Most of us have gas-powered tools that to be blunt, make life a lot easier around the house. None of these are tools that we couldn’t live without, but if we didn’t have them our lifestyles would be completely different. Our current lifestyles and the tools that we use to make our lives more convenient are reliant on the availability of relatively cheap fossil fuels – how long will this combination will last before availability or price force changes to our lifestyles?
That is the question and no one really knows – it could be tomorrow or sometime down the road, but fossil fuel supplies will not last forever and each day – that day is getting closer.
How would not having these gas-powered devices impact me around the house?
Yes I consider a vehicle a tool and a necessary one. We live out in the country and have to drive at least 10 miles in either direction to do shopping beyond the convenience store level. There is no public transportation, I don’t have critters big enough to ride or pull a wagon and using pedal power or walking are not a convenient options to go shopping for that distance. See my Personal Transportation and Self-Sufficiency post for more on this. Not having a gas-powered vehicle available would completely change the world, not just my little piece of it.
We burn wood to supplement our oil heating system. If we had to heat completely by wood, I would have to double or triple the amount of wood I use for heating and probably change from a fireplace insert to a full-fledged wood stove. Big changes here.
It also means cutting and splitting the wood before we can burn it and then doing clean-up. Using a chain saw, is easier than cutting down a tree with an axe and bucking (hand sawing) the wood into stove length pieces. I also prefer cleaning up the leavings with my chipper, not putting everything into big brush pile and then burning it (and hoping it doesn’t burn down the woods I need to keep for fuel for heating).
I don’t use a gas-powered splitter, even though it would be easier, there is something about chopping wood, that as weird as it sounds – I enjoy. If I didn’t have these gas-powered tools to help process how I do firewood, it would make gathering firewood more challenging and significantly increase the amount of time it would take to do it.
We don’t have a 4-wheeler or other gas-powered vehicle for use in the yard (besides the truck) to move the wood or other stuff around. Instead we use a wheelbarrow, it works just fine, the only difference is you have to make more trips.
Maybe Paul Bunyan and Babe will make a comeback and come over and help me get my firewood. 🙂
Most of the time this summer I have used the self-propelled gas-powered lawn mower with a bagger. It is easier and looks nice when you are done (plus we put the clippings in a mulch pile for composting). However, we do use the “old-fashioned” rotary lawn mower about every now and then, just to save a bit. If I had to go without the gasoline option for mowing the lawn, I have a feeling we would make more of the lawn into garden/orchard and it would not be that bad.
The other part of lawn maintenance is keeping the tree line 50-75 feet away from the house. I now use a gas-powered weed-eater, which works fantastic to maintain that open perimeter around the house. I have a held-held weed-wacker and while I could do it with that, I really don’t want to, it is a pain to use and doesn’t to that good a job. If I had a scythe, that would probably work a lot better, but I don’t and they are difficult to find up around here for a reasonable price.
In the absence of gas-powered tools here I would probably wait between trimmings and only worry about the small trees, cut them down when they reached a couple of feet tall and not worry about ferns or grass growing. Not a big deal and doable, but would take a lot longer.
We have a 300 ft driveway and while I have shoveled it by hand or used a sno-scoop many times in the past, my snow blower is a hell of a lot easier on my back and shoulders than the other methods. Especially if we are getting over 5 inches of the white stuff at a time, or if it is that nasty spring snow that each shovel full weighs a ton and sticks to the shovel.
Could I do snow removal without gas-powered tools – yep it would just take longer (a lot longer) or I would change the configuration of the driveway a lot – who knows even building a smaller garage closer to the road and having the old one become a barn for animals and the area in-between a small pasture area. No gas-powered tools really makes you change how you look at things, especially snow removal, which is a big deal up yeah in Maine.
We use a small rototiller to turn-over the garden and help create new spots. This is a lot easier than turning-over a garden by hand with a shovel. We have a relatively small garden plot and could we live without the rototiller – absolutely, we have done so in the past. It just takes longer and is harder on the back muscles.
These are the main things that I use gas-powered tools for around the house. There are practical human-powered alternatives for the gas-powered tools that I now use. However, those alternatives use muscle power to work and would increase the amount of time it takes to do the task considerably. In some ways that might just be a good thing, it certainly would result in a lot more exercise for me (resulting in my weighing a lot less than I do now), I would have to be outside a lot longer and I wouldn’t be spending money on gasoline.
The changes to my small-part of the world would be pretty significant if I couldn’t use gas-powered tools anymore, can you imagine the effects multiplied by how many in the U.S. alone? The difference in our lifestyles would be pretty sobering and just a bit scary. I really wouldn’t want my lifestyle to change that much, but what happens if it does?
However, the reality is that while I might prepare myself (which I am trying to do as a part of my efforts to be more self-reliant) for a time when gasoline is not readily available or too expensive to run labor-saving devices unnecessarily, I will continue to use gas-powered tools until I can’t.