Is it possible to be fossil fuel free on our farm?
One would think that if anyone could be fossil fuel free it could be us but this is not possible but if we plan to stay alive we will have to become fossil fuel free with in ten years.
Although we have cut down tremendously on using fossil fuels at our farm but we are not fossil fuel free.
In the meantime we need to develop ways to work our farming that constantly reduces our fossil fuel use as well continue to mitigate the challenges of climate change on our crops and lives. Humans have not developed an energy system that does not destroy the very earth that we need to live on. We need to use more human and animal power with some windmills to convert wind energy to mechanical energy for things like milling flour or using water wheels to saw logs.
Unfortunately the great paradox at present to become fossil fuel free is to also produce enough money to keep farming which means producing crops for our oil and flour which require some fossil fuels to produce.
Sadly the world will continue using more fossil fuels each year as the earths population will continue to grow as we persist with the capitalistic lifestyle despite the consequences of a unlivable world.. We cannot leave or change our present world easily.
I have not forgotten the many indigenous societies that have existed for hundreds of years that have been fossil fuel free. I realize full well that our industrial capitalistic society that caused climate change has wrecked havoc on the many peoples and animals who have not contributed to global warming.
Why should I be fossil fuel free in ten years? A simple answer is that we will we run out of oil because there is no other form of dense energy available to us. Society will collapse and if you are not prepared for this life is going to get very difficult. Knowing how to grow food is not easy and one should be able to live on ones own food well before the need arises.
So how can I approach a fossil fuel free lifestyle? Our horses do work on the farm but I also use the tractor for many things and most times it is because I do not have enough time to get it done with the horses or enough time to get the job done in a timely fashion for the next crop to be planted. Basically I lack farm help. While I am proud to have developed the diesels here to run on sunflower oil it is still in a sense using a fossil fuel type in a machine that pollutes. Sunflowers are grown and processed on our farm to make sunflower oil as diesel to drive the oil presses and tractors but this is not the answer either.
One of the problems for us without kids nor without a strong community is financial. I can't hire full time workers because of the cost with our limited income. I would love to have some part time workers but there have been no takers so far. It seems that most people want a full time job with $20-30 per hour that does not require much physical output. While we are quite self sufficient it bothers me that I am not also able to be fossil fuel free.
One of the main requirements in years past was to have lots of kids and be part of a community. My Amish friends have at least ten kids and at my age they would now have taken over the farm and I would be in a retirement phase helping out in the community.
For the moment we have customers that pay for our oils and flour but will this continue knowing that we are all going to have to reduce our use of fossil fuels and unemployment for most may be a factor very soon due to the fossil fuel depletion. So will our oils and flour still have a market?
For the pressing of vegetable oil and milling of the flour I could have a horse walking around a large mill stone to crush the oil seeds that press the oils but the amount of oil would be too small to make farming financially possible let alone time to plant the sunflower seeds and other crops. What bothers me is that this did occur at one time in our history, so how was it possible? Was there more farm help available? Perhaps everything was closer in ones community and a lot of people were just more self sufficient.
Our field work can be mostly done with horses but there are limits such as the use of our combine. I do have a horse drawn combine but it needs a rebuild and besides it has a small gasoline motor to do the threshing. I have seen horse drawn reapers/ binders being used in some Amish fields near here and they are not motor powered but I do not have one and it will still need threshing by a threshing machine or combine and a tractor to run it. Maybe this is were I need to think about a windmill for the threshing.
Delivery of our oils is a problem and delivery with horses is not possible since we deliver to places a couple of hours away. This brings us to realize the we need to sell and deliver oil in a much more local area that can be negotiated by horses or bicycle. Our local population considers our oils and flours too expensive. The no frills stores flour and oils are very inexpensive and people drive long distances to get it but my worry is that the cheap oils and flour do not provide quality nutrition.
We are constantly preparing to live more sustainably and using less fossil fuels but it has so far proven very beneficial in good quality food we have on the farm but the amount of work needed is sometimes overwhelming especially since at my age of 73, life gets a lot slower. The work here on the farm for most people would find it overwhelming but at least it keeps us in good food and good physical health.