What has four legs and runs on biofuel?

I just paid 80 cents for a not very big apple at the supermarket. A bag of four apples was $3.20. I’m eating one now while staring at that dumb, useless, flowering crab-apple tree we planted in the side yard four years ago. What were we thinking about? Flowering crab apples? If we had planted a real apple tree four years ago, I could be eating them right now. Somebody, please, smack me. Real apple trees have beautiful flowers just like crab apples. Real apple trees cost the same. Real apple trees have ... apples.

It’s too late to plant apple trees now, I’ll have to wait until next spring. By then apples will probably be $2 apiece. You’d think they were watering them with oil – in a sense, they are. How much gas does it take to get an apple from my yard to my mouth? None. Store-bought apples come by truck, sometimes from a long way away. Like everyone else, I’m trying to learn how to live with the high price of energy. I bought a bunch of those curly-cue light bulbs that use 75 percent less energy. It took a while, but, finally, every bulb in my house has been changed. The day I screwed in the last bulb, they raised my electric rates. So my big savings turned out to be zero. If we hadn’t changed them, we’d be in the hole.

I got some gas for the lawnmower. Eight gallons, $32. I’m going to let nature take back much of my lawn this year and just mow the most obvious parts. I don’t know what I’ve been thinking about, I like almost everything else Mother Nature does – the mountains, the valleys, Grand Canyon and the Grand Tetons, why do I think she wouldn’t do a wonderful job in my back yard? Cheap gas must have made me crazy enough to think I knew more about landscaping than she did.

Sue and I had been planning a trip to Amish country in Lancaster County, Pa. – go back in time and see what it’s like to live without all the modern conveniences, but we canceled the trip. It would waste too much gas. Then it hit me that as oil prices keep going up, the people who will be least affected by it will be the Amish who, by and large, live off the oil grid. It wasn’t that long ago – 100 years or so – that everyone lived like the Amish. Most people grew their own food; only the very rich had cars; the rest of us got around on horses or horse-powered vehicles. Phones were rare and there was no such thing as television or radio. It’s hard to believe, but the Amish didn’t start to look quaint until very recently, between WWI and WWII. There are people alive today who lived that way not because they were Amish, but because almost everyone lived that way. And with the price of gas, they may be around to see everyone live that way again.

Remember, horses run on biofuel and they produce fertilizer. And what kid wouldn’t want to ride a horse to school? Instead of listening to them whine from the time they’re 13 until the time they get a driver’s license, get them a horse. The opportunity for getting in trouble is much less on a horse than in a car. They can’t invite all their friends to ride with them on a horse – one at most. And there’s no back seat to get in trouble in. It would teach them responsibility. If they forget to feed their ride, you won’t have to ground them, they’ll have done it to themselves. Maybe expensive oil will change all our lives for the better. After all, we’ve all heard of “horse sense.” Who’s heard of “oil sense”?

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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