Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Sustainable Living and Land use › Sustainable Energy › Oil ; The True Alterantive Fuel
- This topic has 26 replies, 15 voices, and was last updated 10 years, 3 months ago by Anonymous.
- December 19, 2007 at 1:31 am #39346
I get so tired of being considered alternative because I choose natural power for motive traction, solar and wind for electricity, gravity to pressurize my water system, and wood to heat the home and hot-water. Natural sources of energy are not alternatives. I understand that some people embrace the term, because they want to use an alternative to fossil fuel, but the general concept of the term is that alternative is outside the norm. Which it is, and that is a good thing, but it conjures up a misguided sense of superiority associated with the norm.
When people start to consider natural energy systems there are all these questions about cost effectiveness, and proficiency, and maintenance, which only serve to distract the potential user. These are the only sources of energy that are truly sustainable, and pursuit of their utilization is not only good sense, its natural. CarlDecember 19, 2007 at 8:00 pm #45056Gooserun FarmParticipant
I hear you. We heat with wood and often hear about how much we burn (about 12-15 cords) until I tell people we use no oil. Used to use 1800 gallons and 5 cord. Looking to get solar next year. Wish I didn’t need tractor at all but time to do all my haying with horses isn’t available. Maybe someday…December 19, 2007 at 9:28 pm #45046
I consider myself blessed because we are fortunate enough to have a neat little farm, healthy livestock, wood to heat our home, good soils to garden and grow forage, a reliable and tasty well, a nice pond and brook running through the place. We have willing animals to help us, good neighbors, a quiet peacful existence in a beautiful spot on earth and strong healthy bodies to enjoy it all with. Some would call our “lifestyle” ( I dislike that word but use it anyway) alternate but it’s not really an alternate for everyone and likely could not be any more as we have too many people, too many lost skills and maybe even not enough land for everyone to do the same. (I think anyway.) In my opinion it’s more of a privledge than an alternate.
It seems to me that working in and relearning the old ways on the land has values for society as a whole a few of which include keeping the body of knowledge on living sustainably and close to the land with minimum impact alive and up to date and to demonstrate how it can work out for some people. And in the process aren’t we are the ones who benifit the most?December 20, 2007 at 6:44 pm #45053
Since your method has worked for thousands of years and oil for merely a hundred or so, I wouldn’t think your method should be considered an alternative.
Sort of like saying to math with paper and pencil is an alternative to a calculator.December 21, 2007 at 1:37 am #45049
@Rod 237 wrote:
it’s not really an alternate for everyone and likely could not be any more as we have too many people, too many lost skills and maybe even not enough land for everyone to do the same. (I think anyway.) In my opinion it’s more of a privledge than an alternate.
This is the elephant in the room that it’s difficult to talk about, isn’t it? Animal power does seem to mean less power, less material and travel and scope to our lives. That’s maybe not such crazy talk for some here in my area, where the old ways are still somewhat apparent in our physical and cultural landscape. For us, recovering some sort of balance might entail doing without some elements of modernity that are essentially luxuries given to us by virtue of “ancient sunlight,” if you will.
But what of the millions, billions of people who live in places where human habitation would be barely tenable at all without this same ancient sunlight running from a tap?
I don’t propose to know what’s best for such people. I haven’t any idea what will become of our burgeoning urban centers, much less about how the world, barely able to feed itself with the full arsenal of biotech and petroleum at its disposal, will do so in a future with less and less of these means available.
So back to the original thread. For me, from where I’m standing, I think it’s correct to try to readjust our lens in order to see truly renewable energy (with animal power being perhaps the major component) as the main option and all else as “alternative.” I can see this future for myself and those around me. But looking to the far horizon, I’m troubled with the sheer magnitude of our predicament–for so very many the only alternative to an oil-based life is likely to be mass migration, starvation, death.
I choose not to dwell on such visions or to obsess about worst-case scenarios. But likewise I am hesitant to pronounce with confidence that my ways of striving for balance will work for me and my farm, let alone anyone else, let alone people in lands distant. I have problems participating in organizations that propose to have the all answers. Not that I’m saying we’re trying to create that.December 21, 2007 at 1:15 pm #45054
I think we have swung way too far to the side of using oil to do everything for us. The average person is way out of shape and drives everywhere. Even riding a horse (if feasable) would be better.
I remember distinctly living behind a restaurant. At times we would go to the restaurant which required walking probably 400 meters or less. It felt weird. Regularly here in Costa Rica we will walk a couple of kilometers without even thinking twice.
Yes, it takes longer to walk into town and back, but we aren’t that much in a hurry. After all, our work is done for the day and all that remains is to enjoy our time together. Why not go for a walk?
Even though those in cities may not be able to use animal power as much, there is available one kind of “animal power” which is very efficient. It is called a bike. There are many people now who are commuting to work on bikes – 10 mile round trips aren’t that extreme. 5 to 6 miles is easy. The only fuel you need is food – and who complains about being able to eat more?December 27, 2007 at 6:10 pm #45050
Human energy must be an enormous untapped resource. Walking more is but one example. Imagine if you took everyone off their treadmills and rowing machines and put shovels or pitchforks in them instead, how many gas-burning machines could be put to rest? But this source of energy will be if anything more difficult to access than animal power… the power of the couch being so strong…December 27, 2007 at 7:45 pm #45052HowieParticipant
If I had to cut my wood by hand I am sure I could heat my house and water on half of what it takes now. If we had to turn a crank to generate our electricity we would not be wasting it.December 27, 2007 at 8:45 pm #45047
I think you are on to something with the treadmill Idea. Who will be first to hook up a small generator to the tredmills in the fitness centers and sell “green” excersize? Save oil while you tread.December 28, 2007 at 10:39 am #45042
We lead by example. But what if the example is outside their ability to understand?
For years I have complimented my animal-power with hand tools. I handled tons of hay by hand. I have rolled every log I have cut in twenty-two years with a peavey. I have loaded every load of manure I ever spread by hand with a dung fork. I’ve walked behind or beside my animals for miles, sometimes in deep snow. Around the home, there are many projects that I have purposely chosen because they require my personal, physical involvement.
It is extremely low overhead. I am physically active, engaged with my work and the product, and getting the work done without sending money off the farm to pay for engineering and fabrication costs for machinery. Time, I think is the big problem for most people. There is a conventional wisdom that supposes that we have better things to do. THEY, whoever they are, have done a fantastic job of down-playing our physical capabilities, to a point where most people truly doubt that they can personally accomplish anything physically.
The power of the couch is an interesting point, because as we know a lot of that time is observing professional athletes, pretend superheros, and social servants, running around scoring points, and solving important issues on a moment by moment basis. No wonder people can’t put their own butt into action. They can’t hope to that good.
People regularly challenge me about my choice of human power. They automatically assume that a machine should be employed. Stacking logs is a perfect example. But ingenuity and finesse are huge components in physical power. Whether with draft animals, or with our own bodies, we have to find the point of least resistance. This is perhaps what truly motivates me. I find incredible reward and return from the investment of my intellectual and physical energy.
Another aspect is the relationship to the tool. It goes un-noticed in this throw-away society that I have hand tools that I have used for years and years. The heft of a hay fork, peavey, dung fork, rake, shovel, hoe become significant to me in my endeavors. My familiarity with the tool is integral to my execution of the job. If one breaks or is lost, it is like a loss of a family member. I recover, but I feel the loss physically.
At any rate, human power is a significant resource, and many people are missing out on using a resource that they have direct access to, without the cost of experts and materials. Sadly, I’m not sure that there is going to be an easy transition. I hope that I can help to free some souls by continuing to set the example, but the truth is, I have and will continue to work alone, or with a very small group.
I remember a quote from Edward Abbey, while not exactly to the word, he said that in our endeavor to open peoples eyes to the nature of the physical world, we need to remember the value that we place on it ourselves, and rather than wasting our opportunity trying to convince them, we need to get out there are participate in it. CarlJanuary 3, 2008 at 2:52 am #45051
Carl, I’ve long held the same values with regard to manual work. It’s mighty hard to find reinforcement.
Most of my background is in carpentry. I’ve read these two books on timber framing, for instance, written by the same author. The first was written in the late 70s, full of do-it-yourself gumption, all about hand tools and the dignity of good work, basic, time-tested structures that can fulfill basic human needs with elegant simplicity. The second written just a few years ago, the revised edition, is about all the wonderful things your professional timberframe contractor can do for you. Many of the building examples in the book, by the way, are also grandiose and not in any way harmonious to their surroundings. Buying and reading the second edition really depressed me. A genuine revival of interest in hand skills and community effort morphed into an autocad-designed, german-engineered, high-overhead professional clique within a few decades. I could give other examples too.
Personally, I think the rediscovery and revalorization of work is the greatest challenge facing our culture today.
I read my toddler some old Peter Rabbit books. One of them has in it a hedgehog washerwoman, who in the course of her work, chatters on about all these snippets of washing wisdom, such as how to remove certain kinds of stains out using chalk or whatever else. It struck me that just a few generations ago, washing could be a job, a trade with more stored-up lore than you could ever fit on the back of a tide bottle, that gave some people dignity and value and place.
Granted, for some people that kind of work was drudgery, but others would have looked you right in the eye in a public place and said that they washed clothes for a living. Nowadays that’s unimaginable, not just because of the economics, but because of the shame associated with manual work (and perhaps what was historically women’s manual work bears an even greater burden of this?) But why does it have to be?January 3, 2008 at 6:10 pm #45055
I think when people discount working with hands they forget that power machinery has to be maintained, and that reguires a lot more work than you might imagine.
People think they are saving lots of labor by using motors, but often not. For example, for trips under 3 to 4 miles, you would be hard put to be more efficient than a bike – and the difference in time just isn’t that much. If you limited your travel to that distance, and many people can, the amount you need to work to pay for a car, gas, etc equals a huge amount of time WASTED that was not necessary.
Another good example for most people would be a snowblower. If you calculate the cost in time to earn enough to buy one and give it gas, etc. It becomes anything but a labor savings device.
Much of the reason people who use hand tools can live on so much less is that they don’t have to pay for upkeep on all the gadgets.
Another thing most people don’t know – for many, many years, computers actually cost more time than they were worth. It really wasn’t until the Internet that gains were made – and that was because of the ease of accessing information. But, how many people in the early days thought it would be wonderful to organize all their recipes on the computer? The truth is, it is hard to beat a shoebox for that.
Of course, with the Internet – I can search and get thousands of recipes in a couple of seconds, which beats the shoebox.January 3, 2008 at 7:01 pm #45048
Good points. One of my pet peeves is the computers which have replaced the library card file which IMHO worked much better for the using public but I suspect the computer is easier for the Library staff. That’s the case often with computers that they make the staff work easier but are not that great for the using public.
The vast amounts of money and time being spent on computerizing the voting process is another example of mass stupidity IMHO. If some people cannot mark a card correctly or punch out a punch card how will they be on a computer. I think it would make more sense to require voters to pass a test on putting a black mark on a voting card ( like we do in Vt.) or punching out a card than to go the the vast undertaking of revising the whole voting system and replacing it with a hackable, power dependent, and vulnerable computer system.
Anyway I agree with you.January 4, 2008 at 1:50 am #45043
As physical beings, we have a need to be physically active. More than just active, involved. Physically involved in our lives. Involved in the life around us.
If each of us alive today,
laid hands upon our very lives,
what a garden we would have.
As much as our minds are powerful enough to use up huge amounts of energy, our bodies are designed to physically manifest our intentions. When we practice the intellectual-isation of our lives, we rob ourselves of the true human experience. As our mind is stimulated by the environment around us, we must respond or interact through our physical body. Each one of us has different experiences, different physical make-up, and different abilities. When we involve ourselves physically in the life around us, our actions are personal, individual, expressions of SELF.
From Kidergarten to the Corporate Ladder, to the Church or politics, or to the sports arena, we live in a culture where our involvement in the life around us is orchestrated to meet expectations. Most of our energy is directed at trying to meet the expectations that will help us attain status. If we can’t attain status, then there is a stigma of inadequacy. Then our involvement in the life around us has been taken away. There are others more capable that will do it for us. We work for them, cheer for them, vote for them.
As personally, physically involved, expressive beings we are sovereign individuals. As we personally respond to our physical needs, we claim our sovereignty. As we contribute to our family and community with the physical skills and limitations that are the result of our own life experience we truly fulfill our human potential.
A physical Life is an artistic expression. Living is an art. It’s like a dance where each person brings to the floor their own step. There is no need to be threatened because we each have the opportunity to fully express ourselves. As we free ourselves through creative physical endeavor, we validate the similar efforts and contributions of our mates and neighbors.
A culture of people like this will embrace the woman with knowledge and skills of laundry. CarlMay 26, 2008 at 5:22 am #45057KevinFlysParticipant
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