It is not a good news day. Between the auto industry and AIG the markets are getting hammered. I had a notion of writing a piece about small pieces of good news like my tomatoes popping up in their little greenhouses and the taste of a just pulled carrot but I just can’t pull it off. These are real people losing jobs and homes and dreams. The feds are going to send in disaster recovery teams to communities that will be decimated by the restructuring of the auto industry but, in spite of their best intentions, you can’t create any job without the demand for that product or service and people who are out of work don’t demand more than the bare essentials.

Most of us are familiar with Kubler/Ross’s work on the stages of grief. Essentially, we all go through a similar series of emotions when we have a major life loss. First there is denial followed by bargaining, then depression, then anger and finally acceptance. I hope that, as a country, we get through these stages very quickly and move on to acceptance. We need to accept that a life of credit funded consumption is over. The feds can make all the promises they like, but ultimately, we are going to have to take care of ourselves. That means prioritizing your needs.

You need shelter. You don’t need fancy shelter. You need a roof over your head, even if you have to share it with family or friends. The best shelter will have space to grow some food and be something you can keep warm. It will be in a place where you have the support of people who care about you.

You need food. When things are desperate, you need to treat the acquisition of food like a job. You will probably need to use multiple food sources rather than simply heading off to the grocery store. That may mean buying clubs, co-ops, farmer’s markets, the woods behind your house and the planter on your deck.

You need to be warm enough. Fleece jackets and wool socks, closing off rooms that don’t absolutely need to be heated, getting used to sleeping under quilts in cold bedrooms could  all be necessary.

You need a reason to get up in the morning, a sense of purpose. Even if you don’t have a job to go to, get up and make a plan. Set up a neighborhood pot luck to discuss how you can work together to grow some food or work with your children. Start a scout troop of set up a 4-H program. It will take some doing to wean your kids from video games and structured programs and teach them to have fun and learn something without spending money.

Take care of you health. Take care of you marriage. Take care of your neighborhood. Take care of yourself.


If you are lucky enough to be getting a tax rebate this year, you may be thinking about what to do with it. I was speaking with two woman down at my daughter’s school today and both are planning trips to Florida over the April vacation even though money is clearly tight for both families. The rational is that they are already in so much trouble that it doesn’t really matter. They also feel that the value of their dollars is slipping so quickly that they might as well have some fun while they can.

I understand how they feel but I certainly hope you will make better choices. But what is a better choice? Alternative energy or a reliable car? A freezer or a new furnace? Pay down debt or stock up the pantry? I sure hope you aren’t expecting me to have some magic answer. I have just come into a small amount of money and Bruce and I are struggling with our many options for spending it. We are lucky in that we have no debt so we have more choices. If I owed money to anyone, I would in fact, pay that off, especially if the debt was a high-interest credit card debt. We know we will invest in our home infrastructure. We will probably put in a new double-flue chimney. This will make it possible to install a wood stove in the basement which will significantly decrease our heating bill. We have a wood lot and with proper management, we will be energy sustainable.  I just ordered a new dehydrator. Drying food  is much less energy intensive than canning and the food takes up a lot less speace in storage. We are going to build a small barn too. We need space for pigs, a couple of goats and a flock of chickens. If we build it ourselves and use a lot of salvage for materials, the cost won’t be too high. Our final spend will be  for a better cold cellar. We need a spot for the crops that like it just above freezing like the carrots, apples beets,  and cabbage. Bruce came up with a terrific plan. We have a hatchway with steps leading from the yard to the cellar. It stays really cold in that space. Bruce is going to rebuild the steps and hinge them. He will then drop insulated boxes under each step. The stuff we store there will not freeze but will be protected from the warmer temperatures of the the cellar. It was wasted space and the steps were falling apart anyway.

That’s pretty much going to eat up the money. I am writing this while I listen to the Obama press conference . I sure wish I felt better about this bailout. I am afraid that the government is doing the equivilant of taking a trip to Florida with our money. It will feel good for a bit but then the bill comes due and somebody is going to expect to get paid. With what? I know that in my house, if we got into money trouble, we would do without and suffer until we got out of trouble. I don’t know if the American people would be willing to suffer through bank and auto companies failing. He sitting there talking about credit so folks can buy RV’s. I just don’t see RV sales ramping up anytime in the near future. I’m pretty sure that the life we used to have is not coming back. I hope you spend your dwindling resources on things that will ensure your family’s ability to stay warm and fed. We have all been dancing and the fiddler is standing there with his hand out.