Oil and Gas versus Water
Saving water is one of my husband’s goals in the Three Actions Project. We have already done a lot to “create the conditions for success” when it comes to saving water for typical household activities. We have a clothes washer that operates with less water and low-flow showerheads. We have a bucket in the shower and in the wash basin to collect water for flushing toilets (gray water) and we keep a large bucket in the kitchen to reuse excess washwater in the garden (I use biodegradable soap). These are things we already do every day.
But in the summer months, this is not where the majority of our water usage occurs. My garden and food processing are the water hogs.
We have water in MN, we don’t have oil. So I’m working on reducing the distance food travels to get to my table. This year the distance for at least some of our tomatoes, cabbage, onions, kale, chard, beets, lettuce, peppers, zucchini, raspberries, ground cherries, basil, oregano, thyme, garlic, leeks, cucumbers and beans is no more than 50 feet.
I try not to be water wasteful. I don’t water lawns, which can survive drought by going dormant. I have lots of native plants and bulbs on my boulevard and I rarely water them. But if mother nature doesn’t water the vegetables, I have to. I’m working on getting a rainwater system going, but it’s not there yet.
We eat something from the garden almost every day, but I’m also learning to process vegetables for winter. I’m most familiar with water-bath canning. I can tomatoes, sauce and pickles – things with high amounts of acid. It takes quite a lot of water to wash the vegetables and fill the canning pot. And it takes a fair amount of natural gas to heat all that water. If I’m going to be canning two days in a row, I save the water in the canning pot, but I have a very small kitchen. I can’t keep a huge pot just sitting around. If it’s not going to be used soon, we “water” the compost bin (compost breaks down faster when it’s got the right amount of moisture) or the veggies. But I do feel guilty when I pour all that water out.
In the past month, I’ve been canning with my neighborhood Transition group (Transition Longfellow). We’ve been teaching folks how to pickle and can and doing it together. This saves water because many people are using it one after another. It also saves gas because we are doing more in the same canner so we don’t have to keep heating extra water. It’s too bad there aren’t places set up in each neighborhood where people can go to do this kind of work together – saving money and gas and having fun while they do it!
I recently bought a pressure canner so I can process low-acid foods like beets and green beans and meat. At first I couldn’t understand why people said it was more efficient because a pressure canner takes far more time. Now that I’ve processed soup and broth, I see what they mean. The pressure canner uses only a couple of quarts of water – as opposed to many gallons used in the water canner – and once it reaches boiling, I can turn the gas on the stove down to the very lowest setting. Pressure keeps the heat high.
But it’s clear to me that I need to learn more about other methods of food preservation, too.