Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Preppers Doom

Prepping has been a prevalent subject in the media these days and Prepper blogs are filled with people expressing their concerns and sharing their progress in storing of goods and materials. It is a big party and everyone is happy to have four hundred rolls of toilet paper and hundreds of triple A batteries, pounds upon pounds of rice and beans, etc. This is great, it's smart, and it should be encouraged, but it is also a blatant admittance of defeat.

Yes, we should all be prepared to survive for a week or better when the power goes out, or when a large scale attack disables infrastructure for some time. But in reality, these are short term events and the stores of resources that most Preppers have are for short term survival.

You're not going to live off canned beans and bags of rice for ten years. I follow these blogs, I watch people, it is somewhat of a hobby as I too consider myself a Prepper. But I am also a realist, and I realize that I am not going to live forever on what I have stored up in my pantry. I realize that the future that confronts us will demand a different set of expectations and methodologies for survival.

It is my opinion, based on reason, that if your goal is for long term survival in a resource constrained environment, then you need to be able to produce resources, not just pull them out of a limited store in your basement. If that is all most Preppers have done is stashed away dried food, water and weapons, they are in for a big surprise. They are still suffering from the 'on demand' delusion that has gotten us into this situation.

Unless you have a system in place to grow food, preserve it, collect seeds and replant in the next season, unless you have fruit and nut trees, you are going to be in big trouble. All of these Preppers who have only stored items and have not put in place a system to produce items will be among the starving beggars before long. It is another collective psychosis of our culture to think we can survive from a closet full of stored goods for the rest of our lives.

I write this because I have an affinity for the Prepper mindset, it is one of survival and determination, but it is not without the same shortsightedness that plagues our current culture. I hope if you are a Prepper, you will read this, get out of your closet and into your yard. The future is green, and no, it's not solar or wind power green, it's human power green.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Grapes To Wine

Welcome back for another edition of the Future Reference Farm blog. In this post we will discuss the process of turning grapes into wine. I am not particularly a fan of grapes, however I am certainly a fan of kicking back some alcoholic beverages every now and then and I did say sustainable living can be fun.

Grapes are pretty hard to mess up once they get going. They are like a weed and will take over if you are not careful. Because of this there is much you can do with a grape vine. You can get really fancy and build elaborate trellises for them, or you can just grow them along the top of a fence.

Luckily for us, when we bought the farm, the grapes were already here. We just had to learn how to trim them to keep them healthy and productive. But accidents are bound to happen and indeed they do. Grapes are growing in two locations on the farm and in one of those locations there is also some other viny tree type of plant that we have yet to identify. I had intended on cutting that back a bit and accidentally cut the other grape vine down to the main trunk. Luckily though, it grew back this year. A new bright green shaft of life sprouted out of the dense, severed trunk and is now over 6 feet long and still growing. Soon it will follow the trellis we built all the way across the farm to the house, cutting right between the plumb, apple and peach trees. It will be quite beautiful.

Grapes are highly vulnerable to birds and chickens. We have already given up on the low hanging grapes, the chickens love them and that is just fine. But for the bulk of the grapes growing up on the trellises, birds are a huge problem. They will wipe out the entire crop in a matter of days if you are not careful. It's very easy to counter though, a simple net over the grapes will protect them from the birds.

Again we are approaching the point where I explain that we will be using ingredients that are not sustainable. For the sake of proper learning, I am following known recipes until I have the time, patience and gull to attempt my own. Until then, the methods I use rely on various ingredients that are not produced on the farm such as yeast, sugar, and others. But don't despair, Jams and wines CAN be made without unsustainable ingredients and I promise I will make that information available when I have secured it and applied it. Why do I know it can be done?

Well, in my kitchen cabinet right now is a small plastic container of some of the cherry plumb skins that I dried. Because the container was 'sealed' and the skins were still a bit moist, they have begun fermenting on their own. I opened the container as I wanted to take some to work and thought the smaller container would be good, but I immediately noticed a small pool of liquid at the bottom of the container and some small amount of mold. When I opened the container I smelled the familiar scent of fermentation taking place. Viola!, I thought, it can be done!

So what is the trick? How is it fermenting without yeast? Well, it's not. Turns out there is a small amount of yeast, or rather mold spores on the fruit already. If you provide the right conditions, that natural yeast will make alcohol. Nature knows how to do it all if we are patient enough to learn. So let's learn how to make wine.

For the sake of choice and to get you motivated, I will abstain from providing the specifics of our ingredients and process and let you do your own research. There is plenty of information online regarding making your own wine and your safest bet is to consult with someone who sells the various materials and supplies for making wine. They will generally be knowledgeable enough to get you started in the right direction.

Wine is a great drink if you like the taste. Since we have various fruit trees on the farm, we make wine out of all sorts of fruit, or we will when the rest of the trees start producing. But so far we have made wine out of grapes, plumbs and cherry plumbs. Nature provides if we abide. So let's start abiding nature and learn a few things along the way. YOU are the sustainable revolution. Live it, be it.

Thanks for reading and for joining me on the journey of life.

Timothy Dicks
futurereferencefarm @

Video of the farm

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Self Defense

While it would be nice if we lived in a peaceful world where people were rational and resolved differences without violence, that is just not the world we live in. Not only that, as the economy winds down many people will be left hungry and desperate and if you have invested energy, money and time preparing when others did not, it is highly unlikely you are going to want to share the little you have to survive with others.

Many of us may be healthy and trained in martial arts or other self defense skills, but when things get tough, nothing will defend you like a firearm. That is the long and short of it. You MUST be armed if you want to survive a large scale collapse of our civilization.

Now what is the best weapon? What caliber? While I will not pretend to be a professional on this subject, I do have experience with firearms and I have done some reading up of my own. There are three different scenarios that you would need a firearm for. Close combat, field combat and long range. Assuming there will be no parts or machine shops available for some time, you will want to select for durability and dependability.

Close combat is most served by a hand gun. A rifle in this situation will be clumsy and dangerous. I recommend a pistol in the .40 caliber. It is a bit smaller than the .45 so allows for a higher capacity magazine while only sacrificing a little bit of the .45's punch. With a pistol, as long as you are buying a quality brand, the style is not necessarily important. You may want to consider weight if you are of a smaller build. In this case you would want a Glock or similiar type of composite material based pistol.

Field combat will require a rifle. I strongly recommend an AK-47 style rifle. They are rugged and dependable and will fire under the most extreme circumstances. They have few parts and are easy to maintain. There are just as many options available for AK style rifles as there are for AR's accept the ability to swap out the caliber (bullet size).

Long range is when you want to reach out and remove a threat before it is even aware of you. In this case you will want something in the .308 range. I recommend an AR10 in this caliber. However, most AR style rifles are very accurate and a sniper caliber like the .308 may be a bit excessive. But you can never be too prepared.

Another thing to consider is ammunition. It is better to chose a caliber that is more common and readily available. This way you have the option of purchasing in bulk at relatively inexpensive prices.

The most important thing with using firearms for self defense is that you know your weapon and how to clean and use it. If you wait until you are threatened to fire your weapon, you may end up missing your target and becoming a victim. Or worse, hurting yourself or someone you love. Know your firearm. Practice a lot BEFORE you need to use it for self defense.

While it can be disheartening to consider actually killing someone, it will be more disheartening and traumatizing if someone kills you or someone you love. Be prepared.

Thanks for reading and for joining me on the journey of life.

Timothy Dicks
futurereferencefarm @
Video of the farm

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Epidemic of Faith Based Technology

Technology has been an integral part of our modern way of life since the late 1800’s. It has produced many wonders that would seem miraculous only a few centuries ago. Indeed, without it, most of us wouldn’t be alive today. Technology has earned the right to be held high among human accomplishments. No one can doubt that.

However, technology has enabled our industrial and technological civilization to expand into unsustainable terrain. We now have 7 billion people on the planet; our climate is changing rapidly along with deforestation and species loss of epidemic proportions on land, in the sea and in the air.

Technology is not at fault for this situation, it has only enabled it.

We are at fault, or rather our evolutionary inclinations to carry on our genes. Our greatest challenge now is in abating our strong, natural inclinations to procreate and to live as long as possible. Normally this is done unintentionally through war, pollution, starvation or disease. But because these things do not happen at the scale necessary to mitigate our population numbers (thankfully) they are not reliable or desirable methods.

We must mitigate our population by more intelligent and humane methods and in direct opposition to our natural instincts. We must have fewer children and seek to live shorter lives in the long term.

While life expectancy will be mitigated automatically as we power down and fall back on more organic ways of living, healthcare will not have the potential it does today to extend our lives long after nature has given up on us. Our inclination to procreate will be more difficult to stem. Although there is some evidence that humans will procreate less when there are less resources available, there is probably equal evidence to support the opposite. So leaving it up to our ‘nature’ to procreate less is not sufficient.

We must actively seek solutions to decrease our population thus decreasing our burden on the planet and allowing for a much richer life for the living.

However, there are those among us who would have us believe that there is still more Technology can do for us. Even amongst the environmental degradation, resource depletion and serious impacts to the climate and the earth’s natural recycling mechanisms, they feel technology still has more to offer.

I consider this to be the Epidemic of Faith Based Technology.

As all of our technical 'progress' has been at the expense of the planet’s health in one form or another, either directly or indirectly, it is extremely difficult to perceive technology as the solution when thus far it has been an enabler to the destruction and desolation we face.

In most cases, when a technological solution is proposed it will inevitably have side effects that will then themselves need to be mitigated by more technology/technology based solutions that ends up devolving into a constant battle to counter the side effects of the side effects of the side effects, ad infinitum.

This reasoning that gives way to this devotion to technology is at first glance, logical. For it is technology that has provided the high standards of living that most of us in the developed civilizations enjoy today. It is technology that has decreased the infant mortality rate and increased our lifespan, cured diseases and started the ‘Green Revolution’. It is technology that is allowing you to read these words at this very moment.

But there are limits. And this is where the faith part comes in. There is a growing number of people out there that manage to ignore the various situations we face today such as pollution and resource depletion because they have an unhealthy faith in technology. It is understandable, as technology has so far been able to counter all of the side effects of technology’s influence in the first place, it is a losing game that cannot last.

But as I said there are limits. We are at most of those limits now and will be reaching the rest within the next couple decades. This is where technology runs into the cold, hard laws of physics. And this is where otherwise rational and intelligent people start to move into the realm of faith when it comes to technology and our future.

Thanks for reading and for joining me on the journey of life.

Timothy Dicks
futurereferencefarm @

Video of the farm

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's All About Oil

It's all about oil, everything started with oil and it will end with oil.

That's a big statement so let me break it apart and make sense of it.

'It's all about oil,'

Every issue we face today such as pollution, declining resources, declining fish stocks, declining arable land, declining ground water, climate change, and over-population all started with oil.

In the begining of Industrial Man, there was coal and with coal came the steam engine. This technology, while high on carbon emmisions, would have kept us at fairly sustainable numbers and limited our technological expansion somewhat, preventing the fast paced, convenient consumer life style we have today in the developed world.

'everything started with oil'

Then came oil and internal combustion as well as the unimaginable amount of materials and chemicals derived from petroleum. (Plastics, paints, paint thinners, detergents, fertilizers, and on and on.) This began the death spiral of human expansion and the race to convert the earth into people, our products and our waste.

'and it will end with oil.'

Technology continues to be developed, produced and distributed via a fossil fuel dependent infrastructure and operating paradigm. Studies have shown that alternative energies cannot provide the kind of versatile and energy dense power that fossil fuels provide. We cannot build enough alternative energy to power our societies AND maintain these alternative energy devices. Their production and distribution depend far too much on many links that can only be secured with fossil fuels.

When the oil requires more energy to extract and refine then the amount of energy we get from the refined product, our industrial civilization stops. That is what is happening right now. We are not in a depression or a recession. We are in the death throws of our fossil fuel dependent way of life.

Thanks for reading and for joining me on the journey of life.

Timothy Dicks
futurereferencefarm @

Video of the farm

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Solar Food Dryer

It really is fun and rewarding to work with and prepare your own food. It provides an air of freedom and a sense of limitless possibility. When I first considered preparing for a life with less, for the end of economic growth, I imagined how it would be possible to feed myself throughout the year. Obviously there needed to be some sort of food preservation as I live in a cold climate and cannot rely on hunting to sustain me through the winter months.

Drying food is a very easy and energy cheap way to preserve food. While it is not as convenient as having an actual food dryer, it can be done with no accessories, in the sun. However, that is not necessarily practical when trying to preserve enough food to sustain one through the winter months. So I built a solar food dryer. It uses light from the sun to create heat and convection which dries the food. The one I built is fairly large and can dry quite a bit of food at once.

 As it is powered by the sun, it uses no energy besides that which was required to produce the parts. It runs for free, for as long as it lasts and as long as the sun shines. Since I have planted several fruit trees on the farm, the food is in essence, free. This is a perfect example of how humans can live in harmony with the planet letting mother nature do most of the work.

I planted one peach tree on the farm last year and this year we got fifty-five delicious peaches from the tree. It is still small, so when it is in full production, I imagine it will produce hundreds and hundreds of delicious, sweet peaches.

What I needed to prepare the peaches was just a fairly sharp knife, a pair of pliers and a cutting board. The process begins with picking and sorting. We certainly aren't going to waste any peaches just because a couple birds got their share, those we will keep for cobbler or other treats. But for drying, we want only the best. Once we have them sorted out we will want to wash all of the peach fuzz and any dirt or dust off of them.

Now, to prepare them for drying we want to slice them in thin slices in the same direction as a pineapple is sliced. To begin, make the first cut evenly through the center letting the knife rest on the pit. Once you have completed the cut you can now separate the two halves and the pit will be stuck in one of them. Now use the pliers to remove the pit from the one half. When slicing the peaches, start at the small end and work your way toward the larger end. This will make it easier to hold while cutting.

Once you have them all sliced, they are ready to go in the dryer. Make sure they do not touch when you put them in the dryer otherwise they may stick together as they dry. Currently we still have some plumbs drying but luckily I had enough room for the peaches.

We have 11 fruit trees on the farm, two cherry, two apple, two plumb, one cherry plumb, one peach and three pear trees. We also have an almond tree and a very little walnut tree that I hope to live long enough to see become a giant. With all of this potential fruit, we will be putting the solar food dryer to good use for sure.

If you have any property, even a small back or front yard, consider planting a fruit tree. They provide all the benefits of an ornamental tree along with an abundance of free, delicious fruit. And if you do not have any property, plant a fruit tree somewhere else where you can visit it or where others can benefit from its bounty. There is far too much energy, time and resources spent on maintaining plants for the sake of vanity when millions of people go hungry everyday.

Thanks for reading and for joining me on the journey of life.

Timothy Dicks

futurereferencefarm @

Video of the farm

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Welcome To The Future Reference Farm Blog

Hello and thanks for stopping by. My goal in creating this blog is to provide a pathway for others to begin to recede from the madness and destruction of our modern societies. We have reached the limits of what our planet can sustain in the way of deforestation, pollution, species extinction and climate change. It is now time to discover, or rather rediscover a simpler existence, an existence in which we no longer see ourselves separate from or above the rest of the natural environment.

While many will think that giving up much of our modern luxuries will be too painful, I intend to show that we can indeed live much healthier and happier lives with less. In fact, it is not a choice that we will make, it is a situation that we will be confronted with very soon. The difference is will we be prepared, or will we be shocked and caught with our pants down?

Right now you still have a choice. I have made that choice. I am beginning the transformation from a modern energy consumer to a symbiotic life that gives back to nature as much or more as I take for my own survival. This is my journey into what for most of our population will be alien terrain, yet only a century ago was rightfully familiar to all.

We cannot wait for our government to act. The truth is, the way we need to live does not produce an abundance of profit and therefore does not provide motivation for the powers that be to guide us in the right direction. Instead, they would rather drive us toward the cliff as long as possible to retain their power and to continue to profit from our misery.

I invite you to join me and to consider the challenges and joy of a life beyond growth.

Timothy Dicks

futurereferencefarm @

Resources for learning about our situation:


Permaculture - David Holmgren
The End of Growth - Richard Heinberg
Limits to Growth - Multiple Authors
Gaia's Garden - Toby Hemenway