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Growth and Unanswered Questions

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Everything is growing!

That makes me smile!

It sure doesn’t take long once the weather cooperates.  The garden was bare one week and flooded in green the next.

Bev and I go out each night and measure the growth.  I know, it sounds weird, but it’s also the truth.

I WONDER

I wonder about a lot of things, like this COVID-19 thing, I wonder if people are going to learn from it, or will our fruit-fly memories forget valuable lessons two years into the future?

The economy isn’t going to get noticeably better for most of us.  For many, returning to an “economic normal” may not happen.  Money will be in shorter supply.  Prices of commodities may rise. Shortages may occur.  What will many do?  Will they grow gardens? Will they cut down their debt? Will they downsize?  Will they look for alternative and supplemental income?  Will they learn the art of DIY?

And what happens if another virus appears?  Or a natural disaster like a tornado or hurricane or wildfire?  And your local economy is shattered again?  Are we all willing to bet it won’t happen?

So many questions to consider!

SHOPPING LOCAL

We are on a battleground right now.  Our retailers need our assistance, and I’m talking about our local retailers.  No, not Costco or WalMart or Starbucks or Amazon – those big retailers/suppliers will survive quite nicely, thank you. Their shareholders might take a little hit on their bonuses, but those corporations will march forward into the future with few concerns.

I’m talking about your local farms and mom & pop stores, those with one foot on solvency and the other on bankruptcy, those who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic.  They need us now!  They do not have a bailout plan. They do not have mega-investors to save their butts.  Most of them barely have the savings to protect them for six months.  When restrictions are lifted, they need their community to step up and buy local.

Just my opinion, mind you.

I buy my flavored coffee from a locally-owned coffee kiosk. I refuse to buy from Starbucks, even though it is headquartered sixty miles from my home.  I buy fresh produce from Spuds, a locally-owned fruit and produce store. I will not step foot in WalMart.  We try to buy as many of our groceries from Ralphs Thriftway, a locally-owned supermarket, rather than Costco.  It would take a gun to my head to get me inside Costco.  Bev shops whenever possible at the Olympia Farmers Market.  Yes, she pays a bit more for their goods, but it’s money well-spent for us.

Does it make a difference?  I believe it does, and since it’s my money, that’s all that really counts now isn’t it?

A TRIP TO THE PAST

I can’t help but think about our neighborhood when I was growing up.  We literally had a mom & pop store a block from our house. It was a converted home and it was called Field’s Grocery.  It was one room, what would have been a living room, and that room had all the staples someone would need in a rush i.e. toilet paper, milk, eggs, sugar, etc.  It was run by, appropriately, Mrs. Fields. She was such a kind woman.  She knew the names of all us kids, the names of our parents, and she would always give us a piece of penny candy when we stopped by to buy something for our parents.

A block in the other direction was Stanley Meats, a meat market run by two brothers, the Stanleys, of course, two WW2 vets who were butchers.  They knew our names as well. They always had candy for us as well.

It was comforting, you know, having those two retailers in our neighborhood.  I would be hard-pressed to tell you exactly why they were so important to our neighborhood, but they were, and all nearby families shopped at those two shops because, well, they were part of the fabric of that neighborhood.

Just a thought to ponder.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

Are you making any changes to your lifestyle based on current events?  Just curious what others are doing, you know?

Pax vobiscum to all of you!  I’ve got slugs to do battle with.

Bill

Darkest Before the Dawn

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It’s going to get bad, my friends.

It’s hard to tell that now, with relief money doled out, and unemployment checks, and stimulus checks, but six months from now, a new reality will settle over us.

That’s not a Chicken Little statement.  I’m not one for panicking or depression or anxiety.  It’s just a simple statement of fact, as I see it, based on my knowledge of economics, macro and micro.

It’s going to get bad, and the poor and the lower middle class, those who live paycheck to paycheck, and those who have no safety net, are going to feel the full force of this new reality.

MY PERSONAL REALITY

I don’t say this with any measure of gloating or pride, but my wife and I are pretty much unscathed by the economic troubles right now.  Part of that is because of my Social Security and Teamsters retirement checks, but another part of it is because ten years ago we took steps to “spread out and diversify” our revenue sources.  At the same time we began to move towards a debt-free lifestyle.

Are we there yet?  No, but we are close enough so we don’t have to worry about paying our bills.

I make money as a freelance writer, and I’m actually making more now than I have in the last five years.  Bev makes money from a part-time job plus a variety of odd jobs she picks up here and there i.e. feeding animals for people, milking on her son’s goat farm, etc.  The point is this: we have income from a variety of sources.  It’s a sort of safety net, if you will.  If one source dries up, or disappears, the others provide necessary income.

Have we paid off all of our debt? No, but we are infinitely better off today than we were ten years ago.

And we still have our house, and we may decide to stay here, simply because it can always be used as a source of income should we need it i.e. rent out a room or two if necessary.

So I’m not terribly concerned about the future, but I also think concern is warranted for millions of people who are not prepared for what’s coming down the pike.  They keep comparing this current economic downturn to the Great Recession of 2008. They should compare it to the Great Depression of the 30’s, because that’s really the benchmark we need to look at.

Unemployment is now at 18%, and that’s a conservative estimate.  We have not seen unemployment that high since 1939.  The food system has gaping holes in it.  Nine million Americans have lost their health insurance, and that number is increasing.  Global trade looks like a piece of Swiss cheese right now, and some of our trading partners will not recover in our lifetime.  And there is no comprehensive plan of recovery.   Anyone with a basic knowledge of economics can tell you that simply easing restrictions on social distancing is not going to fix what is currently broken.  Millions of jobs at thousands of companies have disappeared.  They could completely end social distancing tomorrow and there would be millions with no job to return to.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

I don’t give advice unless it’s asked for, and nobody asked for it, so I’m just going to tell you what we are doing to deal with the present and prepare for the future:

  • Absolutely no new debt
  • Pay down existing debt
  • Look for other income sources
  • Downsize, downsize, and downsize some more
  • Grow as much food as possible

That should keep us busy for the next few months, don’t you think?

Be safe!

Bill

Preparing for the Future

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The garden is planted!

HOORAY!

I swear it seemed like it took months to prepare the garden, but in reality it was probably about three weeks of sporadic work on it.  Gone are the days when I dive into a project and work eight hours per day on it.

I’m not sure what all is in there. Bev chose our plantings since I’m not much of a veggie-eater.  I know there are beans, peas, lettuce, onions, and cukes.  Not sure what else is in there, but I love surprises.

We used rabbit poop for fertilizer.  Great stuff that rabbit poop;  it’s not messy, it doesn’t smell, and it is slow-release.  I highly recommend it.

A random thought, and an insight into my bizarre mind:  I wonder how Vegans justify having cats as pets?  Cats are among the world’s biggest meat-eaters, by volume.  Every year, literally millions of birds are killed and eaten by cats. So how does that work into the Vegan philosophy?  There truly is no judgment in that question.  I’m just curious.

Life sure can be complicated, you know?

THE FRONT YARD

As you can see, the front yard is planted in berries, and they are budding as we speak.  We still have a little weeding to do, but not bad.  In another two months we will be swimming in berries, and making smoothies by the gallon.

WHAT’S MISSING

This is the first year in the last six we haven’t had quail and/or chickens.  I’m still getting calls from people in the neighborhood for fresh eggs.  I miss my birds a bit, but without doing a farmers market it really isn’t worthwhile to raise the chickens, and I’m pretty disillusioned and disappointed in our local farmers market right now, so there you go.  Maybe next year I’ll find a different market and sell some eggs again.

Or maybe not!

We were driving to the grocery store a couple hours ago and a chicken crossed the road in front of us.

No joke!  It was a walking cliché and we laughed hard.  I still don’t know why she crossed that road.

I don’t have much else this week.  I have chores galore in the backyard, mainly to pretty it up a bit and no, we still have no idea whether we are moving or not.

THE FUTURE

You have to wonder, don’t you, if this pandemic will eventually change the way people live?  It’s not like this can’t happen again, because it can. Will our nation be better-prepared for it? Will we? Will more people see the wisdom in downsizing and growing food?  Or will we ignore it all, chalk it up as a bad dream, or an anomaly, and live life like we did before the Boogey Man paid a visit?

I seriously doubt if most people understand just how bad this is going to be economically-speaking.  Economies don’t quickly bounce back from a complete shutdown.  It will take years to recover from the loss of business and the subsequent loss of jobs.  Lower income and middle income families are going to face some harsh realities by the end of 2020, realities they probably thought were impossible a mere two months ago.

I’ll probably focus more, in the weeks to come, in this blog, on that subject.  Bev and I made some important decisions a couple years ago regarding simplifying our lives, and those decisions helped us when COVID-19 made its appearance.  I think we’ll continue on that path.

Have a brilliant week filled with good health and love

Bill

Killing Time During Lockdown

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To move or not to move, let’s set that aside for the time being.  Let’s talk about life during The Great Virus period.

I can no longer use the “I don’t have time to do that” excuse.  I’m just talking about me, mind you.  I don’t have a job to go to, and I have few responsibilities, so saying I don’t have the time to put in a garden or do repair jobs around the house is just ludicrous.

So that’s what I’m working on now that the weather has finally shifted into “spring mode.”  Good thing, too, about the weather.  We just ran out of firewood for the woodstove.  Two cords lasted us from October to the first week of April, about average for our usage, and now we have a new furnace.  Of course that comes with its own set of problems.  Bev has asthma, and a forced-air furnace means dust flying around the house when the furnace is on.  If it ain’t one thing it’s ten more, you know?

GARDEN PROGRESS

front yard

We have garlic and potatoes in the ground.  The soil should be ready for planting in another two weeks.  In the meantime I’ll be weeding and preparing the soil with nutrients.  The front yard of our home is all berry bushes, and they are starting to bud, which is always an exciting time of year.  That area will be overwhelmed with berries in about three months, which is hard to believe looking at it now.

The garden is 14×16, fenced off to protect it from the dogs, who have the run of the backyard.  At one time this garden space was home to twenty rabbits, so you better believe the soil is well-fertilized.  It won’t take much preparation for that soil.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE AVIARIES

As some of you know, I built two large aviaries a couple years ago to raise quail in.  The quail are now gone, leaving me with two 10×12 enclosed structures.  One holds the firewood, but I’m not sure what to do with the other.  I could make it into a large greenhouse with a minimum of work, but I’m not sure that’s what I want to do.  I’ll have to think on it a bit.

THE SHED

That shed actually housed my son for three years.  It is 10×12 in size, a cozy little space for sleeping. I used it for an office about eight years ago.  We haven’t decided what to use it for now.  One thought is to put a composting toilet in it and use it for a bathroom; then we would build another structure next to it, one which is 10×20 in size, and connect the two with a covered walkway. That way we could rent out both as a living space for someone…or we could live in it, and rent out the house.

We have options!  What we don’t have, right now, is a concrete plan, but it will come eventually.

SO THAT’S WHERE WE ARE RIGHT NOW

I’ll keep you posted. We haven’t given up our dream of going small, but we may do it here rather than in a tiny home separate from this property.  The virus situation takes front stage right now. When that passes we can start thinking about it all again.  Until then, I have work to do out back.

I hope you are all well during this virus problem.  It’s weird to say this, considering the upheaval around the world, but my life has hardly been changed at all during this pandemic.  Now mind you, we simplified our lives considerably five, six years ago, so it doesn’t take much to keep the good ship  Holland/King afloat, but it’s still strange to think of all the misery all around, and our lives hardly affected by any of it.  Oddly, my freelance writing business has increased since COVID-19 burst onto the scene.

I know there are hard times out there. We just aren’t experiencing any of it, and for that we are very, very grateful.

Anyway, I hope this finds you well and safe!

Have a great week! Stay safe!

Bill

What To Do?

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We finally have a furnace that works!

That’s big news. We haven’t had a functioning furnace in over ten years.  It’s all been woodstove-generated heat for us for a decade, and while we do love woodstoves, it’s pretty nice to just flick a switch and have heat come on.  And it sure is nice waking up on a winter’s morning and not have the house frigid.

Just sayin’

Maybe I’ve gotten soft in my old age.

We also had a better water heater installed, so two items are checked off our list in case we sell the house.

But we might not sell the house.  We still don’t know what we are doing.

What we are doing is preparing in case we decide to go ahead and sell. We are downsizing our possessions.  We are fixing up the house and doing much-needed repairs.   All of this will take us through the summer to do, and once it is all done we will make up our collective mind what we want to do.

Oddly, the COVID-19 pandemic came along at an interesting time for us.  Interest rates are going down, and refinancing the house and staying here is a very real possibility.  The mortgage payment would drop considerably, making it affordable to live here on our retirement funds.  Just one more thing to think about.

No worries!  It will all work out eventually!  In the meantime, I have more than enough to keep me busy, thank you very much.  A little warmer weather would help to get me in the mood for outdoor chores, but we are healthy and safe, so a little chilly weather can’t be complained about.

Be safe, all of you.  Better days are coming.

Bill

Nice and Easy Does It

PROGRESS ON MOVING

Not much progress to report, truth be told, and the reason for that non-report is we still don’t know what path to follow.  We have three or four scenarios we are discussing, but so far that’s as far as we’ve gotten…discussions.  Bev is getting established in a new job, which is taking a lot of concentration on her part. She has been sick or almost sick since Thanksgiving, and is just now beginning to feel normal again.

And me?  I just keep on keeping on while the rain falls and the dreams of a simpler life flow.  I watch a lot of YouTube videos about tiny houses, and I get rid of stuff when I have time to do so…….

So we may not be stuck in neutral, but at best we are creeping along in first gear…the granny gear, Dad used to say…creeping towards a new lifestyle but not sure what it looks like.

Bev being sick has just reinforced the notion of simplifying our lives and eliminating debt.  We need her income to pay bills, and times get a bit tricky when she isn’t pulling down a paycheck.  So we are motivated to get moving soon before another mysterious illness overtakes one of us.

A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY

We thought we had a possibility, but turns out we don’t.  We are now turning our attention to possibly building a 10×20 living space in the backyard and renting our house out.  A part of us wants to stay here, but a part of us wants to go smaller on land somewhere else.  This might be the best option of all but again, we just haven’t decided yet.

Making some improvements to the home….new furnace, new water heater, remodel bathroom and kitchen floor….those things take time and money, but I think that’s the direction we are heading in.

I don’t feel like rushing this process.  I want to do it correctly.  I want to make decisions I feel good about.  This is a huge life change we are talking about, and rushing through it will not help anyone.  I’m into the Tao of moving right now, so DON’T RUSH ME!!!

And so it goes!

Bill

Where Are We Going?

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

We still don’t know where we are going to live once we move.

No worries!

We really don’t know what we want to live in.

No worries!

We have our hands full right now just downsizing and getting this place ready to sell.  Bev just started a new full-time job, so here time is limited.  And me, I’m just getting older, and I accomplish less and less.

No worries!

It will all work out when it is supposed to work out, and not a minute sooner.

It’s nice to have options, you know? It’s nice knowing we really don’t have to do anything until we are absolutely ready and absolutely settled on the final destination.  Moving is manageable when there are no deadlines, and that’s a first for me. I honestly can’t remember all the homes I have lived in.  Twelve or fourteen with my first wife….twenty years in my childhood home…Bev and I, only in this house….while single I probably lived in ten different places . . . let’s just round it off at twenty different homes. I should be used to it but I’m not. I don’t like moving.  It’s safe to say I never will like it.  Hopefully this next move will be the last. That’s the way I’m treating it, like it’s final and thus more important.

Any mental trick that works is a good trick by me.

ARCHED CABINS

Something new I just saw on the internet. Check them out…Google “arched cabins”….pretty cool.

GARAGE SALE

I was going to have a big garage sale when I sorted through all this stuff, make a few bucks, you know . ..  but I decided #1) I didn’t want to sit outside all day for a couple hundred bucks and #2) there are people out there who need  a break, so why not give the stuff away free? So I think that’s what I’ll do.  When it comes time, I’ll just put the stuff out on the curb.  It will disappear pretty quickly.  It always does. There is always someone who needs the discards.

I guess that’s it for today.  Bev is sick, so I’m doing double duty today, and the dogs need walking.

Catch you down the road!

Bill