Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mules  for Transportation here in Hampshire County   by Sarah Purol

I have made reference to the fact that in the quest for sustainable transportation animals would be a good option to take a close look at.  When we are faced with a future where sustainability is a key factor it makes a great deal of sense to remember that petroleum will be either very expensive or unavailable and that has far reaching consequences.
We tend to forget how absolutely dependent we are on petroleum products in our daily lives and the fact of the matter is that we are going to have to live with a lot less of it…or perhaps none at all.
What does that mean?  It means there will be far less petroleum for the following things: 
Gas for cars.  Diesel for cars.  Home heating oil. Jet fuel.  Asphalt for roads.  Tires for vehicles. Plastics and composite materials of various types.  Fertilizer for crops.  Insecticides for crops.  Certain types of medicine and cosmetics.  Packaging for various items.  The list is so long it would take the rest of the page and…well…. you get the picture. 
The main thing is of course gasoline for our cars.  When the crunch hits…and that is coming very quickly…it will effect everything in a big way….and we are not even remotely prepared for it. 
We are so use to jumping in our own personal cars to go wherever we want, whenever we want that we have developed  what I call a “transportation entitlement” mentality.
Some of us will get electric vehicles  for personal transport and power them from solar systems we have installed.  I’ll be watching carefully to see how well that pans out.  Producing electricity with solar is a good idea.  So is producing electricity with hydro systems and wind turbines.  Using electricity where you produce it is a good idea and I hope we can do that for a long time into the future if we are smart and if we are lucky enough to be able to manufacture and fix the components we need to keep the systems running.
But transportation using EV’s?  Well..lets just say I’m not as confident about that at present.  For one thing, cost is a big factor.  For another thing, the batteries are not so good at present…although that could change.  I may yet jump on the EV bandwagon and put up a solar array. 
I’ve lived without electricity or running water in a 3rd world country for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer so I’m not as worried about going without power as some folks are.  I suspect my husband will have to have a solar array to be happy so I’ll probably leave that to him.
Some people are looking at alternative fuels.  You would think that with WV’s history of moon shining and concurrent love of cars, there would be quite a number of good old boys riding around in vehicles they had modified to run on ethanol.  Not so.   BTW, I’m a good old girl myself and my grandfather kept his 15 children alive for a period of time in southern WV making the best moon shine whiskey in 3 counties so don’t think I’m picking on the hillbillies.  I are one and proud of it!
Wood gas?  Haven’t seen it even though these hills are full of free wood if you have a friend with a plot of land and you have an axe to go get it.
Algae?  Not around here folks.
So…what are we going to do when the gas runs out?   And what are we going to do when we can’t get the mechanical components from half way across the country or world to fix whatever mechanical vehicle we have managed to either buy or hobble together?   Maintenance folks…maintenance!   Just think what a headache it is now when we need a car part and someone to fix our car!
How about mules?  That’s right.  Mules.  Now just take a minute and think this through with me.
That is one thing we could do around here.  It could be affordable for most people.  It is certainly sustainable.
Mules can be ridden and can pull a buggy.  They can plow.
Why mules rather than horses?  Here are some reasons why I think I would rather have a mule.
Mules endure heat better than horses do.
Mules have fewer feeding problems than horses do.
Mules eat less than horses do.
Mules rarely have hoof problems.
Mules excel in physical soundness.
Mules live longer productive lives than horses do.
Mules can more easily than horses be handled in large groups.
Mules have a strong sense of self preservation.
Mules are surefooted and careful.
Mules incur fewer veterinary expenses.

So do I have mule yet?   No.  I don’t have a place to raise one either but I think I might need to get a little more active working on that.

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