Monday, January 27, 2014

Doomer Books, Caveat Emptor

I finished Dimitry Orlov's Reinventing Collapse.

Some of his opinions resonated with me.  I think relationships with people will become more important if/when our discretionary income becomes smaller.  I think bicycles and walking will be big.  I think our concept of what a "long trip" will change such that 120 miles will seem very, very far away.

Many of his opinions seem to be rationalizations.  I remain baffled why some doomers (Orlov, Kunsler) think that a strong religious belief is detrimental to enduring hardship.  Another characteristic that makes me smile is that most writers present the case that their current zipcode is the very best harbor to weather a downturn.  Exercise due diligence and make your own decisions.  It is hard to accept that Northern Idaho, Southern Arizona, Eastern Iowa, Central Ohio, Boston Massachusetts, Atlanta Georgia, northern Florida and Upstate New York can all be the one, best place to be when the music stops.

A few of Orlov's opinions are definitely out of the mainstream and contradictory.  That seems to be one of the hazards of books that are woven from a multitude of blog posts.  Sometimes those blog entries are in response to reader's comments.  Sometimes blog entries are contributions to a round-robin discussion of a perishable topic.  Blog posts don't always play well when placed close together.

One of those ideas relates to garden size.  Orlov tells us that more than 1000 square feet of garden space is a waste. Orlov contradicts himself somewhat.  At another point in the book he stated that the vast majority of the USSR's agricultural production came from the farmer's small, private plots of 1/4 acre (10,000 square feet). 

In my previous life as a community garden organizer I learned that plots in Urban Community gardens tended to be between 64 square feet and 100 square feet.  Gardeners gravitated to growing flavorings like garlic, onions, basil, hot peppers, cherry tomatoes and garnishes.

Looking west.  Early June.  The ability to water makes a huge difference in many parts of the country or if you are trying to garden on sandy soil.

Looking east.  Late June.

Suburban Community gardens tended to consist of plots that were approximately 400 square feet.  Most growers added full sized tomatoes, lettuce, green beans, zucchini and cucumbers. Many also planted a token quantity of sweet corn, potatoes and winter squash.

Garden banner framed with sunflowers, purple podded pole beans and cucumbers

Hard Core gardeners had gardens that varied between 1500 square feet to 10,000 square feet.  The hard core gardeners grew everything the suburban gardeners grew -and- grew prodigious amounts of staples like cabbage, corn, dried beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes and other root crops.

Steve Solomon, author of Gardening When It Counts makes a compelling case for calculating how big of a garden you can handle and then doubling the size.  If you determine 2200 square feet is the magic number, then you fence off 4400 square feet and you alternate growing a garden on one side and a recovery crop like red clover on the other.

Yes, big gardens can absorb many hours of time.  And there are many people who hold down full time jobs, cart the kids to all kinds of activities AND have a big garden.  They do not watch much TV or spend much time decompressing at happy hour.  During an economic downturn there will be fewer dollars to waste in bars and, possibly, shorter hours at work. 

If you take to reading "doomer" books in a serious way, make sure you read more than one book and read everything on the internet (my blog included) with a very critical eye. Let the buyer beware.

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