Yesterday, Bruce and I made a stop at one of the two stores in our tiny town, an excellent hardware store that we visit often. I don’t care for jewlery except my wedding rings. Maybe that’s why I enjoy looking at hardware. I love tools and gadgets, even adhesives are interesting for me. I looked over the stock with an eye toward stocking up from a preparedness standpoint and found a pile of things every family should have on hand.

Rope: Cordage of all kinds will come in handy.  It is probably no possible to have too much on hand in a variety of weights. You can always trade it if you have more than you need.

Fasteners: Think nails and screws, heavy duty staples and a staple gun, nuts and bolts.

Adhesives: There are so many kinds of tapes and glues. Not all of this keeps well but it is great to have for trading. Duct tape and electrical tape are  as is wood and all purpose glue.

Plumbing supplies: Think about keeping enough on hand to replace the pipes under a sink as well as repair a toilet or a leaky faucet.

Tools: I mentioned the usual hammers and screw drivers but you also need a crow bar, level, a variety of saws and blades as well as wrenches and pliers. You can go a little crazy with tools.

Wood: If you have a dry place to store it you should keep some exterior grade plywood and as much general lumber as you have room and money for. Some Sheetrock is also a good idea for storage as well as tape and mud.

A good home repair book is a good storage item, even if you have some skills. Bruce can turn his hand to most home repair tasks but, from time to time, needs some guidance before tackling an unfamiliar project.

We tend to think of preparedness as food and security but in truth is is so much more. Preparedness is the ability to meet all of your needs for an extended period of time.

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I have been sorting my seeds this morning. I purchased a number of seeds from Fedco. They come in packets marked by weight, not number so I find myself with an excess of several varieties. That’s good news as I am going to a seed swap next week. Seed swaps are wonderful things. People often have favorite plants and order or save those seeds every year. That means that particularvariety is hardy in our climate and a reliable producer. Swapping gives me the opportunity to try out the seed myself. Chances are, it will become one of my favorites too.

Indian woman beans are one example of this. I tried them a couple of years ago and found they worked well for us. They dried easily and my kids liked them a lot. I started saving the seed and now I have enough to swap. I am looking for orange Hopi squash. Sharon Astyk put it on her must have list as it holds for a full year without getting soft. I haven’t found it yet but I hope to. My favorite squashes last year were Delicata and red Kuri. Both have wonderful flavor, stored well and Delicata needs no peeling. I have a lot of those seeds saved and hope to swap with someone for a terrific broccoli. My broccoli last year was terrible. I bought Arcadia this year and hope for better luck.

This swapping thing is adictive which is a good thing. I suspect that the next few years will see a lot of us bartering and swapping rather than using money. When you think preparedness, think about what you can store that will retain value. Cloth diapers and pins, shoe laces, nails, canning jar lids, you get the idea.

It’s funny how the idea of value changes with circumstances. I used to think of a car as having value. I still have one but I consider it a necessary evil and a drain on my finances. An auto is the last thing I would “invest” in. I keep the car and the truck we have in excellent repair, will drive both until they refuse to budge another inch, then pay cash for another second hand vehicle when it can’t be avoided.

The economic news continues to go from bad to really bad. In spite of some happy talk when the markets rise a bit, there is no doubt the fundamentals are not strong and we may not be looking at recovery this year. If you have not already done so, the time has come for you to take a look at the “other” economy. This is the place where a lot of transactions take place that wall street will never calculate into the GDP numbers although, for a lot of families, it is the economy that puts food on the table. Let me give you an example.

Bruce lent some sap buckets to a neighbor who wanted to boil some sap with his kids. The neighbor found some more buckets on Craig’s list and not only returned the original buckets but gave us another 15 or so. Bruce then brought over the little wood stove we picked up in the fall from a different neighbor who was not using it. Now our first neighbor had a way to boil outside. He and Bruce have begun to talk about a small sugar house and sharing equipment. Earlier in the day I picked up my daughter’s birthday cake from the Creamery. They gave her the cake because she drops by the store 2 or 3 days a week to wash dishes, sweep floors, bus tables and generally help out. She started doing this when she was home schooled as part of a vocational curriculum. She continued after she returned to school because she loved the work and knew she was a valuable part of the team. I needed someone to walk me through some computer stuff and a friend spent an hour of her valuable time helping out. Last night yet another friend stopped by to borrow the key to the church. We have set up a couple of donated sewing machines there and people use the space to sew reusable shopping bags that are donated to local businesses. I gave some of Bruce’s honey to a friend who was needing to get rid of some eggs. Happy to oblige. No money changed hands during any of these transactions (Oops-not true. We paid for the little stove, but not much.)

Do you have a skill? Is there something you can do well and with some word-of-mouth advertising turn into a business. If you sew, maybe you could repair clothing. Do you have a green thumb or a way with animals? Can you tutor or give classes in something?

It is hard to know exactly sometimes, where the informal economy ends and being a good neighbor begins. Not everything should be about what you are likely to get out of it. If I bring soup to sick neighbor, I am not keeping track of what is “owed me”. I just know that when I was laid up this winter, a lot of meals appeared on my counter. When a friend gave me a bushel of tomatoes, I don’t think she expected to be rewarded with a couple of quarts of sauce (but of course she was!). Shared garden produce and child care and the proverbial cup of sugar are what makes the world go round. Lets, hope the feds never find a way to tax being a good neighbor.

I keep hearing talk of economic recovery. What I have not heard is exactly what recovery will look like. Does anyone really want an economic system to emerge that looks like the old one? I know I don’t want my children to build their economic future on a foundation of borrowing against future earnings to purchase transient pleasure in the present.

Everyone wants the good life. The problem becomes redefining good. What comes off the old “good life” list is pretty easy. Hot tubs should probably get taken off . A new car every three years, huge houses, plastic toys and the newest electronic gizmo will have to go. The work comes with filling up the space in our lives that use to house stuff and figuring out what will slip into the void.

Time in nature, time with friends, time to pursue hobbies, time to learn new skills, time to devote to community service, time to sit, time to think. Time. I can’t help but wonder if some of the people who have lost jobs that required 60 hour work weeks and 2 hour commutes, a breakfast of Malox and a good cardiologist have moments when losing the McMansion wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened. Of course, I realize that I am not being totally fair. It’s easy for me to look on the bright side of job loss when I don’t need a job. Bruce and I have been preparing for this for years. Had it been thrust on us before we were ready, we would have suffered as much as any unemployed stockbroker.

I can’t stress this enough. If you have a job, use this time to prepare for a time when you might not. Start a home business that you can fall back on. That may mean investing in the acquisition of new skills or tools. Learn to love living smaller. Be a presence in your community. Grow some food. Barter. Lose weight if you need to. Get healthy. Stop smoking. Forget the Dow Jones today. Design your own Personal Satisfaction Index.

Here is what my day looks like. It is early now. The children are still asleep. I will get them up in a minute. We will eat the whole grain muffins I prepared last night. Bruce will walk Phoebe to school. He will stop to visit with our neighbor. They will talk about buying pigs or bee keeping or this year’s sap run. I will write for a bit. I will pick up the up stairs and water my lemon tree. I will open up the green house. Bruce will work on the cabinet he is building for our son. We may walk to the Creamery for a cup of coffee. Actually, the coffee doesn’t matter but the community does. We will sit together and work on the garden plan this afternoon. I am making fish for dinner. I need to decide what I should bring up from the cellar to serve. Should it be applesauce or pears? Potatoes for sure. We will walk to school to pick up Phoebe. I will knit a few rows on my grandson’s sweater. We will take a walk after supper. Life is good.

I have to laugh. Every news station is running stories on the new frugality. I have seen segments on gardening, barter, coupon shopping, buying used clothing, you name it, it’s being covered. One would think that the idea of living within one’s means is a totally new concept.

Years ago, I used to subscribe to the Tightwad Gazette, a 4 page newsletter devoted to tightwaddery. Maybe it’s a rural thing. Everyone I know thinks of getting something for nothing as a lifestyle choice. I know one or two people who have always spent like there was no tomorrow ( there was and it’s today) but we felt sorry for those poor souls, the way we would if we learned that he was bit simple. To bad but these things happen.

One thing I have noticed is that there is still an emphasis on getting essentially the same lifestyle (food, clothing, car) as before but not spending as much money. They are still not getting it. We can’t have the same lifestyle. We will need to eat differently, more locally, fewer calories, less meat, dress differently, practical, warm, durable, live in different houses, smaller, more efficient, closer to where we work, drive differently, shared autos, fewer miles, drive until the car becomes so old it is almost car vapor. That old life is over for most of us. The new frugality is the new reality. It is not a phase or a fad or a hobby. Get used to it.