It Starts With Doing For Yourself, and Sharing...
[I'm leaving this sticky since it's still drawing comments from people returning to it. --lambert]
For the first 1-1/2 years in my place, most of my neighbors were your typical, bedroom community types-- wave coming and going, and while doing yard work.
One day, the neighbor kid, Andy, came by to check out my raised-bed, Square Foot Gardens. His dad is a contract trucker, and things were starting to go bad in 2007, and he wanted to start gardening to help provide for the family.
I not only showed him how, I helped him buy lumber, and the "dirt" ingredients (peat, vermiculite, and lots of different composts), and helped him build his first boxes. I also helped him till and plant a conventional garden. By Fall of 2007, the whole family and I became friends, and their pantry was full of food from the gardens. From there, we began to expand. I found some chicken coops for free on the side of the road, and dropped them off with Andy. He bought chickens, and I helped him get the whole set-up going. Now, he looks after my chickens during the day, making sure they have water, and such.
In 2008, my neighbor, two doors down went on Disability having torn his back up on the job. He needed some sort of income, and during the heat of Mid-South Summers, I cannot be outside too long, as I am epileptic. So, I hired him for yard work, and handy-man work. He got into my gardening, and I taught him how to do it. Last year, we set him up with a great garden, at his buddy's house, but it was a long drive.
This year, I am giving him one of my boxes to garden in, and am going to help him get beds set up at his own house over the Spring, as well. He has been instrumental in helping me expand my beds, throwing dirt, and all manner of things.
He and Andy and I became partners of sorts in a host of food-related projects, where I have been able to teach them the basics of Permaculture to make it all happen. Between us all now, we've got plenty of eggs, lots of veggies, and the start of some great smallfruit orchards. Because we share labor, tools, and transportation, we share our surpluses, and everyone gains. It's basic Hippie stuff, but, I don't teach it that way, and keep politics totally of it. Together, we started a core.
My immediate neighbors have now realized that the economy is not going to get better any time soon, and this year, they have started jumping in, helping out, asking questions, providing what they can, and ol', gruff Jim, across the street has gotten curious, and started coming by to help us all.
I feel like Tom Sawyer in a way... Making self-sufficiency, and low-energy projects as fun as possible, feeding folks-- potluck grilling-- together, everyone is really just naturally flocking to something that is taking on it's own mass. The kids in the neighborhood used to be pretty wicked-- ready to vandalize and swipe stuff from an unlocked car.
Because Andy is proving to be so industrious, they have turned around 180-degrees, and are now protecting our properties, gardens, and chickens just because they think what we're doing is pretty cool, and they get real benefits, as we give them eggs and veggies to take home,and eat. Once the fruit starts rolling out, it will be even better!
Ol' Jim just tore his back yard up, and is putting in raised-bed gardens. My neighbor, Dave, has asked me if I'd help him set up fencing so he can have some pygmy goats for milk and meat, and would I mind the goats? I told him I'd be thrilled with the idea. I offered to provide some of my back acre for grazing, and would help him milk and butcher the goats as needed. Andy is ready to help, and Tommy is on-board for allowing paddock space for them.
It really doesn't take much, folks... Just be friendly, offer to grow your neighbor's favorite veggies in your garden for them, and provide them free. The next thing you'll know-- EVERYONE wants to learn and be a part of something bigger. The elderly lady next door? Ask her if you could garden in her yard, and in return, you'll provide her favorite veggies with no effort on her part-- offer to pay for the extra water. It's really, really simple.
I think that we ALL are old enough to remember what being neighbors is supposed to mean, and perhaps I am simply lucky to have the folks that I DO have around me, but, by gum, everyone is actually acting like proper neighbors, and when things get rolled out, as they are proceeding, we're going to have damned near everything we'll need to get through the next five years of guaranteed hard times that we are going to continue to face.
The bottom line is the bottom line. I don't talk politics with them. I discuss saving money, supporting local, small businesses, knowing where your food comes from, and low-energy techniques. Period. The chicken tractors are a HUGE hit, as the neighbors can see how the chooks eat the weeds and bugs, fertilize, and how the pens get moved daily. They sure as hell like the fresh eggs that I give them, and they all want to help. Like I said-- It's like Tom Sawyer without the selfish agenda.
Peak Oil is what is driving ME. Trying to explain that to my neighbors would be foolish. All they know is that food prices are higher every time they go to the store. That's all they need to know right now, and all I need to work with to teach them these basic, Permaculture techniques to provide food. We all have ~2 acres each, and none of us like dealing with the grass mowing. Dave wants the goats mostly to help mow the grass! Work with the motivations you are provided!
The Transition Towns idea was started by Rob Hopkins: http://transitionculture.org/about/
Totnes, in England was the first Transition Town: http://www.transitiontowns.org/Totnes
He is a collaborator with Energy Bulletin: http://www.energybulletin.net/
Richard Heinberg, noted expert on Peak Energy, has pushed Transition Towns in America: http://www.richardheinberg.com/
I recommend these sites as daily reads, and as road maps for your future, as it is clear that we are well and truly on our own down here, and the only way out and up, is through doing this-- even if it is one neighbor at a time until you can rouse the local leadership and populace at large. I decided to just start small.
Look-- the extreme angst, here at Corrente, is truly, and basically bourne of the fact that the most obvious, and easiest of Political Solutions are simply not being undertaken at the Federal Level or the state level.
I pretty much have given up on ANY possibility of Political Solutions to our growing menu of problems; and realized, in 2005, that the only way to be sure to be able to provide for myself, was to go the Transition/Permaculture way-- whether it was just transforming my OWN land into 100% edible landscape, or if I got lucky, to get my neighborhood involved, excited, and together. So, I bought this house and two acres of land and simply started.
I keep trying to get my small municipality involved, but rednecks keep getting in the way. I laid the DVD, "The End Of Suburbia" on my Mayor, along with Richard Heinberg's "The Party's Over," and Hopkin's "Transition Town Handbook." My town is so small that the Mayor is the owner of the Auto Repair shop. After giving him several months to mull things through, he's realized the energy problem is very, very real, and quite the cause of our current dilemma. He's a good man. Reminds me very much of Alan Alda. In our town, the Mayoral position is non-partisan, so I have no idea what his politics are, but he keeps getting re-elected, and the town is doing well on a VERY slow-growth plan based on LOCAL owners.
Every time he tries to provide 15 minutes or a 1/2-hour of discussion to this issue at the City Council meetings, the Conservatards start screaming. So fuck them. I just decided to start in my own back yard, and start doing, and teaching, and building out from there, and here's where i am. I am hoping to be able to establish a City-funded demo-garden as a seed to start a Community Garden in town, but in the meantime, this is what I am doing, and the seeds are growing!
I'm not preaching, just doing, and folks around me like what I am doing, and deciding on their own that it's a good thing to be a part of.
My real blog is http://monkeyfister.blogspot.com
I discuss some politics, still, but my emphasis anymore is simply demonstrating how to grow stuff, provide food you can trust to your family, Permaculture, and small-scale self-sufficiency. Feral Liberal is doing much the same as I.
Tear up everything non-edible in your yard, and start replacing it with edibles. Even if you live in a place with covenants, will people really bitch if you have a bed of really pretty lettuces in an attractive layout? Look at this pic: http://i296.photobucket.com/albums/mm196...
What is ugly or offensive about that-- even to the most horrid of Neighborhood Nazis? BE the CHANGE!
Let's not confuse "politics" with electoral politics, let alone party politics.