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)

Monday, October 25, 2010


22 October 2010

My friend Kevin (who I have thoroughly brainwashed throughout the course of this project) had an all local-food/drink dinner party tonight for his birthday.  Throwing a few 3'x6' plywood boards on some cinder blocks he made a make-shift table to seat 18 people in his 1 bdrm apt. Who says you need a big place or exotic foods to throw a great dinner party?

I helped him cook up some local foods for the party as follows:


All Crusts:
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp maple sugar
4 cups flour (3 cups white, 1 cup whole wheat)
4 tsp active bread yeast

1_let rise in a warm place for 30 min
2_push into bread pan (or roll out to 1/4") and rise for another 30 min
3_spread sauce on pizza
4_place ingredients on pizza
5_bake for 20 min on 425

Spicy Tomato Sauce + Goat Cheese Pizza:
 4 Roma tomatoes
2 tbps cream cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 garlic clove
1/2 jalapeno pepper

tomatoes (guts taken out)
goat cheese
sliced garlic
hot peppers

Pear +Gorganzola Pizza
_carmelize onions in a liberal amount of oil
_toss with diced pears in frying pan for last 5 minutes
_spread mixture over pizzas
_top with chopped walnuts and garlic slices

Pesto Pizza
2 cups packed basil
1/2 cup pine nuts (to be substituted with local ingredient)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/4-1/2 cups sunflower oil (depending how creamy you want it)
red peppers
sliced garlic

Maple Cake:
3 3/4 cups self rising flour (for every 1 cup of all-purpose flour mix in 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 1/2 tsps of baking powder)
3/4 cup unsalted butter (softened)
1/2 cup maple sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups maple syrup
3/4 cups hot water
Butter cream frosting:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 pure maple syrup
2 tbsp maple sugar
2-3 cups powdered sugar

1_Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2_Grease and lightly flour (I use Recipe #78579) two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper.

3_ In a large bowl, mix together the flour and the ginger and set aside.

4_In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy.

5_ Add the eggs one at a time, beating until well combined.

6_Beat in the maple syrup gradually.

7_Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the water, beating after each addition until smooth.

8_Pour the batter into the prepared pans; prepare a hot water bath to be placed on the rack underneath the cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake tests done (the toothpick test).

9_Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

10_To make the buttercream frosting: mix butter, extract and syrup till smooth. Add powdered sugar (a few tablespoons at a time), beating on high speed (my handmixer has three speeds) till frosting reaches desired consistency.

11_When cake has cooled, ice between the layers. Ice top and sides of cake, sprinkling the top with chopped walnuts.

He asked everyone to bring a local wine or beer.  Many people brought growlers of beer from local breweries which was great, no glass waste!  A few people tried their hand at cooking some local dishes as well which were all excellent:
_fresh mozzerela, tomato and basil
_apple salad
_sage, basil, butter and roasted garlic crostinis
_homemade blueberry ice cream

With 36 homemade soy-wax candles, the whole dinner was by candlight, plenty of light for the whole place!


21 October 2010

Expanding on my last post, I calculated an estimate of how much food I eat each week to find out how much I would need to be storing during months outside of the growing season.  Although in this project I will not need to store food for longer than the last 3 weeks of the project (beginning of November to the end on Nov. 22nd), I would like to speculate on how much food I would need if I were continuing to eat only local foods through the entire year.  Looking back on the records I've been keeping on what I am eating every day, each week I eat:

_7 apples
_(other fruit when available)

_2 bunch of some kind of greens

_6 tomatoes
_6 potatoes
_1 carrot
_7 hot peppers
_2 bell peppers
_3 heads of garlic
_2 shallots
_2 onions
_(other vegetables as they are available)

I am growing greens so those would not need to be kept in some way (and it would be hard to keep greens).  However, for the rest, each month I would need:
_24 tomatoes
_24 potatoes
_4 carrots
_28 hot peppers
_8 bell peppers
_12 heads of garlic
_8 shallots
_8 onions
_28 apples

From looking back at my in-season food chart, I can calculate how much food I would need to cover all months that each food isn't in season.  The results are as follows:

Starting on November 1st I am going to be using only stored foods for the remainder of the project.  Here is the plan:

According to the University of Minnesota Extension you can store potatoes 4-6 months if kept in a cool (40 degrees) environment.  Sprouting at high temperatures is a problem, and potatoes should be kept in the dark to avoid greening. 

Canning seems to be the best way to preserve tomatoes.  While a lot of energy goes into the initial canning process, afterwards, no additional energy is needed to store them (such as freezing). 

Freezing is the most practical way to store these.  Hot peppers seems to dry well, but can only be used in certain dishes after losing all their water content.

Drying and freezing are both options.  Dried apples can be used for variety of things and take up much less space than freezing.

I have heard around that all of these have the possibility to be stored for up to 6 months when kept in cool (less than 40 degrees), and well ventilated locations.  This doesn't seem to mean the fridge because there isn't much air circulation inside a refrigerator.  A garage might work (don't have one of those).  Root cellars were an essential part of homes before fresh produce was made infinitely available year-round.  Built underground, or in a basement, they take advantage of the cool temperatures of the earth below grade.  Because many crops like to be in damp environments, having them buried in damp sand is one method I have heard of. 

Because I am only storing for less than a month, I won't have to worry about coming up with something close to root cellar-like conditions for most of the food, but this is an interesting consideration for designing homes in a post-cheap-oil world...


20 October 2010

How to eat locally all year long (storing enough food and growing enough food to last through the winter) is an form of great art.  I have a few friends who have successfully done this but it takes a TON of planning and a good sense of how long it takes to grow everything (planting timing) and what time of year everything is available.  The following graphic is a combination of one I found on the Minnesota Farmer's Market's website as well as my own experience looking for produce at the markets and coops. 

The solid black line represents when foods are available in season.  Gray line shows foods that can be stored for a significant amount of time.  Hollow line shows what foods I am currently storing (canned, frozen or dried).  Dashed line shows the plan I have for growing food on my grow table.  While, the grow table seems to work best for greens and herbs, and I am still testing out what vegetables have enough light to produce fruit. 

(click to enlarge)


19 October 2010

Recognize this?

Yeah, its me.


Living oil-free is taking its toll on my stylistic expression of freshness.  Temperatures have dipped into the low forties in the morning when I am waking up and biking to school (7:30 am) and our heat hasn't come on yet (as fellow Minneapolis renters can sympathize with, I can't wait for the morning to come when the radiators kick on for the first time, heating up all the old wood in this house to smell fabulously winterish). 

I have been using hot water for my 1 gallon bucket shower in the morning (or heating it on the stove).  Regardless, standing in a 60 degree bathroom soaking wet while sudzing up, it doesn't matter what temperature your water is, you're still going to be cold by the time you're done. 

Freezing cold and deciding what to wear after this morning ritual of consistent suffering inevitably ends up being THE WARMEST THING POSSIBLE.  Everyday.  Which for me, as a cold body to begin with, is the same thing (with slight variations).  I also have to consider the one time of day that I may warm up a little bit - when I'm biking).  Biking 8 miles to St. Paul every morning without dressing in appropriate biking layers inevitably ends up in a sweaty mess. 

So...thermal layers, warm socks and a fleece it is, it just isn't worth the misery of being cold all day wearing hardly anything else.

And its getting colder...

Wearing the same thing everyday does have its advantages, however.  I only really have to wash base layers and socks and underwear.  This makes it easy to fit within my weekly water budget for laundry (or even go two weeks without having to wash anything).


18 October 2010

The graph below shows what time of day I am using my water throughout a typical day (click to enlarge):

There are three times a day when I am using the most water: right when I get up (6:15-7:45), dinner time (6:30-8:15) and before bed (10:00-11:45).  During the day I am really only drinking water as I am doing most of my lunch cooking the night before.

I'm not sure yet how this affects the design of systems, but its an interesting analysis...