Wednesday, 27 November 2013

An Eerie Absence in the Barn

It's quiet now when I approach the little barn that houses the pigs and once housed the chickens.  There is some grunting and the odd squeal, but no more clucking and squawking.  Yesterday our yard became a sort of carnival of bright reds, of loose white feathers and fluff, and of colourful boxes of squishy innards.  As the snow and sleet slowly soaked us, we bagged the chilled birds and by nightfall, they were in the freezer.  Bags of necks, feet, livers, and digestive tract (for the dog), and then lovely meaty shells we tend to think of as whole chickens

In other news, we are on a low-tech binge:  we are clearing our 300-metre long driveway with only an ordinary snow shovel; we are chopping our own wood and splitting it with an ax and we are avoiding unnecessary car trips.  All this makes the world seem big again.  It is what an extreme version of post-peak oil might be like, one that we are choosing to live, which can be rewarding and at the same time, feel very masochistic.  I don't know much about peak oil scenarios, what they could be and what they most likely will be, but energy costs are in the news a lot lately and so is climate change.  I guess that either energy becomes so expensive that we all learn new ways of living, or oil remains cheap and places like the Maldives and the countless other much more heavily populated places near sea level will be submerged and Canada's security costs will rise.  Either way, it will be expensive and we will feel it slowly happening but no one will say:  "Starting this year, we can officially say we are in a peak oil condition."

If you live in the country and you are neither in a supply-managed industry, nor on a good pension, nor gainfully employed, you learn to be frugal.  Ideally, this makes you more resourceful and more ready for a tougher future, if you believe that is where we are headed.  But speaking with a friend who is also a farmer, also frugal and of limited financial means and also interested in the impacts that runaway energy consumption have on our lives, it was agreed that while being "on the land" can position a person to be better equipped to live with scarcity, and living simply can be satisfying, the only people prepared for calamities like power shortages or famines or natural disaster are those for whom survivalism is a hobby, something they revel in. 

These would be the people who are skilled with knives and ropes; who have created bomb-proof spaces on their properties and set up traps to ensnare trespassers.  They would be the kinds of people who would raise animals and slaughter them without anyone's help.  Very few of us are prepared for a world where big industry can't meet most of our needs, including myself and most of the people I know.

We had a trained butcher do our slaughtering:  quickly and efficiently but with due care.  Propane was running low on the scalder and our butcher just barely managed to get through without running out. If he'd had to come back the next day, he wouldn't have made it to our yard since we got a massive snowfall that night.  We were lucky.  I helped put them in the cones and watched decapitation after decapitation, which was not traumatising, but also not pleasant.  I can stomach chicken slaughter, and I can clear my 300-metre long driveway by hand, but I am not on a path to self-reliance and a rejection of the world that seems to be extinguishing itself.  I do, however, find it exciting to pare back some of the complacency I grew up with regarding food, housing, and travel, all of the things that require substantial energy inputs which, when the world is moving so fast, are so easily taken for granted.

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