Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Dicey Time For A Road Trip

We live in interesting times. I am about to experience some very interesting times this weekend, because I am traveling a thousand miles to visit relatives in Southern California. And I am traveling by car. Some may ask why a man who believes that the worldwide peak of oil production is happening now would choose to travel by car – a man who is the author of a blog with a title like “The Well Run Dry.”

I would have liked very much to travel by train – after all, it may well be the most environmentally friendly way to go. But President Bush has bled our nation's passenger rail system nearly dry. An Amtrak trip would take over 29 hours. I suppose I could have flown, but airlines have been getting squeezed hard in recent months by high fuel prices, and have been implementing many cutbacks in order to maintain some semblance of profitability. I fear that the CEO's and boards of directors who are responsible for airline profits may have extended their cutbacks even to such things as aircraft maintenance. I don't want to find out firsthand that my suspicion is right. By the way, if any of you are planning to travel by air this weekend, here's some comforting reading: “Airline Removes Life Vests To Save Weight, Fuel,” Associated Press, 28 August 2008,

In my last post, I mentioned my suspicion that world daily petroleum production figures published by the International Energy Agency and the United States Energy Information Administration are perhaps being artificially inflated, and that world petroleum production may now be faltering. I also mentioned news articles coming from Saudi Arabia which indicate that the Saudi oil industry may be shorting Saudi citizens in order to give the appearance that Saudi Arabia is producing more oil than it actually is. Well, there has been more interesting news out of Saudi Arabia this week – yet another article quoting a Saudi Aramco official denying that there are any shortages of fuel. Of course, the official's actual words were, “The Company has not reduced quotas to authorized clients.” (Zawya, 25 August 2008, Are some clients unauthorized? Are these unauthorized clients the ones who can't find diesel fuel?

Speaking of shortages, there are reports of fuel terminals in North and South Dakota and Minnesota running dry. North Dakota has experienced spot shortages in late summer and early fall for at least two years in a row. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 27 August 2008, And this week's EIA Weekly Petroleum Inventory shows U.S. commercial crude oil and refined petroleum stocks continuing to drop.

It also seems that our ever-vigilant and very talented U.S. spy/intelligence agencies have detected a possible link between Venezuela and the Islamic group Hezbollah. Apparently, U.S. government spokesmen believe that Hezbollah is using Venezuelan sites for terrorist training and targeting South American Jews, and that Iran is backing Hezbollah activities in Venezuela. It must only be a strange coincidence that both Venezuela and Iran have oil, and that the U.S. is very hungry for oil... (“Hezbollah Presence In Venezuela Feared,” Los Angeles Times, 27 August 2008,,0,3877203.story)

Lastly, there is a powerful and increasingly dangerous hurricane bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico, with at least three other storms behind it. It is quite possible that Hurricane Gustav could rival Katrina in destructiveness, and could destroy or damage many offshore oil platforms and onshore Gulf Coast refineries. If that happens, fuel prices in the US may well skyrocket, and North Dakota will by no means be alone in experiencing fuel shortages.

All in all, it's quite a time to be undertaking a road trip. I hope I make it to Southern California and back. If I see anything interesting along the lines of our present national difficulties, I may take a few pictures for my next post. Stay safe this weekend.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Safety Net Of Alternative Systems - Skills and Time

First, a bit of news. I mentioned in my last post that I believe that the world oil supply situation is being gamed by major players to mask the reality of constrained oil supplies. I had also previously mentioned that after Saudi Arabia's recent promise to increase oil production, a news story surfaced that stated that certain regions in the north of Saudi Arabia were running low on diesel and refined petroleum products for consumers, even though the Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil corporation, denied that shortages were occurring. This implied that the Saudis were boosting their “official” production figures by shorting some of their own citizens, in order to have more oil to export, since they probably could not raise production.

On Monday, 18 August 2008, another story was published confirming that shortages were actually occurring, and featuring hasty explanations for the shortages from Saudi Aramco officials. Check it out at

This is more evidence that world petroleum production may be past peak and in decline, and that reporting of production numbers is being deliberately fudged. I expect that we will be seeing more news stories of fuel and petroleum product shortages appearing in surprising places like Saudi Arabia as time passes.

I want to talk a bit more about the sort of adjustments that may help to prepare for life on the downside of Hubbert's Peak. Again, I do not claim to be an expert, nor a terribly deep or original thinker (though I think some of the ideas presented in today's post may be new to readers). As I mentioned last week, the first step is to fully acknowledge and admit to oneself that a drastic change is coming, and that life is about to get a lot harder. Part of the preparation for such a change is to be willing to learn to do without many of the conveniences that cheap energy, cheap consumer goods and cheap credit have brought to us.

But another part of preparation involves acquiring things that really are valuable in preparing for this new way of life. Those two things are time and education. The aim of this “education” should be to equip oneself with new skills that are useful in a time of economic decay and uncertainty, the skills of self-reliance and learning to be a maker or provider of things or services that are essential. In short, if our present official system is breaking, we must take time to learn to build alternative systems. Portfolios of skills will vary from person to person, depending on what each person thinks our energy-depleted future will look like.

Some believe that a world of declining oil production and increasing climate change will descend quickly into chaos, that civilization will end abruptly and soon, and that we will all suddenly be thrown back into a primitive, lawless existence like characters in a science fiction movie. (This scenario looks a lot like what some people were predicting regarding the Y2K computer issue.) Others believe that we will simply slide gradually into a worldwide depression that simply keeps getting worse each year. Yet others say that advanced society, especially the West, and particularly the United States, will follow a trajectory of decline similar to that of the decline of the Roman Empire, and that the whole decline will last several centuries.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know which of these scenarios is most likely. A lot depends on the rapidity with which oil and other resource production declines, as well as the rapidity with which the Earth's climate is disrupted by manmade changes. However, I do think that the United States at least is in for some very disruptive events over the next few years, events which will drastically diminish our power and wealth as a nation and force us to live within our means. When that happens, we will see how much our means are reduced because we squandered those means.

I think things may be better for a while in the rest of the West, namely Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But I believe that worldwide oil production will decline rapidly each year, causing disruptions in other Western nations. And Asian economies will be disrupted by the collapse of globalism as their customers evaporate. The only nations that may do well for a time will be the nations that are now net exporters of petroleum. But these conclusions don't even begin to take into account the shortages of resources other than oil which are now appearing.

Since I can't tell how far or how fast the impending changes will go, I have decided to hedge my bets a little. I haven't quit my day job to go back to nature. But I am trying to acquire the skills which I believe would be useful in the coming uncertain times. One obvious skill is growing vegetables. This year I learned quite a bit about growing things in the Pacific Northwest. One must be much more careful about some things here than one would need to be in Southern California, because here we have seasons. Last winter, I attended a one day workshop in yarn-spinning. I was the only male in the class, and almost no one got it when I explained why I was there ;). I found out that spinning is a lot harder than it looks! This weekend I will attend a class on making solar ovens and a class on home food preservation.

And I am beginning to form a systematic approach to picking what skills I should learn. In my mind, those skills should fall into three groups: first, learning to be self-sufficient as much as possible; secondly, learning to make things from scratch or fix things that wear out; and third, learning basic service skills to meet special human needs. Skills in the first group involve what used to be called “home economics.” Skills in the second group would be useful if cheap imported manufactured goods suddenly became unavailable. Skills in the third group might include everything from the obvious choices of frontier health care to such things as transportation by sailboat or long-distance communication via simple radio sets. I think a person who is known to have such skills will be more highly valued by his neighbors when things get difficult, and may have an easier time than someone who is unskilled. And there are craft and hobby clubs and enthusiasts who are happy to teach these skills now, even though many of them are still viewed as no more than a hobby.

But learning such skills, even as mere hobbies, takes time. Time is one thing that in short supply for many Americans, saddled with debt as they are and working long hours just to keep ahead of the bill collectors. This is why I believe that a key to adjusting to the times now coming upon us is to get out of debt. The best way to get out of debt is to lower one's desires until they are in line with one's income, rather than being sucked by advertising into hyper-consumption. Once a person is debt-free, he discovers a shocking secret: that the 40-plus hour workweek is not mandatory. This frees up a great deal of extra time to pursue things other than a job.

And it is something that is possible even for career professionals. I first heard about part-time professional engineers in 2004, when I met a woman who was married with children and who had negotiated a deal with her employer for a part-time week with the same benefits as a full-time employee. I think only her vacation time was reduced. Now it is true that she had proven herself to be a valuable, knowledgeable asset to the company, which is why they were willing to negotiate such a deal with her. But when I switched jobs, I met a few other people, both men and women, who had been able to work out deals with their employers for part-time professional positions (some companies call these “modified full-time” positions).

This year, I took the plunge and asked to be placed on part-time professional status. It has been an interesting experience so far: while at work, I am usually in overdrive because I am trying to do 40 hours' work in the space of 30 hours, but I can also do work on the bus/train rides between work and the point where I begin my bike commute home. And I have two and a half extra hours for myself each evening. I realize that the arrangement will work only so long as I show my employers that they are getting extra value for their dollar with this arrangement. I'll keep you posted on how it's going.

In short, Hubbert's Peak means that the present global system known as the “official economy” is in danger. Therefore, to adapt, we must each begin the work of building up safety nets of alternative systems. But this takes time. A key to adapting, therefore, is for people to reduce their dependence on the official system by reducing their debt load as much as possible so that they may have time for the learning of alternative skills.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Importance of the Timing of Peak Oil

On 6 August 2008, the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its latest International Petroleum Monthly report, which tallies world oil production for a given month. The latest EIA production figures shown in any given report are usually for a monthly period ending two months before the release date of the report, so this latest issue contains data for May 2008. According to this latest report, world petroleum supply averaged 86.05 million barrels per day in May of this year, which is a new record according to the EIA. World crude plus condensate production during May averaged 74.48 million barrels per day according to the same report, which is again a new record, passing the May 2005 record of 74.266 million barrels per day. In addition, this week OPEC issued its Monthly Oil Market Report, which estimated that world oil supply in July 2008 averaged 87.37 million barrels per day – again, a sign of growing petroleum supply. The release of these figures may be a contributing factor in the continuing slide in the price of oil and petroleum products.

However, some analysts have taken exception to these numbers, asserting that they may be overly optimistic. Gail Tverberg, a member of the Oil Drum staff recently wrote an article which questioned the reliability of initial EIA estimates of world production (“May 2008 EIA Oil Production Record. Will It Too Be Revised Downward?”, She pointed out that these initial estimates are usually revised downward by the EIA as time passes, and noted discrepancies between EIA production figures for various countries versus what those countries stated as their actual production. She also pointed out the potential political motivations for the EIA to be less than accurate in telling what is actually going on with oil production. Others have analyzed the discrepancies between the EIA and OPEC numbers for specific countries and have noticed a rather fishy smell (see comments on today's “Drumbeat” section of the Oil Drum website). There is also at least one bit of anecdotal news that indicates that an oil exporting country is shorting its own citizens so that it can send more oil to the US.

I want to suggest (and I am not the only one suggesting this) that the present oil supply and oil market situation is being “gamed” by several powerful key players in order to give the false impression that there is no longer an oil supply “crisis.” This campaign of dishonesty is being aimed chiefly at the West, and specifically at the United States. Why the US? Because the US is still the most powerful nation on earth militarily, and because it is also still the world's most significant economic agent. That supremacy is increasingly resting on a foundation of deception, smoke and mirrors, but while it lasts, the US is a force to be reckoned with.

And this is a Presidential election year. The corporatist powers who actually control the governments of this country know how key a player an American president is in their plans, and will do all they can to install a president who is friendly to their interests. If the American people were to wake up to the actual precariousness of this nation and the magnitude of the mess our leaders have made for us, they might begin to demand the sort of radical changes that would threaten the corporatists.

To a lesser extent, the governments of some of the oil-producing countries are also interested in gaming the system, in order to prevent a large portion of Americans from having to suffer actual petroleum shortages, thus preventing the rise of an American neocon initiative to take over foreign oilfields the way Iraqi fields were seized.

All this means that it is more important than ever to search out the truth about present world oil production, so that we may know what to expect and be prepared to deal with it. I acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Jeffrey J. Brown, a registered Professional Geoscientist in the State of Texas, and to Dr. Samuel Foucher, a long-time oil production analyst. Because of their work and the efforts of others who posted valuable information on the Internet, I went from near-total ignorance of the true nature of our energy predicament to wide-awake alarm within the space of a few months. My awakening had been preceded by growing unease from 2005 to the beginning of 2007, like the unease of a sleep disturbed by an increasingly upset stomach. But it was in the first few months of 2007 that I truly came face to face with the reality of Peak Oil. That awareness has led me to some rather drastic lifestyle adjustments.

But Mr. Brown recently commented that the timing of the worldwide oil production peak is not as important as other issues which we are facing, such as the ongoing and accelerating decline in net world petroleum exports. Here I must respectfully disagree (and I invite him to correct any deficiency in my knowledge, since he knows much more about this than I do). Knowing the timing of the peak and the actual shape of the world oil production profile is very important, because the major controlling figures who run the global “official economy” are closely watching this very issue. I believe that many of them know that Peak Oil will be a severe threat to their status and the continuation of their economic empires, and that they also know that it's in their best financial interests to keep this knowledge from the masses for as long as possible. Therefore, as petroleum supplies become ever more constrained, they will continue to try to game the system, suppressing naturally-occurring market signals regarding supply and demand for as long as it's in their interests to do so. When they finally pull the wool from our eyes, we will surely be confronted by the sight of an economic system that's broken beyond repair for all but the very rich.

So we will need to devise other means for validating whether the world is in fact at or past peak. One bit of data that's still relatively reliable is the EIA Weekly Inventory Report of US commercial crude oil and petroleum product stocks. The EIA Weekly reports for the last three weeks have shown a steady decrease in finished gasoline stocks. This has been due to rising demand caused by lower prices. US crude oil inventories haven't moved from the 295 million barrel range. This seems to show that oil and gasoline prices have fallen because of a perception of reduced demand, and not because of any new supplies. Those who have skills in building complex mathematical models can come up with other means for determining the true state of world oil supply. And we can always look at obvious signs, such as news stories of refinery shutdowns or shortages around the world. Personally, I think we see the beginning of another price spike within the next month. One can't game the system forever. Keep your eyes open!

* * *

I want to start talking about preparations for a post-Peak world. I've been meaning to get onto this subject for a long time, but I keep getting distracted by juicy news stories from the oil patch. In my discussion, I intend to move from preparing yourself as a person to preparing your community (at least those closest to you). These thoughts are just what has occurred to me; others have thought much harder and more deeply, and for a longer time on this subject. As I find time, I will post links to some of their writings. One thing I will soon discuss is the use of appropriate technologies for a post-Peak life (i.e., should I buy solar panels? Should I buy a spinning wheel? How about a portable generator? and so on).

The first thing that occurs to me regarding a post-Peak life is facing the near-certainty that you will have to live such a life. Our economy and society have been built on certain assumptions – the assumptions of ever-increasing technological advancement, convenience, comfort, and prosperity.

These assumptions are about to be overturned.

But facing this reality is a very difficult thing to do for many people. One Peak Oil writer has compared the process of facing the threats of Peak Oil and climate change to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's portrayal of the process of facing death, with its five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of America seems to be in the denial stage, as seen in the sales of tabloid magazines at supermarkets, the viewers of reality TV series, and the willingness to listen to corporate media slaves repeating their masters' assertions that everything will be all right. Some people are angry – especially those who have a vested financial or political interest in suppressing the truth of our predicament. But there are also bargainers. I am an engineer and I can tell you that engineers are some of the biggest bargainers around. Their bargaining consists of the unshakable faith that technology will somehow save us from having to live on less, from having to live a more difficult life than we have been used to (Read some issues of the IEEE Spectrum to see what I mean). All I can say is, Dream on!

If one is willing to accept the probability that life is going to get much more difficult, then one can begin to take inventory of all the conveniences he or she enjoys right now due to technology and cheap energy. Then one can begin to make plans for living without some of these conveniences. For instance, living in a time of expensive natural gas or fuel oil might mean learning ways of living without either during the wintertime. Living in a world in which many of your needs must suddenly be supplied by the power of your own muscles is easier if you have prepared beforehand by getting in shape. In other words, the first preparation you can make is to bravely face the future, take inventory of all of its implications, and then begin to harden yourself to be able to cope with it.

Some practical steps might include the following:

  1. Learn to commute by bicycle. By commuting I don't mean recreational rides, but rather, going to places you need to visit in order to do necessary weekly activities. Gradually increase the percentage of your commuting per week until it's over 75 percent of your total commuting.

  2. Train your body to be comfortable with the thermostat of your house turned down to 60 degrees F or below.

  3. Work out regularly to build your strength and endurance. Make your workouts something that you can do at home, without having to drive to a gym.

  4. Regularly put yourself into situations in which you must do without your usual comforts. Go camping – in a tent, not in an RV – in all kinds of weather. Learn what works in such situations, and what doesn't. If you feel really adventurous, go bicycle camping, and skip the drive altogether!

  5. Learn to live on half of your present income, in the expectation that you may one day be forced to do so.

See if you can add a few suggestions of your own to this list. And tell yourself that you will learn to succeed in facing this challenge. Difficulty does not have to equal hopelessness.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Numbers Tell The Story, Part 2

Just read this on yesterday's "Drumbeat" section at the Oil Drum website:

Retail Chain Store Closures in 2008:
Ann Taylor closing 117 stores nationwide.

Eddie Bauer to close more stores after closing 27 stores

Cache, a women’s retailer is closing 20 to 23 stores this year.

Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines closing 150 stores nationwide

Talbots, J. Jill closing stores. ... all 78 of its kids and men's stores plus another 22 underperforming stores.

Gap Inc. closing 85 stores

Foot Locker to close 140 stores

Wickes Furniture is going out of business

Levitz - going out of business... The retailer dates back to 1910.

Zales, Piercing Pagoda plans to close 82 ...followed by closing another 23

Disney Store owner has the right to close 98 stores.

Home Depot store closings 15... It is the first time the ..has ever closed a flagship store.


Macy's - 9 stores closed

Movie Gallery – video rental company plans to close 400 addition to the 520 locations the video rental

chain closed last fall as part of bankruptcy.

Pacific Sunwear - 153 Demo stores closing

Pep Boys - 33 stores of auto parts supplier closing

Sprint Nextel - 125 retail locations

J. C. Penney, Lowe's and Office Depot are all scaling back

Ethan Allen Interiors: plans to close 12 of 300 stores to cut costs.

Wilsons the Leather Experts – closing 158 stores

Bombay Company: to close all 384 U.S.-based Bombay Company stores.

KB Toys closing 356 stores

Dillard's Inc. will close another six stores this year.

Another item: US Bank Failures in 2008 (so far):
25 January - Douglass National Bank ($58 million in assets)

7 March - Hume Bank ($18.7 million in assets)

9 May - ANB Financial NA ($2.1 billion in assets)

30 May - First Integrity Bank ($54.7 million in assets)

11 July - IndyMac Bancorp ($32.01 billion in assets)

1 August - First Priority Bank ($259 million in assets)

This is only a partial list of failed banks. A more complete list can be found at the FDIC website,

The money well seems to be running dry...

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Portrait of Urban Beauty

Last week I mentioned an upcoming bicycle tour to visit some backyard chicken raising operations in my city, and I promised to share pictures I took on that tour. I did indeed participate in the tour, and I will give a brief report of the event in this post. But first, I want to mention a few news items relating to the oil situation.

The June 2008 edition of the full free version of the International Energy Agency's monthly Oil Market Report was published on Monday or Tuesday of last week (I should keep better track of dates; I promise to do better next time). This was around ten days later than the IEA had promised, which was a bit unusual. (Their next report is due on 12 August, by the way.) According to page 16 of the report, global petroleum liquid supply in June increased by 285,000 barrels per day from the previous month to reach 86.5 million barrels per day. This increase is said to have come largely from OPEC, since non-OPEC output slipped by 65,000 barrels per day during the same period. According to the IEA, therefore, world petroleum production is still growing.

However, the IEA reports have several known weaknesses. First, in computing daily and monthly production values for “petroleum liquids,” they count not only crude oil and condensates, but also tar sands, extra-heavy oil and biofuels. Secondly, their initial estimates for a particular month's production are usually revised downwards as time passes. The world crude oil and petroleum liquids production figures published by the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) are usually at least a million barrels per day lower than those published by the IEA for a given month. The EIA figures show that world petroleum liquids production has not risen significantly above 85 million barrels per day from 2005 until March of this year.

But the most significant weakness of the IEA figures is that at least a few well-placed oil industry experts have pointed out that the reliability of the IEA figures depends on the good faith of oil producing countries in truthfully reporting their production numbers. Some of these experts believe that some of the reporting countries have exaggerated their production figures this year. A case in point is Matt Simmons, president of Simmons and Company International, an energy investment banking company, and oil industry expert. He has objected to claims by Saudi Arabia that their country is producing oil at the levels claimed in the IEA OMR. He has stated that there is no evidence that Saudi production is as high as the Saudis claim (9.5 to 9.7 million barrels per day), and that actual Saudi production is 1.5 million barrels lower than claimed. In his view, world petroleum production is now beginning to falter. (Sources: CNBC Video, “Peak Oil Theory,” 31 July 2008,; “Business Matters: Surviving the Oil Crisis,” Global Public Media,

Accusations about falsely high production numbers were also made last year by Henry Groppe of Groppe, Long and Littel, a petroleum and chemical consulting firm. In an interview with David Strahan of Global Public Media (“IEA to Blame for $100 Oil Spike,” 16 December 2007,, Mr. Groppe asserted that OPEC typically overstates its production figures by up to 2 million barrels per day when reporting its production figures to the IEA. If accusations by these men are true (and in the case of Matt Simmons, the accusations may be rather easy to check simply by examining the IEA OMR figures and doing some arithmetic), this has serious implications. First, this may mean that world oil production has indeed peaked and is now in decline, as stated in the German Energy Watch Group report on oil supplies which was published last October. It also means that reporting agencies and national governments may be trying to keep that fact from public view for as long as possible.

There is an interesting recent news item which seems to bear out this suspicion. On 28 July, an article appeared in the Saudi Gazette whose headline read, “Saudi Aramco Denies Shortage of Fuel to Rural Areas,” ( Apparently, farmers and truck drivers in rural areas of Saudi Arabia have begun to experience diesel fuel shortages after Saudi Arabia promised recently to raise its global production and exports to world markets. The link between these two situations may be that Saudi production is constrained and cannot grow, and that in order to boost petroleum exports they are having to deny fuel to some of their own citizens. This is rather like an addict selling his own blood to pay his bills.

Lastly, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the following words on 31 July, during a press conference: “Producers, unfortunately, have not made the investments necessary to keep pace with this growing demand. Because production capacity and investment has been curtailed over the last decade, supply now barely offsets declining production in older fields, let alone meets new demand.” (Source: There are more and more signs appearing which tell us that worldwide petroleum production has peaked, even though oil prices have pulled back a bit recently.

Concerning oil prices, I wrote about price volatility or “bumpiness” during the peaking period in my post titled, “A Bumpier Plateau.” I believe that we will see several rather rapid cycles of price spikes, falling demand because people can't afford petroleum products, falling price which fools people into consuming more petroleum, and re-appearing price spikes because of revived demand. It will be rather like a man who's out of shape and has coronary artery disease, who has severe chest pain whenever he exerts himself, but who feels fine while resting, and who, while resting, fools himself into believing that he's fine – even though the bouts of chest pain grow more severe and occur at lower thresholds of exertion as time passes. We had better stop fooling ourselves, before it's too late.

* * *

Now for backyard chickens. I was introduced to this subject by listening to podcasts of episodes of Deconstructing Dinner, a regular radio show produced by Kootenay Co-Op Radio in Canada. Deconstructing Dinner discusses the many disadvantages of our present globalized, agribusiness-dominated food system, and explores alternatives that can be implemented by ordinary people. One of their series is titled, “Farming In The City,” and it explores various aspects of urban agriculture. Recently they have been covering what could be called “the urban chicken-raising movement,” and they have featured guest appearances by a radio character named Bucky Buckaw, who also has a weekly radio show on Radio Boise (

Listening to these podcasts piqued my interest, since they pointed out the fragility of our present food system and its vulnerability to the energy and resource shortages that will exist in a post-Peak world. I began to think to myself, “I've had a dog and a few cats as pets during my life. Why not try a chicken or two?” An urban agriculture group in our city was hosting a chicken-raising class and backyard coop bicycle tour, so I joined in. Now that I've seen and heard a bit, I still don't know if I'm ready to take the plunge into chicken-rearing. But as Bucky Buckaw would say, “I had a good time” learning about chickens.

And here are some pictures of a typical chicken-raising house. Note how not only are occupants raising chickens, but they have transformed an ugly urban lot into a place of nutritious beauty within the space of less than a year.