranchettes". They rarely come with a good water right. 2). Water is of utmost importance to your success. If you can get a town water hookup for your house water, that's best, in my opinion. It'll save you a lot of money. But, check out the town's water system. Is it one that will keep on working if the lights go out? If not, then you're better off with your own well, run by solar panels. Wells in this area are costing in the area of $33 per foot. So, a 3oo foot well is $10,000 or so, and that's assuming you find water. On my place we drilled 5 holes, the deepest 450 feet, to find the water that now runs my house. My well produces about 10 gallons of good water per minute. Three gallons of water a minute with a pressure tank is probably adequate for a small household. 3). Keep it simple. Simple solutions are usually the best solutions. I'm perfectly willing to do without the internet and lights. I can use candles and I've gathered a fine library. Candle light is OK but it doesn't hurt to go to bed when it gets dark. I always wonder how this or that will work without electricity. If it wont then I'll do it so it will. 4). Small is better. 4 or 5 acres of good ground would probably support a small family. The "good ground" is key. A cow eats a lot and so I favor goats, and they'll eat anything and they're redundant, that is, it's easy to have a small goat herd, where it's hard to keep a single milk cow. Goats are prolific besides and so they can add meat to the diet. I prefer mules to horses, because, like goats, they're easy keepers. A mule can get by on whatever is around while a horse requires good grass or good hay. And, I hear they taste better. I read somewhere, Kit Carson rode 135 mules over his lifetime. He ate 133 of them.

Well, I could go on and on. There is a lot to talk about. Farming with a mule is a whole topic that I've yet to explore, but must if I'm going to be truly self sufficient. Best from the Fremont

Well, it's just as I wrote above, and in the article - I recommend reading that in full, as it looks at different sized yards and what can be got out of them.

From 30m2 of raised garden beds - about 42m2 with paths - you can get 500kg of fruit and vegetables annually, which is enough for a couple of adults and a couple of kids. This is assuming you begin with the garden beds and averagely crap soil which used to be lawn, that you begin a compost heap and so on.

But probably in your first year you'll be doing well to get 50kg. After harvesting and digging the rest back in the soil will be improved, and you'll have learned from a few mistakes, and in the next year get 100kg, the third 200kg, and only the fourth or later 400-600kg.

As I said before, for this yield you need good soil - which you can make - reliable water (not a lot, just reliable), skills, time, patience and open-mindedness. For example I would advise anyone to begin with something like a tomato plant. I put the gardening advice in a quote box so people can ignore it if not interested.

For a fortnight accumulate all your potato peelings, everyting organic, chuck it in a bucket by the back door.

Go to the plant shop and buy a punnet of tomato seedlings, usually there'll be six or eight seedlings there. Get four cheap-arsed plastic buckets like you'd use for mopping, punch holes in the bottom about the size of a pen, quarter-inch or so. Get two bags of potting mix. A quarter of a bag of potting mix should go in the bottom of the pot. Then chuck in a kg or so of your organic waste. Now chuck in another quarter of a bag of potting mix.

Tease the seedlings out of the punnet, turn the thing over and gently shake them out into your hand. Put two seedlings into each bucket, opposite each-other and a couple of inches from the side. Just poke a hole in the soil with your thumb, put the seedling's roots in there, and gently mound the soil around the base, pat it in. Give each seedling a mug of water. Now put the four buckets somewhere sunny.

Each day check the soil around the base of the plant. It should be moist - that is, when you touch it, you feel it's damp, but your finger doesn't come away wet. If wet, just leave it, if dry add that glass of water.

After a few weeks some of the seedlings will have grown up a foot or so. Get a stick - bamboo, stake, broom handle - and push it into the soil about three inches from the base of the tomato plant. Now get six inches of string and gently tie the main stem of the plant to the stick. When it's grown another foot do it again.

If you live in a hot area you may need to give them more water. If the leave get burned - turn brown, just like us - then move the plants somewhere less sunny.

After 6-8 weeks you'll start seeing little yellow flowers. Then a week or two after that you'll see little green tomatoes. Over the next few weeks these will grow into larger tomatoes, turn red and be delicious to eat.

I recommend tomatoes because they're relatively easy to grow, and they give pretty impressive results - they look good and impress your friends, this makes you happy and more likely to keep gardening! I recommend just one type of plant because by having just one lets you focus, and learn the rhythms of plant life, and so on.

Then in the next season you can grow two plants, then three, and so on.

To get all the fruit and vegetables a family needs just from the backyard isn't hard. But you're going to need grains and tubers, too.

The backyard aquaponics system is not sustainable, nor self-sufficient. It requires significant inputs of energy (power for the pumps and fluorescent lights) and food (grain and fish pellets for the fish). If you grow fruit and vegies then with the right choice of plants in each season, after those first few years it can be an entirely self-sufficient system. But the aquaponics always needs inputs of energy and food.

You can of course provide the energy for it by your own solar or wind turbines, and you can try to supply all the food for the fish, too - but then you won't have 100 fish in a tank and be eating fish every day. So you could have aquaponics the way many people have chickens or rabbits - keep them going from your own yard and eat one every month or two at most.

Thank you, gentlemen. 30 m2 seems a bit small to get all that, but I remember a post some months back about a couple in LA area that were growing all they needed in their back yard.

I had downloaded, but not read, Fukuoka's Natural farming and skimmed it tonight. He says a quarter acre will feed a family. That sounds like a safer number. Redundancy is good! I worry about too small a plot getting wiped out by an infestation, weather or ??, so would like more.

For security and income, the CSA/ecovillage appeals. We have a half acre available here in Korea, but it comes with family baggage that I'd rather not have to deal with.

Time will tell, but how much time. I've got a bad feeling I should be making a move now, but it's hard to see happening till next year...


Again, the 30m2 just gives you your fruit and vegetables, that is your nutrition - your carbohydrates and protein have to come form somewhere else. I think that basic grains and tubers are likely to remain fairly cheap for some time to come, but fruit and vegetables will become more expensive. This is because grains and tubers benefit more from economies of scale and fossil fuel inputs than do fruit and vegetables. So even with fuel at $20 a gallon people are going to be using combine harvesters and putting the grain on trains to cities. But we won't have cherries from Chile in New York in winter.

And the 30m2 only gives you that half tonne after a few years of building up the soil, and with a skilled gardener taking the time and making the effort. If you just whack plants in the soil and don't really know or care what you're doing, you'll get a tenth of that yield.

I make no claims about backyard gardening being able to completely feed a family, or even an individual. But it can certainly supplement your basic diet, provide all your vitamins and minerals, and about a third your calories and protein. The other two thirds have to come from grains and tubers which are harder to grow on a small scale, and are very likely to keep being grown on a large scale distant from cities.

That's what we see in places like Cuba with overall 20% declined oil supply, but 65% lost from transport and fossil fuel inputs to agriculture - the people supply their own fruit and vegies, the large farms and imports supply their grain and tubers.

You're not going to feed your family entirely from a quarter-acre block. But what you grow can mean the difference between bare survival and prosperity (grains and rations only vs having fruit and vegies as well), and can keep you alive for a few weeks if there's some interruption to the general food supply.

We get all the eggs we need from 3 chooks (Coo, Clucks and Clan), add that to corn and beans - no lack of protein.

If I chose to use my target air rifle on living creatures there is never a shortage of doves coming in to drink from my pond every day of the year. I have counted twenty doves at one time on occasions, but there is always at least 2 or 3. (I am a bit of a Buddhist, so destroying a soul's physical form is an absolute last resort.)

We've got all the protein we need less than 3 metres from our back door.

Carbohydrates, what's wrong with potato, pumpkin and yam, they also store up over winter pretty well.

As I Naturopath I know we eat far too much in general and most of that is processed rubbish.

You can survive on very little food if it's fresh food just plucked from the garden, and eliminate a lot of degenerative diseases that we suffer from eating too much and too junky.
(Diabetes, Colon Cancer, Coronary Artery Disease, etc etc)

This is my 5000 litre fish pond.(8 metres X 2 metres), which I am currently setting up as an aquaponics system after last years trial setup.

Aquarists say one inch of fish per litre, so thats 5000 inches of fish = approx 500 catfish. The only problem with such heavy stocking levels is that if your pump fails they will all be dead in a couple of hours.

Broad Beans and Spuds (Potato). The broad beans have gone mad with vigour in the 4 weeks since this photo was taken.

This is my current compost pile and the beautiful result of natures magical alchemy.

Security and Loving Companionship and just in case you get through my steel home and boundary security I've got Mr Smith and Mr Wesson to take care of us.

Our Problem (Yes, it's very fast) and Our Solution (Majorly Cooool SMARTy pants)

First you must believe it is possible.
Then you gotta get off your arse, pick up the pitchfork and DO IT.


1. What area of land do you use for this?
2. Does it now, has it in the past, or will it in the future supply all your food? Have you ever actually tried living just on what you grow?
3. Do you grow it all entirely from what's on hand, or do you have to import fertility from elsewhere? If you're planning to live on what you grow in a collapse situation, how do you plan to replace those inputs of fertility? For example, what do your 5,000 inches of fish eat, and where would you get that in a collapse situation?
4. Assuming you're Australian: do you store your pistol(s) and ammunition according to the various Australian state laws, and if so, how do you expect to retrieve them quickly enough to use in self-defence?

It's easy to say, "oh yes we could live on what we grow." It's a bit harder to actually do it.

In giving advice about things, I am always careful to distinguish between what I have done and thus know is definitely possible, and what I have heard or read somewhere. Everything is easy in theory, and much harder in practice.

Hi Kiashu,

1. 200 m^2 approx

2. No, but that was not really what I was trying to say. It is a huge supplement in good times and in bad times no doubt a king's ransom, having said that, the large lunch that we just ate was 100% from our garden (1st time I think, so it was a synchronistically unfortunate day for you to ask that question). In bad times no-one will bother stopping me from taking a dove or two either.

3. I import fertility at the moment as I am in the initial phase of setting up the whole property (I have 3600 litres of cattle and chicken manure stashed in my garden shed plus 200 kg of slow release NPKT. I also get all the lettuce and brocolli scraps from the local veggie market for free.

Strike while the iron is hot is the blacksmiths adage.

I keep goldfish as per my Buddhist perspective on HARMLESSNESS. The 5000 inches was given as an indication of maximum possible stocking levels for those interested. The goldfish maintain a steady state population of about 50 if left to their own resources (without water circulation) - they catch the bloody blowflies and mosquitoes and keep their population way down - more fertility inputs into my system, if I feed them they mount up to 150 units (with water circulation). I use them for fertilizer production in the aquaponic part of my effort, last year 50 goldfish gave me a constant supply of tomatoes, capsicum and chillies and grew a bloody great big lemon tree (It was from a hybrid seed so no fruit - another experiment - I'll just go and take the photo for you), that was until I put the barramundi in there. They ate all the goldfish so I ate the barramundi - no goldfish, no fertility input - besides, it was very unpleasant killing the barramundi.

100 little birds a day drop shit all on the ground, at a gram a turd thats 36 kg per year of high quality fertilizer, and that's more than I would ever use of FF fertilizer. The pond is actively attracting fertiliser inputs from th environment - that is the beauty of aquaculture.

I have problems, sometimes when it rains the water goes green because of all the nitrogen dissolved in the rainwater - more fertility inputs, and after a thunderstorm, well its algal bloom on a grand scale - not if pond is used for aquaponics as the plants use any excess nitrogen. (Do you really want me to drag out my 40 year old chemistry books and do the sums on nitrogen and nitrates dissolved in rainfall)

4. As I said, I have steel boundary fences (some in place, some on order) and then I have steel bars on all windows and doors and in the ceiling space steel mesh to prevent intrusion from above, thats on a brick and tile house. Doors are solid with sheet steel reinforcing and reinforced lock mounting, external and internal. By the time you get to me you'll be too buggered to do much harm. Of course I store my firearms according to Australian standards, I attend to my responsibilities as an owner of firearms most diligently and I don't expect to ever use them except for target shooting which is my sport. I also have two black belts and a range of swords and knives (although I'm getting a bit too old to get in a fisticuffs situation)

I am not expecting total collapse in my lifetime, but it could get pretty nasty in patches,

Besides Kiashu, if you say it can't be done then it never will. If you say it can be done then your in with a chance. I'm definitely not coming from theory, the last 4 years has been an expensive science experiment. This year is putting it all together, I'll be taking photos of all produce and recording quantities so come back in a year and I'll give you a more formal report.

( PS: I hope I haven't annoyed you in some way, I may have placed my article inappropriately and given the impression I was "having a dig" which was not intended at all. )

All that was very good to hear, mate, and not annoying or insulting at all. I just see a lot of big talk, especially online, and rarely is it matched with action.

I definitely think it's worth giving things a go, my only issue is that lots of people say, "oh, this is so easy I don't have to even try, once the shit hits the fan I'll be out on my acre making a hundred tonnes of grain, piss easy..." and those people are doomed to trouble, and they also don't help in all these discussions - we want to discuss facts, not Alan Jones-style wankfests, that just confuses people who don't know about things and are just setting out on gardening or what-have-you.

So that is why I asked you how you were doing these things - nothing against you personally, it's just as I said, lots of bollocks talked online.

I would like to see all this in an article or a blog with weekly updates! If you have one, whack it in your profile so we can see it.

So much to do, so little time. My domain is http://www.aquadawn.org but it's in a very sad state. I have a hangup about proselytizing so I subconsciously neglect my domain. I feel more natural responding to others in a friendly sorta way, as today, here on TOD. I'll put a bit of time in on it and then I can tell people to go look to save spending all day putting things together here eh! (I'm probably wasting a bit of TOD's bandwidth as well)

Care for a freshly picked Tangello.

It's not proselytising if people walk into the church and ask about it, or look at your webpage and read it.

I find having a blog helps me, it's as you said - sometimes you find yourself having the same response to a few different articles over some months, it's tedious to write all that stuff down all those different times. Plus comments are basically forgotten five minutes after they're read, whereas articles on your website will last a bit longer.

Now get that construction going on the webpage :D

I see you boys carried on while I was out visiting an ecovillage at the other end of the country. My Grandmother-in-law grows about 4kgs. of rice per nine sq. meters. Rice once a day for the family would run about 225 sq. meters. Double that by alternating with barley and you're doing pretty well.

As for veggies and fruit, I've now read about at least 3 real-world people, and more in videos, growing all they need in a half acre or less, so I'm hopeful. We've got about 2k sq meters available. I think redundancy and simplicity are the keys.

When I get resettled I'll be going the natural farming/bio-intensive/permaculture route because sustainability is key. I'm hoping to add a pond and do some aquaculture, too, for protein. Maybe a few chickens for an occasional egg and chicken dinner. Between them and a weekly fish, that should give all the protein a body needs. Might need to co all co-op for the grains, but that would be a good thing, so...

Thanks, again, gents. I'm much more comfortable with my plan now and feel like it is much more doable. Theory, as you said Kiashu, is one thing, reality another.


This is growing in an inert medium (hydroponic expanded clay), and being fed on nothing but goldfish excreta re-engineered by the aerobic bacteria in the pond filter. I have two solar panals, inverter, charger and batteries to add onto this system to make it society input free for 30 years, (batteries are a small problem). Thirty years is more than I need (I hope, mind you mother's lining up her hundredth birthday....... I won't think about it)

These chillies were growing as per the lemon tree, I have since moved them to this sunny side wall so they will continue fruiting over winter (and that worked well). This photo was taken shortly after the move and no fertiliser had been used at the stage illustrated. I feed the Jalepinos now but have let the habenero go because we don't like them. The habenero is starting to look dreadfull after one month without food BUT IT IS STILL FRUITING WELL.(reidual nutrient stored in the pores of the expanded clay I suspect)

FIVE THOUSAND APOLOGIES, It's one inch of fish per imperial gallon, so my pond should support around one hundred catfish.

Would aquaponics from a real pond change things at all? Heck, if I can feed my family with less than .25 acre, wouldn't .25 acre do for fish?


Good advice. I wanted to add: the book Grow Biointensive mentions 1 acre is sufficient to grow sufficient food for a family of 4 year round once you get the soil right. That includes some cereals apparently, but a strictly vegetarian diet.

Theoretically, a 'somewhat' self-sufficient system of aquaculture can be done using tilapia, which eat algae, which can grow from refuse:

Thanks, I will take you up on that offer of advice.

I think I made a mistake 3 years ago when I left tourism to become a gardener. I thought by now I would have a lot of business ripping up lawns and putting in vege gardens. However, on the Northern beaches of Sydney most households earn over 150k, houses are way over 1m mark. The price of vegetables affecting these people is just so far off. Interesting, I noticed that the suburbs like Palm and Whale beach are suffering their perhaps first ever reduction in house prices. They are the ones with the longest commutes, so I put this reduction to oil prices.

I don't believe food shortages will ever affect Australia to the point that people actually starve. Victoria as an example. Just look a little bit to the East and there is Gippsland. Immense forests, good rainfall and very rich organic soils. Other countries could run 20m head of humans on this land. Why does no one live there? Quite simply, population never built up because it's not sheep country. Good for cattle, dairy and forestry. Even then, dairy is the only one that is really competitive.

Australia of course exports lots of dairy products. Dairy prices have been skyrocketing, but at at what point will they become too expensive for overseas consumers so that there is a surplus of dairy products which can't be sold. That would lead to a glut in the local market and farmers would have to sell their herds and plant corn.

Dairy farmers though have been wasting one of their most important resources: that is biogas. I have no idea how much could be produced per cow, but I imagine that a farm would have a surplus of energy. With fuel at low prices it has never been worth anybodies time to bother. Of course there is so much gas and coal in Gippsland, once again it is exports to foreign countries that will suffer first.

True, Gippsland suffers very much from the effects of climate change, but it starts with a much higher rainfall, so it's not going to turn into a dust bowl any time soon.

Well,well,RickJames,why would anybody in their right mind wish to destroy the beautiful forests of Gippsland in order to run another 20 million head of feral humans?
Please explain the intrinsic worth of having more humans,feral or otherwise,in Australia or the world for that matter.
More is not automatically better.It is more likely that small is beautiful.

Do you not understand the concept of sustainability?

Do you not understand the concept of man being responsible for conserving the Earth and it's inhabitants and not destroying the planet from greed and hubris?

As for the prospect of Australia not having food shortages you obviously have not travelled through the food producing areas of Australia and seen the way farming is carried out and the damage it has caused.You obviously haven't considered the huge input of oil for fuel,natural gas for nitrogenous fertilizer and superphosphate into agriculture.
I could give you many more examples which destroy your argument but for the sake of brevity I dub thee a fool(? troll), sir

I've lived in different Asian countries for a number of years. When you see 124m packed into a country like Japan with only 17% arable land there has to be a fair amount leeway given for how many people can live before starvation becomes a part of life. Though when you go to Japan and see tiny 3x5m rice paddies in vacant blocks in the suburbs, you realize how efficiently land can be utilized. Taiwan is mountainous, about a third the size of Tasmania and has 2m more people than Australia. Regardless of how many people do live in Gippsland, there is no need to cut more trees down. There is so much land there used inefficiently. What is now cattle country could be where communities live. Agriculture could be practiced on a much more intensive scale. I'm sure you've read 'One straw revolution'.

Sure I've seen a lot of rural Australia. This years winter wheat crop will probably harvest 20m tonnes. There was a bumper sorghum harvest this summer 20m+. There's a lot of other crops as well. How many tonnes per person can we eat?

Australia is a net energy exporter, so even though you pay for it at the pump, in reality there is a lot more money in the system so you end up better off. Geothermal, coal seam gas, solar, wind, tidal, uranium plus plentiful supplies of coal and gas leave Australia with a lot of choices. Then of course 75% of Australia sedimentary basins are unexplored for oil. Geothermal is not that complicated, it's proven and there are virtually unlimited resources. Just today there was a new resource discovered in Queensland.

We don't need to be dependent upon oil or fertilizers, life will go on. If it happens slowly people will realize that the world has changed and live with it. That's the only good side of slow boiling frog. People do get used to something which an immediate change would cause panic. Fear is the only problem and the government can and will do what is necessary to ensure it's own survival.

Thirra, I find your comments about R James offensive. He didn't say we should put 20 million into the Gippsland but only that is what its potential carrying capacity is.
Australia will not run out of food even if the entire murray darling region never grew another bite of food and Australia ceased importing fertilizer.
The bulk of the wheat/sheep belt relies on nitrogen from legumes (clover, medic, lucerne etc) in the pasture phase to build up fertility with topdressing/ row drilling with super (phosphorus + sulfer) as the main fertilizer. Although urea and other N fertilizers are used in intensive cropping they could be dropped and still Australia could be self sufficient in food.
BTW Australia has Phosphate deposits (Duchess etc)plus many trace element deposits (unfortunatly not every element) to cover import shortfalls.
Sustainability ultimatly means only growing enough to feed the local 20 million and not exporting the surplus that feeds 50 million+ overseas.

I've noticed the same thing, especially after I gave a talk at Sandia Labs, in New Mexico. It was an eye opening experience for my wife to talk to some of the scientists and to listen to their views on Peak Oil/Peak Exports.

Hey hey Westexas,

Can you expand on this. Was it eye opening because the scientists were well informed and rational or because they believed that exponential growth can continue forever? Also, were these civilians contracted by the lab or career military folks?

I'm curious because I grew up in Los Alamos, NM (Nuclear weapons lab)and went to college in Albuquerque (Sandia lab).


Civilians that were "well informed and rational" (and very persuasive).

A lot of people I talk to are more concerned, but are still casting blame at things like speculators and whatnot. They hear all sorts of talk on the radio, and people will always gravitate towards someone telling them what they want to hear.

My fiancee knows better than this however. Right now the two of us live together in a townhouse, so gardening isn't really an option right now. The house is paid off however, so no mortgage. I would like to get into a house of some sort with enough of a yard that would leave room for a veggie garden. And for that matter it would need a basement that would serve as a root cellar. But right now we have our hands full with other things, so that won't happen until next year at the soonest.

My wife and I sold the house in New Hampshire, USA (cold winters) last fall, just as the housing market was collapsing, and we moved to a small town in rural Mexico in February, lots of rain, good land, etc. She was scared to move, and me too, but the future in NH looked grim, as I knew eventually she would be cut off from her family in Mexico if we stayed in NH. This would be terrible for her and me too. And long term survival in that climate looks tough.

We both love it here and this is working out very well. Where we live is the opposite of all the images that Americans have of Mexico. My town is safer than the suburbs of Manchester, NH. And the place has life. Bought some land, building a house, got to get planting macadamia, citrus, fig, bananas, beans and veggies.

But my wife's family is still in Mexico City and their family situation means that they are probably stuck there, as the city disintegrates into crime and people getting trapped there. It's a bad situation that will be repeated globally in all urban areas.

Meanwhile, a year and a half ago, I started writing a report on Peak Oil so that I could convince my sister about what is happening. Of course, she wouldn't read it (: But after a year and a half of working on her, just this weekend I got a call. She had read my stuff and wants to know what to do specifically to prepare for this crisis. The increasing gasoline prices, dropping car sales, and collapsing airlines probably made her realize that things are getting worse and her brother is not crazy, despite the fact that all of my friends and family know that I am crazy :)

The changes in the economy and gasoline and fuel oil heating prices have many people more willing to accept Peak Oil. I gave 3 talks in Albany, NY in June and find people more accepting, although the audiences are self-selected and many are believers. I talk to a lot of people all over and see that the oil prices are getting attention.

The main problem is that people can accept Peak Oil, but most refuse to accept the reality of an absence of alternatives and the horrible future ahead. Luckily my sister read my stuff, along with my brother-in-law who is about the smartest and most practical person I know, he is an engineer for a major tire company, and they concluded that the alternative energies won't do much, and that plan B is preparing for the impacts. So we talked about the difficulty of survival in the USA after the last power black out and when nothing comes in from the outside on the highways.

I also send many friends my report and other information that shows where the globe is headed. Many agree with it and some even say thanks, and some people stopped communicating with me long ago. So what, I have a responsibility to inform them, if they don't like it, too bad.

I am working with the people here to get prepared. So far so good. They seem to be more accepting of the future, both the Mexicans and Americans here.

Great place for a vacation or a retirement or business, come for a visit. Best coffee in the world, 7$ per kilo :) Send me an email and I'll direct you to photos available to all on the Internet.

Warm regards,

Cliff Wirth
clifford dot wirth at yahoo dot com
Telephone is a USA number but rings through here

Yes... I think gas prices and various economic fallout have jolted people out of their stupor.

I tell EVERYONE I meet about peak oil, first conversation (even people I work with). I have 3 hardcore "disciples" (who are reorganizing their lives and also have their own converts) and I have maybe 15 people who now understand peak oil but are hesitant to jump in with both feet.

There are probably hundreds of people who think I am insane. I don't care.

It is all about odds... if 5% of people are convertible and 1% are willing to make a hardcore commitment to PO then you have to tell hundreds of people before you get measurable results.

I've found that making drastic changes to get your own house in order gives you alot of street cred.

I think it's a numbers game, too.

Who knows? Your preparation and investments may pay off. However, if you envision this type of future, I think your security plan (both active and passive measures) will be as critical as anything else you outlined. In this type of scenario, the guy with the biggest gun normally wins....

My lips are sealed.

Are meetings being scheduled where previously you would not have got an audience?

On our daily walk around the Maribyrnong River, just yesterday we noticed a big billboard at a busy car / bike / pedestrian point headed PEAK OIL. Moonee Valley City Council is hosting a public forum on 11 August (refreshments provided). The notice is interesting in that Peak Oil isn't deemed to require any more explanation than say Dog Training or Town Plan - and that the term itself is sufficient to inform readers and attract attendance at the forum.

We will go along for sure.

Thats interesting, might see you there Cargill.

Thanks all for reports on aquaponics, are convincing me is worth the investment. At CERES where i work theres a handsome 6 pond setup that is s-l-o-w-l-y getting going, but for myself i didn't want to have to ensure continuous electricity supply and v.freq pumping.

On topic, my immediate kin are now all PO+AGW aware, onboard with Holmgrens energy descent characterisation of plausible futures, and its obvious that we are quietly preparing for different times. I'm embarrassed to say i'm one of the bolters/tree changers, but not because i think cities must be death traps - I want the rain that going 500m up will hopefully ensure.

hehe.. that's great. i will be speaking at that public forum :-)

We'll be the ones up the back heckling! Or asking Dorothy Dixers ...

I attended a small gathering hosted by a Fortune 500 company last Friday. I posed the following question to The Chief Scientist, a geologist, a hydrologist, a fishery specialist, and two PR reps:

What is your position on the Peak Oil debate?

All I got was blank stares. Not even what is Peak Oil?

Conversely, my 21 year old grandson is researching ways to use our cow manure (25 beef on concrete six months per year) for fuel. My 18 year old granddaughter is learning gardening by helping me. I recently acquired a milk cow and three of the grandchildren have learned to care for and milk the cow.

As interesting as it is to have reality confirming what you have been telling friends for years, I find it more interesting how quickly people are starting to adapt and question cultural icons that we all believed were so deeply entrenched. Those Hummers and McMansions are becoming not only obscene but rather moronic. So I guess the lemmings aren't going to all be jumping over the cliff after all? We are still in the infancy of this great adjustment culturally toward permanent limits to the growth paradigm we have all been born and raised under. If oil prices drop temporarily and the stock market rises you will see many who are now listening about peak oil go back into their consumption dream spaces but they wont be able to nestle in with full confidence like before with these nagging doubts that have now been awakened. I have never been more confident that a huge cultural shift of values will happen quickly once our society fully understands what is happening. This wont only be a local or community or national event but a global cultural shift. The cultural renaissance of a post peak oil world is upon us.

Hi all

a couple of things:

1. When talking to friends, be prepared for the backlash as oil prices stay down for a while, before starting the big rise (when the current demand-reduction effects are soaked up).

2. Transition towns. NZ website, not sure about Australia. As Jason pointed out, we have to bring everyone else along. The Transition Towns movement is a ready-made framework. Please check if there is a transition towns group in your area and join up. If you are good at speaking to groups (Rotary, local business association, etc) you can make a huge contribution.

YES! I've been thinking the same thing, though my wife is not at the food-stockpile stage yet. 4 years ago she thought I was losing it, but lately has even asked a couple of questions, and acknowledged that the news has taken a disturbing turn in the direction of my insane theories. I feel less like the member of an obscure cult, and it's a bit of a relief really, though part of me was hoping to be wrong about it all.

Yeah, it's funny wanting to be right so that you can trust your own sanity and logic, but at the same time wanting to be wrong because your vision of the future is so scary.

Here in the middle of Wisconsin, mental bulbs are slowly coming on. There’s a renewable energy center educational center in the area, their 19th annual info fair drew over 22,000 people, a record. Many communities are beginning to read about the Natural Step and the Swedish Eco-Municipality model; some cities are passing declarations and forming task forces. Eventually they will need to set measurable objectives and that’s where things get tough. But there are more policy bike patrols and even talk of bringing back foot patrols.

On the more practical side, there are canning and food preservation workshops underway and two new community gardens in my city (of 25K) which previously had none. Food related events are drawing more people and probably keep spirits high too.

two weeks ago there was an article on TOD about rainwater harvesting but I saw it too late to post to it. This seems like an appropriate article in which to ask this question:

What type of roof/ gutter system is appropriate for cistern collection. I have two buildings on my property: one is an old, gutterless metal roof that's been painted with silver roof paint; the other is a slate roof that collects into galvanized metal gutters. I live in Ohio where there is 40 to 45 inches of rain a year but july and august can sometimes be very dry for gardening. The purpose of the cistern would be for the garden, not for direct human consumption (hopefully!).

Also, aeldric, thanks for the thought provoking post and specifically for mentioning aquaponics. I'm going to look into that.

The slate roof should be fine. The paint on the metal roof may slowly dissolve in the rain water, contaminating it and accumulating in your garden.


Find out whether the paint on the metal roof has lead in it before you begin to harvest water from it. Even if you use it for the garden the lead may accumulate in the plants.


I'm in Perth. Peak Oil awareness is quite good here, with people buying Smart Cars etc. Perth has a few disadvantages, especially very poor soil — basically empty sands, very infertile, and hydrophobic too (ugh). The only decent soils are up in the hills, but then you get a lot of gravel and rocks. Perth is so isolated that if the trucks stop rolling, I fear what will happen next. We have a nasty yob element here, you know, the people with low tooth-to-tattoo ratio. I can see them getting very aggro if things don't go well.

Poor soils - biochar, biochar, biochar.

Where do we get biochar in Perth?

I make it myself. Checkout some biochar stuff on youtube





and google biochar to get you started.

I use a woodgas stove like lannyplans that I made to boil water and leave me with high quality biochar at the end. A truely carbon negative system that runs on twigs and small branches.

Just starting with it but a start is a start.

Thanks, I'll investigate. Hopefully it'll be a commercial product one day that you can buy from Bunnies.

Tracked down a design for a self fuelled biochar kiln made from a drum:


That hydrophobic sand is fairly easily fixed with cattle manure, pea straw, coir and compost.

Aeldric, great discussion to get going. I first became aware of peak oil a few years ago and have not really been very successful in getting people's attention on to it. Luckily my wife is in complete agreement about the severity of the problem. Fortuitously for us we had bought a great property of 60 acres in the Northern rivers of NSW 6 or so years ago as an investment, it was dirt cheap back then. We lived in Sydney renting and paying it off with the dream of moving up there eventually to live the country life. My wife was not so keen until PO came into our lives and everything changed.

So now I live up north, where even when the hardest drought was hitting the area, our creek was still flowing as was the spring. Our water tanks had water caught off zincalume roofs and the vegie patch is going. Being a larger property I have far more planning to get done, the biggest mistake is to rush in and put everything in, in the wrong place.

We have a 1Kw photovoltaic grid connected system up and running, solar hot water chirping away nicely (even in winter) and wood fired stove to keep us warm. This year I hope to plant at least 500 fruit and nut trees to make a food forest.

I am planting bamboo (oldhamii species) as a 30m hedge around the property boundary to keep the cows in and to a degree thieves out (steel fencing has gone up 100% in two years - I hate to think what it will be in another ten). Bamboo is the fastest biomass producing plant that I will be using for energy, construction, food, utensils and furniture.

The community we have here is a thousand times better than the network of friends we had in Sydney. the support for each other is amazing. just this week we have started to set up a produce bartering system.

IMO the best way to keep your food and property safe is to get the whole community on board with you and you on board with them. I will probably lease out allotments to people near by for round $20 a week or 10% of their produce.

Soon I will be setting up an aquaponics system to grow yabbies, fish and lettuce. But the big thing I am into is biochar production for increasing the productivity of the soil (organically) and having the only real carbon negative system of cooking and heating and potentially electricity production through producer gas with an ICE or boiler and steam engine. These are exciting times.

How do you use bamboo for fuel?

Split it, dry it and burn it in a gasifier wood stove and you are left with biochar. It goes back into the soil which improves nutrient levels, water holding capacity and biological activity. It is a win, win situation. IMO it is one of the best strategies for dealing with GW and to a lesser extent PO but it is great for cooking and heating energy needs. the other thing is that it produces relatively no pollutants when done correctly.

Fortuitously for us we had bought a great property of 60 acres in the Northern rivers of NSW 6 or so years ago

Hi crudedude, I'm in Byron, where are you exactly? We moved up here about 2 years ago, as a possible stepping stone to a "doom farm" in the hinterland if things turn really nasty.

Hi Carbonsink

we are just north of Nimbin

we are just north of Nimbin

Nice place to be and still affordable. Good luck with it all and I hope you won't need the bamboo to keep the thieves out!

Sometimes you win and somes not,

Here is the response I just got from a friend from one of my emailings on Peak Oil:

dear professor:



you have to love the background music

Geez, These old fossils still blowing in their new age trumpets!

Cliff you have made my evening. I am now at one with the flute and SOOO glad the cataclysm age is over. I'm even going to watch this twice!

Don't feel too bad, it's not that you didn't win, it's just that the aliens got to bonnie first, you never had a chance.

I live in Arizona in the US. I have found that most around me are still either debunking or denying peak oil. It is amazing how many people will point fingers, blame others, and make excuses, instead of staring the monster in the face. This is all in an area that is ultimately sustainable for a tenth of the population or less(Tucson area).

On a personal level, we have moved within 3 miles of my work (I am the bread winner) just last week and bought a kick-ass bicycle for me to get there, installed CF bulbs in most outlets, switched the TV and computer to power strips that are easy to switch off when the appliances are not in use, and tried to get the family in peak mode.

Unfortunately, we are in an apartment for the time being. At the same time, we made sure to get one that does not collect the sun in the evening. We will not be able to grow food, but are already making plans to grow herbs.

My SO got the PO rundown about 2 and 1/2 years ago when I met her. At the time she bought it but did not subscribe to it. Well, everything I told her has come to fruition a year or two ahead of schedule, and she really gets it now. Hopefully we will move to a more sustainable climate in the next two years.

I've been gardening the same plot for 40 years, learning more all the time. I use only natural methods, mainly because it's cheapest and I feel safer. I expanded the plot this year, and plan to do so again this fall. My new try this year was uncharacteristic: instead of buying my plant starts I tried growing starts from seed. My first attempt failed because I planted to early; however, the second time around we got an excellent selection of peppers and tomatoes, and we gave away a couple dozen plants (all reported to be doing well). Also this year we are growing mostly heirloom types so we can plant our own home-grown seed. Great fun, just don't forget to weed every few days!

Water is an issue, because there are local ordinances against rain barrels. However, if ya gotta, ya gotta, and I may just temp fate (you didn't hear it here).

I really enjoyed your article aeldric. My wife still thinks I am a bit crazy but has seen the wisdom of home grown fruits and veggies. I also ripped up our lawn and put in my version of a permaculture garden. Recently we added rabbits, and I just completed our chicken coop which should receive our first chicks in a week or so. For reference, we are in middle of city with a tiny lot (about 2000 sq ft)

I haven't been able to get much money spent on home improvements but we really need to insulate and replace windows and such. Our wood burning stove is a very nice backup heat and cooking source. And I squirreled away a couple of solar cook stoves too. I'm a hunter, and would love to get a dual-fuel freezer to ensure our protein stays frozen, otherwise I'l be busy canning and drying everything.

Keep up the good work down there! Your yard looks much like mine!

Rabbits! how do you stop the little bastards from destroying everything.


Failing that, a .22 rimfire does the trick.

They're not free range rabbits! That would be a mess. They're in a hutch and feed off of my garden scraps now. My wife thinks they can go into the chicken run, but I think the chickens might beat up on them. We'll see if that works out.

I'm definitely seeing what a lot of other people see. For all that somehow, strangely, some people on the internet seem to listen to me, for a long time my relatives *did not* - oh, they were supportive and polite, but they thought I was crazy. When I got a book contract they recognized that other people must be crazy too, but they didn't change their essential opinion ;-). When I started getting interviewed in places like the Wall Street Journal, they thought *a lot* of people must be crazy - but it was still crazy. So I measure the change by how people who have known me for years and don't pay any attention to what I say because I'm their relative or neighbor pay attention.

So 'round January my mother and I were driving somewhere together, and she said to me "I think that pretty much everything you've predicted is going to happen - so how are we going to keep seeing each other?" It is a good thing she was driving because I would have driven off the road in shock. At Passover, while visiting my in-laws, my BIL, who had always told me that no one will ever allow another energy crisis (and that he would know because he was Clinton's assistant press secretary) asked me "Ok, so are we really going to run out of oil? And should we be living in Manhattan when that happens?"

In April, one of my neighbors told me her father reads my blog religiously, and then asks her questions like "How big is their chicken coop? Does she store oatmeal too?" My neighbor said "Dad, just call Sharon - she's right down the street." By May, he'd actually called, and those neighbors and another one across the road got together and asked me where to order bulk food from so they could have a stored reserve. In May, my sister, who has an ARM, and who has politely been ignoring my begging her to refinance finally did, and said it was because she thought "I might know something, even if I'm nuts." At the beginning of July, my MIL and FIL, who don't want to hear a thing about this decided to attend a panel I did in NYC, because "maybe we need to know a little bit more about this."

So there you have it - the world has changed deeply if my relatives are actually paying attention ;-).


I have noticed small changes in family members attitudes. Four years ago my husband was so annoyed by discussions of PO on my part he ripped up my Matt Savinar book with his bare hands (I taped it together and have it still!) But now he seems clearly troubled by the news he reads in the newspaper and he listens to me, although he then often calls me "negative".......(I should say this is in the context of me asking "why did we move to the crowded Tokyo area when we liked our little mountain town in w. Japan?) I was opposed to this move it just felt wrong (it was 7 years ago before I knew about PO) and now with the suburban house and matching mortgage OUCH I don't think it was wise. But we do have a small garden and I raise a lot of veggies so many that I haven't had to shop for veggies very often this summer.

Keep up your great work Sharon. You've been a real inspiration to me. You've helped ME keep my sanity by knowing others are also seeing what I am seeing, and taking action based on what they see coming down the pike.

I think there has been a change in the last 3-6 months but still a very small % of people 'get it', want to believe that the current price increases are more than a blip or that technology will rescue us in some way.

I created a 'balcony aquaponics' setup in Febuary:

-Although I have now had to abandon it and gone back to a growbag after discovering that expanded polystryrene boxes 'leak' :o()

-Ok, its never going to feed the 5000 but just wait till you see my next system!! (fiancee permitting! :o)

Btw. I see no reason why any Southish-facing wall cannot be turned into a highly productive vertical hydroponic 'farm surface' using simple/cheap drain guttering...


Went to buy seeds last week at local nursery, they came up to $200, about 40 varied small packets.

The lady serving commented that lots of people are coming in to buy seeds in large quantity this year and noted that this was most unusual.

I think people will sometimes reject a notion like peak oil on the surface but deep down inside they are slowly" digesting" it all. There will come a point when everyone "gets it" at that deeper inner level and then their will be a mass shift in perception at an outer level.

A lot of what we are is sub or semi conscious, despite what we would like to believe as rational outer order simians.

(That's not science, that's just my thoughts on the matter)

Hi, I was wondering if you could tell us what percentage of your total food per year you're currently getting from this system?

Thanks very much for the interesting article!

The following is of interest:

"EC's prediction that non-OPEC production will increase by 560,000 barrels a day in 2008 compared with last year is a ``gross over-estimation,'' CGES said. Non-OPEC production was down around 330,000 barrels a day in the first half, according to the report."

Since last year, I have read that the Saudis will increase production; that OPEC will be up 500,000bpd; that there is no problem; and again the Saudis will up production 550,000bpd.

Well, this has been going on since 2005 - which in looking at my rear view mirror looks like Peak Oil - and you see the results. With all the new wells the Saudis have sunk into the sand, and despite all of their bravado and hubris, 330,000 decrease in production!

And the Republicans say, "Drill, drill, drill," while the Democrats say "bio-fuels, global warming, and climate change." None has a clue how to deal with the 500 pound gorilla we are living with.

First of all, Boone Pickens is right... wind is important (he is dead wrong about natural gas, since we are also past peak gas, but that is another story)... so is solar, and hydro, and geo-thermal, and by the way so is nuclear (short term, only). Then, we need a "Manhattan Project" type program for fusion energy; plus solar/wind/geo-thermal and major distribution grid improvements. That and mass transit, nationwide, to replace automobiles as the major transportation paradigm.

In short, we have to change the way we live. Unless it is too late, and civilization ends in chaos resulting from inability to feed 6.5+ Billion human beings.

My friends and neighbors still don't like my pessimism regarding the economy, so I keep it to a one-liner and move on. Their jobs are reliant on things turning around. They keep waiting and hoping instead of preparing.

However my cornicopian spouse is suddenly amassing stuff on my power-outage wishlist [Sub-arctic sleeping bags, emergency supplies etc]. After years of asking for a solar oven for birthdays, Xmas, anniversaries it arrived last week! Thank-you, dear!

"You're welcome, but it won't happen in our lifetimes".

Fine, we'll just will this stuff to the kids...

I was thinking about this post today as I sat in the summer heat in my car. I wonder when prevailing attitudes will change toward business attire in summer to save energy. I live in Calgary Canada now, but did live in the East & summer was long and humid. A HUGE amount of energy was consumed cooling offices so people could show up with long pants & ties on to play the part of business people. I don't think one needs to be a Vulcan to realize it's illogical to make someone dress in winter clothing in the summer.

If we could push for any change it would be for people to wear shorts to work in summer. The amount of energy saved in AC costs would be massive & the savings to business in the tens of millions of dollars.

I live in California but travel almost weekly across the US on business. More people are becoming PO aware but the numbers are still small. Gas going to $4.00 was definitely a shocker. When I show people pictures on my iPhone of my local gas station pricing regular gas at $5.21 a gallon it makes their eyes pop out. My feeling is that most people don't carry in their heads a detailed explanation of how the world works. They are aware that something is going wrong but the details haven't settled in yet. I think that is why McCain/Bush are getting some traction with their talk about lifting the ban on off-shore drilling (actually there is no ban, it is a moratorium on new leases). They don't understand the details but they understand at a gut level that if you drill more you wind up with more oil. Eventually this will get sorted out. McCain is just hoping that it confuses people till November.

Even the people who accept PO have been slow to act. We all seem caught up in the dance of the current system. No one wants to abandon the current system (which pays the bills) till the last moment. The current system is tangible. The aftermath of PO is uncertain.

Hi Neutrino23,

this February I visited Chicago, gas had gone through $3 and on the way back to the airport I told the taxi driver to expect "$9 gas within 5 years, possibly 3..." -he just shook his head in disbelief. I told him we already pay that in the UK. erhaps that's why Black cabs in London charge $4 / mile??

Anyway, what people in the US have to realise is that prices will just continue rising up and up and up, get used to the idea of $10 / gallon prices and beyond. By then there will be a lot more smaller, fuel efficient cars, a lot more moaning by people 'wasting' 20% of their income funding OPEC while driving their old big SUVs less and less. The greatest transfer of wealth in history is taking place and people / business models will have to adapt or fail -the faster we adapt the better off we and the planet will be, but I don't think it will be some sort of catastrophic cliff into oblivion.


I do think people have become more aware of the fragility of our specialized society. But part of the feeling of increased risk comes from getting older and feeling less invincible. For example, according to the FBI serious crime has decreased steadily in the U.S. since the 1970's. How many people believe the 1970's and 80's were the good old days? Feelings don't often reflect reality, especially with a 24hr sensationalistic news cycle.

I believe over the next 20 years most first world countries will do well. But I believe the poorer areas in the world will have a very hard time (even assuming they remain above sea level).

"Is anyone else finding that friends and family are suddenly more receptive to these conversations?"

Yup! Sun's suddenly come out. I've stopped getting the 'poor Chicken Little' look from family and friends.