Monday, August 10, 2015

We are the Tin Man

Being a Thrivalist/Prepper/Survalist/Suburban Homesteader is all about preparedness, and we may not all agree on what we're preparing for ... or it may just be a sense that all things are not right.

Way back in the day, I started following several authors - both on line and off - who considered themselves part of the Peak Oil crowd. Peak Oil, for those of you who may be new to this stuff (because we don't hear as much about Peak Oil these days as we used to), is the point at which the world has used "half" the oil there is available. It's like climbing a mountain. When you get to the "peak", your journey is not concluded. You still have to come back down.

The Peak Oil crowd, based on extensive research by experts in the field (most notably M. King Hubbert), states that the Peak for US oil production happened in the 1970s. That doesn't mean that we're not producing oil anymore, because we are, but that the amount we're getting and the quality of that crude is considerably diminished. It is very telling we discovered the Bakken Tar Sands back in the 1950s, but didn't start drilling until recently, after the pumpjacks in Texas and Oklahoma stopped pulling the black gold from the ground.

Recently, I stumbled upon this article with the very ominous title Oil Collapse Couldn't Come at a Worse Time for the Industry, which made me think more about Peak Oil. What's interesting is that, currently, the price of oil per barrel is under $50, but we're still paying almost $3/gallon at the pump. The article explains why: oil companies are heavily in debt, and Saudi Arabia has flooded the market with their oil (producing around 10 million barrels per day).

What's very telling is this quote from Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst at Oppenheimer, who said, "At the end of the day, borrowing is borrowing. Having this huge amount of debt is never, never good. Especially, you see what the companies are doing right now. The oil companies are running on cash flow, not on earnings.... So all companies that I know of are not living within their means.... How long can that last? Every company I know of, including Chevron, Exxon, BP, Apache, Anadarko, every company, you name it. They are all exceeding their cash flow. That's not sustainable. Something's got to give."


According to the article, the banks reevaluate their outstanding loans in October and decide what to do. Also according to the article, some smaller oil companies many find themselves without any financing, which means, they may have to close their doors. Maybe they'll get bought out by bigger companies ... unless those bigger companies don't have the revenue (or credit worthiness) to buy them out, and then, who knows.

Whatever happens, it looks like it's going to be an interesting fall and winter, and it doesn't look like the consumer price for gasoline or oil is going to drop, even as the price of crude hits the rocky bottom.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Watch Out, Angels! I know Victoria's Secret

Yes, I have often purchased overpriced undergarments at Victoria's Secret.

It started several years ago when I was in the same room with two other homeschooling moms who were ignoring me and entered into a discussion about undergarments (not sure how the subject came up, but whatever). They started chatting, very enthusiastically and animatedly about a particular style they enjoyed from the above mentioned lingerie retailer. I'd never thought much about my underwear brand. I guess I just figured they were all uncomfortable, and it was just one of those things we had to endure if we planned to stay clothed. They spoke about how comfortable their panties were, and so, naturally, I wanted some, too.

Then, I assumed that, because it was a niche market, and VS specializes in the product, what I got from their store would be a higher quality and would last longer. What I'm finding is that it isn't true. The underclothes are comfortable enough, but it's incredibly disheartening to spent $5 on one single pair of panties that are unwearable in less than a year. Okay, I could understand if I only had one pair and it wore out after a year of use, but when I have multiple pairs, and they're still rags after only a few months, it's frustrating.

Last December, when I was making holiday gifts, one of those was to be new undergarments for Deus Ex Machina. I made a pattern and sewed them. They came out pretty awesome - although since flannel doesn't stretch in the same way that the fabric used in the boxer-briefs I used for the pattern does, they ended up a bit too small.

After throwing away, yet, another pair of my panties (sans the salvaged waistband elastic, which I reuse), I thought about those boxers, and I decided I could use the pattern to make some undergarments for myself.

In a true thumbing-my-nose-at-corporate-America, not only did I make a wearable undergarment, but I also reused a stretched out camisole from Victoria's Secret for the fabric. Ha! Take that ;).

I needed one and a half camisoles (I used one pink one and one white one - hence the two tone panties :)) for the final product, and I even reused elastic from the "shelf bra" for the waistband.

They fit, and they are comfortable, and I will make more pairs, when I find a material I want to use.

Forgive me if I don't post a picture of me wearing them. They are underwear, after all, and I'm no "Angel." :)

What are you recycling/reusing/repurposing today?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

New Clothes

I had a few minutes this week to start cutting out the pattern for my new skirt. I bought the pattern at the end of May and then, purchased some fabric a couple of weeks ago. Things often move very slowly here, and I fit in new projects wherever I can. It's a process.

I cut the pattern out, and then, stuff happened, and I didn't get around to sewing it until this weekend.

It's a bit shorter than I was expecting, and the skirt isn't quite as full as I thought it would be, but overall, it's comfortable and I like it.

I was so excited about it, I decided to try making one out of some old shirts I had lying around. I used three shirts, and added a bit on the skirt and waistband. It's a denser material, and so it came out a little heavier than I expected. Plus, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to dye it, because I have had bad experiences with wearing white skirts.

I had some awesome helpers while I was sewing.

And my daughter was so excited about my skirt projects, that she requested to make her Darlek shorts. She learned to sew on a machine. She had a great time. She loves her new shorts.

Life is good.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Reducing Dependence on Money - Austerity? Or Good Sense?

What happens when a government has no money?

Well, they can't pay employees: teachers, garbage collectors, emergency response personnel, snowplow drivers, road maintenance crews, sewer sanitation workers, Town Clerks, library personnel, trail maintenance crews, parks and monument workers, some health care workers (esp. low-income or free clinics), and many others.

They also can't fund projects or pay for social assistance programs like: unemployment, Medicaid/Medicare, prescription reimbursement, food stamps, food pantries, student financial aid programs, government funded research projects, and many others.

They can't subsidize farmers or the oil industry - which would increase prices for both food and gasoline.

In the last three decades, there have been many countries that experienced economic collapse. In the 1990s, the USSR imploded, and now, no longer exists. It broke apart into sovereign nations, but not without some turmoil. The Siege of Sarajevo was one such unrestful event that was sparked, in part, by the fall of the USSR. Russia experienced a significant financial collapse, and while they've, mostly, recuperated, life is still a struggle for a lot of people.

Cuba's economy collapsed when they lost their oil suppliers.

Argentina has been a hotbed of financial shenanigans for a while now.

Since we can not see into the future and know what will happen, we should be assuming that these United States are not impervious to financial collapse either. In living memory, our country suffered a significant financial upset. This very interesting article details the Top 5 causes of the Great Depression, and guess what? All of them (except #4, but with this whole Greece thing happening right now, who knows what our leaders will do) have happened - recently - or are happening right now (see #5 "Drought").

Even more recently, we've gone through some financial hiccups. The 1970s were a very difficult time for a lot of people, and that "recession" did not end until the early 1990s. Even more recently 2008 is widely touted as the beginning of the current recession, which some argue ended some time ago, but others say is still worsening. The stock market is up, but spending, overall, is down. Jobs are being added, but most of them are low-paying retail or seasonal jobs. Unemployment is down, but the official numbers don't take into account people who have just given up trying to find a job and have found other ways to survive.

From where I'm sitting, prices are way up. The price of gasoline has been hovering between $2.70 and $3 per gallon. for a few years now. Food prices are ridiculously high. Everything is more, which means people are spending less (see #3.

So, when I see what's happening in Greece, I think about what it might mean if such a thing happened here in the US and what it would look like. 100% of Americans receive government assistance in the form of gasoline subsidies. In countries where there are no such government measures, the cost of gasoline is more than four times what we're paying. What would happen to most people's lifestyles if we were paying $10/gallon for gasoline rather than $2.70? Many people can't afford $2.70 and still maintain their current standard of living. Things would have to change ... and pretty fast.

I've been talking, for years, about resiliency, about self-sufficiency, and no, we're not 100% self-sufficient here, but we wouldn't starve, we'd stay warm, we'd have clothes to wear (even if they were repaired many times over), we could live fairly comfortably - but only because we've made the kinds of changes that we've made over the years ... and really, none of the things we've done have been all that difficult.

As the economy in Greece teeters, many of the folks who call that country home are finding life pretty difficult, but the good news is that some people have been living my kind of lifestyle, and while money may be tight (or unavailable), they know they'll be okay, because they, at least, will eat and have a place to live.

Start today. Plant something. Preserve something. Lower your dependence on something. Each step toward independence only gets easier ... and more fun. Did I mention that we have baby ducks? What's more fun than baby animals?

This article entitled Here's What Greek Austerity Would Look Like in the US was pretty interesting.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Life on the Farm

It's fitting that we are trying to increase our own independence from the consumer culture and the grid and the Big-Ag food system and that, today, on our nation's "Independence Day" our duck's eggs finally hatched.

We are completely smitten.

Happy Independence Day! We have baby ducks :).