In Which I Introduce Myself and Explain How I Got Here

I may be a happily married woman, but I'm not immune to seduction - who is? So when a lovely woman named Erin came around offering to fulfill my wildest fantasies, I was intrigued, if a little nervous. She promised me the moon, deep stimulation, plenty of aroused excitement, the full range of delights. It was intoxicating. And so I allowed my self to be swept away by the titillation of more and bigger and deeper. She was even open (shocking!) to getting my honey involved (more on this below). And thus, I find myself here at Science Blogs, ripe and panting to begin. The lure of more readers, hot science and sweaty intellectual stimulation was not to be resisted. And it is even bigger and better than I thought it would be.

That explains me being here, but why should you be? This is the third iteration of the Blog "Casaubon's Book" which covers both our ecological predicament and my response to it. My primary topics are food and agriculture, energy and depletion, climate change and environmentalism - and I approach them both as a writer on science, culture and politics and also as someone who believes we cannot fully separate our day-to-day actions from our understanding of the issues. That is, if we are facing energy depletion, a changing climate and the consequences of our disregard for the world around us, articulating the problems is just one step - the next is creating a viable way of life. So this tracks my journey through both problem and solutions - and a whole heck of a lot of mistakes.

Why Casaubon's Book? In George Eliot's novel _Middlemarch_ young Dorothea Brooke thinks she loves old Casaubon, but really is reaching at his project, his book, the idea of creating a way to unify the ideas that engage her. Now it turns out that Casaubon is a fool and his book doesn't work - but she's grasping at something of value - the idea that you could bring together things customarily kept discrete. This is both a reminder to me to be careful with my thinking - to not fall in love with my own theories and also a reminder of the importance of synthesizing ideas and bringing them together with practice.

This is the third blog by that name - you can find the archives of the other two at, and I continue to write there sometimes as well. In addition to my blog, I'm the author of three books - Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front which asks the question "How do we go on from here?"; em>A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil which explores whether we will be able to feed the world in the coming decades and how we might do so in a world of reduced energy resources and a warming climate; and Independence Days: A Guide To Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation, a how-to book about building up a food reserve and putting food by.

Besides writing, teaching and speaking about climate change, food and peak energy, my family attempts to live with a fair share of the world's resources, while improving our local food security. We went from a 900 square foot apartment near Boston in my academic days to a farm on 27 hilly acres in rural upstate New York, which we started out sharing with my husband's grandparents until their deaths. We used to run a small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which delivered vegetables, fruit, bread, eggs and flowers to 20 customers at its peak, and which was the nation's first Jewish-themed CSA. Now we raise dairy goats, pastured chicken and turkey, free range organic eggs, organic wetland medicinal plants and perennials, bedding plants, wool and angora fiber and much of our own food and fuel.

I was the co-founder (with Miranda Edel) of The Riot for Austerity, a movement of people attempting to live on a fair share of the world's resources. Our family uses between 1/5 and 1/10th of the average American's usage, and we're having a good time doing it. That doesn't mean we don't find it hard sometimes, or screw up plenty - we're normal and all - but for the most part, we're having a better time now than when we used more - getting the most out of everything is an awful lot of fun, and the pleasures are richer.

So this is the continuing story of me trying to live a whole life and maybe help other people get there too. On the one hand there's me as "Apocalyptica" sorting through what I call my "in-box of doom" in which I deal with the latest news about energy resources, how fast climate change is happening, the food crisis and how well we're adapting to our new reality (all pretty much bad news, unfortunately). On the other hand there's me delivering baby goats, harvesting peppers, splitting wood and chasing my kids around, while trying (and failing) to keep the house and laundry pile under control.

One day I'm writing about how much sea water is being pumped into the Saudi Ghawar oil fields, and why you should care, the next about knitting socks, one day about the latest climate findings and the moral implications of adopting them, the next about chicken sex - but then, that's what a whole life looks like - messy, but fascinating and fun. Along the way you'll meet my household - me, my husband, Eric (who was trained as an astrophysicst and now teaching environmental physics and astronomy in the SUNY system - and who will be doing some posts here jointly with me as "Apocalyptica and the Astrophysicist), our sons, Eli (9), Simon (8), Isaiah (6) and Asher (4), Mistress Quickly, our working farm collie, 6 cats of various degrees of usefulness, a whole bunch of chickens, 7 dairy goats, fiber and meat rabbits, 14 turkeys, most of whom are shortly destined for someone's holiday table and a migrating herd of Romney sheep with a guard donkey, Xote.

Feel free to email me with questions and comments. I have always had remarkably civil readers, and have rarely had to do any moderation of comments - I'm expecting that this will continue in the new and shiny space I find myself in. I hope you'll stick around and tell me what you think.


More like this

A newly produced UN Report rightly points out, among other things, that the western model of meat and dairy production simply won't work on a planet of 9 billion people. The report, which quantifies the basic unsustainability of affluent societies and the challenges facing us in satisfying needs…
Last Sunday's New York Times had an article about the shortage of slaughterhouses for those raising non-industrial and local meat. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of slaughterhouses nationwide declined to 809 in 2008 from 1,211 in 1992, while the number of small…
Just a quick reminder that tomorrow Aaron Newton and I will begin our next Farm and Garden Design Class. The class covers everything from the very basics of design - how to get started planning for a garden or small farm, soil, sun and water issues, seed starting, choosing perennials, making the…
Earlier this month, while I was distracted managing mom's transition from assisted living to hospital stay to rehab and preparing to escape for my annual beachy vacation, a new star was added to the Scibling firmament. And she's a shiny one. I'm talking about Sharon Astyk, writer of Casaubon's…

Welcome to scienceblogs; it's great to have you here, and I hope you like your new digs!

Good to have another place to keep up with you, Sharon. Your blogs are fascinating in large part because they are not limited to one narrow topic. Love the skeptical chicken, too--well, that's how I read the expression.

I don't think you will need to moderate comments, but you will have to go through and delete the occasional spam email. It's a lot like pulling weeds. Some things never change.

Those ads you said we would have to put up with as the price of success - the very first one was for low cost flights!!

By cornish_k8 (not verified) on 07 Dec 2009 #permalink

Sharon, you pervert!! What an opener!

Hee. Congratulations on your new site.

Is there a compost for commentspam?

It's good to see you here -- what ads? I don't see any ads ;)

Another cup of tea, thanks -- and may I go split some more kindling for ya?

risa b

Thanks everyone - and thanks for the kind offer, Risa! Of course this blog will be composting all spam - we're just that kind of folks, right?

Lynne, thanks for noticing ;-).

Nice new digs Sharon, congratulations!

Good opening paragraph, your writing talents are.... diverse.


By Central_PA_Chris (not verified) on 07 Dec 2009 #permalink

Hiya Sharon, congrats on this new blog site. Looking forward to more fabulous insights and lessons! I always love reading what you write.


Congratulations on your new blog Sharon! It's looking great :)

Omigosh - The awesome Isis knows who I am ;-).

Best part of this so far!


Welcome Farmer Astyk! Looking forward to reading your stuff, including the recipes. Come to think of it, someone needs to challenge whoever won the last round of recipe who was that anyway...?

Hi Sharon, and belated welcome! I was wrapped up in elder care right when you joined, and then away for some time and then wrapped up in elder care again, so am just getting around to visiting your blog. I love it and am glad to have you on board here at Sb. Welcome, welcome, welcome!

Wow, you play recipe war? I hope it isn't anything like war with cards - my four year old plays it constantly. But heck, I'm in ;-).

Thanks for all the welcomes - I really appreciate it. How awesome is being here?