Sunday, December 24, 2006

Scenes from my Future, Part 1

Scenes from My Household, Five Years From Now: Part I

(I don't have a crystal ball, and I don't necessarily expect that this is what will happen in my life. But the combination of increasing US indebtedness and economic instability, climate change and rising energy costs means that this scenario is not impossible. I hope life will be better. But I suspect that will not be the case unless a large percentage of us take action.)

-August 9, 2012
We just got a letter from the school district, announcing that they will no longer comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and bus our son to school. We could sue, of course, but the sheer number of school districts that have already done this means that the backlog of cases is huge, and even if we won judgement, I doubt we'd be able to extract anything from the district, which is essentially bankrupt. School was down to only 3 days per week, and many of his services have been intermittent, as the school district has cut back on "luxury" items like speech therapy and reading assistance. So I think that means we'll be homeschooling Eli. I hope we can pull it off. We've been collecting books on teaching children with disabilities for some time now, so hopefully it will stand us in good stead.

August 15, 2012
I'm 40 years old today. My first 35 years were both easy and pleasant, and I can't complain about them. The last five years have been more complex, but in the great scheme of things, we're doing ok. We have a home. We have enough to eat. We have clothes and can keep warm. We're not as comfortable as we once were, nor as rich by world standards, but for us, things are ok. I wish that was true of everyone. One of our neighbors has been out of work for three years, and just lost their house. Fortunately, they have extended family nearby, so they have a place to go. But it is sad - we miss having them here. And they aren't the only ones. I'm seeing more and more people I know at the food pantry and seeing more and more people selling their possessions off. I once said that any year that took me away from 14 was a good one. But the tragedies of 14 were little ones, personal misery and unhappiness that prevented me from seeing what I had. Now, I'm not so sure that me being miserable but the rest of the world puttering alone well enough wouldn't be an improvement.

August 28, 2012
The US government announced that it will open FEMA trailer parks to refugees of the southwestern drought. The estimate is that 500,000 people will need to be relocated over the next two year. The temperature was 99 degrees here, but 119 degrees in Las Vegas, and 56 more people died from the heat there. Our garden seems to be holding out ok, despite the heat, although the broccoli is a little stunted. Our spring rains have meant that it is hard to plant early, so even though our growing season is extended by global warming, we often can't plant any earlier in the spring, while we wait for things to dry up. But we do have a better fall garden, which is a blessing.

September 7, 2012
We've been homeschooling the three younger boys for years now, so it wasn't really that strange when Eli didn't go to school today. But the autism is a challenge, and it cuts into the time we have to do other work. Eli needs someone one on one all the time. But we're still having fun. Simon and Isaiah are working on a project tracking local climate change in our region, and Asher is working his way through his first chapter book.

September 11, 2012.
There was a cartoon in The New Yorker a few months after September 11, 2001. Acouple was in their bed, and the woman was complaining to the man, "If you want sex, just ask. It isn't necessary to preface everything with 'in light of recent events.'" I think that was my favorite reference to the way that September 11 changed us. Because it wasn't that it really changed that much - it justified some things. It justified the damned Iraq war, and it justified Americans feeling superior about their imperialism. But it didn't change us inside. And because it didn't change us at all, in any deep way, we're here now.

September 20, 2012
Rosh Hashanah starts tomorrow, and we won't be going to synagogue. We simply can't afford the gas. I can't believe I'm writing this - that we cannot pray among our community, because we cannot afford to drive there, but it is true. We had a family crisis last month that necessitated a long car trip, and we don't have gas coupons left. So we'll welcome the new year in together at home, and go to shul for Sukkot, when the new coupons come out. I did manage to get dried cherries for the round challah, and we have plenty of carrots for tzimmes, and we'll butcher a chicken. So it will be festive, but a little lonely. L'Shanah Tovah, all!

September 29, 2012
We're having steak tonight. One of our dairy farm neighbors has given up and butchered most of his cows, and we were able to barter eggs and honey for 4lbs of steak. It seems a sin to eat it, when there are so many people going hungry right now who could have used the milk those cows could give, but the payout for milk is tiny, and the costs of hay, feed, veterinary care, etc... are so high that our neighbor simply can't make a go of it. No one is buying holsteins, so he is butchering and selling the meat. Some of our neighbors haven't had meat in a long, long time. We have a little more, since we have the livestock, but it is still a rare treat, mostly a seasoning. We mostly eat potatoes, and grains and beans.

October 12, 2012
Things have been hectic, between the Jewish holidays and the stuff caused by cancelling unemployment. With the federal government unable to pay unemployment to the 16% of American households now receiving it, a lot of our family and friends are in deep trouble. We've invited a couple of old friends to come share our house, since they've had to sell their own place. Both have been largely unemployed for over a year, and they have two young daughters. It will be nice to have them here, but stressful for everyone too. We've been emptying out the apartment and setting up sleeping space for the girls. There have been other big changes as well. My step-SIL and BIL and their kids moved in with my MIL and FIL, to everyone's distress. And the rising cost of all imported goods (along with the fact that there really is no US manufacturing business anymore) means that we're just praying no one needs new shoes or winter coats this year. I gave all a couple of spares to various friends and family, so if something gets damaged, we'll be repairing it or going without.

October 22, 2012
Damn, its cold. We've had an early cold snap, which took out most of the garden crops, except for the ones in the hoophouse and the cold frames. I harvested this weekend, and took everything we could spare to the food pantry, which has issued a call for anything at all, it is so swamped. I hope people like turnips and beets! We've got a lot of food put away from the garden, but I worry about us. There are now 5 adults and 6 kids between the ages of 5 and 12, and we all eat a lot. We've got the woodstove banked, but are carefully conserving wood. If it is a hard winter, we'll be pushed to keep both sections of the house heated and the pipes from freezing with what we've got. We can cut more, of course, but it will be green.

October 31, 2012
I chased some wood poachers off early this morning. I heard the chainsaw and ran out - by now I recognize the signs. There were two men cutting down trees in our woods. I took the gun out, and they ran off. I feel a little bad about doing it, since they may well be cold, or just trying to make a living, but stabilizing the climate depends on preserving what forest we've got.
It is halloween here. The kids made costumes out of scrap fabric. I bought chocolate chips, and melted them, and dipped dried strawberries from our berry patch in them. Our kids ate them, and I gave them to the neighbor kids. It used to be that you couldn't give out homemade treats, but I don't think anyone cares anymore. Junkfood is too rare a treat.

November 4, 2012
Isaiah fell out of a tree and broke his arm. It took most of our gas coupons and our whole discretionary income for the next month to take care of it. We'll be able to get along after this, but just barely. Thank
G-d we have food, and that we're mostly healthy. I understand the urge to climb trees, and I don't want to deprive my kids, or make them fearful, but Eric and I had to talk to them about how we can't afford to have accidents, and they need to be extra careful. It broke my heart, since some of my happiest moments were spent in trees as a child.

November 9, 2012
We're having Indian summer, and so everyone is at work banking the house with hay bales. It really does make a difference in how warm things stay. My job is to plan Thanksgiving dinner. There will be no turkey - we can't afford one, but we'll have a chicken, and we'll give a couple away to neighbors who I know rarely get meat. I have plenty of potatoes and root vegetables, so we'll be ok. I can't get soymilk to make non-dairy (ie, kosher) pumpkin pie, so I'll make pumpkin cake and apple pie instead.

November 20, 2012
Simon is 11 years old today. He's a responsible kid, and a bright one. He wanted for his birthday to spend a weekend with Grandma and Grandpa in New York City, and they kindly sent a train ticket for him and his Dad, so this morning he left on his first trip. Simon told me he was plenty old enough to go by himself, but given the violence there in the last year, there was no chance of that. But Eric hasn't seen his Mom for months, so that's a good thing. I'm grateful my MIL could do it - things in Manhattan are sketchy at times, with the rolling blackouts and the food shortages, but so far they seem ok. I worry for them. We have less money, and we struggle more economically, but our food and energy supplies are more certain. I've heard horror stories about people freezing in their apartments, and while most of them are not on the upper west side of Manhattan, I still worry. I'm also praying my husband and son make it home safe.

November 26, 2012.
Happy Thanksgiving. We had 22 people here, including one family of neighbors who clearly have not been eating well. They mentioned they hadn't had chicken in "quite a while." I suspect it was a lot longer than that. They were hungry, and a lot thinner than they used to be. We had a wonderful time, although I missed being with my family. I hate that they are so far away, and we can't visit very much anymore.

December 1, 2012
Eli read an entire chapter of _Wind in the Willows_ this week. That was a huge accomplishment for us, and it suggests that maybe he won't suffer too much because of our inadequacies as teachers. But his speech has definitely declined in quality without therapy. We work with him, but we don't have the skills. I took Simon to the pediatrician for his annual checkup this morning, and he was healthy, thank G-d. He got a tetanus booster, which is essentially when you work in the dirt. Our pede takes some of his fee in a CSA subscription, thankfully, so we can afford some routine care. He doesn't seem to have any nutritional deficiencies, even though we have had to stretch the multivitamins by giving them only one every other day. But our doctor mentioned that he's seeing cases of rickets, malnutrition and even scurvy in kids right now. I put up pounds and pounds of rose hips this fall, and I promised to bring him some next time we bring one of the kids in, and he can distribute them and teach people how to make rose-hip tea.

December 14, 2012
Happy Chanukah! Well, we all know the miracle of the (crude) oil is over. I don't see a lot of people with light up menorahs or outside decorations. Most folks here are just wondering how to make sure their kids get a gift under the tree. We had latkes last night, and used up all the rest of the eggs. No more eggs until the hens lay in February. Each child gets one purchased gift. Asher and Isaiah will each get a box of crayons and some paper, and the two older boys get books. I've made them new mittens and hats (although Simon is now too cool to wear a hat), and baked them cookies. And that's it.

December 21, 2012
Tonight I give Eric the quilt I sewed him. I think I managed to keep it a secret. I'm making two very similar ones, one for Eric and one for our roommates. Eric knows about the latter, but not the former. It is made entirely from scraps of the kids wardrobe, going back to babyhood. It looks pretty nice, given that I can't sew for shit. I miss the days when presents were a commonplace. I know it was crazy excessive, but it was awfully nice, too.

December 27, 2012
Did I say I missed my family? Well, some of them are coming to live here. My sister and BIL and their kids have been out of work for a long time, and while they've been able to keep their house, they can't afford heat. They've been living in a cold house, wearing winter coats all the time, and the pipes finally froze and burst. They can't live there, and they can't afford to repair them. So they'll come here for a while. I'm glad we can help, and it will be wonderful to see them, but things will be tight with that many more people here. I might have to take a break from writing for a while, since I'm not sure there will be space for the computer. The kids can all sleep dormitory style, one room for the boys, the other for the girls, but the adults need privacy more than I need an office these days. The blackouts have been happening more and more, too, so I'm not sure how much use there will be for it. That's ok, I have a lot to do. With the tightening of gas rationing, we're shopping less and making do, so there's plenty of work here.

December 31, 2012

I pray that 2013 will be better than the last year. I don't know that that's true. The US army is invading Venezuela, and there is talk of reinstituting the draft. My boys are, thank G-d, too young yet, but we've been continually at war now for 11 years, so I'm terrified of the day they won't be. The kids talk about wanting to go to college, and become X or Y thing. I just want them to live.

2012 was the hottest year on record, and the number of nations experiencing famine is higher than it has been in a decade. 10% of the American population is now homeless, and 22% is unemployed. We've been notified that gas will no longer be rationed at all - if you can afford it, you can have it. We can't afford much, so that'll be it for Eric's teaching job at the end of the spring semester. We're going to try opening a school at our house, given that we've got 3 unemployed Ph.ds and two equally unemployed MAs here. I pray that inn addition to the CSA and the livestock, we'll be able to pay the taxes. My BIL recently got a job working at the auction house, selling off people's goods, so that helps a little.

We saw this coming, and we prepared for it. And all we did, it wasn't really enough. No one of us could insulate ourselves from what happened around us. As Benjamin Franklin suggested, we are now all hanging seperately, each in our little personal crisis. But it is, of course, all the same disaster.



Unknown said...

Hi Sharon
Just found your website through a link from LATOC.

Your future diary is pretty thought provoking. I'm starting to prepare for peak oil now (although mostly just financially and by reading) since I only finished university last year.

The future you paint doesn't really seem to bad to me. I don't consume much anyway and I like to live simply. Will be interesting to see how it works out.

Thankfully the climates here in Australia are far more forgiving than in the US.

Dan Dashnaw said...

Hi Sharon!
I also founf your piece in LATOC. It seems that there are more and more works of dystopic fiction showing up on PO sites. My wife is a psychologist. Shes has a blog called "" and is collecting stories from people all over the world about how they first learned about peak oil and their reactions to it. I guess speculative fiction is becoming a way for us to engage in a sort of "mental rehearsal" for the troubles we know will be coming soon. I enjoyed your piece, it was thought provoking. I have bookmarked your blog, and I will be visiting it again soon. Peace to you and yours. Dan Dashnaw

jewishfarmer said...

Hi Roy - You are right, my future isn't that far. We're only five years in the future, and I generally believe in the slow grind. So this is, I suspect, a not totally implausible order of things.

Hi Dan - I've actually linked to your wife's blog in the past. I think for me, as a former literature scholar, I find stories more powerful than analysis in many ways. They are a way of grasping realities that are otherwise hard to conceive. I'm glad you are around!


Lee said...

Thanks for a thought-provoking and intelligent post.

I only hope we're all in as good a condition as that in a few years' time.

ChristyACB said...

I just found this bit from a link on your current site.

Very thought provoking, nay, shocking to think of.

Maybe I'm not so silly for doing my urban homesteading after all.

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