Our old ram Thunder wore out his genetic welcome, spurring us to find some new blood for the flock. It just so happened that Tillers International (where I took my draft horse classes) was looking to sell their merino ram. I remembered him from my classes, where he always tried to parade in front of the horses when we hitched them up. As luck would have it, someone living just a couple miles from Tillers was interested in Thunder, so we dropped him off and picked up our new ram on the same trip. Thunder found himself with two nice ewes, who immediately garnered his attention and made him forget all about the traumatic move.
Bam-Bam, as we've named the new ram, looks quite impressive with his large curled horns -- like a rocky mountain bighorn sheep. He felt right at home with our draft horses, who look just like the horses he's familiar with from Tillers. He walked up to each horse, extended his right hoof in the air (as if to shake hands) while cocking his head to one side and flicking his tongue. Bruce (our lead Belgian draft horse) wasn't so keen on this new self-appointed friend, and tried to kick him.
Bruce knew I didn't like that behavior, and sulked a bit as I scolded him. Walking back to the barn, I turned around just in time to see Bruce pick Bam-Bam up in his mouth (ala Tyrannosaurus Rex) and drop him. I half expected to find Bam-bam mortally wounded with a massive chunk of flesh hanging from the middle of his spine, but he appeared to be unscathed and undeterred.
We've been looking at wood stoves to replace the electric stove in our kitchen. The new stoves go for somewhere between $4,000 to $7,000, which seems a bit much. They also use a lot more sheet metal where the older stoves use cast iron.
We finally found a neat old 1930's Kalamazoo Stove Company model for a good price, which we'll be cleaning up and installing some time this winter. I was especially fond of this stove because it has a water jacket; essentially a loop of pipe near the firebox which allows the stove to function as a hot water heater.
Slowly but surely, we're chipping away at our electricity use. Some appliance replacements are easy. The wood cook stove, while it will be a bit less convenient than the electric stove, isn't such a big change. Going without a dishwasher takes a bit more time as well, but it's not a big deal either (Rachel disagrees). The refrigerator could be replaced with an ice box (got one) and icehouse (not yet built), but that will be a big drop in convenience. As it is now, I don't think we have the time required to make many more changes.
I think two of the most difficult appliances to do without will be the washing machine and freezer. Right now we can toss a load of laundry into the washer on a whim. Historically, most families had a designated "laundry day" each week. Losing a few hours a week would be a big deal.
There really is no non-electric equivalent for the freezer, unless you count a smokehouse and lots of salt, or canning and dehydrating as an alternative. There's always the option of a solar powered freezer, but the associated battery banks, charge regulators, panels, and the appliance itself are all both expensive and complex, and thus prone to high maintenance. They would contain enough embodied energy to negate any environmental benefits. Suffice to say that the regular AC powered freezer is a huge convenience that will be sorely missed someday.
Yet the fact remains that most people in the world get along just fine without *any* of these appliances. I guess it's all a matter of adjusting the paradigm we've come to accept as "normal".
I figure that our low energy future will look a lot like our low energy past. Travelling more than 10 miles will be an unusual occurence. I'll bet that we don't wash each garment after a single day's wear. A closet full of clothes will be something for the wealthy, whereas most of us will probably return to the historical norm; one set of work clothes, and another set of dress clothes (if we're wealthy enough for the latter).
A 3,000 sqare foot home will again be a mansion or a multiple family dwelling both because the materials to build or maintain a house of that size will be prohibitively expensive (if they're available), and heating such a space will also be expensive and/or laborious.
I don't see this as a grim future, however. It's just a change. Some of it will be good, some of it bad. It'll just be different from our present reality. Embracing it before it embraces us seems like a good idea.
Some of our hens have discovered that the new hay feeder makes an excellent high-security nesting box.