This era in history may be remembered as the "Peak Age", a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources to be using. There are hundreds of examples of resources, currently embedded in our industrial society, which have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010, but the one which will most impact our society is petroleum.

The goal of living for 100 days without oil is to understand the extent of our dependance on oil in American society today. Specifically, how it will affect my life, as a 25 year-oil living in Minneapolis, MN. By using myself as a metric I can take a close and conscious look at where oil dependance occurs in all aspects of our daily lives : How we transport ourselves from one place to another, what we eat, how much waste we create, how water is cleaned and transported, where oil is used as; an energy resource, in conventional medicine and for hygiene and how oil affects how we entertain ourselves and communicate with others. By demonstrating how someone would be forced to live without using any oil resources, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits, we can can identify the many systems which will have to be re-designed in a world without cheap oil, and explore a new way of living in which we live in an energy balance.

(At the bottom of this page is a link to my version of a flow diagram of 'Where Petroleum Exists in Our Daily Lives' (using information from the Energy Information Administration-Annual Energy Review 2008 fig 5.0 Petroleum flow) click and zoom to enlarge)

Friday, September 24, 2010


22 September 2010

As a kick off meeting for our student-run architectural sustainability group at the University of Minnesota (Greenlight), my friend Amber and I cooked a massive amount of amazing local foods.  The ingredients for the entire dinner were bought in bulk, locally produced and organic.  (yes, I biked over in the pouring rain with all my mason jars of ingredients. win.). In keeping with my project requirements, we composted all organic waste and bought beer in growlers to eliminate any glass recycling 'waste'.  I mentioned before, a new cultural Minnesota cuisine that will inevitably emerge without cheap, abundant energy to transport foods, maybe some of these foods would be a part of that?  It was really interesting to see how to make many things-such as the crackers-which have only a few ingredients.  Many of the foods I eat everyday from packages are SO easy to make, and much better (and more healthy) when fresh. 

As promised, here are all the recipes for the dishes we made:

1 1/4 cups flour; white, whole wheat, rye*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, or sunflower oil
4 tablespoons water; add more as needed
1 teaspoon seasoning such as chili powder, dried herbs etc (optional)

Container: baking sheet
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Mix together well, preferably in a food processor, 1 cup of the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and oil or butter ( use smaller amount for crisper crackers, or a larger amount for a richer flavor). Add 3 tablespoons water and mix well. Gradually add more water, mixing after each addition, until mixture forms a compact ball. If it seems too sticky to handle, add more flour.
Sprinkle a work surface (or a baking sheet-sized piece of parchment paper) with some of the remaining flour then press and roll the dough to about 1/8th inch thick. Try to get it fairly uniform. If the dough is too dry to roll out, return it to the food processor and add a little more water. If necessary to prevent sticking, dust your hands and the rolling pin with a little more flour.
Put the rolled-out dough on a baking sheet dusted with a little flour (if you've used parchment paper, transfer dough and paper to baking sheet) and bake 10 - 15 minutes, until somewhat brown.
Cool and break into pieces. If making several batches, mix another while the first one bakes. You can re-use the parchment paper several times.
*Any finely ground grain such as cornmeal or buckwheat can be used for the flour in this recipe.

1 large eggplant
1/2 cup sunflower oil
6 tomatoes
4 cloves garlic

1_prepare eggplant: soak eggplant in water, drain water and salt, rinse salt off, place in a baking pan and drizzle liberally with olive oil
2_bake eggplant at 350 for 20 min, flip, 20 min more on other side
3_saute chopped garlic, basil and tomatoes in a sauce pan for 20 min
4_pour over eggplant mixture and serve

1 1/3 cups milk (Cedar Summit)
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp all purpose/white flour (Whole Flour Milling)
2 tbsp cream cheese (Swiss Valley Farms)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Sarvecchio)

chop and mix all ingredients in either; a blender (then heat until warm over stove), directly on the stove

4 tomatoes
2 tbsp cream cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 garlic clove
1/2 jalapeno pepper

chop all ingredients well and mix over stove, let simmer for 30 min.

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole wheat flour (Whole Flour Milling)
1 cup white flour (Whole Flour Milling)
1 orange (not local :/)
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 cup maple sugar
1 large egg
1 cup cranberries (Wisconsin)
1/2 chopped walnuts

1_preheat oven to 350, oil a 8.5"x4.5" bread loaf pan
2_combine baking power, baking soda, salt and flour in a large-sized mixing bowl. set aside
3_place orange, oil, sugar and egg into a blender or food processor, blend for 35 seconds
4_pour wet mixture into dry ingredients, mix until ingredients are just moistened
5_gently stir in cranberries and chopped walnuts
6_spread the batter in the prepared loaf pan, bake for 60 min, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/8 tsp salt
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp fresh snipped chives
(makes 1 1/2 cups)

1_place cream in a blender
2_blend on high speed until mixture is thick and you hear a change in the sound of the machine and it no longer mixes
3_stop machine and scrape down the sides of the container with a spatula to bring ingredients to the center of the container
4_blend on medium speed for 5 seconds and repeat steps 3 and 4 until solid butter starts to set up in the center of the container and mixture starts to flow easier
5_add garlic clove and chives and blend for 15-30 sec
6_place butter in a fine strainer to drain
7_remove butter to a bowl and add salt to taste, work butter with a spatula to remove as much liquid as possible

2 cups (9 oz) roasted hazelnuts
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp maple sugar
1 tbsp sunflower oil

1_roast hazelnuts (at 275 for 20-30 min) until skins crack and meat turns light golden
2_combine roasted nuts and oil into a high powered blender or food processor and grind to meal consistency
3_continue to blend on low for several minutes (add another tsp of oil if necessary)
4_gradually add other ingredients and blend on low until thoroughly mixed to desired consistency

1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp maple sugar
4 cups bread flour
4 tsp active dry yeast

mix in a bread machine or knead by hand

1_let rise in a warm place for 30 min
2_push bread into bread pan and let rise for another 30 min
3_add pesto and cherry tomatoes, peppers, homemade mozzarella cheese and garlic
3_bake for 20-25 min on 350

2 cups cooked butternut squash
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 head garlic, roasted, cloves separated
8 ounces goat cheese
1 lemon, peeled, halved, seeded

1_halve squash, remove pit/seeds and place in a baking dish with 1 inch of water to cook at 350 for 1 hour
2_separate garlic cloves and roast on a baking sheet (with peels still on) for 30 min
3_Either place all ingredients in a blender/food processor or chop and heat over med heat for 20 min

CHEESES SERVED: Prairie Breeze (white), Widmer (yellow)
BEER: Town Hall Microbrewery (seven corners), both Oat Amber and Abbey growlers

1/4 cup semolina
1 1/2 cups flour (white)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sunflower oil

1_knead by hand until forms smooth ball
2_cover w/ damp towel and let sit for 30 min
3_roll thinly and either use pasta machine or cut by hand

*cook fresh pasta for only 1 minute
*fresh pasta can be dried or refrigerated for up to 3 days

4 apples
1 tbsp maple sugar
1/2 cup water

1/2 cup maple sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter

1_cube apples and mix with water and maple sugar, pour into baking pan
2_mix topping ingredients until crumbly
3_sprinkle topping on apples in pan
4_bake for 30 min on 350


21 September 2010

Quille (the cat) has taken a liking to the compost.  She started sniffing it out a few days ago, we thought she might have been hearing the worms inside (you can hear them moving around if you listen really closely). 

What started as sniffing turned into a mysterious indentation found on the compost each morning.  The compost is covered with a cloth sheet to allow for ventilation and bungeed down around the edges.  I finally caught her using the compost as a hammock a few days ago.  I think she likes it because it is comfortable (suspended) and is warm.  The compost is actually getting large enough that is creates some heat as it decomposes.

Regardless, cat on the compost isn't an ideal situation, one of these days she might actually fall in which might end up in compost catastrophe (or at least a mess).  The solution to this was to replace the rubber lid on the compost again.  It is easier to get in and out of the compost this way (don't have to undo bungees every time) and there is less quille vs compost danger.  I am planning on drilling some holes into the lid and sides to allow for ventilation again and hopefully won't run into the same mold problems I had. 

The other reason for putting an easier-to-get-to lid on again is we have been infested with little gnats.  Part of this I'm guessing is due to food sitting in the kitchen composter for a day or two before being added to the bin.  The kitchen composter has a charcoal filter which eliminates odors but is not air-tight so bugs can still get in.  The new plan was to have my roommates dump scraps directly into the bin, and, once a day I will dig a hole in the bin and bury the compost.  When the food isn't exposed to air, gnats are not attracted to it.  Hopefully, this will be a better solution than putting food in the garbage even because it will (almost) always be buried in worm dirt and pests won't be attracted to it.

I had the rubber lid on top (no holes yet) for a few days and today came home to find that worms were trying to escape!  John Steingrabber (compost expert from previous post) had mentioned to me that he sometimes ends up with worms on the floor as well.  He explained that the worms try to avoid light but aren't really smart enough to tell where the light is coming from.  Now that the whole bin is really dark inside the worms have begun to climb up the sides of the tub and are ending up (for whatever reason) on the outside of the tub. 

I noticed this the first day with the lid on, but the worms escaped in full force today.  My roommate Karli was the first one of us upon the scene.  She heard Quille meowing like a crazy cat and came in the kitchen to investigate.  According to Karli "there were handfuls of worms all over the floor!"  They had bunched themselves up into clumps or balls of worms and were all over the floor and on the outside sides of the tub.  Karli wins a gold start for saving the worms which hadn't dried up yet, and trashing the ones who were already dead from being too dry.    By the time I came home that night there were, again, worms on the sides of the bin and a few on the floor, and the handles of the bin were FULL of worms.  Why are they doing that?  I only found out later that the worms had been much worse than what I saw. Gross.

We can't really put the bin outside because the worm's won't survive under 55 degrees, and it is much more convenient to have it in the kitchen.   I am going to try some different scenarios of drilling holes in the lid and sides to see if it deters worms from climbing up the bin.  On the one hand, the space should be dark enough that worms go to the top of the compost.  This would minimize the amount of stirring that needs to happen.  On the other hand, there needs to be enough light to let worms know not to go there. 

This is really a design problem.  Kitchens in an era where waste is too expensive/energy intensive to haul away in large quantities will demand that organics be dealt with within each building.  This wouldn't be a difficult thing to accommodate if it was built into our homes as a separate and dedicated space.  Because worms are afraid of light, they can be contained by having strips of light at the borders of the 'compost space'.   The space would need to be adjacent to the kitchen for easy access and would need to be conditioned so it wouldn't get too cold or hot.  It would be interesting for this space to serve as a 'bridge' between the grow table area on one side and the kitchen on the other.  Organic food scraps go in on the kitchen side, are composted by worms, and come out as finished compost which can be mixed to create rich, nutritious soil on the grow table side.  Designing in this way makes the hypothetical cycle waste to food to waste an actual physically built part of the house.  Incorporating the changing activities of homes in a post-cheap-petroleum world accommodates these activities in an effortless manner, similar to turning on the tap or pulling your car out of the garage.