A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste


October 4 cover of The Economist

I'm not alone with my inner apocolypt anymore-- I have company. One of my respected elders told me today that she felt the economic collapse was imprinting the same trauma in her mind as President Kennedy's assisination.

For me, I keep seeing the scene from Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings where Stryder (Aragorn) drags Frodo up the stairs of the Prancing Pony and tosses him on the floor in front of the fireplace.

"Are you scared?" Stryder demands
"Yes" says Frodo
"Not nearly enough-- I know what hunts you."

I want to say bluntly.... This is where my dream meets my nightmare. Most of my life I dreamed of farming. But our move to the farm last year was also part of my survival plan for when the collapse came. Hope for the best- prepare for the worst.

So you can see how I am both living out my dream and my nightmare at the same time. Dream and nightmare look the same-- food self sufficiency, a close and supportive community, energy independence. Living the dream is self actualization, living the nightmare is survival.

This is no time to panic.

I find that the advantage of always being alert for signs of the collapse makes me calmer when times get rough. I've rehearsed this in mind, studied it even. Now is the time to think clearly. We need to get to work on the basics and fundamentals. By that I mean real work, real products, new paradigms.

This is the time to rethink how we are living and what we need to sustain our society and resources we depend upon. In that sense:

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.


sister you are as a said the strongest person I know. We farmers will take care of our familys. You could always home closer if things get as bad as you expect and we can work together and help out alot of people. Or I can look for the best lobster resturant in the cities. I look forward to the supper. Love ya!

Of course you remember Earl from the Museum, who said the future would be tougher than we've ever seen, which is perhaps not so much prophetic as it is a clear understanding of human nature.

When we start to live like the early Frandsen in Sweet Land ("bigger better faster") we may find we have risked more than it's worth: priorities are out of order. I ought to know: I've tried it in my working life like I was playing Texas hold 'em, went all-in and lost. A friend of mine is a large hog farmer who likes the anecdote that he "loses $5 a head but he makes it up on volume."

You grow your own food, planted an orchard, burn your own carbon+ wood... all in a couple years time. Your children are part of this with that same dirt under their fingernails. When it got real tough, young Earl left home and found a new one, so today he acknowledges and expresses both concern and generosity, and of course priorities.

I remember the windmill on an uncle's farm pumping well water so fast my cousins and I couldn't couldn't stop it. That kind of thing is right there if we choose to utilize it.


You tie together so many ideas so eloquently. What an image-- so much water pumped from the wind that you kids couldn't stop it!

This is what I've learned. I know nothing. I don't know how to save a tomato seed to plant next year. My saved watermelon seeds were sterile. I planted my popcorn by Todd's GMO corn and turned his hybrid corn purple (!!) and my popcorn is, well, odd.

If we had to grow our food w/o tractors, fertilizers, Johnny's seed, Lou's greenhouse, etc... we would be a bunch of hungry people.

If the power goes out at the wrong time- our wood boiler could spew its water out of the release valve. Oops.

Come on back Dale-- there's room for another thinker like you in Big Stone County.


thats simple Kathy; just hook your boiler pump up to a windmill!!(ORRR-- you could hook it up to a bicycle and Mike could pedal)

When my daughters were very young we watched "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" nearly every day. That vision of Mike pedaling the bike-widget reminds me of Dick Van Dyke in that movie (the genius auxiliary power source but a good dad with a great heart and energy and sense of humor).

Our short-term energy plan may just look like a Rube-Goldberg-Mouse-Trap-cobbled-together set of alternatives. I also remember pocket calculators at $450 in 5th grade and they couldn't do square roots (and I hated that). With "new" energy and most every previous good idea, someone had to take the leap and buy the 2nd one because the 1st guy lost his shirt. A few years later you could get a solar powered calculus widget free with gas purchase at the Co-op. But it will happen and now sooner vs. later.

I've had some "skwumpkins" myself: squash cross-pollinated with pumpkins. You never know: our best tomatoes this year came from those I tilled down last year. Not sure that's supposed to happen.

"Night after night the geese came lumbering in the dark with a clangor and a whistling of wings..." -- Thoreau

Kath- Hello from an old friend!

Through the magic of the internet I stumbled across your wonderful blog.

Reading through your great posts I find that (unsurprisingly) we still share many of the same sensibilities. Like you I struggle with my inner apocolypt, trying to reconcile my fears for the future with the daily joys I find walking in the woods, seeing friends, and spending time with my 2 boys and my amazing wife.

I too have planted myself in a more rural setting - here in the foothills of the Olympic mountains - with perhaps an unconscious nod to the idea that if the collapse truly happens - we might eek out a living here. Our ground is rocky and at 2000 feet our garden small and limited - but there's fish and deer -if it came to that...

My hope is that should my worst fears come to pass - it will be like a cleansing flood that while destructive, creates fertile ground for new, more healthy growth - and a better world for my sons.

But never mind - today I had a wonderful autumn walk in the woods with my dog. The birds sang. The leaves glistened.

Good to see you thriving Kathy. I've put your blog on my reading list.

My wife started a blog this past year: http://lakedawn.wordpress.com/

BTW - I loved the Greg Brown reference in one of your posts. I'm a big fan - in fact we're gonna go see him in Port Townsend (ironic, huh- was it really 20+yrs ago?) on Thursday night! We got a babysitter - yee haw!!

Joe Pullara

Joe Pullara! What a treat to hear from you. Back in the Olympics no less. I took at look at your wife's blog and it is great- what a beautiful family you have.
Enjoy our Iowa boy in Port Townsend-- envious of the baby sitter.

Thanks for the note Joe. It is great to hear that you are doing well.

I can see Mike shaking his head "no" as he reads your suggestion of him peddling or even worse the windmill.

Did you hear about the time I came home from work and said "knock out the back wall-- we're putting in a corn burner." After some discussion Mike knocks down the wall. I came home and said "changed my mind- we're getting a solar hot air heater!"

You should have seen the look on his face with the plaster all around.

In the end we were glad we knocked out the wall and added a "sunroom" to the back of the kitchen.

Love that windmill idea. Have to get Mike to work on that ASAP.

Someone asked why there wasn't more about Mike in my blog. It's because he has veto power over post about him-- he exercises his veto power. But hey! You guys brought him up in the comments.

Hope you enjoy Greg Brown...he's changed alot in the last years...kinda gotten hard around the edges....to put it mildly.

Just read one of the comments above and noticed the reference to Port Towsend. I need to do some checking, but believe either a relative or a friend of your Grandmother's father worked in the lumber industry in Port Townsend. Will have to check and let you know.

Guess it's time to get out the Foxfire books ...remember them? I checked and they are still available on Amazon.com and in our public library. Or else... could ask for some advice from the OLDER generation...they may still remember how to do quite a few valuable life-sustaining tasks. And it might make them feel quite needed!


I agree that the knowledge of our elders is more critical to our future. There are so many things to learn from them. How many times have I wondered how to do things that Grandma did-- like smoking meat.

I just found out that we were turned down for a grant request for engaging older rural Minnesotans in creating a local foods system. Too bad-- we could have demonstrated honor and needing our elders while creating food security in rural Minnesota.

Not giving up on that idea yet!

Picking up on Mom's Foxfire idea - I've got our old set of books, and here is the dedication to Foxfire 2: "This book is dedicated to high school kids like ... and thousands like them across this nation - all searching, all groping, all testing for the touchstone, the piece of serenity, the chunk of sense and place and purpose and humanity they can carry with them into a very confusing time. (published in 1970) Do not lose hope, Kathy. Even if the worst thing you can imagine happens, you can enjoy the unfolding of your life, the love of your family and working for good. Look for the good, it is all around you. I find myself grateful for every day lately, the warm air today, the blue sky, the harvest moon that you see at the same time as me. We will have the strength we need to deal with what comes. In the meantime, I'm making plans and changing my lifestyle where I can, but mostly trying to pause and really live in the present.

Hi Kathy,

Grandma taught me how to make quilts. I not only learned how put together squares of fabric to make a covering for our bed but I got to spend precious time with our Grandmother.

Carolyn, my mom and I started a crafting group that met a couple of times. The purpose was for fellowship and learning from each other.

I'm thinking I would like to redirect our vision to include those skills that we might be needing in the future.

Hopefully we can get your mom and Brenda to join us and anyone else who would be interested. We need to help each other while enjoying the company.
( I wish you lived closer so you could join us, too.)
I love your blog and have shared it with my son who lives in Japan. He is interested in these same things.


I think it is the best of both worlds when you have a craft that expresses your creativity, brings beauty and a sense of enjoyment in doing it.

I think you are so right about needing to learn skills-- real skills-- like sewing and quilting. I remember too the joy of working with three generations on sewing projects. Mom, Carolyn, Grandma and I worked together to sew my wedding dress. It is one of the best memories from the whole "getting married" time.

I wish I lived closer to. I have a lot to learn yet and the fellowship with you and others would be great.

Thanks for sharing my blog Tami.

do not...

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post

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La vida és una cosa que podria ser pres seriosament que ha de ser entès per altres més a tot el món.

Character wise, Gugino's character is pointless and could be removed from the film without anything missing, Hamm's character is basically just a cameo even though his character is made out to be a big deal, the main female cast are static and don't change (Baby Doll pretty much does everything, one girl is the naive rebellious one, another is the strong-willed reluctant one, one is the Asian girl who is always dealing with technology like piloting giant mech robots, and the other is Vanessa Hudgens who does absolutely nothing except look ridiculous with her giant hair).

A very intriguing conversation about the outcomes which our ageing population may have and the issues we may become dealing with.

We do have some governors in this country that do have some common sense not to accept the money, but the House Majority Whip, Democratic Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina put an admendment in the bill that says a states legislature can over ride the governor on the use of the stimulus money apportioned to that state.

Nice article Kathryn. Glad I found this. I know it is now a few years later, but we are still a collapsing economy in my eyes with no end in sight. Most of the people in charge are just to greedy and sent most of the jobs away for cheaper labor- not realizing the terrible things that have been left behind and what is to come. Hope it gets better. Thanks

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This page contains a single entry by Kathryn Draeger published on October 10, 2008 4:23 PM.

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