Guest Blogger On "Adapting in Place" Week 1

Remember I told you that New Society Publishers, in honor of the forthcoming _Making Home_ would sponsor a spot in my Adapting-in-Place Class, in exchange for someone offering up a weekly blog post about what it is like to take the course.  Well, here's the first installment - it will go up at New Society's "Word Out" blog tomorrow or the next day as well.
Who is reporting live from the AIP class, well, she's going by the name of M. - here's more about her.  AIP can get pretty intense, and we all share a lot about our lives that we might not put out there to everyone, so I totally support her desire to remain anonymous:
M. is a musician living in Baltimore city with her graduate student husband and two, soon to be three, sons. M became interested in self sufficiency five years ago following the real estate crash and the beginning of the recession. She started a community garden with her neighbors and learned to garden, preserve food, and cook from scratch.  Since the birth of her second son she has made less use of these skills. In the face this past years' local earthquakes, storms and hurricanes and global tsunamis, earthquakes, and nuclear near meltdowns, she'd like to put some of her knowledge to use and actually build a store of food and use it regularly. Her challenges include living in a rented house with a tiny yard and not knowing where they will be in a year, giving birth in August, fitting adaptation into a schedule already packed with homeschooling and a tight student budget, and finding food to store and cook for a picky, gluten-intolerant two year old! 
And here's her first piece:
Maybe I have a stronger reaction to this stuff than I used to, but when Sharon starts with the "big picture"- and then I have to think about the big picture- all my mothering neurons start firing up and I have an overpowering urge to Keep My Boys Safe. Luckily the first readings I did were about lists.  I can handle lists. I've made these same lists up every time we've had a major disaster, last year in Baltimore it was two hurricanes, the year before it was a double blizzard. How will I have enough food, cook, stay warm or cool, drink clean water, use a toilet, have clean laundry, stay sane without power? I've made the lists every year, but I haven't implemented them, so I guess that's why I signed up for the class. A little extra nudge was needed.
So making lists, no problem. Half the folks I know in Baltimore lost power for more than 48 hours last week (in 100 degree weather!) so everybody is talking about this stuff. Of course, as Sharon points out, a lot of things on these lists are temporary solutions for temporary problems. It's great for me (and my maternal instinct!) to feel prepared for a week long power outage, but the class isn't about called "Preparing in Place", it's called "Adapting in Place". So beyond the usual canned food and water supply is the bigger picture, how you will adapt these systems to work for a variety of future scenarios?
Which brings me to scenarios. As I read these scenarios, and think about my family, I start to feel a little panicky. When my children are thirty one, as I am today, climate models predict the global temperature may have risen three or four degrees and continue rising on an exponential curve through the rest of their lives.  What will that mean for Baltimore, for Maryland, for the United States? How will these next thirty years affect my parents and inlaws, currently in their sixties? Will we have run out of oil, or just be extracting it in super dirty ways and fighting over it? What skills will my children need to survive and pass down to their children, and what can I give them to help them in a much less predictable world than the one I grew up with? Money? A college education? A family farm in a region without drought? Will they need to know how to build a house, can tomatoes, shoot a gun, repair and rebuild an electric scooter, research and learn things from books (and not just google...)?
When I think about these scenarios, and what might make sense to do to prepare for them, I also realize how far I am considering straying from my friends and families' expectation of what my next thirty years will look like. Spending my time working, shopping at Trader Joes, Facebook and television, taking vacations, and driving my kids to soccer practice. How weird am I willing to be, and how well can I take criticism that I'm not making sane choices for my family? How will I feel if nothing bad happens and I could have just sat around ignoring the dire possibilities? I guess I don't think that scenario is a possibility at this point, and neither do most scientists. There is a lot to think about, but it's nice having Sharon and twenty other folks to help sort through it all.

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Wow! I have to say I have a lot of these same concerns, I seem to make the same lists over and over as well. Looking forward to following M's journey!

M. I'm a child of parents who thought and worried much as you do but only 40 years ago. They made choices based upon those worries and the US started importing oil to cover our lifestyle and our family was the weirdos because the things they worried about did not come to pass in the timeframe expected. As a child, being raised in that situation means I stand very much outside of mainstream US culture.

What I can tell you is that I have childhood stories I wouldn't trade for anything. I have a skill-set that women of my generation only dream of (men too as I can build structures and have).

Think of it as living an interesting life and giving your children something they can rely on for themselves no matter what happens.

I look forward to your other missives from the class.


A movie comes to mind, "Pot 'O Gold", Jimmy Stewart, an old black and white flick. Note in the opening scene Stewart is giving lessons in his music store -- for eggs, shirts laundered and mended, etc. Right now, older music, folk and Christian, can be found in dusty corners.

A set of young adult books, Anne McCaffrey's DragonSong, DragonSinger, White Dragon come to mind -- that rely on music for cultural continuity, in times of no electronics.

And another concept of Sharon's -- the informal economy. I think music will migrate from MP3 back to the family piano/recorder/song book. Because people will still need to be connected to family and community, and music has always done that. Before the walkman, and portable radio, that is.

Now, if you should happen to set each AIP class to music, to capture the essence of each lesson . . lol!

Blessed be!

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By carpinteyrozbv (not verified) on 09 Jul 2012 #permalink

M, even the moderate prepping mindset I have picked up from following Sharon for the past 4-5 years has already helped my family. Yes, the climate and the economy will probably change - but in the meantime, many more immediate things can challenge your family. We have dealt with a long period of unemployment (followed by under-employment), loss of income by caring for an elderly parent, the mental health crisis of a child, having utilities turned off once in a while, being carless for periods of time.

I took the Adapting in Place course a few years ago. It was helpful during this process, and I have oddly ended up living one of the adaptation scenarios I talked about back then. If I had not had a deep pantry, a garden, and extreme frugalness skills, I think we would be be homeless now, possibility having lost custody of one of our kids, possibly having lost my partner. I was also able to occasionally help other people in even worse shape. Heck, If I had not stockpiled the stuff to make my own laundry detergent, I would not have been able to wash clothing last month.

Do not worry that your preparations will be pointless. I think, for many people, the "crisis" will not feel global - it will feel very personal, and the only thing that pushes back the hopelessness is the feeling that you just might might be able to adapt to almost anything.

M., I took this class three years ago. We'd been living simply for years and I didn't really want to spend the extra money for the course, plus it was happening during the most stressful time of the year for me. In fact, when Sharon announced it I ignored it for a week or so. But one morning I woke up and knew I needed to sign up for it, though I had no idea why. Four weeks into the course, I realized why I needed it: I was being pulled in far too many different directions and thus could not devote the time needed for that which I cared most about and made the most difference in a lower energy, poorer world. Since then I have dropped all the extraneous activities siphoning away energy and time from what was important for myself and my husband and the others in our lives. I am calmer, more focused and less worried, and have a much more productive garden for it. I think we are better able to adapt to whatever will come toward us for the remainder of the time we are alive and to be of assistance to others in the process. I expect you will learn much that will be of value to you, your family, and others as a result. Enjoy the process!

Sounds like M has a lot of the same concerns I do about helping my kids thrive in a less prosperous world than the one I grew up in.

"...nuclear near meltdowns..."

Actually, far surpassing a meltdown. Fuel melted (meltdown), melted through the pressure vessel (melt-through), and started into the concrete base. It would be more accurate to say it was a near China Syndrome (or melt through the ground until it hits the water table).

By JLPicard2 (not verified) on 09 Jul 2012 #permalink

Why keep having babies if you are so concerned about their future?

Dear Pete and all the Bruno boys and their families,The secrive this morning was just so touching. Even though it was held for a very sad reason, it was wonderful to sit and watch the photos, remembering Sharon's beauty and her joy in life. The spoken tributes brought tears and laughter. They were all so heartfelt and appropriate. Thank you for including all of us in the memorial. Sharon was a lovely neighbor. She is just unforgettable. I will hold all of you in my thoughts and pray that life goes gently for you in your grief and remembrance.Love and blessings,Jessie

I think that it is always good to be prepared but I would have to agree it is a lot harder to plan for a natural disaster when you are living in an apartment or moving from place to place. Looking forward to seeing how her planning evolves with the help of the class! -Daniella

By Austin Lehman … (not verified) on 20 Aug 2012 #permalink